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Last year, I had a shed built in my back garden with the aim of building a model railway in it:


The design of the model railway to go in it has undergone a very great number of iterations since its first conception about a year ago. The plan was always, and remains, to have three walls of the long, narrow shed (that is, all the walls aside from the one with the door in it) occupied for the model railway, and to have a desk/workbench near the door. The plan has also involved from the outset the idea of having two levels: one at approximately eye level when standing and one at approximately eye level when sitting. The original plan was to have both levels as a single layout in 00 gauge connected with a helix. That plan was revised to having two single level layouts: one 00 gauge layout on the upper level and a completely independent N gauge layout on the lower level, but taking only one wall.


The track planning topics for those layouts are here:


and here:



This leaves a space on the lower level of the other walls of the shed that I might in the future be able to fill with a smaller third layout, but I plan not to plan that layout in any detail until construction on the other two is considerably more advanced. Preliminary ideas as to what to have in that space include a narrow gauge/009 layout, a suburban steam layout (perhaps a Victorian conception of Minories, or perhaps a through station in N gauge), a London Underground based layout or an extension to the existing N gauge layout with a section of plain track running and larger fiddle yards. What to build will depend on what I find that I enjoy and think is lacking from the other layouts and whether it turns out that I am any good at building kits.


In any event, the fitting out of the shed coming to its conclusion, and the track plans for the two main layouts being now all but finalised (the people who are constructing the baseboards now have the final version), it is now time to have topics about constructing the layouts rather than just topics about the track plans and the shed.


The layout topic for the N gauge layout is [url=https://www.ngaugeforum.co.uk/SMFN/index.php?topic=42211.0]on the N gauge forum[/url], and I do not intend to duplicate that here, so this will be the topic for the 00 gauge layout.


At one point, I had intended to build the N gauge layout first, as it was a simpler design and I was waiting for the release of the Peco Bullhead slips and crossings before I could start on the 00 gauge layout. However, I am now unsure as to which layout will be started first: although I have acquired far more rolling stock for the N gauge layout, partly because N gauge stock is made in smaller production runs and can be hard to get hold of once it goes out of production, but also because I planned to build this first, I decided in the end to use British Finescale track rather than Peco track, and some of the turnouts that I need for that (specifically, the flat-bottom turnouts) are also not available yet. Also, the N gauge layout has evolved considerably so as to be at least as, if not in some respects perhaps more complex than, the 00 gauge layout. The result of all that is that I may start the 00 gauge layout first, or build them simultaneously.


Concept - general


The 00 gauge layout is intended to be a multi-guise layout. That is, it is intended to be able to be set in different eras and locations by changing the rolling stock and selected items such as station signs, signalboxes and signals. The idea is that the layout will always be run in a very specific era and location, but that that era and location can readily be changed between operating sessions.


The latest track plan is as follows:




I will not dwell on the track plan in much detail, as it has been discussed at length in the track planning thread. The basic concept is of a coastal main line terminus in the pre-war era in which two double track main lines converge on a single eight platform station and two separate engine shed facilities for two different (or formerly different) railway companies. Goods facilities are imagined to exist off-scene, thus, aside from mail/parcels and locomotive coal trains, and possibly light engine workings, only passenger trains will be depicted.


There are currently two locational guises planned, although in theory there could be more in the future. The first is Bournhampton: a south coast of England location at the boundary between the LBSCR and LSWR. Initially, this will be set in 1935, but I plan to be able to backdate it to the 1920s or 1910s by changing the rolling stock and details such as the figures.


The second is Port Tawe: a south Wales location intended to represent a fictionalised idea of Swansea as it might have been had the plans that I understand that really existed to combine High Street and Victoria stations ever come to pass.


The Bournehampton guise is the earlier of the two ideas, and was the basis of my track plans. This is the more advanced of the plans. I will describe each in turn in a little more detail.


Concept - Bournehampton


The best way of explaining the concept of where Bournehampton is imagined to be located is with this schematic diagram:


Diagram layout 3.png


This can be compared with my schematic of the real railways of the period using the same drawing style here:


Diagram reality.3png.png


The implications of this concept have been discussed at some length on the track planning thread, so I will not repeat that all in detail here, but, in summary the station is imagined to be served by regular (hourly) trains to London Waterloo, non-stop trains on the even hours (including one all-pullman "Bournehampton Belle" per day each way) and semi-fasts on the odd hours, some of which split at Eastleigh. There would also be a London Bridge train via Horsham with a single Pullman carriage once a day each way.


Long distance cross-country services would include Brighton to Plymouth and Brighton to Cardiff/Swansea (both reversing and changing engines at Bournehampton), and Bournehampton to Cardiff, Birkenhead, Newcastle and York.


Intermediate distance semi-fast trains would run to Brighton, Weymouth, Didcot (via Winchester Chesil.), London Waterloo (via Alton and Arlesford), and Ashford/Hastings (via Brighton).


Stopping trains would serve Eastleigh/Winchester/Basingstoke, Salisbury, Poole, Littlehampton, Chichester and a push/pull branch train to Fawley.


Initially, this is planned to be set in 1935 - shortly before electrification of the main line to Bournehampton in 1937, but after the electrification of the Brighton main line in 1933, when Brighton main line engines had been cascaded to secondary duties. Thus, H2s would appear on the London Bridge to Bournehampton via Horsham trains, Schools and Nelsons would appear on the fast London trains and King Arthurs (and possibly Schools) would appear on the semi-fasts to London and the cross-country services. I have managed to get hold of two "00 Works" D15s, which can be used on the Brighton-Plymouth services.


Ideally, the Bournehampton to Brighton semi-fasts would be worked by I3s, but until I can work out how to build the SE Finecast kit of these, I can get away with using T9s on this service, as a pair of T9s were in fact used in addition to the I3s on the Brighton to Portsmouth route that in my world becomes the Brighton to Bournehampton route.


Rolling stock will include Maunsell corridor stock (both high- and low-window variants, together with dining cars and dining saloons), Pullman carriages, the ex-LSWR Maunsell non-corridor conversions and the ex-SECR "birdcage" stock.


The 1935 version is the only version that can be fitted out fully with ready to run stock; to backdate even to the early 1930s/late 1920s, quite a lot would have to be built from kits, both for locomotives and rolling stock. I have yet to find out whether I am any good at/will enjoy building these.


Concept - Port Tawe


This is in many ways a simpler concept, since it involves far less changing of geography: this just re-imagines Swansea with a different name and rail history in which the GWR (High Street) and LMS (Victoria/St. Thomas) stations were combined into one, with the LMS sharing a part of the GWR line as far as Gowerton.


The initial version of this would be set in 1938. We would thus have express trains to London hauled by Castle class locomotives, some of which would reverse at Port Tawe, lose some carriages and be hauled West onwards to Neyland/Milford Haven by Hall class locomotives; there would be semi-fasts to Cardiff hauled by Halls; cross-country services to York, Newcastle, Southampton and Brighton hauled by Stars and stopping trains to Carmarthen hauled by Granges and Moguls. There would be auto-train workings to Morriston/Llandarcy with 64xx pannier tanks, and short trains of corridor carriages hauled by 56xx or 57xx tanks (depending on which valley). There would also be occasional trains to Porthcawl in the summer hauled by prairie tanks and made up of non-corridor stock and cross-country workings to Hereford by diesel railcar.


On the LMS side, there would be cross-country trains to Shrewsbury hauled by Fowler 4p tanks and older LMS corridor carriages and stopping trains to Llanmorlais, Pontarddulais, and Brynammon hauled by either LMS 3F tanks or ex-LNWR Coal Tanks with non-corridor stock.


Currently, there are one or two items of ready to run stock not available for this (most especially a GWR dining car, apart from the old Hornby Railroad type), although the 2019 Hornby catalogue's inclusion of the non-corridor GWR carriages is definitely useful for the Porthcawl services. Dining cars would thus need to be made from a kit or poorer quality Railroad type vehicles used.


Because of this and because the Bournehampton concept is more advanced, it is on the Bournehampton guise that I have so far focussed most efforts and stock acquisition.


As with Bournehampton, any backdating to the 1920s or earlier would require a significant amount of kit building. Indeed, ideally, even the late 1930s would have carriages (e.g. toplights) not available in ready to run form.


Concept - operation


One thing that has particularly struck me since my recent return to this hobby has been how much railway modellers differ in the aspects of railway modelling that they enjoy. For some people, watching realistic trains pass by in beautifully modelled scenery is what makes them happy. For others, it is the act of building that they enjoy. Some just like to see trains move on model track. Still others find hours of joy in shunting freight wagons. There are no doubt many other modes of enjoyment.


My preference, however, is for complex main line passenger operations: the delight of a train from some imagined far away destination completing its journey, the rolling stock being shunted to a siding, the locomotive being turned and prepared for its next trip and all the while the stopping services entering and leaving, all to a precise timetable, all with specific (imagined) destinations is what I enjoy. This layout is planned with that in mind.


Constructional details


I am no good at woodwork, so I am having the baseboards made by an outside contractor. I will, however, be doing the rest of the work myself. Trackwork will be Peco Bullhead (I might possibly temporarily use Peco HO/Streamline slips, as they are the same geometary, in order to make a start on this if the Bullhead slips take too long to become available; I note that the Everard Junction chap has done this).


Control will be DCC, probably using the Digikeijs DR5000 system with full block occupancy detection and Railcom feedback in certain places, and computer controlled with Train Controller Gold. Couplers will be Kadee. Uncoupling will mainly be by permanent magnet. If any uncoupler needs to be non-permanent, my preferred solution is a servo mounted permanent magnet, as electromagnets are very high current devices and are thus difficult to use (and, apparently, even possibly a fire hazard). Point control will either be stall motors or servos - I have yet to decide. Either way, the LocoNet bus will be used rather than the DCC bus for point and signal control. Signals will be semaphore and controlled by servos. These will have to be easily demountable to deal with guise changes.


Turntables will have to be either ADM or Fleishmann (or perhaps some mix of both, the latter, perhaps, in the fiddle yards) so as to work with TrainController Gold. These will have to use the DCC bus, alas. There will, however, be separate power districts; I have yet to plan precisely where these will fall.


I do not plan to use any locomotive based DCC sound, which should significantly simplify DCC fitting. I do plan to use stay-alives wherever possible to maximise reliability, which is important for computer controlled operation. I plan to use Zimo decoders for their superior motor control and stay-alive capability.


Construction - progress so far


The baseboards being as yet not ready, there is only a limited amount that I can do. However, my shed now being ready for the first time in the last few weeks has allowed me to make a start on renumbering/detailing some of the rolling stock. Indeed, that I have started to do so is why I have started this thread now, as this is the first time that I am posting about actual modelling work for this layout rather than just planning for it.


The first item on which I have worked this evening is a Bachmann H2 Atlantic for the Bournehampton guise of the layout. Needing more than one of these, I have renumbered one from "2421, South Foreland" to "2426, St. Albans Head", and also added selected detailing parts from the detail pack (partly to see how well that the locomotives withstand being stored in Really Useful Boxes with foam insets with their detailing kits applied).


Here are the results:


The etched nameplates from Jackson Evans look rather nice.




The decals from the same source were perhaps slightly less successful: I have found these to be less easy to work with than Fox/Railtec so far.


I have depicted the cab doors as open, which seems to make sense since, in a terminus layout, the locomotive will spend far more time sitting in the station/in the engine shed than running on the main line, but I have only attached these with Tacky Wax, so I can depict a closed door if necessary.




I have added a route disc for the Portsmouth line, which I believe would have been used in reality for the Brighton to Plymouth trains (as they would reverse at Portsmouth). This seems to be fitting for use in my world on the Brighton to Plymouth via Bournehampton trains. This is applied with Tacky Wax so that I can change this if necessary.




I am not sure whether fitting the rear coupler like this with the links kept out of the way will still interfere with the Kadee coupler, but it did look very silly with a gaping hole in the buffer beam where the coupling hook should go. Further testing will be needed to confirm the position.


I also sprayed too much varnish, which has caused some problems with the appearance of the tender.




I am quite pleased with the overall look despite some of the issues, however. I shall be interested to find out how the detailing components withstand being stored in the box.

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  • 1 month later...

I have applied some detailing to a Hornby N15 this week-end:


46591389055_dd444d6576_h.jpgHornby N15 with detailing applied by James Petts, on Flickr


The route disc indicators are spare from a Bahcmann H2 (as Hornby do not supply these), and are the correct indication for a Bournemouth express.


Yet to be done is adding crew, real coal and etched nameplates.

Edited by jamespetts
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The Bachmann H2 (with DCC decoder and stay alive fitted) running on the MRC test tracks this evening:


32596061807_d603f5e226_h.jpgBrighton Atlantic on the test tracks by James Petts, on Flickr


40572534883_730bfe8863_h.jpgBrighton Atlantic hauling a rake of carriages by James Petts, on Flickr


The 3,300uF stay alive allowed this locomotive to run at the decoder's slowest possible speed setting (at which movement was barely perceptible) for about half a circuit of the test tracks (which were not very clean) without stalling. Its ultra slow run only came to an end because the tracks were needed for another locomotive, not because it stalled.


Here is an 00 Works D15 on the test tracks:


32596068907_bda2f0b3ce_h.jpgLSWR D15 on the test tracks by James Petts, on Flickr


46623076875_ddd014a82e_h.jpgLSWR D15 with a rake of carriages by James Petts, on Flickr


No decoder fitted yet, but I did oil this yesterday, which improved running and reduced the grinding gears sound that I had had when running it previously.

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As a two time Swansea resident who is fascinated by the railways here I like the port tawe concept. I've been mulling over a similar idea for myself but set in the 1970's.


I will be following (acquiring ideas!) 


Regards Richard

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Swansea is a good and possibly underused inspiration for railway modelling; it seems not nearly as popular as Penzance, for instance, yet it has many of the same advantages (although is slightly larger).


Of course, by the 1970s, there was only the one Swansea station anyway, so you could use more or less the real timetable for the period. By that era, there is enough rolling stock available in N gauge to make a layout in that smaller scale feasible, which might make it easier to fit things in the space (although you might have plenty of space in 00, of course). That era is on the cusp of the resignalling, I believe, so you might have semaphores or colour lights to taste.


I do sometimes worry, in respect of my own layout plans, how practical that a multi-guise layout would be and how much time and effort that switching over all the rolling stock and signals would take. However, the degree of variety that that would provide would add much delight.

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  • 5 months later...

Because the wiring for the fiddle yard of the N gauge layout that sits below where this layout will be has not yet been completed, I have not been able to start on the baseboards for this, which is why there have not been updates recently. However, I have given some consideration to one aspect of the track plan, and made some alterations to re-instate the double junction a version of which was present on earlier plans (albeit not in this form). Here is the latest track plan:




I have also slightly lengthened two of the platforms. The purpose of doing this is to work better with the Port Tawe guise of the layout, in which all GWR trains from west Wales will have to use platforms 4 and 5 (as platforms 6, 7 and 8 will only be accessible by the LMS shed, not the GWR shed, as the LBSCR and LSWR sheds as marked on the plan will be designated in this guise), and it does not make sense to have a single lead junction in a significant terminus of a double track main line.


This should still be plausible for the Bournehampton guise of the layout, as pairs of double junctions of this sort were a prominent feature at Brighton station.


Operationally, this allows a train to be arriving on platform 5 and departing on platform 4 simultaneously from either of the two mainlines, as well as  train arriving or departing on platform 5 from the LBSCR/west Wales line at the same time as a train is arriving or departing on platform 4 from the LSWR/London line in each case.

Edited by jamespetts
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This is a pretty ambitious plan and will need several operators to bring out it's full potential, something to bear in mind IMHO if you are a lone wolf operator.  But I like the 'feel' of the Swansea version, knowing the area well in real life.  I've pondered the 'Swansea General' concept myself but always saw it as a through station, an end on junction between the GW and the Central Wales LNW routes with the GW using an upgraded Vale of Neath route into the city.  


I'm worried about the fiddle yards, though.  Some of the back roads are going to be difficult to reach if you need to get in to lift stock out, which you are bound to occasionally, and the roads are very close together, which will be an issue again if you have to 'crane shunt' anything as you won't be able to get your fingers between the roads.  


I'd suggest you don't need the loco sheds.  The GW had very good facilities at Danygraig, and the LMS at Paxton Street, and in this version of reality I imagine the Midland's Swansea Vale would be using Danygraig post-grouping.  The space can still be used for visiting locos as a servicing point, though, not uncommon at bit termini; turntable, water, coaling stage, ash pits and of course a cabin for the locomen.    Think King's Cross or Ranaleigh Bridge. This has the advantage of having all the locos on view instead of hiding in sheds, and you still have a reason for for light engines to run on and off the layout from Paxton and Danygraig.  Carriage sidings would probably be out towards Jersey Marine somewhere.

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Thank you for your thoughts. As to the number of operators, I plan to have this automated and computer controlled, so that should not be an issue, although it might be fun to run it with multiple human operators, too.


As to the locomotive sheds and servicing points, this is an interesting thought. Bear in mind that this arrangement has to work equally well for the Bournehampton guise as the Port Tawe guise, however. Do you know of anywhere where I can find more detail as to the differences between the two in operation and also some examples of each so that I can compare the two?


I can certainly imagine the LBSCR/LMS (depending on the guise) area being a a servicing point, although did not some servicing points also have sheds, such as Ranaleigh Bridge?

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  • 1 year later...

This past year, I have been focussing on the N gauge layout, whose track laying needs to be completed before work on this layout starts. The pandemic and consequent delays in the availability of Peco Bullhead slips and crossings also means that the start of this layout has been delayed.


However, to have a change from the vast amounts of code 40 track building for the N gauge layout, which is happily nearing a close, I have returned briefly to some planning for this layout, in particular, planning the necessary rakes of carriages and corresponding services, and then making some consequential amendments to the fiddle yards in the track plan to increase flexibility of operation and to add capacity.


Here are the plans for the various rakes for the Bournehampton guise:




The scheme of these plans is to allow as much as possible to be ready to run stock initially, but to allow greater variety and accuracy to be added with kit built stock as necessary slowly over time. Under the locomotives column in each sheet, the red types are those not currently available ready to run. The idea is that some longer rakes can be formed by combining some of the shorter rakes (as described in the appropriate columns above). This will require a fiddle yard pilot engine to do this automatically.


In researching the Chichester slow trains from Portsmouth on which the Chichester services on this layout would be based, it came to be apparent that these would have been likely to have been a motor train. For that reason, I added a further motor train specific siding in the fiddle yard to accommodate this service, and thereby reducing the amount of space in the Brighton side fiddle yards that would need to be occupied by rakes.


Therefore, I amended one of the roads on the Brighton side to be accessible also from the South-Western lines, increasing the number of rakes that could access the layout from the South-Western lines. This, in turn, allows me to add a relief train using Maunsell 6-set no. 329 plus one PLV, which is the rake that comes with the Hornby "Southern Suburban 1938" train packs when both are combined. Research suggests that this rake was set aside for "special traffic", of which holiday reliefs would very likely be included, and these services would have been important on Saturdays in the summer in south coast towns. Also, T9 no. 312, which also comes in the set, is a very useful locomotive for the layout, as photographs from the 1930s show this particular locomotive hauling London Bridge to Portsmouth trains. The inclusion of relief services will also give a reason to use an S15 class, which no doubt would have hauled such services from time to time.


Here is the amended track plan, showing added motor train siding (no. 23) and additional crossover into the Brighton side fiddle yard:



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42 minutes ago, BlueLightning said:

Looking good James! I'm still very jealous of the track plan you are able to have!




PS. I approve of Terriers and Push-Pull stock


Thank you! I shall only be able to have it once the Peco Bullhead slips and crossings become available at some unknown time in the future.


Also, I approve of your approval of Terriers and push-pull stock.

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