Following on from the last entry, I must first thank the contributors for giving me ideas and offering suggestions! This post won't really feature any solid plans, but will give an idea of avenues I could take, and inspiration I can use on my quest for a new layout (or two!)...
The next layout will likely be set around RAF Calshot/Fawley refinery/Lepe/Southampton Waterside (although I haven't totally ruled out the IoW yet!)
I'd like either a combined OO and 009 layout, or one of each connected by mutual fiddle yard
I can't decide whether to have: modular, double-sided, multiple self-contained layouts, or something else...
I must design for what will fit in my small car - no board longer than 4ft, preferably no wider than a normal interior door frame, although I'll stretch to 3ft if necessary.
Either way I'd like something both unique, and fun to operate!
I know there's a lot of text here, but if nothing else, do take a look at the photos and renders as they'll give a good overview of my ideas.
And now, the long version...
I thought planning my next layout would be relatively easy, but I've been giving it a lot of thought over the past two weeks (with many hours spent doodling and playing with 3D models in an effort to squeeze real locations into a minimum space), but the designs kept getting larger and more complex, and I kept finding interesting sites nearby that are crying out to be modelled. Either way, I'm certainly no closer to something that I'm totally happy with!
Regardless of whatever ends up being built, I feel relatively confident in saying that it will be inspired by areas surrounding (and including) Calshot; I'm of course a sucker for coastal scenes, but there are also a lot of very interesting areas to be inspired by here. Not only are there quaint seaside locations, but they are intermingled by some pretty serious industrial sites! I guess in the real world we'd call this contrast an eyesore, but in model form it creates intrigue.
SECTION 1: The narrow gauge (009)
My first thoughts naturally turned to a layout based on Calshot, Ashlett Creek, and Fawley. The idea (ha!) was to keep things small, and produce 3 small boards; each capable of being a standalone layout if I didn't have room to set them all up in one go. However, my best intentions were sidetracked even at this very early stage by the idea of a standard gauge circle of track, which in turn set each module to be 762mm wide; a little too wide, really. For some reason I kept this size going for a long time despite never adding any OO gauge in the designs! Let's take a look anyway:
Above: A lot is going on in this screenshot, but it shows a few progressions of ideas. The bottom-most doughnut would is a simple non-scenic test track featuring a 3rd radius circle of 009, plus 3rd and 4th radius circles of OO gauge track. Above that, we have a 3-part circular layout featuring two scenic, and one non-scenic boards. Next up, the middle pair of designs show the same diameter circle, but with an elongated egg-shaped section comprising of two larger scenic boards (with the rest non-scenic). Finally, the top right set shows a fully "presented" version of that idea, with one board (Ashlett Creek) mocked up as an additional scenic module. Let's take a closer look at that one board:
Above: Using rough dimensions from Google Earth, I mocked up the two main structures; the tidal mill, and the pub "The Jolly Sailor"; both of which were partially built on Old AGWI Rd. To form a continuous run, a non-prototypical spur is run behind some trees on the edge of the mill pond (at the rear). I've always said Ashlett Creek would make a very attractive scene with very few modifications, and indeed it would easily stand by itself as an exhibitable layout (although with only two sidings, perhaps three if you count the rear spur; not exactly a thrilling layout to operate!).
Above: The tidal mill at Ashlett Creek is a very dominant building. Looks like I've modelled it a little too small (height wise), but the general atmosphere is there. Note the quay, which once had a standard gauge steam crane to offload barges brought from Eling Wharf. These materials were things like sheet metal, and concrete piles; all used in the construction of the oil refinery a mile or so away. Two narrow gauge tracks also terminated here from the refinery for the same purpose.
Above: Just to the left of the mill is The Jolly Sailor. I already started a model of this when I was building Old AGWI Rd. The old narrow gauge railway ran to the right of the pub. As you can see, it's a very modellable location, and needs little in the form of compression. I'll likely leave off a few of the later extensions to the pub though!
Above: Another look at the Ashlett Creek module, but this time with a slight modification shown on the right hand version; the backscene height (and thus also the pelmet height) has been dropped to see how low I can get away with it being. I'd say this is the absolute minimum, coming in at 200mm from baseboard edge (at pub height) to the bottom of the pelmet; that's 150mm less than the left hand version. The overall effect is interesting, whilst it might make it look somewhat cramped with the lower headroom, the layout certainly appears a lot wider. As noted, I think I misjudged the height of the mill, so this may actually turn out to be too low...
Either way, I usually prefer a tall backscene as it makes you feel more involved in the scene, by completely removing everything outside of the scene itself. In reality, a pelmet this low will be an issue unless the layout is shown at eye-level, which of course is unfair at exhibitions as it stops children or people in wheelchairs seeing the layout. Typically, a lot of exhibition layouts have relatively short backscenes with a gap until the lighting pelmet (i.e. the pelmet is located higher above); particularly layouts operated from the rear. Unfortunately this isn't good when it comes to photography for obvious reasons! Fortunately, I prefer to operate layouts from the front or side so that I can also engage with the audience; so a tall backscene presents few problems. This does make the layouts considerably bulkier though, which is why I don't permanently attach my backscenes and lighting rigs/pelmets.
Above: Using the exact same 762mm x 762mm board size, I've also shown how I can condense Calshot to form a second module. I've just noticed the hangar is too far left and covers the track, but you get the point; it fits in nicely. Whilst the small spit was covered in hangars and workshops, there were also plenty of places to "park" seaplanes, so I've tried to keep it feeling relatively open, and only model the hangar in low relief (as on the original two Calshot layouts). I usually avoid half-relief structures unless they can be well camouflaged, but with structures this big, you'd be looking at a large baseboard otherwise; and this is the smallest hangar! Note the two small structures either side of the hangar that will be used to try and hide the exits; both are prototypical.
Above: The hangar and small rightmost building on the render can be seen here in a photo I took back in 2009. The little cottage was built in I think 1900 as a coastguard building, and was eventually incorporated into the seaplane base here as a store and medical building. The hangar dates from 1913, and is of a "Belfast Lattice Truss" type (a barrel ceiling supported by a wooden lattice truss). To the left were a myriad of warehouses, a powerhouse, and more ancillary structures. Note the name given to the hangar; all the main buildings here had names assigned to them to celebrate prominent figures, and their involvement in RAF Calshot.
Above: I visited the spit again in 2010. On this trip I even took a look inside the old castle. At one stage the castle accrued several ugly additions to its roof; not least a coastguard room and weather tower. These have long since been removed and the new coastguard tower seen in the background is the modern replacement. The view from the top of the castle is rather nice, but I bet the view from the coastguard tower is even more impressive! I'd love to keep my model of the castle and incorporate it, but it's such a huge structure that it would take up an entire layout by itself; especially with the moat as well!
Above: Something I haven't modelled before is "Top Camp" - the accommodation camp at Eaglehurst, which the narrow gauge railway at Calshot ran from. I knew that I didn't want a large scene for this as practically all the buildings are the same style, but one photo inspired me in particular; this showed a store and the 3-road engine shed. Outside the shed were two wagon turntables which were used to shunt rations over to the cookhouse adjoining the various mess halls. This 45 degree (instead of 90 degree) module is much smaller at around 300mm x 500mm; including large curves that cut off most of the corners. The track curves do look a little on the harsh side though, so will need checking if a module like this is built! Another thing to bear in mind is that any continuous loop would have to go behind, as this is a dead-end module.
Above: Most of "Top Camp" was demolished, but there are a few buildings to have survived. Here's St George's Church; a stones throw away from the original loco shed; and shows the typical construction style of these buildings. The surrounding land has now been turned into a cemetery. The old officers mess (off-shot to the left) was turned into a pub after the RAF base closed (which was later known as The Flying Boat Inn). Unfortunately, it closed due to low demand in the mid 90s, and burned down in 2001.
Above: Eventually I realised that 762mm would be too wide to fit through most doorways, so I came up with some reduced size "standardised" modules; one of 500mm x 500mm, and one of 600mm x 600mm. Again, these have 90 degree curves on the front edge, and are curved halfway along the other two sides to form a sweeping backdrop. Here you can see my attempt to fit Ashlett Creek in. It's a little tight on the 500mm module, but perfectly achievable on the 600mm one!
However... then I realised a problem
(a.k.a the problems with circular/double/multi-sided layouts)
...is a circular layout/double-sided layout really "fit" for exhibitions? Unless you've got a very small layout that can sit on a table (ala Ted Polet's Nixnie - an excellent example of how to do a double-sided layout), or you're on the very end of an aisle/have space all around the exhibit (which is extremely unlikely at shows unless you're put into a small room on your own); probably not! These layouts are a lot of fun (especially for children who like to follow the trains around), but sadly there's a reason most layouts are rectangular, and typically have one viewing side. Double-sided layouts in particular are really interesting, but I find harder to pull off effectively in an exhibition scene.
Above: Eventually I realised a problem with these 90 and 45 degree corner sections, regardless of size. Can you see what it is? Look towards the left side and you'll see that the jetty is halfway in front of the backscene, and therefore half off it; that's a photographers' nightmare! Our eyes may be good at filtering out backgrounds, but cameras most certainly won't be. This is a big no-no in my books (and is exactly what Old AGWI Rd suffered from).
The problem with "missing" backscenes around curved layouts is not something I often see mentioned in the railway modelling "circle" (pun not intended!); and it results in it being incredibly hard to photograph more than a small section of the scene in one go without there being a missing backscene somewhere in the shot. I've seen many an exhibition layout "ruined" by either the lack of a backscene entirely, or the inability to frame a photo in the way I'd like due to the curvature.
A double sided layout where the two sides have full-wrap around backscenes, and the curve is hidden off-stage (and thus are more akin to two separate layouts) would solve this problem, but then you lose the nice "flow". Ted's first solution for Nixnie was to purposefully create one significant feature (a wooden trestle) on the curved end piece to force the viewer to look mostly from this one angle on the curved section. The other way Ted reduced the problem was by planting a large amount of trees in strategic places; mostly behind the trestle to hide the backscene edge, but also on the corners of the board so that you can still get some oblique angles with a background of trees rather than people! You'll never get it perfect, but Ted's methods are both really effective and also subtle ways of doing it if you are determined to have a curved section.
Despite having just moaned about layouts with curved edges, the "problem" is that I don't like square/rectangular boards! Yes, you can call me a hypocrite now! I typically find it more natural to let the scenery more or less dictate the shape of the board; or failing that, to curve the edges substantially as seen above to give more flow. The problem is not only is it more difficult to build and store the boards, but you end up making those unintentionally unflattering angles for photography as already mentioned. Even my layout Sandy Shores suffers from that to some degree, but I've tried to set the important features towards the middle or rear of the layout to help offset this.
As with all railway modelling, compromises are therefore the name of the game, and whilst I'd love to have all manner of whacky board shapes, it's probably best if I compromise on board shape if I am to get some decent photos by the end of it! Here's a slightly more subtle curve that may work a bit better (although obviously still leaves potential for some angles to have a partially missing backdrop):
Above: This is where the designs got bigger again, but this time not in width, but in length. 900mm (3ft) x 400mm (1.3ft) is still perfectly manageable though, and would easily fit in my car. (It's about a foot less than Sandy Shores in length). This means that we now lose the nicely flowing circular layout, and end up with what is essentially a rectangular box, presumably with a hinged or removable fiddle yard behind. The end of the jetty is perhaps a little close to the board edge for my liking (taking photos of it would be hard), but other than that it's a lot better.
It goes to show that there's a lot to take into account with layout design, likely more than you would initially think (and I include myself in that category, as I totally forgot the amount involved, too!).
SECTION 2: The standard gauge
Even though every layout except Sandy Shores has had some OO, none of it has been operational since 2011 or thereabouts. That means that none of my standard gauge locomotives have even turned a wheel for 9 years! I started off thinking about a layout (preferably with a circle of track) that I could finally give them a good run on...
...however, realising that even a third radius of OO track was not only unrealistic (i.e. too sharp), but also very large, I'm leaning towards a 4 board stack-able "roundy-roundy" test track for this purpose. To satisfy my cravings to shunt goods stock, I'd have another layout either on its own, or as part of the narrow gauge layout. With regards to the round test track, I haven't thought about many specifics, other than it likely having an inner circle of 009, and one circle of 3rd (+ maybe also a 4th) radius OO track. This really needs to be as slim as possible, hence the idea of splitting it into four, and stacking the boards for storage. In reality, the depth of the boards needn't be more than some 35mm PSE and 9mm plywood; much less than my default 100mm as shown in the earlier renders.
Of course, a circle of track is not exactly fun to operate; hence the idea for a separate shunting layout. This train of thought (if you'll excuse the pun) wasn't helped by suggestions of a standard gauge terminus in a sort of Isle of Wight guise. I must say, the idea of an O2 along with some nice old coaching stock still being used on a BR branch line very much appeals to me! Of course, that is a possibility, but in actual fact the tipping point was re-reading a few books on the various railway systems along the Waterside*...
* The Waterside, Southampton. Not marked on any maps, but is a local name given to the west side of Southampton Water; so the section of coastline from Eling to Calshot.
First, A Brief History Lesson
To cut a very long story short, the original plans for a standard gauge railway along the Waterside proposed a line from Totton to Lepe/Stone Point - a farmhouse on the coast in the absolute middle of nowhere! The reason? Well, the original somewhat optimistic idea was to tunnel a railway underneath the Solent to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight (only 2.5 miles away, compared to 11.5 miles from Southampton). This idea fell by the wayside, eventually, but not before more plans were drawn up for a 470 yard pier at Stone Point for Steamer services to the IoW and Channel Islands. After many, many years, a plethora of plans, land purchases, test drilling, and a bitter rivalry between the LSWR and the SM&AR/M&SWJ; it was the LSWR who ended up getting a line, but not to Lepe/Stone Point, but to Fawley oil refinery, which was, at the time, under construction. This was said to be the terminus... "for now", as there was consideration being given to extend to Calshot; which is partly why both of my versions of Calshot had standard gauge track. Clearly, the LSWR never got over the threat of the M&SWJ building a line to the IoW, and potentially taking their lucrative custom... which is strange considering by this point:
The tunnel idea had long been branded unworkable
A pier at Stone Point would've been relatively un-sheltered and thus not really suitable for steamers
The LSWRs' own steamer and IoW rail services were in full swing
Any line would feasibly have to join up with the LSWRs' own line at Totton, and thus would be subject to their terms and charges
The M&SWJ had already filed for bankruptcy!
Anyway, the point is, that gives me a lot of scope for some "realistic" alternative history for the Waterside area, and further west to Lepe.
Above: With the idea in my head sown, I set about making a few variations on the Lepe/Stone Point theme, albeit without a 470 yard pier because that would equate to a 5.6m long baseboard, minimum! The design shown is large, but still narrower than Sandy Shores. Note the Artitec HOe ferry (with the track removed as it's purely used for cars), and the station canopies which are a representation of those once found at Lymington Pier. Yes, that's a small lighthouse on the hill, as well as 4 coastguard houses, and in the foreground, the "watch house". The latter was used to look out for smugglers trying to navigate the Beaulieu river! The coastguard houses are very pretty, their walls being covered in multi-toned slates; something you don't often see in this part of the UK:
Above: As mentioned, Lepe is a pretty beautiful hamlet. There's not much room between the houses and watch house, so any plan would need to be single track; and even then I think it's a little optimistic! In reality, the railway would be much further to the right, and definitely wouldn't go behind the watch house; but I can't not have these beautiful buildings on scene!
There's just one slight problem with this plan, and is one that all my OO gauge layouts have faced; there simply isn't enough length before the station to make passenger services entertaining to run! In fact, that also applies to Sandy Shores; the platform is immediately after the scenic entrance. Assuming I did build such a scene, goods would definitely account for most of the traffic on the line. I'd likely treat the layout as an inglenook (perhaps including the platform line, which I suppose could double up as a freight loading platform) to make things more interesting.
Rolling stock would be a variety of 4-wheeled wagons, and whilst 4 wheel coaches would be nice, perhaps the Hornby Push/Pull Maunsell set would be more useful given the later period I intend to model (40s-60s) That said, there's not a lot of length to accommodate a passenger train, so maybe a single coach is all that is required (I've got my eye on this Maunsell ex LSWR 58ft comp). Motive power wise, The B4 tank and USA tank are particularly strong contenders, and maybe the O2 and a Southern Terrier as well. Thankfully, there are also a few in my existing collection that would suit; notably the Q1 (albeit a bit on the long side), the BR standard class 2, and BR class 03/04 diesel. Everything else I really ought to sell!
SECTION 3: Where to now?
Well, it always helps to start off with a list of constraints; perhaps that's what I should've done first instead of leaping into condensing real life locations into random board shapes and sizes!
I've not been at home for the past 2 weeks, so haven't had access to the track that I'd rescued from Old AGWI Rd, but that, along with some cardboard mock ups, will be a good way to go about planning in earnest from here on out.
Above: I'm currently leaning towards the idea of two self contained but join-able (via a central traverser fiddle yard) layouts; one depicting an alternate history of Lepe, and the other a mild alt-history of Calshot. Time will tell if that's what I end up building though! Ideally, I'd have more room for the standard gauge layout, but I'm trying to downsize here; plus, all boards would have to fit in my tiny car in one go...
Of course, there are plenty of other inspirational scenes! From Hythe pier head:
...to places like Poole Quay, Hamworthy Quay, So'ton Docks, Lymington Pier, the IoW stations... the list goes on!
Well done if you made it to the end; there was certainly a lot to trawl through, for which I apologise.
Any comments or suggestions are wilfully received, as always!