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jamespetts

First layout (1980s) in N or 2mmfs or a hybrid?

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I have been planning for a while an N gauge layout to go in the shed which is in the process of being built in my garden. For reference, the latest track plan looks like this:

 

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This layout is intended to be set in the Thames valley in 1989.

 

I have already acquired some rolling stock for it (mostly modern Farish/Dapol, with some older Farish mk. 2 carriages as stopgaps until the new air conditioned mk. 2s become available), all in N gauge, and have completed a small, simple, non-scenic test layout in N gauge using Peco Code 55 equipment and electrofrog points mainly for the purposes of testing automation software:

 

post-27057-0-57646200-1527617382_thumb.jpg

 

I found the weird arrangement of Peco Code 55 track embedded in the sleepers difficult to work with and the results look a little crude. Having seen pictures of the 2mm association's "Easitrac", the difference in appearance is as between night and day: the models look like an actual railway, rather than an N gauge model. Unlike with an ordinary N gauge model, one cannot tell what the scale is just by looking at a picture of the track without any real world scale clues.

 

I understand that it is possible to use the Easitrac with Peco points and modern N gauge stock without adaptation (the older stock simply having its wheels replaced with modern standards of N gauge wheels). This may improve the appearance, although I wonder whether the difference in appearance between plain track and points would be jarring (and presumably the plain track would need thicker underlay?).

 

I then discovered that a gentleman by the name of Keith will custom build 2mm fine scale Easitrac points to go with the plain track, and at prices that are by a rough calculation more or less comparable to Peco Bullhead OO gauge track prices (if the 2016 price list on the 2mm Society's website is up to date and I have correctly understood the pricing structure). If Peco or someone else mass produced track/points that look as good as the 2mm finescale product for that price, then I do not imagine that I should think twice about using this instead of the Peco code 55.

 

(One can of course make one's own points, but I am reluctant to rely on this for what is, aside from the testing layout, my first layout build and I am not sure that I am quite up to a task of that magnitude in any event).

 

However, finescale track is a more complex proposition than higher quality mass produced N gauge track. There is the issue of how to operate the points (I have seen references to some complex mechanisms being required - I do not know whether these are necessary for the pre-built Easitrac points supplied by the gentleman named Keith whose surname I forget, and I do not know how expensive/difficult to install that these are). There is the issue of wheelsets - this looks to be solvable without tremendous difficulty given that my layout will use only diesel locomotives, multiple units carriages and wagons, and not any steam locomotives that make conversion very tricky, although I should appreciate any views on whether I am missing something important (are there any 1980s era vehicles that are not easy to convert with drop-in wheelsets available from the 2mm FS Society, such as the Dapol HST/class 150/Farish TEA wagon/class 101/etc.)? There is also the issue as to curve radii - I know that EM gauge has a much wider minimum radius than OO gauge, but I do not know whether this holds for 2mm FS as against N gauge. I have designed the layout with the minimum radius of 305mm (and this only in the fiddle yards) and with no points of less than the Peco "medium" radius (and only long radius on the mainline); would this be sufficient to run vehicles with 2mm finescale wheelsets? Would there be any trouble running unmodified N gauge vehicles (in a layout with N gauge points) on 2mm finescale track through 305mm radius curves?

 

Further, there is the issue of design. I have planned the layout in detail using Peco geometry in SCARM, as can be seen in the attached plan. SCARM now includes templates for a number of turnouts produced by British Finescale in the Finetrax range, which appear to use the real railway geometary style denoted by letters and numbers and with straight rather than curved exits from the points. Would designing the layout in SCARM using these turnouts be sufficient for a professional builder of 2mm finescale turnouts to produce something that fitted the diagram so that I could lay the track exactly as designed, or would I have to learn how to use Templot? The Finetrax track would not suit my purposes for this layout, as it is all bullhead, whereas this needs concrete sleeper flat bottomed track.

 

Finally, are there any other hidden complexities (rail joining? soldering track feeds? rail isolation? ballasting?) that I have not touched on above either to a full 2mmFS layout or just using the plain Easitrack with Peco turnouts and unmodified modern N gauge stock of which I should be aware before making any decisions about this?

 

Any assistance in this regard would be much appreciated.

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It certainly looks interesting and ambitious.

 

The scenic side looks pretty OK. Nothing jars, as such.

 

Regarding the fiddle yard, do you need quite so many trailing/facing crossovers on the back two lines?

 

I am building a model of Paisley St James, Link in Signature, using 2mm fs components, but all copper clad/soldered construction for the points. They are actually quite easy to make, and with a bit of preparation, I can Knock up a B7 in a couple of hours.

 

If you go down the 2mm fs route, even with easitrack, it looks like there is a lot of work. I reckon I can turn out 4 Easitrack lengths in 1 hour, that's 2m of track. Copperclad, about 50cm in an hour.

 

Electrically, if you use Easitrack/British Finescale, or copperclad, it is (I am told) just like using electrofrog points. As we don't use fishplates in 2mm fs, everyt rail needs droppers, and there is no need for isolating fishplates.

 

Stock wise, virtually all hauled stock can be rewheeled with drop-in  wheelsets from the 2mm Assoc. shop, however you do need to be a member to access the shops. Locos are a bit different, some have wheelsets available, others need to be sent off for reprofiling

 

305mm radius sounds a bit tight to me, however, I would bow to those with superior knowledge. I think 2' or 600mm in new money is recommended, however all bogie stock, with no long fixed wheelbase steam locos around, may mean rather less of a problem.

 

I am sure that someone with FAR more knowledge and experience than I have will be along soon to ,put us (both) right.

 

I wish you well with this ambitious project.

 

Regards

 

Ian

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Finer points and flexi track for recent N gauge wheelsets are available from fiNetraX: https://www.britishfinescale.com. However, if you wanted to represent flatbottom track you'd need to use 2mm SA components even in N, as fiNetraX is chaired bullhead only at the moment. It should still look a lot better than Streamline though.

 

The track gauge in 2mm fs is 9.42mm, so there shouldn't be a problem running N wheelsets on curves they would manage on 9mm gauge track. 305mm is just over 3rd radius in Setrack terms so should be ok, but whether Easitrac can be reliably laid to that radius I don't know.

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Thank you both for your replies.

 

To answer Ian's question - the reason that there are so many crossovers at the rear of the fiddle yard is because those sections are intended to accommodate DMUs of up to 3 carriages in length so as not to take up space in the main section of the fiddle yard, which could then have more room for locomotive hauled trains.

 

In relation to joining rails, I note with interest that fishplates (i.e. rail joiners?) are not used in 2mm finescale. Does this not make aligning the track very much harder? I should be interested to know how this is done. Is there a known way of dealing with this when using 2mm finescale Easitrac plain track with N gauge points and stock?

 

As to locomotive wheelsets, does anyone know where I can find a resource showing which wheelsets are readily available and which need to be turned?

 

In relation to fiNetraX, I am aware of this, but note that, as stated, this is currently available only in bullhead/wooden sleeper, and is thus unsuitable for this layout.

 

As to the tighter curves, if I were to use the hybrid solution of unmodified N gauge stock, Peco points and Easitrac plain track, I suppose that I could simply use Peco Streamline track in the fiddle yards and thus not need to use it on the tight corners in any event; it would be useful to know the minimum recommended (functional/non-scenic) radius for 2mm Fine Scale however, as the current layout is designed to the minimum recommended radius for N gauge and I do not think that I have the space significantly to increase the minimum radii in the fiddle yards.

 

Thank you again both for your help: it is much appreciated.

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In relation to joining rails, I note with interest that fishplates (i.e. rail joiners?) are not used in 2mm finescale. Does this not make aligning the track very much harder? I should be interested to know how this is done. Is there a known way of dealing with this when using 2mm finescale Easitrac plain track with N gauge points and stock?.

You simply glue the track down with the rails carefully aligned.  It's not a problem.  My Kirkallanmuir layout (see link in my signature) is laid that way and is totally reliable. Some people stagger the rail joints so that the Easitrac sleepers keep the rails aligned.

 

I've no experience of N-gauge track or stock, so can't help with you other queries, except to say that I don't go below 600mm radius for curves, but that's to avoid buffer locking as I use AJ couplings.

 

Jim.

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Thank you - that is helpful. Your layout looks lovely.

 

I plan to use Dapol Easishunt/Easifit couplings where uncoupling is needed or otherwise the cheaper Dapol passive knuckle couplers, so hopefully a 305mm radius should not cause buffer lock with those.

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No Finetrax turnout builders that I know of, but they are very similar to the Easitrac design (milled base, pegged chairs, cast frog) so construction is almost identical.

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You might find the 2mm Scale Association book 'Track - How it works and how to model it' is a worthwhile investment covering all sorts of details and methods, most of which are applicable to other scales and gauges too. You do not need to be a member to purchase it.

 

There are various methods of operating hand built points. The simplest is the 'moving tie-bar' made from a length of copper clad soldered to the ends of the blades, with a hole to connect to a point motor or wire-in-tube. The more complex methods are attempts to improve the look, and reliability of the point operation. Because of the slight rotating movement of the point blade ends, the solder joints can eventually fail, usually at an inopportune time.

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Not sure if you've seen it, but if not then you may want to take a look at Blueball Summit http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/82477-blueball-summit/ and Ropley http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/105616-ropley-mid-hants-railway-in-n-gauge/

 

As you said, sticking to diesels means that conversion is an easier proposition. It will still cost and take time though. Most things are straightforward with either dropin wheels or reprofiled wheels but I've found that some RTR wagons a bit problematic with regard to the replacement axles not turning freely. It may be down to the precise length or the pinpoint cone angle but it took some fiddling and swapping to get these wagons rolling properly (Farish TTAs).

 

I think that Keith Armes is the chap you are referring to. I'm sure that he will be very happy to talk to you if you contact him.

 

Curve radii... I can't think of anyone who has tried this for a standard gauge main line layout. It certainly goes against the recommendations but that doesn't mean that it can't work. It will involve compromises with coupling distances and other things to achieve the required bogie swing or sideplay.

 

I would strongly advise starting out with something more limited - maybe a subset of your plan or a different plan altogether. Regardless of how much advice you get, you WILL make mistakes and it WILL take longer than you expect.

 

Good luck!

 

Regards, Andy

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Thank you all for your thoughts: that is most helpful. Keith Armes - that is the chap whose name I have seen on the 2mmFS website.

 

Blueball Summit and Ropley do look splendid - the track looks like an actual railway rather than specifically like an N gauge model. As to curve radii - may I ask what the recommendations are that it goes against? The recommendation for N gauge is a minimum radius of 12" (which roughly translates to 305mm, which is what I have used as the design software that I use is metric). If the recommendation for 2mm finescale is a minimum radius of > 305mm, then this might well be a reason to use N gauge rather than 2mm finescale - but that does not rule out using Easitrac either with Peco points, or if Mr. Armes will build them in this way, built to N gauge tolerances.

 

As to the size of the layout - I have built the small testing layout depicted above as a testing layout. Aside from the work involved in the construction of points and in re-wheeling stock (if one is not to have the layout built to N gauge tolerances with Easitrac; but I have successfully removed and replaced N gauge wheels on locomotives and carriages without great difficulty, so this is not in principle a major difficulty), is the reference to it taking a long time specific to 2mm finescale, or does this apply equally to N gauge in any event? What I am keen to try to understand is the extent to which using either a fully 2mm finescale standard, or some hybrid such as Easitrac plain track with Peco points or Easitrac increases the amount of difficulty involved in building a layout so that I can work out the cost/benefit ratio of either a full 2mm finescale layout or some intermediate arrangement to decide whether I would find pursuing it worthwhile.

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Easitrac or Finetrax take about the same time per section to build. But of course with the former being 2MMFS you would not be able to use Peco in your enormous storage area, so it's going to take twice as long to build the trackwork. There would also a pretty substantial conversion cost for rewheeling all your stock to finescale - figure 20% of the purchase cost. 

Edited by dpgibbons

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Easitrac or Finetrax take about the same time per section to build. But of course with the former being 2MMFS you would not be able to use Peco in your enormous storage area, so it's going to take twice as long to build the trackwork. There would also a pretty substantial conversion cost for rewheeling all your stock to finescale - figure 20% of the purchase cost. 

 

Thank you - that is most helpful. I have e-mailed Mr. Armes about his point building service, and one of the questions that I asked was whether he is able to build Easitrac points to N gauge tolerances. I suspect that, if this were possible, it might be a good efficient compromise, allowing use of inexpensive Peco track in the fiddle yards and not requiring conversion of stock.

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Blueball Summit and Ropley do look splendid - the track looks like an actual railway rather than specifically like an N gauge model. As to curve radii - may I ask what the recommendations are that it goes against? The recommendation for N gauge is a minimum radius of 12" (which roughly translates to 305mm, which is what I have used as the design software that I use is metric). If the recommendation for 2mm finescale is a minimum radius of > 305mm, then this might well be a reason to use N gauge rather than 2mm finescale - but that does not rule out using Easitrac either with Peco points, or if Mr. Armes will build them in this way, built to N gauge tolerances.

 

I don't know that it is written on a tablet of stone anywhere, but the usual rule of thumb is about 2ft radius. That doesn't mean that smaller radii won't work. If you don't have anything with a long rigid wheelbase (e.g. a 9F) then that's one less thing to cause problems. I'd still say that using such radii for 2FS wheelsets with main line stock and train lengths is pretty untried so it would be worth (for example) re-laying your test bed layout with whatever track you decide on and then trying full length trains with suitable wheels at scale speeds to see if you get any issues. WIth drop-in wheels, you can always put the 'N' ones back again if it doesn't work out.

 

As the dpgibbons pointed out, if you choose 'N' wheel standards then you can nail down a load of Streamline in the off stage areas. If you choose 2FS then your pointwork will look better, particularly when viewed (or photographed) end-on.

 

Regards, Andy

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I have e-mailed Mr. Armes about his point building service, and one of the questions that I asked was whether he is able to build Easitrac points to N gauge tolerances.

 

 

Finetrax is essentially Easitrac to N guage tolerances so that's what you should be asking him about. Finetrax is relatively easy to put together - I managed it with no prior trackbuilding experience. So I suggest you try a test-build, if only to understand what's involved - laying it is not the same as plugging Peco track together. Do buy the relevant jigs as these make assembly a lot easier.    

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Finetrax is essentially Easitrac to N guage tolerances so that's what you should be asking him about. Finetrax is relatively easy to put together - I managed it with no prior trackbuilding experience. So I suggest you try a test-build, if only to understand what's involved - laying it is not the same as plugging Peco track together. Do buy the relevant jigs as these make assembly a lot easier.    

 

The trouble with Finetrax is that it is not currently available with concrete sleepers or flatbottom rail, and so is not really suitable for a layout set in 1989.

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I have now had a reply from Keith Armes - he recites that 600mm is the minimum recommended radius for 2mm finescale on account both of the slightly increased gauge and the smaller clearance between wheels and rails (I suspect that the latter is more important than the former so far as the radius is concerned), although he did note that it depended on the stock being run.

 

He also mentioned the fiNetraX product, but noted that only bullhead track is available for it. He stated that he could build points to N gauge standards, but whether he would accept the work would depend on what else he has on, as he prioritises 2mm finescale.

 

He also clarified that the points that he supply come with a simple tiebar for changing them.

 


 

The main difficulty with adopting a fully finescale solution would appear to be the minimum curve radius, although a hybrid solution would have the (not insignificant) advantages of not needing to replace wheels in all but the old Farish carriages and being able to use inexpensive track in the large fiddle yards, but would have the disadvantages of slightly poorer looking pointwork.

 

Aside from the less fine looking pointwork, a disadvantage of the hybrid approach may well be that Mr. Armes may not be available to do the construction. Does anyone know of any other track builders in case Mr. Armes is not available?

 

Some further thought (and possibly testing apropos curve radii) may be needed in due course. Thank you all for your assistance so far.

 

Edit:

video of the Welton Down 2mm finescale layout (set in the 1990s and using similar rolling stock to that which I intend to use) clearly shows a gentle radius (of at least 600mm) in the fiddle yard area, making the layout take considerably more non-scenic space than it would if a 305mm radius curve were practicable. It is most unlikely that the builders of this fine layout would have had a gentler curve than served any functional purpose in the fiddle yards, from which I infer that ~600mm really is the functional limit for 2mm finescale, even if one has no intention of running any steam locomotives.

 

This does suggest that a hybrid solution might have much to recommend it in my case.

Edited by jamespetts

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Hi,

 

I don't understand one thing: you're happy to compromise the realism (mixing N gauge tracks and wheels and not fine-scale) but you reject the less obtrusive look of the wood sleepers (wood instead of concrete) and rails (bullhead instead of flat bottom). By any means, I am not a "rivet counter" but I wouldn't compromise to such extent the general look of a layout.

 

Then, from my limited experience with R-T-R N gauge tracks, the plan you have for your layout is probably OK to build in a reasonable time-frame but for 2mm, calling it "ambitious" is an understatement. Like others, I would advise to build something much smaller, just to see if fine-scale suits you from all "point of views".

 

Best regards,

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We’re all different - I personally find wooden sleeper BH rail more jarring on a modern mainline layout compared to concrete sleeper N gauge.

What I don’t understand is why not try these things, rather than purely trying to find answers online!? Get a length of Easitrack, lay it to 300mm radius, fit something with turned down wheels and try it. Maybe something like a VGA - long fixed wheelbase van.

It’s a monstrous project (and I thought the whole point of this was as a precursor to your OO gauge behemoth), why not spend a few hours and pounds testing things, before you redesign everything based on some opinions online?

Edited by njee20
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It is most unlikely that the builders of this fine layout would have had a gentler curve than served any functional purpose in the fiddle yards, from which I infer that ~600mm really is the functional limit for 2mm finescale, even if one has no intention of running any steam locomotives.

 

I don't think that necessarily follows. It just proves that 2ft radius works, not that a smaller radius can't work. I do think that you are now faced with the same decision that anyone contemplating a roundy roundy faces - do you push the boundaries or stick to what is known to work? If you want to push the boundaries and get it wrong then that will be a lot of work down the drain. You really need to find out where the boundaries are and I'd say that the only way to do that is by testing it.

 

It is not a simple question of, say 600mm OK, 590mm not OK. There are many factors that have a bearing on the outcome, such as...

  • The angle you are turning through - 180 degrees is probably more difficult than, say 90 degrees
  • The stuff you want to run - stock with 8 wheel bogies being more helpful, but what is the lest helful thing that you want to be able to run in terms of long rigid wheelbase?
  • Clearances on your stock for footsteps etc
  • Wwhether your couplings can cope with the curvature
  • Length of train
  • Speed of train
  • Friction of the bearings, friction of the wheel on rail (which increases as radius reduces). To start with this will make stuff slow down. In extreme cases you will pull the whole train off towards the inside of the curve.
  • Gauge widening - we have not mentioned that yet but it is one technique for helping stuff to get around curves (even on the real thing). You'd probably need to go for something like PCB track on your curves in order to use this.
  • Perhaps cant (superelevation) and transition curves.
  • Is the powered vehicle pulling, pushing or in the middle?

I don't think anyone on here can really answer this question because there are so many variables.

 

So if you want to build a layout with 2FS track and wheels and you want to be sure that it will work without doing a lot more testing then stick to 600mm min rad. This is the decision that most builders make because testing will take time and effort. If you want to know what the limiting radius really is for the stuff you intend to run then you will need to do some work to find out.

 

I kind of hope that you do the testing because I'd be interested to know the outcome but I'd fully understand if (like other builders) you go for 'tried and tested'.

 

Regards, Andy

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I have built a few small circular 2FS layouts in recent years that have used radius down to 12" as part of a parabolic curve ( the 12" portion being around 75 - 90 degrees). These curves have been laid using both Easitrac BH and soldered type (incorporating gauge widening). A simple test track I have uses just Easitrac glued down onto a sheet of 3'X2' hardboard and here the 180degree end curved inner radius is about 11" as you might expect to get within the 24". All of the stock I have, mostly diesel era up to 66's/156dmu's/freightliner flats apart from the 3F jinty/4F featured in a thread here, whether using 2mm 2FS or converted (re-machined) N wheels, has generally run around them without problem. This includes the odd few bits that still have standard N couplings I have not yet replaced - most use DG's.

 

However... there are a few caveats to this. Rail joints through such a tight radius are not to be reccomended. Because of their tyre profile with small root radius 2FS wheels will 'find' the slightest kink/mis-aligned joint and de-rail as the flanges can ride right up against the inner rail face. With their much larger root radius (of the NMRA RP25 type now commonly used) N profile wheels cope better in this respect since the flanges generally run slightly away from the rail face. And I very much doubt whether most 2FS steam locos could cope with radius much below 18" as an absolute minimum. The 3F/4F were aquired/converted simply to see how small a radius a simple 6-coupled loco could manage compared to diesels. They can just make it with their N gauge chassis and plenty of sideplay. But lets be realistic, radii this small make stock running around them look, well, a bit silly. Okay for hidden curves where there is no other choice but otherwise........

 

So the general advice to keep the minimum radius around 600mm is based on the good practice of minimal grief with things not working out. That some of us choose to push the boundries to see what is possible is usually done based on past experience and the knowledge that it might not work out. I well remember reading an account of one of the late Andy Calvert's layouts - sorry can't remember which one now - where he much regretted using 15" radius curves at the ends, feeling them far too small and spoiling the whole 'look' of the layout, the illusion of the sweeping nature of the rest of it.

 

In repect to the OP's very ambitious layout, and quite before there is any thought of the track construction and standards to use I have a more basic question. How is the layout to be operated? As I understand it the premise is to locate it up against a wall. Is this correct? (apologies if I have this wrong). If so how will the huge fiddle yard be used? Stock placed/removed from it? Simply by leaning over the rest of the layout? Not a very good idea to my mind. Usually the reason for gentle curves is to allow a central operating well, the room for a person to be between layout and fiddle yard and move around and I would think this is why Welton Down has them. It is really a basic part of circular layout design - whatever the scale used - as my experiments have shown to me......... My latest 2FS layout has reverted back to a 'straight' terminus/fiddle type!

 

regards,

 

Izzy

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Edit:

video of the Welton Down 2mm finescale layout (set in the 1990s and using similar rolling stock to that which I intend to use) clearly shows a gentle radius (of at least 600mm) in the fiddle yard area, making the layout take considerably more non-scenic space than it would if a 305mm radius curve were practicable. It is most unlikely that the builders of this fine layout would have had a gentler curve than served any functional purpose in the fiddle yards, from which I infer that ~600mm really is the functional limit for 2mm finescale, even if one has no intention of running any steam locomotives.

 

This does suggest that a hybrid solution might have much to recommend it in my case.

 

Just to clarify - Welton Down was originally built as a steam-era layout, but was sold by it's builder and the new owner 'updated' it to represent a more modern era. I would be careful therefore about drawing conclusions from this particular example.

 

Andy

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