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The layout "Santa's Globetrotting Holiday", was built by the Basingstoke Bodgers team for the third heat of Channel 5's Great Model Railway Challenge programme.


Because the hours of recorded footage had to be edited down to a programme slot of just one hour (including adverts), quite a lot of the detail, back-stories and development work had to be omitted. Hopefully in this thread I can fill in some of the details, and answer some questions that viewers may like to ask.


To kick off, some people have pointed out that it was unclear what our 6 pre-build items were. They were:

  1. The Sphinx tunnel mouth
  2. Stonehenge (slightly smaller than N scale to fit, and give more forced perspective, but all stones accurately positioned as it is now)
  3. An oasis (created from an Oasis CD)
  4. The station in England
  5. The English Pub (with animated Santa)
  6. The Toy Factory (partly pre-built, but still had a lot of finishing needed during filming)





I cannot find a photo of Stonehenge at the moment.


We were also allowed to lay track and wiring on two of the three boards, and prepare skeletal scenery supports, but no ballasting or actual scenery was permitted, and board three had to be completely bare.


Here is our dream team, left to right, John S, Rob, Robin, Pete and John C. I am hiding behind the camera, however, a ModelU scan of me can be seen sitting at a table outside the pub.




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Another subject that has been raised is the use of SetTrack instead of FlexiTrack by many of the teams.


FlexiTrack is great for gentle flowing curves, preferably with transition curves from straight to full curvature. However, it is not so good when the required radius gets tight. The gauge can start to reduce, and it is very hard to maintain the curve through track joints without introduce abrupt 'corners'. These are the main reasons we adopted SetTrack for the curves we needed. We went for number 3 curves as being OK for Santa's train, although these are really too tight for most serious model layouts. Part of the Elve's train loop had to use number 2 curves in the fiddle yard. We put short straight sections in between the 'S' curves, as instant transition from a left curve to a right curve is a recipe for disaster. It was a tight fit, but we just managed to squeeze in what we wanted with track crossing the baseboard joints as close to perpendicular as possible.  The flow of the curve was double-checked by eye as each length was added, as it is easy to introduce sudden changes in direction if you are not careful. Some FlexiTrack was used in the fiddle yard to adjust the geometry and make the final links.


To produce the varied heights that would be looked on favourably by the judges, we introduced a steady, but gentle, incline from board level in the desert up to about 2 inches at the Toy Factory, with a steeper descent in the fiddle yard back down to the desert. We used the Woodland Scenic track base formers for these. This was a first for me, and they seemed to work quite well. However, we did have to lay thin card (cereal packets) under the rails as any ballast would otherwise just fall into the concertina slots in the formers.





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Having mentioned my ModelU scanned figure, I should also point out that a scanned model of Robin was on the footplate of Rudolph Castle with Santa, and a scan of John S. was the shadey character taking the money for the bouncey castle. I will try to get some close up photos of the ModelU figures later.


The army of elves were normal warehouse operative figures with hats added using a hot glue gun. Applied to the head and pulled down the back, then left to cool and snipped to length. The rest was paintwork.



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Here's a photo of part of Santa's Holiday being restored to working order in order to be on the PECO stand at Warley.



Nick (on behalf of the Basingstoke and North Hants Model Railway Society - still looking for new members).

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A photo of my mini-me (from ModelU) in the yellow shirt, sitting at a table outside the pub. Still waiting for Santa to bring out the drinks.


The eagle-eyed might see another of these mini-mes on the layout we built for the final this Friday evening.




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Making progress on refurbishing the layout for its appearance at Warley. Two of the three boards have now been rewired to use Merg CBus instead of DCC to control the accessories, and the Ratio signals, which were completely destroyed when the layout was transported back to the clubrooms, have been replaced by old Hornby metal signals that should be much more robust. These old signals can be picked up quite cheaply, and I have ruined the collector value by drilling the bases to take the operating wire (guitar string) down to the servo in a Merg mount below. The desert sand that ended up on the floor of the van has been restored. It seems that sand is very resistant to being glued down. Our aim is more restoration and preservation, and making the layout more robust rather than improving it visually, so it should end up looking pretty much the same as it did during judging.


We also had the same problem as Callum with the 'Go Forth' layout when trying to join the two baseboards together again. We could not get all the wooden pegs to go into the holes again. In the end we drilled out the holes to 8mm diameter except near where tracks crossed the join. It was still a struggle to join the boards, but brute force and ignorance won the day (and we have plenty of both).


Robin's sphincter Sphinx and the sink plunger obelisk at the Oasis station



Gronk passing the 'new' signal at the Oasis station.



The Oasis (made from an 'Oasis' CD)



Gronk has moved into England, and passes another 'new' signal.


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The question of submitted plans for the layout has been raised, so here are some of the images we produced during our planning phase. Rob produced some hand drawn sketches while I added them into layout design software. I started with trying to use Anyrail, but then switched to 3rdPlanit which I felt happier with.












So you can see the plan developing. Using 3rdPlanit, a list of the SetTrack pieces required was produced, and a full size printout of the layout, on lots of A4 sheets, allowed the layout to be accurately marked out on the baseboards before track laying started.



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  • 2 weeks later...



Santa's Globetrotting Holiday should be set up by now at the NEC for the Warley show (on the PECO Stand near the entrance) and the Basingstoke Bodgers who made it should be enjoying a curry - a Basingstoke Bodgers Balti?.


A few MERG bits have been added to the layout to make it easier for the operators to run the layout through the operating sequence hundreds of times over the weekend if needs be. The commentary from the TV show heat has been re-recorded and can be played via a MERG designed sound system - whether it is powerful enough to overcome the hub-hub in the hall is another matter. Bodgers possibly disguised as Elves will be there at Warley to operate the layout and answer questions.


If there is room the Brunel Tamar bridge tribute model that was part of the TV final may be on display.





Nick (on behalf of the Basingstoke and North Hants Model Railway Society - still looking for new members).


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  • 1 year later...

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