Coombe Barton is a small town west of Exeter and east of Penzance. It lies on the southern slopes of the granite moorlands and thus is sheltered from the worst of the weather. The town takes its name from its deep valley location, or coombe which is possibly of the same derivation as the Welsh cwm, and the parish's most important farm, or barton. This latter may have been derived from the Old English (Anglo Saxon) beretun, meaning enclosure or barley-yard.
The town owes its excellent deep and rich soils to the effects of the Ice Ages. Not that ice actually came as far south but the close proximity over a long period caused a deep cold that eroded the tops of the moorland and the meltwater deposited the detritus as it flowed away. The legacy is that the town is plentifully supplied with water which benefits both agriculture and the industry that has grown up.
On the moors above Neolithic farmers left their mark - the hut circles, the enclosures for stock, the standing stones and trackways, speaking of a climate more temperate and forgiving than that now applying to the moorland. The heavily wooded valleys such as Coombe would have been largely impenetrable but home to animals to hunt such as wild boar.
Through the Bronze and Iron Ages it is assumed that the area of Coombe developed as more land was required for an increasing population and trees would have been cleared to provide such land. Only the most incompetent of farmers could fail to get a decent living from such land, and there would have often been times of surplus. Trade with the rest of the island and what was to become know as continental Europe had been carried on for centuries. The Phoenicians had, apparently, something to do with this trade, as Herodotus of Halicarnassus mentions the Cassiterides, or Tin Islands, in The Histories, and it is supposed that this refers to the south west of Britain.
The Roman occupation left this part of the country alone. Their client kingdom, called now, and presumably then, the Dumnonii, continued to trade with the occupied territories, presumably in agricultural products in exchange for luxuries. However there have been relatively few archaeological finds of the Roman period in the area.
The first documentary mention of Coombe Barton occurs in the Exon Domesday, where the entry is:
As communities of the time go, this was of the larger variety.
Coombe Barton seems to have missed the initial trade in tin. After the creation of the office of the Lord Warden of the Stannaries in 1197 various towns of the area were at times granted the right to coigne, or assay, tin for its purity. As most of these towns were on ancient trackways from the moorlands where the tin was streamed it seems strange that Coombe was not granted this privilege. It could have been that the place was not that accessible to packhorses bringing the tin as the valley is rather steep sided and other places more favourable. It was during this period that the Barton came into existence. The largest farm grew larger and may at times been fortified. The generic name for this type of farm is a Barton and the name of the small town changed. It was granted a market charter by Edward III in 1352 which is the first documented use of the name. Apart from this it seems to have kept itself out of the notice of the many wars and periods of strife that occurred in England.
However Coombe did not miss all the Tudor disruptions of 1497 - the An Gof rebellion against taxes of Henry VII had the active support of many and in 1549 the introduction by a very young Edward VI of the Book of Common Prayer, in English not Latin, caused some of the more adventurous and hot headed to join in. Quite a few did not return, Blackheath and Crediton being the sites of their last resting places. The necessity for oak for ships under Elizabeth I enabled more land to be cleared and then the cattle rearing for which Coombe Barton became famous could really take off. It was not long before drovers routes down the valley gave better access, and farm carts could move about more freely in the right season. Upland sheep also became a cash crop, the wool being spun and woven initially as a cottage industry, and then as mechanisation enabled by water power from the streams coming from the moorlands, as a larger scale enterprise.
The restoration of Charles II brought a change in fortunes for the family of the barton. Because of the support and hospitality freely given to the King's father, himself and his supporters both during Civil War fighting and while Charles II was in exile, Richard Coombe was made a Baronet and the King granted favours and land. Sir Richard de Coombe, as he became, politely declined offers of land in London town saying that he could better serve Charles by ensuring that he and his armies would benefit a reliable supply of food and leather. The King agreed, money flowed and a new house was started. The original barton remained the centre of farming activity. Richard, however, never completed the new house, preferring life at the centre of his business and used the money to expand his business interests - a mill here, a tannery there, a weavers shop elsewhere and so on. Fortunately for his family and the town these interests mostly prospered and on his death there was a thriving community. His memorial in the church of St Michael befits his standing as a gentleman with his roots firmly in the country.
Animal husbandry and associated business interests do not change on the whim of fashion as everyone needs to be fed, so the political changes of the next century and a half left the family relatively untouched. As far as they could the then new technologies of water power were brought in to assist in the more labour intensive operations. But the main brake on growth was in transport, getting the goods produced in the town to market. Drovers and carters competed for the business, and the coming of the main line railway shortened their routes.
In 1850 or thereabouts Sir Humphrey de Coombe and many other local traders proposed a branch that would join the main line and so give direct access to markets up country. Acts of Parliament followed and the branch was started. As with many similar ventures problems with contractors, lack of experience and difficulties with the line itself ate into the money but in 1860 the line finally opened. The first train was greeted with festivities and public celebration. The line broke even at best, but it did provide the avenue for easier access to markets for the supporters. Cattle markets took place weekly throughout the year, and major markets four times a year stretched the station and the local hotels and inns to capacity as buyers from up country congregated. Special cattle trains had to be laid on to cope with the demand.
Mergers and acquisitions followed, the line being purchased by the Great Western Railway Company on February 6th 1891. Conversion from the broad gauge took place during the weekend of 21st and 22nd May 1892. Two world wars, grouping and nationalisation followed, then road transport started taking its toll, the line finally closing to passengers on 7th November 1963. Goods traffic, mainly cattle, continued until after the Martinmas Cattle Fair of 1967, after which time road transport was used.
Little remains of the railway today. The track has been converted to a footpath and cycleway, the engine shed is the servicing garage of a transport company, the pit still being in use for servicing. The goods shed, station building and cattle pens have been replaced by light industry.
Coombe Barton Station
In its valley location there was not a lot of room to spare for building the station, hence its rather small compact design. Flattish land is a scarcity in this area as it is in the narrow valley bottom. Beyond the valley land climbs steeply, so preventing the expansion without considerable engineering.
The station consists of a single platform with station building, a goods shed behind the platform served by a siding from the main running line. From that a return siding serves the mill. The engine shed line comes from the run round loop, and a small signal box completes the major railway buildings. The station yard houses the coal merchant, a feed merchant and similar enterprises. The Railway Hotel is set across from the entrance to the station and land adjacent houses the cattle market. The town occupies the sides of the valley where possible and spread further as prosperity increased. However it is unable to spread much down the valley owing to the steepness of the valley sides.
So in its history the layout of the station was not able to change much. The buildings remained much as they had been built, still serving their original purpose. The descendents of the original backers continued to enjoy the contact with "them up country" for their markets. However declining revenues, the greater convenience of road transport, the buses, the trucks finally spelt the end. It lasted just over a hundred years.
All this is in the mind. After a twenty year break I'm returning to modelling. It will be for my pleasure as I don't intend to exhibit. The gauge will be 18.83mm as that was where I left off. I've always wanted everything to work mechanically, so the lever frame will interlock and control the signals and turnouts. The ground signals will work and will be lit, as will the buildings and, of course the signals themselves. Technology for that will be fibre optic from bright LEDs tempered by theatrical gels to give the correct colours. Control will be analogue as there are only two units of motive power required. Rolling stock will be mundane, an auto coach, cattle wagons, open and closed wagons for general merchandise. Motive power, a 48xx/14xx and a 45xx which I already have as part builds. Ruling radius is 5 chains in the station, with B6 turnouts. Trackwork - I have a load of material from Ian Rice (?) - same as C&L, so will be handbuilding again.
Buildings will be built for purpose. There is no pressure to get things running. The visible area is less than 8ft with a traverser beyond acting as ???up country??ï¿½. It will sit behind and alongside my desk. Trees will be an important part of the disguise.
Period? I'm torn. Do I go for the 1930s, the heyday of the GW pre-war? Do I go for the summer of 1947, just pre-nationalisation? Or do I go from my earliest memories in the 1950s of North Road Station, Laira Shed and Marsh Mills to Yelverton? Each has their attractions.
To kick start I'm off to ExpoEM in Bracknell on Saturday 16th May. Fortunately the summer when I'm not teaching is approaching, so I have more time to reflect what I want to do. I probably have much of what I need already. Model developments over the past 20 years seem to revolve round much better etching and detailing, a greater availability of tooling. I have to restock - a son and a toolbox mean inequitable distribution ("Dad, can I borrow - "). Maybe a lathe (the mortgage is paid off in a two months) and some press and milling tools.
What drives me is attention to detail. Even if no one can see it I'll know that it's there, and fiddling to get things right is quite relaxing. I haven't set myself any timescales - it'll come when ready. But the major difference between now and twenty years ago is the computer and CAD packages, so drawing up and replicating is easier.
I'll be designing everything, including a storage system, before I start building. And the storage system will be built first just after the baseboards and covers so that it'll fit away and be undamaged as far as possible. I think that major mechanics should all work before any modelling is done - retrofitting with large hammers and saws does not do much good to delicate construction as in my hands they appear sometimes to take on a life of their own. Ply (probably 6mm) laminated for strength in the frame and for lightness otherwise is my past favoured material.
The major questions I have to answer before any build can take place:
- Couplings - 3 link, Alex Jackson, Sprat and Winkle or what? have to define this for control mechanisms.
- Turnout control - Others have made a scale control system work - Is it strong enough or should I go for a sub-baseboard control and have the visible stuff move in sympathy but not do the work of control?
- Signal control - I can't see scale pulley and wire working. Are there any examples in this scale (4mm)
- Control. I've used Gaugemaster in the past - bearing in mind that I'm not going for digital (I do too much fiddling with real digital systems for that to be of any interest, and anyway, with two locos what's the point)
- Portescap - has demised, apparently. I have motors for the two I have, but what's the best form of motive power nowadays for small tanks.
The name, Coombe Barton
This has deliberately chosen to be location non-specific, there being examples of this name in both Devon and Cornwall, but not together, apart from a pub near Crackington.
If you have been reading:
Thank you. My process of building will be a slow one. It always was, so I don't see any change there. As I said I'll be visiting ExpoEM in order to consider the next part of the process loop. Then we'll just see how it progresses (which may be more slowly than I had imagined as on Friday a colleague requested my help on some research - and that's going to take some years).
Originally posted on Tuesday 5th May on previous RMWeb
And now the original replies
Post by pwr on Mon May 04, 2009 2:34 pm
Have you thought about DCC.
Don't use it myself as I am firmly wedded to analogue but I have been impressed by the possibility of realistic sound. Just a thought
Post by Coombe Barton on Mon May 04, 2009 2:41 pm
I have, and rejected it. My job is digital anything, including video and sound generation - I want a change. Sound at this scale doesn't really appeal.
Post by westrerner on Mon May 04, 2009 4:01 pm
Love this history. I keep trying to think of one for Wencombe.
Post by artizen on Tue May 05, 2009 12:37 pm
Glad to see you have tried DCC and discarded it. I went to a local show at the weekend and the steam sound on most locos was pretty ordinary to say the least. Being in a huge open shed didn't help but the diesels sounded so much better. I like the idea of mechanical linkages between your fingers and the turnout - it seems so much more realistic than a stud and probe. Plus you have the satisfaction of slowly pulling the point blades across at any speed you desire.
Nice to see a few photos when it gets going.
Sounds like you want to set the standard pretty high which is always a good thing.
Post by dseagull on Tue May 05, 2009 1:07 pm
The back story is superb, really sets the scene before the baseboards have even been cut. Will be keeping an eye on this one for sure
Post by Andy G on Tue May 05, 2009 2:52 pm
If you're thinking about AJ's as couplings you'll want to check out the latest jigs that we've produced at Manchester, http://www.palatinemodels.co.uk. Not all our own ideas, but the Graham Turner jig certainly makes production of the coupling a lot, lot simpler and consistent.
Regarding control of turnouts I think most (all?) people still rely on under baseboard techniques of one form or another. I know Steve Hall managed to get some rodding working but I'm pretty sure that the layout actually used more traditional techniques.
I'll be watching this thread as GW and P4 ticks my boxes.
Post by Andy G on Tue May 05, 2009 3:01 pm
Just read a bit more of the opening text. I see that you have obtained some C&L track/parts second hand. I'm presuming therefore that you won't be 100% sure of their history and therefore when they were produced. Where am I going with this? Well on Slattocks Junction we've had a couple of major disasters with C&L product bought around ten years ago before the present proprietor took over. Firstly a lot of the functional chairs have gone brittle forcing the replacement or strengthening of turnouts and just recently we have discovered that our particular batch of flexi track was produced with poly-propylene (or something like that) and will not take paint capable of withstanding a light scratch with a finger nail, i.e. about the same as a loco being clumsily placed on the track. We therefore are in the process of replacing all of our scenic trackwork (on an 18'x11' layout). I would therefore advise some degree of testing your items before plunging in.
Post by Coombe Barton on Tue May 05, 2009 9:15 pm
Andy - thanks very much.
The stuff I have was produced under the Ian Rice label and I bought them 20+ years ago. I do intend to test them (after I've been to ExpoEM and got some butanone solvent) before committing myself to work on the layout proper.
I've been finding out various solvents and the information I've been forwarded from the EMGS says that the latest incarnation of the chlorinated Mek-Pak is suitable for ABS plastic. Wonder if anyone has experience of this as it's potentially less of a hazard.
Post by Coombe Barton on Tue May 05, 2009 9:52 pm
I haven't tried it - but my overweening memory of watching steam trains as a kid was not 'chuff, chuff' but 'rattle, rattle' and birdsong. I 'do' sound professionally so am fairly immune to its supposed attractions at this scale. Sound doesn't scale. A model King will never be the real King thing at the head of the Cornish Riviera Express, and I really do have better things to spend my money on.
It's the total operation that woos me, not just the running. I read about working point rodding, but can't find it now. I have some in stock, so will see if I can make it work cosmetically with the main force being generated by stuff underneath the baseboard. For signals I remember some articles about under-baseboard mass to generate the bounce.
It'll be some time before there's anything running, but I'll be keeping posted with progress.
Dave and Shirley Rowe have a lot to answer for.
Post by Coombe Barton on Tue May 05, 2009 10:00 pm
From the description, can you tell the prototype plan this has been lifted from? It's quite well known.
Post by Coombe Barton on Tue May 05, 2009 10:06 pm
Thanks again Andy. I need to see a few examples to decide what I want to do. AJ I know is almost invisible if the wire is blackened, and I've used it in the past, I have a load of Sprat and Winkle but am a little put off by the bulk. Three/screw link I've also used but the heavenly hand is a little much, sometimes. AJ scores on most counts and I've taken note of your jigs.
What I need to do is decide what I'm doing so that I can build the infrastructure into the baseboards.
Post by BlazeyBridge2 on Wed May 06, 2009 12:37 am
I think I could Hazard a wild guess.
This does look like the beginnings of a most splendid project.
Mickey Sheffield Hallamshire Area Group
Post by artizen on Wed May 06, 2009 3:40 am
Whoa! Working point rodding! Beat me with a large stick! If you can get it to work then it will be sensational to watch(?) I fully agree with working signals and interlocked turnout control - more for peace of mind when setting the road rather than actual prototype practice. At least you know you not about to have a head-on between two very expensive models when you get distracted.
I have no room on my current diorama for a Modratec turnout control box because the interlocking rods take up so much room but it is definitely the way I will be working if I can make it fit - even if the layout ends up being all diesel and modern image with DCC!!!
You say sound doesn't scale - a bit like listening to a live concert on headphones at home? Maybe we could try sound effects on our layouts through headphones (wireless of course) so we can catch the full nuance of the live performance in stereo without disturbing everyone else in the house. Sounds better to me than trying to stuff tiny speakers into small boxes and then pointing them downwards. I think a full performance from a model can only be achieved through at least two speakers anyway for extending the tonal range if nothing else. Now how do I chip a set of headphones and what code do I use?
Post by Coombe Barton on Sun May 10, 2009 2:00 pm
I have now located the stored rolling stock and locos that I haven't seen for 20 years - and discovered that neither has the duster or vacuum cleaner. I didn't realise I had so much stuff! Found what I was looking for, the Airfix auto coach. This will be finished using the details in MRJ9 and the accompanying 14xx as in MRJ1. Unless, of course, there's better kits out there now. I've also discovered a Collett goods, a 57xx, a B set, thirty or more wagons I'd forgotten about - so I'd better get to ExpoEM next week and start finding out what I should be doing.
The main mechanical undecided is still couplings. I need to see what other people are doing. That will decide something about baseboard building - what method of uncoupling. And then there's the period 1930s, 1947 or mid 1950s? (the last one I remember - just). Whichever period I'm going to stick to the normal, some might call the mundane. I want to model the typical everyday - at first, anyway.
So at Expo EM I'll be stocking up on gauges and jigs. And looking at purchasing plans to develop what I have.
Post by Coombe Barton on Sat May 16, 2009 9:11 pm
After ExpoEM some decisions.
- Couplings - Alex Jackson - bought the jigs.
- Controllers - build them myself.
- DEFINITELY NO DCC
- Point and signal control - build the lever frame myself. That way when I cock it up it'll be a load less expensive. And it'll be fun building it too with all manual control.
- Point rodding - keep the functioning stuff under the baseboard.
- Small details, as long as they don't intrude, work.
- Shopping round for tools is definitely worth it
And what I have still get to decide:
- Period - 1930s, 1947 or mid 1950s
- Whether chassis kits are worth the money or am I just as well trying to build my own.
- What lathe/mill do I get?
And yet to discover:
- Reasonably priced supplier of brass rod and bar
- ditto drills
- Will also have to talk to the optician about magnifiers - eyes suffering from the effects of age.
And now having made these decisions, and got the track templates as part of my introductory EMGS membership pack, I can start to plan in a more concrete fashion.
Post by signalmaintainer on Mon May 18, 2009 3:36 am
Looking forward to seeing the development and progress of this layout. All sounds very well thought out. I especially enjoy the history!
Curious about DCC and sound: I can see why someone who works with something similar every day would go with "low-tech" DC. I like DCC only for the simplicity in wiring it provides and the constant voltage applied to the rails. Other than that, it's a pain as far as installing decoders in non-DCC friendly locomotives. There is a certain appeal to DC that I can understand in that light.
As for DCC sound, I too agree that in the smaller scales, even OO, the quality and resonance are less than satisfactory. I had Soundtraxx decoders in use with an HO scale switching layout I built several years ago -- EMD first-generation switchers. Got to the point were sound was a distraction, nuisance, and even annoying. Turned off the sound and actually enjoyed the layout more. I'd like to have sound with Lyth Valley, but it's not a high priority.
Modeling the typical, everyday is a good course to take. It really makes for the most realism.