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The Ffarquhar Branch


WhitehouseFilms
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In the mid 50’s, The Rev. W. Awdry (Creator of Thomas the tank engine0 was commissioned to build a layout to display at the Wisbech trades fair. At the time he was struggling to get a new Island of Sodor layout built with constant mishaps and derailments, so the idea of making a smaller layout would be easier to do. The result, The Ffarquhar Branch, a 4x6ft layout based on the top station on Thomas’ Branch Line. It was simple little layout which operated very smoothly and reliable by its engines Thomas, Percy, Toby and spare engine Duck. This layout performed well without a hitch for nearly 12 years before it was cut down to Ffarquhar MrkII, due to the railway room in the new house being too small for the layout to fit in.

 

In 2007 I set out to try and replicate this layout but the result was more based off the illustrations in the books than the actual layout. In 2011 I tried again, only this one was more based off the MrkII version so after my last exhibition in 2014, my Dad suggested I’d try one more time only this time make it exactly like the original. I thought about it and after a week I agreed to give it one last try. So that Christmas I got the essential items and work began on the baseboards in January 2015.

To help me along with the layout, I’ve printed out a copy of the 1959 December issue of Railway Modeller upon which the Ffarquhar Branch is featured in the ‘Railway of the Month’ category. The article  gave me clear instructions as to how each item was made and how I can go about making it myself using ready at hand items.

 

The original layout was made to fold up into a box of 2ft x 6ft x 1ft 9inches so I had to take a look at examples of folding layouts to understand the principles on how it was done and how to go about it yourself. After fixing on some 2x2 batons to the edges of the layout for scenic back scenes, Box hinges were screwed on the two which go over the baseboard joint. It is important that the boards are flushed together and that each surface was even with each other. Box clamps were fitted on each side to ensure a good, strong join was made. The surface board is 4mm thick sundeala hobby board which will be handy for when tracking down the track. The board was then given a coat of emulsion paint and the markings for the track layout was drawn out.

 

Trackwork on the original layout was done using Wreen track so for my one I used Peco Streamline Flexible track code 100. The main oval was the first to be laid so that any areas where trains would find the radius difficult to go round. There were a few areas but these were soon ironed out and once finished, the station area was laid out. For ballast I used Peco foam underlay but as this stuff disintegrates after 10 years I haven’t glued it to the track as recommended so it makes things easier when re ballasting. While ballasting, magnets are fitted underneath areas where I need to uncouple rolling stock using Spratt and Winkle couplings. I used magnets from door stops and cut a small hole in the underlay to help me know where the magnet is while shunting wagons at exhibitions. In the fiddle yard behind the station, Peco Settrack isolating tracks were also laid as marked in the layout’s track plan  There are about 5 of these installed.

 

The wiring on the layout is standard DC control with Peco PL-10 and PL-11 point motors used throughout the layout. This would be the longest bit of work done on the layout as it took some time to work out which wire controlled what point motor as well as wiring points to operate simultaneously. But once finished everything worked like a dream. On the original layout, The Reverend Awdry made his controller from bits or radio dials and switches as controllers back then, to him, didn’t provide the right kind of movement he wanted from his engines. For me I find Gaugemaster’s controllers just the thing to get excellent running from your engines. Originally I had a D model controller powering the layout but like with Awdry the location proved difficult when carrying out shunting and the constant straining over to see if the hook was above the magnet made things difficult. So the solution, again like the original, was done by having the controller above the fiddle yard in a Gantry sort of fashion. The D model controller was switched to the Combi Controller for its light-weightiness and just the right size for the layout. All track wiring was then fed to run on controller and thus completed the wiring for the time being.

 

The scenery started on the first half of the layout with the construction of the main hill side. This was constructed using mainly newspaper cushions and polystyrene blocks. A top cover of newspaper completed the surface before the grass was applied. A friend of mine recommended using hanging basket liner for the grass, so after buying a roll from Homebase for £3, I had a nice hillside formed up and grassed. The liner was trimmed down and given a wash of Green Sap and Burnt Umber paint to help bring the colour up more. For areas where I didn’t require rough grass, I find Javis Scenic Scatters very useful as they have just the right shade of colours that I require for areas such as roads, tracksides etc. Bushes and shrubs were made using Woodland Scenics’ Olive green & Light green foliage. Trees are Noch as well some homemade ones using the instructions.

 

Buildings on the layout are mostly Bilt-eezi card kits but others are made from scratch using Model Craft and Prototype models brick papers. Items such as the loco coal stage and Hackenbeck Halt are made from bulsa wood and matchsticks and are given a brush of wood stain to bring up the colour more.

 

Backscences are Bilt-eezi. Originally the station backscene was a Peco one but it didn’t suite the scene that well and looked out of period with the model. Signalling is done with the Ratio signal kits. The kits were of the GWR ready assembly range with upper quadrant arms fitted to match the original models. Operating them is done using the kit’s signal operation kit.

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Locomotives are replicas of the original models that ran on the original layout. Photos of the original models were taken to get an impression of the way they were made and how they were liveried.

 

Thomas – A Steward Reidpath model I bought of eBay. The model was missing it’s chimney so a replacement from an old Hornby Thomas was added. A spare model using a Tr-ang Jinty will be made to stand in incase the SR model should fail.

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Percy – This model was a tricky one to make. The original model was made using a Larko brass kit with a Steward Reidpath motor fitted. A commissioned model was asked so until then, a replica of the ‘Spare’ model using a Tri-ang Nellie is in the make.

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Toby – The Reverend Awdry wrote an article in the railway modeller about how he made his Toby model. Plans and instruction were provided on how you can make one yourself. The model is based off the Y6 class which is suitable for the motor bogie that it runs on. My model is made using Awdry’s guide and runs on a Tenshodo Motor bogie. A spare model from the Nu-cast range will be used for back up.

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Daisy – Daisy is made the same as the original model, using a Tri-ang DMU model. The only difference is that the ends of the model is in green where as the original is yellow. A spare motor bogie will be brought in case the Tri-ang one burns off.

 

Mavis – This model was quite easy to make and looks the part on the line. Her model was made using the Dapol Class 04 shunter. Part of the cab and side plates were made from Plasticard where as cow-catchers were made for me by Worsley Works. The model runs on a Tenshodo motor bogie and is weighted down with lead and modelling clay. A spare model using the same kit will be on standby just incase.

 

Annie and Clarabel, originally were made to the Reverend's design being based off a coach he'd seen in Model Railway News. My models were made from 1mm card and fitted onto two Ratio bogie bolster wagon kits. Spare models made from 1mm plywood will be made soon. Henrietta was a tricky model to get made. In the end her model, until a proper one could be sourced, is made from a Bachmann Thomas model, repainted and lightly altered to suite the original basis. Elsie, the luggage van, was one model which I'm most proud off. She was a tricky model to make at first but after using some drawings from a 7mm kit version, she was made using Wills planking and spare parts from the ratio coach kits. She runs happily with Toby and completes the picture. 

 

Goods stock is a mixture of various RTR models and kits, each one repainted or altered to match the original rolling stock. 

 

I'll have more photos of the layout and rolling stock in the next few weeks. But in the meantime I hope you find this project interesting.

Edited by WhitehouseFilms
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I recall seeing a short piece of black and white film of the original model. It must have been taken a a railway show. Little boys being little boys one school boy complete in his best uniform including cap puts a finger out towards the model. The Rev thwacks his hand. Not the best publicity.

 

But a great model.

 

Keith HC

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Brilliant move!

 

I've long thought that the Ffarquhar Branch layout was a really good one, with lots of operating potential. It's only disadvantage was that it was on two fairly whopping boards, which must have made it a space-eater at home, and difficult to shift about.

 

It is basically an adaptation of Maurice Deane's layout, but his was around the walls, operated from in the middle. CJF used Deane's layout as one of his first Railway Modeller plans c1951, and The Reverend took his plan from that.

 

In short, you are in the footsteps of three great railwayacs!

 

Kevin

Edited by Nearholmer
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Many thanks guys for your feedback. 

 

Brilliant move!

I've long thought that the Ffarquhar Branch layout was a really good one, with lots of operating potential. It's only disadvantage was that it was on two fairly whopping boards, which must have made it a space-eater at home, and difficult to shift about.

It is basically an adaptation of Maurice Deane's layout, but his was around the walls, operated from in the middle. CJF used Deane's layout as one of his first Railway Modeller plans c1951, and The Reverend took his plan from that.

In short, you are in the footsteps of three great railwayacs!

Kevin

 

Thanks very much.

Yeah, I found the Ffarquhar Branch to be an excellent model of the Reverend's and is a great example of a layout (back then) that can be made using ready at hand products. Nowadays, it's quite rare to find some of the items in order to replicate this layout. Some of the Bilteezi kits were quite tricky to find but thankfully I've managed to gather up the ones I need and also making plans for some others to be scratch built. 

I have plans underway to get the layout ready in time for it's first exhibit in November so this summer evenings will be spent, getting this layout ready and operating smoothly.

I forgot to post at the start a link to a series of video logs that I released, showing you the layout's development. Some of the items that I cover in these videos are altered since then and different technics were used instead. 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs5uIOc9fDmKBX-kHgqd6LzX20lvjUYhO

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Thought I'd share with you some more photos of the layout so far.

With most of the scenery nearly finished, my next main focus will be to make up the station platform and the area around it. 

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The main eyesore, for me really, is the back scene that leads to the quarry tramway. I tried to blend in the PECO back drops but think that some more will be needed. Or at least something to fill that gap. The transition to the houses too look quite poor so I'm thinking of taking out this houses and instead put in some Bilteezi back scenes which I had ordered in from Freestone model accessories. These will also go on the board behind the station platform as soon as one can be made up. 

The back scenes on the original layout I haven't any clues as to what they were. I know for a fact that the Backscenes for the Mrk II layout were Biltezzi ones, same as the ones I'm putting in, but for the first one is a bit of a mystery. 

If you'd like to have a go yourselves on finding out what brand the original back scenes were, you're more than welcome. A link to the RM article can be found here: http://www.pegnsean.net/~railwayseries/rm-1959-12.htm

 

The station itself will be made up using wood strips, balsa wood and the Bilteezi platform kit with the addition of the Dapol platform fencing. The main buildings is the Bilteezi country station which will have additional features added on. 

 

One of the gems on this layout is my replica of the original Thomas model that ran on the original layout. I managed to obtain a Stewart Reidpath model off eBay but this model didn't have a chimney. Instead it had what looks like a sort of rivet in it's place. I'll have to see about taking that off and replace it with another chimney. The model also needs steps and some brake piping so I'll have to have look online and see if I can get some spares. After the model arrived, I gave it a good servicing and now it runs very smoothly and really reliable - just like the original.

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Annie and Clarabel are scratch built/kitbashed using card and the Ratio bogie bolster wagon kits. Their design is based on a particular coach that the Reverend copied during the 1920's and like the originals, these models run very well especially round tight corners. The models look a bit scruffy and require a new paint job, but they serve well on the layout. I'll be seeing about making up some spare models fitted with the Spratt and Winkle couplings as back up models incase these ones should become unserviceable during times when I'm exhibiting the model. 

 

Still a lot more to do but as soon as I get my work finished for University, I'll crack on and continue from where I left off. 

 

One last item, if you want to see how the original layout performed you can see a small home movie of it at the beginning of this video

Edited by WhitehouseFilms
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Nice layout. Great that you are trying to recapture the feel of the original. These were great stories , brilliantly illustrated and evoke a "golden age" even if it is with Rose Tinted Glasses. Looking forward to seeing more and thanks for posting the link to the documentary. I had seen it before , but many years ago.

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Excellent

Since gettig hold of the original RM a few years ago it always struck me as being a layout with surprisingly good operating potential for its size. I did meet Awdry at one of the MRC Central Hall Easter shows when I was a lad. I was never sure whether the layout I saw then was this one or Ffarquahar mk 2 but from the Modelling Sodor timeline on http://www.pegnsean.net/~railwayseries/ffarquhar.htm   I think it must have been this 6x4 version.

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Well, I had a search and found the circa 1962 Bassett Lowke catalogue and it did indeed have their backscenes in it, though only cartoons of the four (rolling countryside, town, coastal bay and mountains), even so it was possible to see exactly the same arrangement of buildings as the 'town' part. Each part was 2'  11" long by 9" high and came as a set of 13/6.

So, the backscenes are Bassett Lowke - not sure you'll find them that easily though! The one I saw on ebay earlier this year only showed two of the four scenes (rolling countryside and mountains).

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  • 2 weeks later...

This morning, I got my last bit of coursework submitted for Uni so thats me finished until September.   :D

 
And to celebrate, I got to work on making the new back scene. Yesterday I purchased a sheet of 3mm MDF and after marking the height, I cut out the paper back scenes and marked out where I need to cut. then afterwards, the hole to allow the locos to enter the fiddle yards was also marked and cutout. This evening I set to work on painting up the sky and the area where I will have the shrubbery.
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Before I stick the back scene in, I'll try and paint in some distant hills/mountains. On it's own, it kind of looks like a seaside town, don't you think?
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Round here I will make up some relief shrubs which I hope will blend in with this backdrop. As said before, the back drop board behind this one will need something to fill in the gaps.
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Test with a mock up of the station platform. A proper one will be built in due corse this summer.
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Now I only just found out that the 4mm Bilteezi factory kit is now out of print so because I have this one already built to be used if I ever make Elsbridge, I will need to photograph parts of this to make a copy of the kit. Looking at photos of the factory on the original, it's quite easy to get the bits that I need made to make the low relief building. Hopefully it should blend in well with this backdrop. 
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One thing which I noticed was when I was test fitting the board, I cut it too high so I'll need to trim a few millimetres off in order for it to fit flush with the other boards. ;-| 
but one thing is for sure, at least this board is a lot better than the previous, don't you agree? 
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More updates to follow.
Edited by WhitehouseFilms
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As a child I used to have a couple of annuals published pre Britt Allcroft, a quick google confirmed my memory that they were 1979 to 1981:

 

http://ttte.wikia.com/wiki/Annuals

 

Although the above contents are a bit vague, I recollect that these covered Awdry's layout and how the engines were built. In particular, I recall how he built his Toby. I think there was an article in one and due to its popularity more on the railway and its construction was in the following year. Perhaps worth a look in light of your project if you've not seen them?

 

David

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That back-scene is really coming together; looks to me as if you will manage the disappearing trick better than the original.

 

BTW, another publication to look out for, if you can find it, is the early RM with Deane's layout in it, and the one with CJF's plan based directly on Deane's.

 

And, if your layout doesn't get featured in RM when it is finished, Mr Editor won't be doing his job. I think an ideal issue would be December 2019, sixty years to the month since the original. I've got a bound set of 1959 on loan at present, and was surprised to see how long the original article is - I've seen it on the web before, but it hadn't registered that it was a whopper-article.

 

Kevin

Edited by Nearholmer
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Brilliant move!

 

I've long thought that the Ffarquhar Branch layout was a really good one, with lots of operating potential. It's only disadvantage was that it was on two fairly whopping boards, which must have made it a space-eater at home, and difficult to shift about.

 

It is basically an adaptation of Maurice Deane's layout, but his was around the walls, operated from in the middle. CJF used Deane's layout as one of his first Railway Modeller plans c1951, and The Reverend took his plan from that.

 

In short, you are in the footsteps of three great railwayacs!

 

Kevin

Railwayacs! Now there's a word I haven't seen for many years.

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That back-scene is really coming together; looks to me as if you will manage the disappearing trick better than the original.

 

BTW, another publication to look out for, if you can find it, is the early RM with Deane's layout in it, and the one with CJF's plan based directly on Deane's.

 

And, if your layout doesn't get featured in RM when it is finished, Mr Editor won't be doing his job. I think an ideal issue would be December 2019, sixty years to the month since the original. I've got a bound set of 1959 on loan at present, and was surprised to see how long the original article is - I've seen it on the web before, but it hadn't registered that it was a whopper-article.

 

Kevin

 

You must send me, if you have any, images of Deane's layout to do a comparison. i haven't seen this layout so it would be interesting to see what it is like. 

 

Thanks very much guys for all your comments. Very much appreciated.

 

EDIT: I've been thinking about featuring it in RM but wasn't sure what the response would be. But the December 2019 sounds very fitting. 

Edited by WhitehouseFilms
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The Bilteezi backscene is more what the Reverend would have used than the PECO ones, which came out later (the market town backscene didn't come out until the 1990s).

 

However I'm not sure why you assembled the Peco ones the way you did - the Peco backscenes are designed to transition in that the edge of any one backscene can be aligned with the edge of any other (the exceptions being the harbour, city and industrial town backscenes which were combined with 'extension' backscenes which had to be cut in half and transposed!), so there shouldn't have been any need to produce the 'collage' effect you did.

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Yeah I prefer the Bilteezi ones to the PECO ones anytime. Really didn't like the transition of them at all. They're Okay if it's for a beginner's layout but for one that your trying to replicate, not good. 

I started with the PECO ones because I wasn't sure at the time if the Bilteezi ones were still printed. But after an email to Freestone Models I was told that they still print them so thats why I'm changing the backdrops to the Bilteezi ones. As said above in previous posts, the ones on the original layout were made by Bassett Lowke so the changes of me getting rolls of them would be unlikely. Anyways I really like the Bilteezi ones as well as the building kits. They fit in well with the theme and also make the layout look like you seeing one of the original illustrations by then artist, John. T. Kenny.

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You must send me, if you have any, images of Deane's layout to do a comparison. i haven't seen this layout so it would be interesting to see what it is like. 

 

Thanks very much guys for all your comments. Very much appreciated.

 

EDIT: I've been thinking about featuring it in RM but wasn't sure what the response would be. But the December 2019 sounds very fitting. 

I've PM'd you the original Maurice Deane article.

 

Maurice Deane's original Portreath layout pioneered this approach and it was described in his article The Possibilities of a Miniature Layout in the August-September 1950 Railway Modeller (published by Ian Allan) .

Cyril Freezer used Deane's idea of a fiddle yard behind the terminus for a plan in the Oct-Nov 1950 Modeller based on Buckfastleigh and Ashburton but without the link for a concealed continuous run.

 

Porteath didn't last that long as Deane visited the Culm Valley branch (probably in October 1950) and immediately started dismantling his layout to build a model of it on basically the same baseboards. That appeared in the February 1952 RM (by then a Peco publication) the month after an article by Deane describing the branch. That layout didn't have a link for continuous running either but instead used the interesting idea of a fully modelled " fiddle" yard in full view in front of one of the stations so the layout was essentially an elongated spiral. 

Edited by Pacific231G
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The Bilteezi backscene is more what the Reverend would have used than the PECO ones, which came out later (the market town backscene didn't come out until the 1990s).

 

However I'm not sure why you assembled the Peco ones the way you did - the Peco backscenes are designed to transition in that the edge of any one backscene can be aligned with the edge of any other (the exceptions being the harbour, city and industrial town backscenes which were combined with 'extension' backscenes which had to be cut in half and transposed!), so there shouldn't have been any need to produce the 'collage' effect you did.

It does capture the atmosphere really well though. Looks good

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Mr Le 231G,

 

I'm pretty certain that CJF provided a plan very directly based on "Portreath", including the sneaky-circuit, as one of his very early "plans for modellers", somewhere about the time of the IA to Peco transfer, and in the write-up talks about going to visit Mr. Deane.

 

I get my old RMs on loan from a friend, who lives several counties away, a year at a time, and am in 1959 right now, so unfortunately can't check.

 

K

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