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Holcombe - an SDJR branch line terminus


RobAllen

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My dad has had a model railway from before I was born. As I was growing up he had a OO gauge layout in the loft which was a representation of Bath Queen Square in the late 1930s/early 1940s (LMS). I ran it with him during my teens and then I went to university and life happened. At some point in the 90s, he moved to O gauge and a new layout in the garden. His OO locos, along with some coaches and wagons were stored.

 

During the pandemic, I came back to modelling railways and built a micro-layout, Melcombe Road sidings, based on the idea that Twerton siding just outside of Bath on the SDJR was expanded to more one siding. The road in Bath that Twerton siding is next to is Melcombe Road, hence the name.

With my renewed interest in modelling, my dad has given me his old OO stock. I have also acquired his library of SDJR books as since his stroke a few years ago, he no longer reads them and I wasn't going to let them go to waste! I have enough reading to last me years now...

 

With my son leaving home, I now have a larger office (I work from home) with space for a larger layout and so a new S&D layout is planned. With the space I have, it will be an L shaped layout 2.57m by 45cm on one side (scenic) and 2.24m by 25cm on the other (fiddle yard). (That's 8'5" by 18 inches x 7'4" by 12 inches in old money.)  This will be an end to end, and so will be terminus to fiddle yard in OO.

 

Clearly there's not enough space to model any of the three terminus stations on the SDJR directly and so I'm planning a freelance or "what if" layout as many others have before me.

 

I'm one of those people that needs a sense of place, so have been  inspired by @Peter Kazmierczak's articles in RM (June/July/August 1987) and @Captain Kernow's Glastonbury and South Somerset Railway, along with others. I'm thankful that they have shared their musings.

After research into the Somerset coal fields and quarries, perusing the rather useful railmaponline.com, and discovering the Oakhill brewery, along with discovering that the Oakhill Brewey ran a narrow-gauge railway to Binegar, I have invented the Holcombe Branch.
 

That's enough of an introduction, so I'll put the history in the next post and then talk about plans as I'm looking for advice and thoughts as I'm very much a beginner still!

Edited by RobAllen
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This is the back-story that I have invented.

The Holcombe Branch

In 1863, Howard Ridler had sunk the first shaft of Edford colliery near Holcombe. An innovative man, the colliery also supplied coke and installed a coal washing plant and made fuel briquettes. By the late-1870s the Edford colliery was growing significantly. Ridler set up the Edford Colliery Co. Ltd and wanted a rail connection. However, he could not come to an agreement with the Newbury tramway to extend to Edford and turned his attentions to the S&D which had recently opened the Bath extension.
 

At around the same time quarrying had started in the Stoke Lane area when the Mendip Stone and Concrete Co. Ltd started the Fairy Cave Quarry and S C Gilson and Sons started to quarry at Cooks Wood. This was a few miles south of Holcombe and Ridler approached Mendip Stone and Concrete Co and S C Gilson & Sons and together the three companies petitioned the SDJR for a branch line connection. 
 

Flush with optimism from the formation of the joint committee and able to raise share capital, Robert Read, the SDJR's General Manager was prepared to consider the possibility and agreed to commission a study into the possibility. With fortuitous timing, the Oakhill brewery's output had risen so much that it intended to build a narrow-gauge railway to Binegar. This plan cam to the attention of the SDJR and so the SDJR determined that there was enough potential traffic to justify a branch line. The Holcombe branch opened in 1883 to goods traffic and in 1884 to passengers. 
 

With the seams around Holcombe proving to be rich, Edford colliery was very successful and along with the significant amount of Mendip stone in the Three Ashes area, the branch was kept reasonably busy. Edford colliery closed in the mid-1950's, but quarrying at Fairy Cave continued into the 1970s and at Cooks Wood until 1993.

This map shows where Holcombe Branch ran:

TheHolcombeBranch2-web.jpeg.22b326a11b68272c498e761423b0532d.jpeg


The S&D's Bath extension is in blue with the GWR lines in green. The Holcombe branch is in pink, showing the three station of Oakhill, Stoke Lane and Holcombe. It is about 6 miles long.


Differences from reality
I have stretched reality in order for this story to work. Specifically:

  • Oakhill Brewery built their narrow gauge railway later in 1904
  • Fairy Cave Quarry was indeed run by the Mendip Stone and Concrete Co. Ltd, but didn't start operations until 1918.
  • Neither Fairy Cave quarry or Cooks Wood quarry were really large enough to justify a railway connection
  • Edford colliery was indeed started by Howard Ridler who did create the Edford Colliery Co. Ltd. However it was much smaller as it only had 2 shafts.
  • Holcombe is a much bigger market town in my world.

 

As you can probably tell, I have very much enjoyed reading about the Somerset collieries and quarries.

I will post my thoughts and plans for an SDJR terminus at Holcombe tomorrow. I will also admit that having built Melcombe Road, it appeals to me that my next will be Holcombe.
 

Edited by RobAllen
Mr Read's name was Robert Arthur Read…
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There's not many terminus stations on the S&D, only Burnham, Wells and Bridgwater as the two main terminus stations at Bath and Bournemouth were owned by the Midland and LSWR respectively.

 

What would a new terminus look like? The main question is whether it would be two platforms as per Burnham and Bridgwater or one like Wells? I have assumed a single platform as even in 1882, they company would have wanted to avoid the expense of a second platform. Would it have an engine shed as per Wells and Bridgwater? I have assumed that it's unlikely, but thoughts appreciated on both these points.

 

In terms of rolling stock, I want to run a combination of 1P 0-4-0Ts,  3F and 4F 0-6-0 tender engines and 3F 0-6-0T Jinties. I'd also like to run a 4-4-0 2P, but can't quite imagine why one would have appeared at Holcombe. I intend to lay Peco bullhead track and points as it looks good.

 

So, without further ado, here's my thoughts on track laouts:

First version:

 

Holcombe1A-v2-cropped.jpg.09b19993300b213dab5265584cc2a44e.jpg
 

Looking at this, I wasn't sure if it's "too busy" with the loading bay and the private siding can only be shunted via the loading bay which may be unlikely & a hassle? 

So, second-version:

Holcombe2-v3-cropped.jpg.2eb49993afa7c88fb32f7635c8f7292d.jpg


This moves the loading bay to the end of the run-round loop and puts the station building end on to the platform. Possibly a bit too "tidy" thogh?

Do either of these make sense? Are there obvious improvements or mistakes that I've made?


 

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I would imagine that there might have been a loco shed if the line was built privately. If the SDJR built

or financed the line they would want to save money, so the branch loco is shedded at Radstock.

Does the branch passenger service terminate at Binegar, with perhaps the first and last services

of the day starting and terminating at Radstock?

 

If you don't want hassle shunting, then the second version makes sense.

If you enjoy the challenge of shunting then was there some building or obstruction that meant

the only way to connect the private siding was via the bay?

 

Good luck either way

 

cheers 

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I wonder about the sidings and  goods shed at the front. I have the run round nearest the  baseboard edge, then the platform and the goods sidings at the back on  "Ugleigh"  The goods shed has moved numerous times and is still not right, but sidings at the front need a wall or something at the baseboard edge or I end up flicking wagons off the edge, My main station has about 40mm edging above baseboard level  to stop stock being flicked off.
Would Holcombe have been a terminus?   or would the colliery line have continued straight on through it.  My proposed "Haddenhoe" terminus had the quarry line continuing past the passenger platform.
Concept sounds good.  would passenger trains have terminated at Binnegar?  Like MSWJR ones did at Cheltenham, or would they have run to from Midsomer Norton etc.    0-4-4T s on passenger sound good , would they have used the Jinty shunters / bankers on coal or 3/4Fs?    

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1 hour ago, DCB said:

I wonder about the sidings and  goods shed at the front. I have the run round nearest the  baseboard edge, then the platform and the goods sidings at the back on  "Ugleigh"  The goods shed has moved numerous times and is still not right, but sidings at the front need a wall or something at the baseboard edge or I end up flicking wagons off the edge, My main station has about 40mm edging above baseboard level  to stop stock being flicked off.

 

This is a great point. I'll have a think about options.
 

1 hour ago, DCB said:

Would Holcombe have been a terminus?   or would the colliery line have continued straight on through it.  My proposed "Haddenhoe" terminus had the quarry line continuing past the passenger platform.

 

I have been assuming it's a terminus. No real reason why though, other than the location means that there'll be a wall at the end of the baseboard.

 

1 hour ago, DCB said:

Concept sounds good.  would passenger trains have terminated at Binnegar?  Like MSWJR ones did at Cheltenham, or would they have run to from Midsomer Norton etc.    0-4-4T s on passenger sound good , would they have used the Jinty shunters / bankers on coal or 3/4Fs?    

 


Logically, most passenger trains would terminate at Binegar. As it's my alternate history, I imagine that there's also some other train to maybe Radstock so that I can run a second set of carriages with a different loco.

A station this small wouldn't have it's own shunter in reality, but I like Jinties!
Goods trains would be a mix of Jinties and 3Fs most of the time, but I can imagine that a 4F is sometimes used for the coal/quarry trains. Thinking about it, I might make Holcombe a centre for marshalling wagons from separate quarries/collieries into the train to the north for no other reason than it generates additional movements. Just need to invent a backstory and possibly add another siding.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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2 minutes ago, RobAllen said:

 

This is a great point. I'll have a think about options.

 

But.....proximity may be an advantage when shunting etc depending on your coupler choice.......you do seem to have some space available if you wanted to skew the sidings away from the front edge...

Chris H

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Leaving aside the private siding for the moment, for me the most significant difference between the two designs is the length of the runround loop - in version 2, it's very short.  So I'd go for v1, but with two roads to the bufferstops at the right hand end, as per v2.  

 

Now the private siding - I can't see any way of working it (in either version) that doesn't require both bits of the loop to be clear.  Which means that all the wagons in the incoming freight need to be be got out of the way, which means you need longer sidings in the goods yard, but that's easy enough.

 

Hope that helps, probably not ....

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I think the key question is why you are building the layout. There are a number of RMwebbers who build small, bijou layouts to considerable acclaim - but then move on to build another, feeling they are 'finished'. I sense that you actually want to run a service, emulating the SDJR in style as far as possible. If I am right, then the runround is key to making the layout satisfying - indeed, one might say even possible - to operate with a degree of authenticity. The longer runround in Version 1 will offer much greater flexibility of operation, both passenger and freight. 

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If you allow the track to get close to the backscene then it's difficult to disguise the join between the ground and the sky behind it. The only real options are a brick wall or a tall wooden fence. Would those things fit in your proposed location?

 

A BLT in a restricted space like this always tends towards a standard plan. The temptation to add bays and kickbacks is hard to resist but if you wanted to evoke a really quiet rural location on an impecunious railway less is definitely more.

 

You could simplify it right down to just platform, run round loop, goods siding and maybe a small spur somewhere for a cattle dock. (The goods shed doesn't have to be a big fancy over-the-rails type - just a tin shed on a wooden platform beside the goods siding would be enough.) If you did that then the trackplan would have room to breath.

 

Edited by Harlequin
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8 hours ago, Oldddudders said:

I think the key question is why you are building the layout. There are a number of RMwebbers who build small, bijou layouts to considerable acclaim - but then move on to build another, feeling they are 'finished'. I sense that you actually want to run a service, emulating the SDJR in style as far as possible. If I am right, then the runround is key to making the layout satisfying - indeed, one might say even possible - to operate with a degree of authenticity. The longer runround in Version 1 will offer much greater flexibility of operation, both passenger and freight. 

 

Yes. I’m expecting to build and run the layout with shunting and passenger movements etc. i.e. sit down for an afternoon and run trains on my layout.  Hence,  a bit more “railway“ than prototypically likely in the space, if that makes sense.

 

In an ideal world, I would like someone to be able to look at it and think that it was plausibly SDJR. Whether I can do that is another matter of course! 

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9 hours ago, Chimer said:

Leaving aside the private siding for the moment, for me the most significant difference between the two designs is the length of the runround loop - in version 2, it's very short.  So I'd go for v1, but with two roads to the bufferstops at the right hand end, as per v2.

That’s a really useful insight. The consequences of the length of the runround loop had not crossed my mind.

 

9 hours ago, Chimer said:

Hope that helps, probably not ....

Very helpful. Thanks.
 

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4 hours ago, Harlequin said:

If you allow the track to get close to the backscene then it's difficult to disguise the join between the ground and the sky behind it. The only real options are a brick wall or a tall wooden fence. Would those things fit in your proposed location?

 

Oh, interesting. Another point I was not aware of. I will try and find more pictures of the surrounding areas of SDJR stations and see.

 

4 hours ago, Harlequin said:

A BLT in a restricted space like this always tends towards a standard plan. The temptation to add bays and kickbacks is hard to resist but if you wanted to evoke a really quiet rural location on an impecunious railway less is definitely more.

 

You could simplify it right down to just platform, run round loop, goods siding and maybe a small spur somewhere for a cattle dock. (The goods shed doesn't have to be a big fancy over-the-rails type - just a tin shed on a wooden platform beside the goods siding would be enough.) If you did that then the trackplan would have room to breath.


I’m looking for a bit more running potential than a really quiet rural location. Maybe I’ll “upgrade” Holcombe to a market town. I do realise that regardless, I’ll have more traffic than plausible reality, and that’s a compromise I’m happy with.

Equally, it would be nice not to be “all track”, so there’s some sort of balance that I need to find.

For the goods shed, it seems that the SDJR preferred over-the-rails type as of the 24 stations with good sheds, 18 were over-the-rails type and 6 were not. Equally, that means there is justification for a smaller shed which would be less dominating.

 



 

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13 minutes ago, RobAllen said:

For the goods shed, it seems that the SDJR preferred over-the-rails type as of the 24 stations with good sheds, 18 were over-the-rails type and 6 were not. Equally, that means there is justification for a smaller shed which would be less dominating.

Depending on your operating position, a large goods shed in the position shown might obscure your view of the station, and be a visual block that reduces the apparent depth of the layout. (I found I had to push my over-the-rails shed right back towards the backscene to stop it dominating the yard.)

 

I see you use RailModeller Pro. It’s great, but a pity that while it allows you a 3D view, and the ability to ‘walk around’ a layout plan, it only shows track and you have to imagine how buildings will block/enhance views.

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Of the three S&D termini, two had the run-round beyond the platform/s. So I'd be inclined to do the same. Other MR termini  had the run-round beyond the platform too, such as Dursley. It adds more operating interest, as the passenger train has to be reversed out of the platform to run around - unless it was worked by a push-pull "motor" train. 

Still in two minds about an engine shed. The S&D termini all them, so possibly include one in the corner.

 

Anyway, I'll have a think about things; I'll sketch out something and post it tomorrow.
Whether it would all fit though...

Edited by Peter Kazmierczak
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11 hours ago, Peter Kazmierczak said:

Of the three S&D termini, two had the run-round beyond the platform/s. So I'd be inclined to do the same.

Yeah. Both Bridgwater and Wells had the loop before you got to the platform, but that requires quite a lot of space. Every terminus had platforms significantly longer than the trains that actually served them and that's a look that I like. Fitting it all in is a challenge.
 

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2 minutes ago, RobAllen said:

and Wells

Wells made much more complex by the fact that while it was a terminus for the S&D, it also had a GWR line running right through it on the branch from Yatton to Witham. GWR trains used to run right through the S&D station on the single road past the platform at Priory Road - although the GWR had its own Wells station at Tucker Street. The GWR line to the west cut right across the S&D goods yard. The S&D loop actually straddled the junction of the S&D and GWR lines.

 

A measure of the complexity here can be gained from this signal diagram from the 1930s:

http://www.trainweb.org/railwest/images/sb-diag/wells-a-30.jpg

 

 

Yours, Mike

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Here's an idea for a relatively quiet station but with operating potential.

RobAllen.png.79ba57b16c964b7d8e2119a13381f2e7.png

The private siding is off the main line. Building in front to deliberately hide the wagons but could be on the other side. To deliver wagons you have to run round in the station.

Long run round loop. (There isn’t enough room for loop beyond platform.)

Uses the spurs off the run round to do useful jobs: Cattle pens and loading bank.

Small goods shed for visual balance.

Simple long goods siding where you would allocate slots for company wagons. Shunting should be interesting.

 

If you add much more then things do start to feel cramped, IMHO.

 

Edited by Harlequin
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6 minutes ago, Gordon A said:

Catch point on private siding to protect the main line?

 

 

Of course, but probably better concocted as a non-working scenic feature.  Real traps were compact and very diverse - often not possible to represent convincingly with ready to lay track.

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I guess that catch points compatible with Peco's bullfrog track need to be scratch built? Any pointers for further information? 

Now that I've started looking for them, I can see them in most of the track plans in "An Historical Survey of the Somerset & Dorset Railway" and my model would therefore look better with them.

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