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We all have to start somewhere; here is a selection of stuff showing some earlier model layouts I built. The picture quality is often rough as was the modelling at times, but they gave me and some friends a lot of fun!


 Terrible pictures, but I knew even less about photography in 1967 than i did about railways; on one occasion I had the loan of my dad's 35mm camera and took these. This "layout" made no pretension at being "irish" in any shape or form -keen readers of a certain age will recognize some of the kits lurking in the semi darkness... it was an "L" shaped layout running mostly Hornby Dublo on Streamline track and only lasted a few years. I had a tri-ang minic motorway system on it too, with a Hornby Dublo A2 power unit as well as an H&M Powermaster which runs the Stranraer station panel on my current  SCDR railway - still  going strong after 47 years. .   I bit off more than i could chew in trying to fill two rather large boards and then scrapped it when my parents moved house. If it amuses anyone, try playing "spot the model" in the murky darkness...




Oh, just in case anyone wonders what the clock is doing on the board, this was my patent "run  fast" clock for timetable operation....a heath robinson device if ever there was one. It ran (erratically)  at roughly ten times "normal" speed, so shunting had to be carried out at great speed.





You'll be pleased to know that the pictures get a lttle better (even if B&W)  in the next layout to be featured....I had to give my Dad his camera back.

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On we move.




After the demise of the first layout it was a couple of years before my stuff found a new home; this time a much smaller room (about 10' by 8'); my interests had begun to turn towards irish stuff - paerticularly  the BCDR - and I wanted a layout that had a central operating well rather than a "big board."  So the Lisnamore & Ballynahinch Railway was born; a single track "main line" running round the room, storage loops behind the Ballynahinch station and sidings below with a 1:12 gradient(!!!) below.. Quite useless as nothing could pull a train out once it got down. 







The Junction was freelance though the station building bore a very vague resemblance to Coleraine. Triang Minic motorway made a further appearance.







the terminus was to be Ballynahinch, it was based on the station track plan supplied to me by Des Coakham (who many irish enthusiasts will have known as the expert on the BCDR who sadly passed away last year). It was dismantled in 1972 before anything other than track was laid.




And another Tri-ang engine - an SR L1 this time, got hacked into a representation of a GNR "S" class.  Another long time survivor - now in UTA black as No60 "Slieve Donard".




I had a go at my Tri-ang 3F and produced a BCDR No4  - the model has been improved since and is now on loan at downpatrick -  the model is older than the real loco was when she was srapped!




and my DMU became a (sort of) MED.  I used some bits of this in my current model - I NEVER throw anything away.




There was even a narrow gauge  - resurrected now on the Stranraer & Coleraine line.  If it was a good idea in 1971 it's still a good idea today.







And as a footnote, you couldn't really see what was in the hidden storage sidings, so I devised a really sophisticated "train detection" system at the ends of the 3 sidings. A piece of 2x1 timber with some foam provided a backstop in case of overshoot.  I took a length of Dublo 2 rail and bent the fishplates so when attached it sat up at an angle; to the bottom of the sleepers I attached a piece of metal. A battery was connected to  torch bulbs on the panel and fed via this to two tin tacks pinned into the board below the metal strip on the track.





When a loco ran on to it,the piece of track dropped - contact made - lights lit up as shown on the lower picture! It worked perfectly for as long as the layout lasted.


I took these pictures with I think a Brownie 127 if anyone remembers them. Not ideal for model photography but better than nothing. I even experimented with an "action" shot as my Dublo 2-8-0 hammered past the signal box....the secret was a lump of plastiscene liftng the front of the loco ever so slightly. Who said the camera never lies?









No photos of this effort as none exist. just a plan.






In 1972  three of us decided to pool our resources and build a joint layout at one friend's hosue in Bangor. It was to have a model of Newcastle (later changed to Bangor), Ballynahinch Junction (my bit)  and Portrush. It would ahve re-used my Minic as well!  Some track was laid but when one partner moved to England this too was pulled up.  I brought my stuff home to ballywalter and began to think..of which more anon...


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Nice to see pictures so reminiscent of the period. I had the same control equipment, the Hornby Dublo black controller, mounted in exactly the same way. I did have an A2 controller as well, but the flat that we lived in still had DC mains, so the A2 could not be used. For a while, the layout was powered by an upturned bicycle with a bottle dynamo on the rear wheel. Turning the pedals made for surprisingly smooth control. This method was eventually superceded by a DC generator, a motor that ran on 240VDC, and produced 12DC. I dread to think of the possible hazards that there could have been with such a gizmo. But it worked.

I do not have any pictures of layouts of the time, although there were some, also taken with a Brownie 127, but these were lost, along with a substantial part of the layout and rolling stock in the early 70s, by now running from an AC supply using H&M Duettes, when the IRA planted a bomb in the shop below the flat, and reduced a large part of the layout to landfill. It was to be another ten years before a house with a suitable roofspace was purchased, and another layout was built.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another "installment"


In 1975 I returned to my home village where I still live, and was allowed a space in an upstairs room - the railway would have about half the room to itself and could run across the bed in a "portable" section. The "main wall" was just under 12 feet in length and I decided to build a point to point layout and base the main terminus on Newcastle Co Down. I became more interested in the BCDR about this time - it was the nearest railway to where I live.  So was born "The Newcastle Line" - from the station the line would curve under a hill, (there was no possibility of modelling the two tracks which diverged at the real Newcastle) - past a level crossing then into a shalllow embankment, and so to sidings  which ended up on a windowsill....






I went down to Newcastle and took pictures and some measurements of the station buildings, the model was built from Plasticard. I had room for platforms nearly five feet long; I added a bay which wasn't there in the real thing, for operational interest, and had a two road engine shed.  Keen eyed readers may wish to play "spot the re-used buildings etc" on this layout, and on future ones to be shown...I throw little away...




BCDR style signals were made by using ratio LNER lattice posts and the LNWR arms.




I then decided I had to have a go at a BCDR 4-4-2 tank. I bought a K's Adams radial tank, the only 4-4-2 in 4mm available that i knew of,  and set to...the result was No 30. Most of the body work is plasticard; she is now on her third motor, the orignals having given up the ghost. I keep thinking she will fall to bits some day as my work on her was pretty experimental. The six wheel coaches were mostly made from ratio midland sides and various underframes - K's used to make a GWR 6 wheel siphon and the underframe was perfect - i wish I had bought a lot more of them at the time.




And I couldn't bear to get rid of my Hornby Dublo TPO


For one reason and another this layout lasted a long time, though with long periods where I did very little to it. Eventually I got bored with it and built a couple of smaller boards to put a small passing station opposite the Newcastle terminus. This is based on Ballynoe, on the Ardglass branch; the goods shed and signal box and shelter were done from photos and drawings, i always meant to do the station buildings but the peco one was fine pro tem, i thought. It never was replaced.  I also bought and built a Q kits Class 001, still i think a good looking model, though naturally none ever visited the real Ballynoe!! 




By this time I had a kind of "circuit" which linked the storage sidings beyond Ballynoe with the goods yard at Newcastle (via an 18" curve and a fierce downgrade as the windsill was 3/4" higher than the baseboard level) - but I was able to run trains round the room.  I began to hanker for continuous running again.




Finally, in 1997, I decided that i didn't need the bed in the room and decided to build a new layout - I wanted to re-use the station buildings (surprisingly!!) but now had some more space to play with. So it was stop dreaming and out with the compass and ruler set and start work on the plans.

More anon.




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Getting near the end of this, just one more layout to cover, but it has been great fun (for me anyway!) getting out the old photos and remembering many happy hours fiddling about or just running trains...come to think of it that's what i still do.


Anyway, after a years planning or so, I attacked the "Newcastle Line" layout and cleared the boards, then stored the stock. I wanted a few feet more and there was a convenient roof space behind a stud wall, so I got a local builder/joiner to build some new boards so i could have a proper continuous run, the trains would go through small holes in the stud wall to the roof space beyond (I had an access door put in under the baseboards.).


The new layout had a new station where the original terminus Newcastle had been only this one I called "Newcastle Junction" because I wanted to re -use my Newcastle buildings. though of course I had to cut back the "wings" for the new site. But for the first time I really could see the station facade and added a front canopy to it.




In this picture you can see the "tunnel mouth" for the main line on the right. I had a track circuit control on the colour light signal which protected - it would return to green when the train exited the tunnel. I still couldn't actually see it because it was behind the Harbour North backscene, so this was a "real" use of the signal!.




I began to fiddle with photoshop during this time too....




The "main LIne" dived through a hole in the wall and came out on the other side of the layout, behind a backscene, with two storage loops, then curved round over a bridge and back into the Junction station, where there was a small goods yard behind the station buildigns




A branch diverged from the main line and also went "through " the wall in a single track tunnel, coming out the other side to a harbour station, based a little bit on -Stranraer". I didn't feel it  looked sufficiently like Stranraer to warrant that name so called it instead, "Harbour North.".  It's had a number of signal cabins at various times...








Most of these are still in use on the current  SCDR  layout










there was room for a small engine shed (two Airfix kits) at the junction, and eventually I added a working Peco turntable - I;d always wanted one.




And there was a Hornby Dublo engine shed again with superquick buildings behind - shades of the Lisnamore line of early 1970s.





Lots of other structures found their way on to this layout too. The stock began to change as I built more UTA locos, stock and railcars and then SW Scotland stuff joined them -including one of my all time favourite locos, the BR Class 6 "Clan" type - at this time the Hornby model didn't exist, so I got a converted "Britannia" on eBay. Someone appeared to have started it and then given up - but after a  lot of work I got it to run to my satisfaction.





the layout featured in British Railway Modelling in 2004. .






One of our Northern Ireland specialities - goods trains pulled by diesel railcars. I used to watch these going over the Bann bridge at Coleraine in the evenings in summer.




I had a very tatty Hornby Dublo breakdown crane and decided to "NIR" ize it - I doubt if MPDs ever pulled it but you never know...




I enjoyed both building and running this one and then started to think....and once again began to doodle an "improved" layout based on a similar general concept; and one day i measured the roof space internally (always a bad sign!!) and decided that this needed a bit of renovation - and would by sheer co-incidence  give me an extra three feet and I would be able to see my trains all the way round....that old model of Coleraine station building had long ago been scrapped but was still a pleasant memory - this time i reckoned I could do better. It was a wrench to take down the Newcastle station but it found a home in Downpatrick where maybe some day it will go on display. 

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