Now would seem like a good time to outline what the goals of Lyghtondown are, and how we might hope to achieve them.
It would be fair to say that my wife and I are approaching the hobby from opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm very much of the "as realistic as possible" frame of mind, working to the best of our abilities within the limitations we either had to, or choose to, accept. We've called this the "model railway" approach. On the other hand, and a perfectly valid alternative view, is my wifes desire to recreate the hobby of her past where historical or practical accuracy is second to simply getting on and seeing lots of trains moving about. We've called this the "train set" approach. This opposition of views has been the cause of lots of discussion and suggestions countered with an alternative approach that took weeks to get (mostly) sorted out.
So what is the resulting objective? We're trying to do both, after all, compromise is necessary in every marriage
Lyghtondown has been laid as through station within a continuous loop (through the traverser) such that we can play and allow trains to roll round and round to our satisfaction. Sometimes it's just nice to watch the trains moving without have to be directly involved every second. Having settled on this decision the next obvious one was "one or two tracks". The board has space, just, for a dual track loop but I felt that using the space for this would have consequences for how realistically the station could be represented and on a practical note how easy and reliable the traverser alignment would be. I won that point, eventually, and so the station is an attempt to represent the style of station that might have been found on the Cuckoo Line. Which raises another question.
Why not model a real location then?
Good question, but actually not such a good answer. I spent a fair bit of time trundling through the Signalling Record Society Website virtually walking up and down the branch lines looking at the options like, for example, Rotherfield:
But eventually I think a couple of things steered us away from this:
- The layout would be, regardless of what we did, be very tight, and sticking to a sensible minimum radius would be challenging. Taking even a small station plan (as above) and condensing it into the space available would result in something that would only be "representative" of the named location.
- I'm rather proud of the name "Lyghtondown", entirely made up but with a feel of authenticity, which allows us to model whatever we like (rule #1).
I brushed against a couple of points there: the track plan itself and track laying choices. I'll add a few words on that subject.
All the track is PECO Code-75 flexi-track and electro-frog points. At the time the track was purchased (back when the boards were actually made) the bullhead option didn't exist, so I felt this was the best option short of making track, and met the "train set" objective of allowing us to run anything we fancied including all the 00 RTR stock we had gathered over time.
The plan itself is very much "in the style of" a number of the stations on the Cuckoo Line, though perhaps most like Rotherfield. The track has been laid with a minimum radius of 0.5m, and this tightest radius has been almost exclusively reserved only for the curves behind the scenery. In the scenic section the curves are mostly more open than this, aided by the fact that all but 2 of the points are curved. From a strictly prototypical point of view, the track layout is missing some key safety features that would have been considered essential: Catch points. These have been left out simply because their inclusion would have used up space forcing the station itself to be even smaller.
So the final plan, agreed by the management, looks (something) like this:
The aim was to capture a typical branch line station layout while keeping open as many options as possible. Space everywhere is tight, the platforms are just long enough to get four coaches and a small engine in, but in reality the traverser is only long enough for three coaches and an engine, but does hold six trains.
Here we are, having got the track down and working, unwrapping the toys for our first play. The traverser is clearly just four long coaches long and basically defines the practical limits on over all train size. Yes, that large blue loco in the middle of it is Tornado, one of my wifes engines.
Happy days at last.