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MOD railways were varied compared to the tasks they needed to do and the enviroment they needed to work in. They could end up with several different gauges, and have various buildings and tunnels depending on their use. Obviously much of the work was secretive as were the locations as any country right around the world needs to protest itself from potential threats, and each country will have its own requirements, but delving into the past in the UK and we have a fascinating subject to model in. Now for obvious reasons, quite a lot of information even today is not available so, if one wants to model such a site, it is better to model a representation of buildings and possibly the odd tunnel (Ideal place to enter a backscene) and even locomotives and stock can be guesswork, though some information sometimes springs up on some sites from old photographs. An idea would be to use covered vans as these would have been used for explosives in both narrow and standard gauges. The great thing about vans (I am referring to railway waggons and not road transport) is that one does not need to model what was inside them. 

 

So what sort of track plan would one need? The good thing is that track plans can be in the form of a basic oval but extended and various loops and sidings coming out of it. 

Take a look at this more complicated track plan. It started off as an explosives works from pre WW1 when owned by Nobels Explosives, was enlarged in WW1 and was further expanded in haste just before WW2 where it played a vital part in the war effort. It then spent the next decade or so after WW2 in decomissioning which was also done on a large scale, so it wasn't until the late 60's that things came to an end and the site was no longer needed.

On this track plan, there are both standard and narrow gauges. The railway system top left and the associated tracks linking to it were narrow gauge of 1' 11 1/2" which was quite common for such a line. Much if this track was ex WW1 sectional track which was concreted into position on the more vunerable sections. 

The standard gauge are the lines in at the bottom of the map, and they link with the Great Western Railways main line. 

Things here were done very secretively and on a massive scale, such was the need of such places at the time.. The advantage of this site was that it was partly hidden from the air. Due to this only part of the complex was visible, and that looked like an ordinary factory, which was just about everywhere in South Wales at the time! 

 

No doubt there were many other places similar dotted around the country.

 

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Edited by Mountain Goat
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ROF Pembrey; despite having passed there many times (and having learnt to drive on the approach road from Trenel), I'd never realised the full extent of the site. There's public access to most of it these days, I believe.

A smaller site, but with a lot of modelling potential, is the RNAD at Ernesettle , just north of the Tamar bridge. The site was accessed from the former L&SWR Plymouth- Exeter line, with exchange sidings and unloading shed parallel to the main line. Munitions were transferred to a narrow-gauge line, which took them to one of the many bunkers cut into the hillside. Munitions were taken via the NG lines to a jetty in the Tamar (the NG line passing under the main line), where they were loaded into lighters, which would in turn take them to Navy vessels moored in Plymouth Sound. The process worked in reverse for RN vessels destined for re-fitting, which would have their armaments removed, prior to entering Devonport Dockyard. I'm not sure when NG operations ceased, but standard-gauge traffic lasted into the 1990s.

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There is an Industrial Railway Society handbook (which nowadays actually means a weighty tome) about UK military railways forever in near-final draft, because new information is constantly coming to light, but if you can’t wait for that, there are several ‘system specific’ books around, and a couple of excellent videos.

 

Current operations at Bicester and Long Marston are covered in quite some detail on various websites, including the ‘intelligence reports’ collated by Rv Farnworth. Marchwood is covered in-depth on Disused Stations.

 

In short, there is now ample material around to allow modelling of quite a selection of military lines.

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I've always thought that the Royal Ordnance Depot at Chilwell near Nottingham would make a great model. The A6005 flyover would make an excellent scenic break. It's all gone now but I used to see it regularly as a kid visiting family in Chilwell/Attenborough.

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I used to pass the former ROF Elstow on the way to school in Bedford.  By then it was run by the Ministry of Supply.  It is now being redeveloped for housing.  Albion Archaeology produced a report that included a plan showing the rail layout: https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/library/browse/issue.xhtml?recordId=1106750&recordType=GreyLitSeries .  The plan is in the second pdf.

 

I managed an archaeology project at Priddy's Hard former RNAD at Gosport, which had a standard gauge connection and two NG systems.  The other RNADs at Gosport are still active but the rail connections went before the final closure of the Gosport branch. 

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The general layout, a big loop of track with spurs serving isolated buildings, was common to both weapons production sites and storage sites, to reduce the probability of a blast in one place causing everything to go up with one huge bang, as did happen at at least one urban site in WW1 and one underground storage facility in WW2.

 

But, not all military railways served such places, they were used for all sorts of different jobs, so modelling potential spans numerous things.

 

Also, I still get confused as to what actually is, and isn’t, technically a military railway, because many weren’t operated by the armed forces, or even the War Department/MoD, but by various forms of contractors, but often using locomotives supplied by WD or another arm of government like the MoS.

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6 hours ago, Fat Controller said:

ROF Pembrey; despite having passed there many times (and having learnt to drive on the approach road from Trenel), I'd never realised the full extent of the site. There's public access to most of it these days, I believe.

A smaller site, but with a lot of modelling potential, is the RNAD at Ernesettle , just north of the Tamar bridge. The site was accessed from the former L&SWR Plymouth- Exeter line, with exchange sidings and unloading shed parallel to the main line. Munitions were transferred to a narrow-gauge line, which took them to one of the many bunkers cut into the hillside. Munitions were taken via the NG lines to a jetty in the Tamar (the NG line passing under the main line), where they were loaded into lighters, which would in turn take them to Navy vessels moored in Plymouth Sound. The process worked in reverse for RN vessels destined for re-fitting, which would have their armaments removed, prior to entering Devonport Dockyard. I'm not sure when NG operations ceased, but standard-gauge traffic lasted into the 1990s.

 

 

Sorry to inform you that the unloading facility at Ernestsettle was at about 70 degrees to the mainline, I was amongst a party from the  PVR which had access to remove the track from  a couple of panels short of the current track layout. There was no narrow gauge in evidence by 83/84.

 

 

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I've always thought Porton Down,  would make a good model,  but not surprisingly there are not to many pictures available..  

 

For most modelling of this type of site it's W.D. sites not M.O.D.. 

 

Most War Department sites had big buildings on them, you can easily disappear trains behind them without need of tunnels or bridges.. 

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I guess it's how you define MOD? Ordnance factories and storage, or Military Railways as a whole, or how about the Forestry railways?

 The main Naval Dockyards and depot railways were mainly in built up areas to give those who would like to model buildings and produce an almost narrow gauge 'warren' model, however there were several depots used for munitions spread around the country and at smaller ports.

There were the RAF and Army camp railways which are probably better known, Longmoor, Catterick, etc. But how about the RAF's Calshott Spit narrow gauge?

  A rural scene could be created based on the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors, or the Shropshire and Montomeryshire, or even the little Acorn Patch Depot in the Forest of Dean as used by the US forces during WW2, (Lots of trees required!) Not forgetting the 'Secret Factories' with their own terminii.

The railways of the MOD / WD / RAF and RN were as varied as the locomotives and stock used on them, covering a multitude of uses, it doesn't all need to be big loops....

If ever there was an ideal for Rule One then MOD railways probably fit it.

 

4 hours ago, TheQ said:

I've always thought Porton Down,  would make a good model,  but not surprisingly there are not to many pictures available..  

 

For most modelling of this type of site it's W.D. sites not M.O.D.. 

 

Most War Department sites had big buildings on them, you can easily disappear trains behind them without need of tunnels or bridges.. 

 

There was an article in the Southern Way Issue 10 which had a good selection of Porton pictures and plans.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Flying Pig said:

The Royal Ordnance Factory at Thorpe Arch was of the loop serving weapons production type, with the added attraction of passenger trains worked by the LNER.

 

 

I hear they can easily be found down in the tube station at midnight.

 

That kind of looks to have a similar pattern to Pembrey. Pembrey was said to be able to run totally independently as it had everything it needed to fuction within its grounds from a complete powerstation to its own sewerage farm, water pump house, reservoir etc. 

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I agree that the various military sites were very interesting. I was fortunate to visit a number during the 1980s and early 90s. There are quite a number within this collection https://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/industrialinternalwagons

 

ROF Bishopton was simply amazing, 10 sq.miles we were told, and the guy that accompanied us had been there 43 years and had never seen the station on the site (which I didn't photograph!) which had a platform probably suitable for a 10 coach train. As my photos show it had the most enormous number of tank wagons, and other wagons many dumped for years but others still active. We were also told there was a Golden Eagle nest on the site - which was hard to believe as it is only a few miles from Glasgow! But makes a nice story.

 

Paul

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1 hour ago, hmrspaul said:

I agree that the various military sites were very interesting. I was fortunate to visit a number during the 1980s and early 90s. There are quite a number within this collection https://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/industrialinternalwagons

 

ROF Bishopton was simply amazing, 10 sq.miles we were told, and the guy that accompanied us had been there 43 years and had never seen the station on the site (which I didn't photograph!) which had a platform probably suitable for a 10 coach train. As my photos show it had the most enormous number of tank wagons, and other wagons many dumped for years but others still active. We were also told there was a Golden Eagle nest on the site - which was hard to believe as it is only a few miles from Glasgow! But makes a nice story.

 

Paul

 

I could easily get lost looking at all those pictures! 

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On 09/06/2020 at 21:59, hmrspaul said:

I agree that the various military sites were very interesting. I was fortunate to visit a number during the 1980s and early 90s. There are quite a number within this collection https://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/industrialinternalwagons

 

ROF Bishopton was simply amazing, 10 sq.miles we were told, and the guy that accompanied us had been there 43 years and had never seen the station on the site (which I didn't photograph!) which had a platform probably suitable for a 10 coach train. As my photos show it had the most enormous number of tank wagons, and other wagons many dumped for years but others still active. We were also told there was a Golden Eagle nest on the site - which was hard to believe as it is only a few miles from Glasgow! But makes a nice story.

 

Paul


I grew up in Bishopton in the 80s & 90s and was always fascinated by the railways in the factory so I love your photos, thanks for sharing. 
 

I always thought it would be a good site to model with the main Glasgow to Gourock/Wemyss Bay line serving as an entry point.

 

Sadly Google maps now just shows the massive housing development being built on the site but there are plenty of arias shots still available of what was there previously. 

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Anyone know what locos and stock were used in Pembrey? Especially with the narrow gauge? (I don't mean the later loco and coaches run there during the 1980's and '90's for the tourism. I mean while it was a factory).

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