During the first lockdown back in March while out on my government-mandated daily exercise walks I found myself regularly exploring the derelict Ravenscraig Steelworks site in Motherwell, as well as what remains of its connected railway lines. I found it fascinating comparing what's left to how it was and trying to place everything through old photos and maps that I could find online. Later on in May once I had almost finished university for the summer, still in lockdown, it seemed like a good time to return to the model railways hobby after a few years away from it. Having by this point spent the past 2 months (while not doing uni work) obsessively researching Ravenscraig's internal railway and mainline connections it wasn't hard to find inspiration for a layout.
What was challenging, however, was deciding precisely what and where to model. The 'when' was easy, as most of the locos and rolling stock I've collected up to now are 70s/80s BR Blue with some sectorisation era stuff. Ideally I wanted to model something loosely based on the internal railway, but with no RTR locos available representative of the internal shunter fleet and my limited scratchbuilding skills I've decided to abandon this idea for a 2nd or 3rd layout. The Judith Edge range of kits contains several Hunslet, Sentinel, Thomas Hill and Ruston shunters which could make accurate prototypical models for a good portion of the fleet however building etched brass kits is a skill I've yet to learn. The next idea was to model one of the yards connecting BR metals with the steelworks, however this would be far too big a layout and not particularly interesting.
Eventually I settled on a basic T&RSMD layout with a Motherwell/Ravenscraig theme, rather than anything based on real life. My modelling skills have a long way to go before I can comfortably attempt a layout based on a real life location that hasn't existed for 30 years. The layout will be BR Blue / Sectorisation era and effectively be a sub-shed of Motherwell TMD, with locomotives and rolling stock associated with Motherwell and standard Ravenscraig traffic (largely steel and mineral wagons). The main features of the layout will be a small 2-road TMD, fueling road and a wagon repair shop.
Dissertation now submitted, and a trip to B&Q made. The maximum size I can get away to keep it in my already crowded workshop was 8ft x 2ft, so two 4ft x 2ft boards were made up with the intention being that the layout could be split and the boards stacked for easier storage.
The baseboard is perched on top of the remains of the very first Jerviston TMD, long since dismantled and turned into shelving.
I had of course made numerous sketches of track plans, however nothing beats just laying some track down and seeing how it looks. Once cork had been laid and I found a track design I was happy with I began nailing it down. The track is Peco Code 100 flexitrack and insulfrog points. The points aren't ideal as the layout will be permanently DCC, however its what I had to hand so preferential to buying all new electrofrog points.
The location of the TMD can be seen on the left-hand side of the layout. The line at the top left will be hidden behind an embankment, and I'll possibly extend this area with a small fiddle yard in the future. I won't be taking the layout to any exhibitions - been there, done that and it's not for me. The below photo shows the wagon workshop area roads in place. The furthest away road will be a siding / cripple road, middle one will have a single-road shed over it and nearest will be a concreted road with an overhead crane.
I decided to install the Peco inspection pit next. I'm still unsure about whether it's worth fitting lighting to it, so won't fix anything down or concrete the area just yet.
It's a bit smaller than I'd like (a Class 37 barely leaves the steps uncovered at either end) however any larger and it would look too big for the TMD shed.
It was around this point that I had some ideas for storing the layout in its 8ft x 2ft form, so decided to leave the boards permanently joined together to avoid complications with track alignment, ballasting and scenery. The track was all to be ripped up again anyway so I could do a proper job of the wiring. I took a break from the layout to focus on some other projects and then my final year of university, before dropping out to focus on finding a job instead (which I now have), so have had some more time to spend on the layout over the past month or so. I've now wired up the layout and fitted point motors using some very cheap mounting brackets and servos from Megapoints Controllers. I plan on controlling these with toggle switches and an Arduino board.
For the DCC wiring I used a 14 AWG bus wire connected to 18 AWG droppers with Scotchlok connectors. Probably a bit much for such a layout of this size however electrical engineering isn't my specialty so I decided to over-engineer it for peace of mind.
That concludes the first progress update, and last for a while - the workshop is unfortunately being converted back to its original purpose as a bedroom, and as I am still living with my parents the layout will have to be set up in my bedroom (my girlfriend lives with me and is of course delighted about this). The next job I'm planning to do after this is to assemble the control panel and wire up the point motors. I'm also hoping to buy the Railway Laser Lines wagon repair shed soon and start building that up.