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GMRC - Tribute to Brunel - Basingstoke Bodgers


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There was very limited airtime in the final programme to show much detail of the layouts, so this thread should, hopefully, fill some gaps and show some more details of our layout.

 

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We prepared a descriptive narrative to identify the main features we had included, but there was no time during the judging to give much more than a brief intro. Here it is:

 

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Basingstoke Bodgers
Layout Narrative for the Final


(animation: train enters layout from cassette through Box tunnel and stops at the first signal)

We take you back to the mid-1850's. Motor cars and aeroplanes will not be invented for another 50 years. Railways are in their infancy. Less than 50 years since Richard Trevithick's first steam locomotive ran on rails, and less than 20 years since Stephenson's Rocket triumphed at the Rainhill Trials. We are paying tribute to an innovative engineer whose career started by completing the first tunnel under the Thames in London which had been started by his father. That engineer is Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Our train has just emerged from Box Tunnel, on Brunel's Great Western Railway from London to Bristol. Nearly 2 miles long, it opened less than 10 years ago, in 1841. It is reputed that the alignment of the tunnel allows the rising sun to shine right through the tunnel on Brunel's birthday, April 9th. (animation: tunnel should light up).


Brunel surveyed the entire route from London to Bristol on horseback, and can be seen observing us. (animation: Brunel on horseback should appear from behind a bush)

Brunel deduced that more passengers and freight could be carried at higher speeds and in more comfort if the gauge between the rails were greater than the 4' 8.5" gauge adopted by George Stephenson. Brunel built his railways with a gauge of 7 feet. This initially worked well, but as the rail network grew across the country, the locations where Brunel's broad gauge railways met narrow Stephenson gauge lines necessitated the transfer of goods and passengers from one train to another. Here we see a transfer shed from the 1850's, as preserved at Didcot. (not completed in time for judging, just the broad gauge and narrow gauge lines and a platform were built)


Transferring goods like this caused delays and damage and increased pilfering and prompted the so-called 'Gauge War'. Parliament will eventually decide on Stephenson's gauge to become the future standard, but it will be another 40 years before the end of the broad gauge. The final changeover from broad gauge to standard gauge of the route from London to Plymouth will be completed over a single weekend in 1892 - Network Rail, take note!

(animation: signal clears, train moves on to bridge and stops)


Our train has now moved on to Maidenhead Bridge. Brunel's elegant design of graceful arches crossing the river Thames, completed in 1838, was considered too shallow for brickwork, and in danger of collapsing. Brunel was not allowed to remove the wooden formwork used in its construction. Then, following a flood, the formwork was washed away. The bridge was supporting itself, and 180 years later, it will continue carry HSTs, the new class 800 trains and heavy freight trains.


Down by the water's edge we see a section of the South Devon Railway that runs from Exeter to Plymouth along the coast past Dawlish, which opened a few years ago in 1847. Because of the steep hills at the Plymouth end of the line, it was felt that steam locomotives of the time would not be powerful enough. Brunel adopted atmospheric traction. Large pumping engines were built along the route, such as this one at Starcross which will still be standing in 170 years time. They were used to create a vacuum in a pipe that ran between the rails. A piston, connected to the train, ran inside the pipe. Air was then let into the pipe behind the train forcing the piston, and the train, forward. The system did work, and a maximum speed of 64mph was recorded over a distance of 3 miles. However, there were many technical problems, and running costs were higher than expected, and the system was replaced by conventional locomotives just a year later. (animation: atmospheric train runs. Smoke from chimney of pumping station Chimney actually started puffing smoke some two hours after judging, for some unknown reason)


In order that the rail network could extend into Cornwall, the river Tamar needed to be crossed. A bridge needed to be high enough for the tall ships to navigate beneath it, but the geology of the river banks would not support the buttresses or anchoring points of conventional bridges. A suspension bridge will force the end towers inwards unless they can be anchored. Bowstring or arch bridges will force their ends outwards against heavy buttresses. Brunel designed two bridges in one, a suspension bridge and a bowstring bridge sharing the same end towers, such that the outward forces from the bowstring are perfectly balanced by the inward forces from the suspension bridge. No buttresses or anchor points are required. The Royal Albert Bridge, seen in the distance, will be opened by Prince Albert in 1859 and will continue to carry heavy trains 160 years later. (animation: N scale trains cross the Royal Albert Bridge)


Further in the distance we see the Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Avon Gorge, near Bristol. Construction started 20 years ago, in 1831. A rope was slung across the gorge to aid the transfer of men and materials from one side to the other, but none of the workers were brave enough to cross. Brunel himself got into the bucket to travel back and forth, showing the men it was safe. (animation: bucket with stovepipe hat crosses the gorge not completed in time)

Work on the bridge was delayed by political unrest and shortage of funds, and the bridge will not completed until 1864, 5 years after Brunel's death.


Also in the distance we see another of Brunel's passions, steam ships. The SS Great Britain, built in 1845, was the first iron steam ship to cross the Atlantic. (animation: Brunel appears from pile of ship's chains)

(animation: train moves forward into station and stops at next signal)


We now arrive at Mortimer station, just a short distance from Basingstoke. Opened in 1848, this will be the last surviving station built by Brunel in his Italianate style. The larger than normal distance between the platforms will be a reminder that this line was originally built to Brunel's broad gauge.


On the platform, we see a nurse. She is a reminder that Brunel designed and built pre-fabricated hospital wards for shipping to the Crimea, as requested by Florence Nightingale. He completed his design in 6 days, and 60 units were shipped out to create a 1,000 patient hospital, which opened in 1855. The improved hygenic features resulting in rates of infection 1/10 that of the existing hospital at Skutari.
(animation: Brunel appears from station door)


In the background we see Brunel's railway legacy, with important locomotives of his Great Western Railway over the years. 'City of Truro', believed by many to be the first locomotive to haul a train at 100mph, a Castle class locomotive named 'Isambard Kingdom Brunel', a King class locomotive, and in the distance, an HST and several more modern locomotives that have carried the name 'Isambard Kingdom Brunel'. A fitting tribute to an extraordinary, innovative and prodigious engineer who was ahead of his time.
(animation: signal clears to allow train to progress to the next layout)

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Excellent layout in what has been an excellent series. Nice that you've explained more of the features.  Surprising how many of Brunel's structures are still in use. 

I didn't know Brunel had designed portable hospitals for use in the Crimean war.  (As it happens last week's program was followed by a Michael Portillo program where the subject was  military hospitals).

 

The forced perspective idea is interesting, worked well here imho.  Also the representation of the famous photo of Brunel standing in front of the launching chains.

 

Great stuff!

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Our river was four in one. At the front it is the Thames, with the Maidenhead bridge crossing it, in the middle it is a bit of the Exe estuary, with Starcross pumping station and the atmospheric railway, and the Tamar with the Royal Albert bridge crossing it, then at the back, it is the Avon with the Clifton Suspension bridge crossing it, and the SS Great Britain at anchor.

 

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I was impressed with the scene Ian; well thought through. Is that the River Thamar then?

 

Is it this or the heat layout which you'll be at Warley with on the Peco stand?

 

Hi, 

 

Ian or the other Basingstoke Bodgers can give you the full SP but its the heat layout Santa's Holiday that's going to be on the Peco stand at Warley.

 

Their layout built in the TV final was difficult to dismantle and transport by courier back to the Basingstoke club. The bulk of the layout from the final is being reworked as a 2mm scale exhibition layout featuring an improved bridge over the Tamar and lower level tracks parallel to the river. I think the atmospheric railway is to be re-used on another layout/diorama.

 

Regards

 

Nick (on behalf of the Basingstoke and North Hants Model Railway Society - still looking for new members).

Edited by NIK
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Yes, this layout was not going to be suitable for re-use as it had the 'star tracks' passing through it. It has been divided up to form a few separate dioramas - Maidenhead Bridge, Atmospheric railway - while the Royal Albert Bridge will form the centrepiece of a new N/2FS layout.

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The 'Star Train' entered the layout from Box Tunnel. A car sidelamp bulb in the tunnel represented the sun shining through the tunnel on Brunel's birthday. To one side is a goods transfer yard with a platform between the standard gauge and broad gauge tracks. I had intended to build a transfer shed, based on the one now at Didcot, but time was against me.

 

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Brunel, on his horse, was animated to appear from behind a bush above the tunnel mouth

 

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Having managed to smuggle a DHL van on to the Santa layout, I felt I had to try for an 1850's version for this layout:

 

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The next part of the story was the Atmospheric Railway. The model of Starcross Pumping Station was created from foam board, covered with printed paper, the artwork for which was derived from photographs of the real thing. I would have liked to include the original chimney top, with its columns and arches and viewing platform, but time precluded it. A smoke generator was fitted to the chimney top, and although it was powered up for most of the day, it only decided to produce smoke a couple of hours after judging.
 
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The track for the Atmospheric Railway was built using components from the Broad Gauge Society and chopped up coffee stirrers for the cross braces. The vacuum pipe was represented by two pieces of half-round wooden dowel. I did experiment with actual vacuum operation before the filming, using a larger aluminium pipe beneath the track, but after half a day it was obvious I would not be able to get it work in the time I would have at the challenge, so the train was propelled manually by a length of piano wire sitting in the slot in the cosmetic pipe.
 
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The 'paddle' wagon was scratch built, with a Modelu mini-me at the helm, complete with added stovepipe hat. The carriage is an old Hornby 4-wheeler, sawn carefully down the centre, and fattened up with plasticard. Broad Gauge Society wheels completed the build.
 
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The lovely Victorian figures are pewter ones, supplied by Andrew Stadden and painted by me.

 

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A couple of Broad Gauge Society wagon kits were purchased to complete the scene, but only one was completed in time for the challenge. Here they are on my little diorama, rebuilt around the track rescued from the layout.
 
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The reason we were not able to start laying track as early as the judges would have liked was that a considerable amount of carpentry work was required first. The central board was lowered about 4 inches to form the basis of the river that the bridges would cross. Then, the raised level for the N gauge loop had to be constructed.

 

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The river section actual represents four different rivers. At the front of the layout it is the River Thames, being crossed by Brunel's miraculous Maidenhead Bridge. One side of the centre it represents the Exe estuary with the atmosheric railway running along side. It is then the River Tamar being crossed by the Royal Albert Bridge. Then, at the rear and on the backscene, it is the River Avon with the Clifton Suspension Bridge crossing the gorge.

 

The Maidenhead Bridge is an accurate model of how it is now, with four tracks crossing it. Constructed from plywood, it is covered with printed paper, the artwork for which was derived from photographs of the real thing.

 

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The river took 8 bottles of Deluxe Aqua Magic, which almost completely set overnight, although some did escape onto the floor.

 

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The Royal Albert Bridge was Pete's pet project. Drawings were found on the 'net and reduced to N scale, but it was still too big for the layout. The model is actually about 70% of the size it should be for N scale, but it is still very impressive.

 

The distinctive curved tubes forming to top of the bowstring part of the bridge were formed from plastic water pipe. Peter had spent a week or more trying to force a curve in the pipe, but it kept straightening out again. The final, and successful, solution was to use a heat gun during the filming at Fawley Hill. This finally induced curvature that remained after cooling. The girders running along side the single track were Peco bridge sides, in large numbers. The rest was Plastruct and plasticard. Despite working on it for three solid days, not all the Plastruct cross-bracing was completed, and the suspension bridge links and chains were not even started. However, it had to be added to the layout to complete the N gauge track circuit. Installing the bridge was not easy because it was pretty much in the centre of the layout, and the rest of the scenery and backscenes were already in place. Plus the resin in the river was not completely hard. The bridge was initially mounted on a strip of wood because the glues were not fully hardened, and there was concern that it would fall apart if not supported. This pretty much mirrored the situation with the original Maidenhead Bridge. The supporting woodwork was removed, and the bridge pillars installed before judging though.

 

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(Photo by Rob Score)

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(Photo by Rob Score)

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(Photo by Rob Score)

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(Photo by Rob Score)

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Following on from the Challenge, Pete is working to complete the bridge and it will be the centrepiece for a new N/2FS layout he is creating.

 

 

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The final scene on the layout was based loosely on Mortimer station, which is between Basingstoke and Reading, and is a station I did my daily commute from for a while. It is the last remaining wayside station built in Brunel's italienate style, and is available in kit form from Gaugemaster.
 
The station platforms and entrance are populated with more Victorian people, this time from Langley and again, painted by me. Another animated Brunel appears coming out of the station door.

 

In the yard beyond the station are some famous GWR locos from through the ages, including a Castle class named 'Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The N gauge line also had some locomotives running on it that were named 'Isambard Kingdom Brunel', including a Class 66. We noticed afterwards that one of the 'Star Train' power cars was also named 'Isambard Kingdom Brunel'. I guess he must have been important :sungum:

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And this is what can be done with a pan scourer, 5m of silver chain, lots of superglue, a servo and a pewter figure.

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The Royal Albert Bridge was Pete's pet project. Drawings were found on the 'net and reduced to N scale, but it was still too big for the layout. The model is actually about 70% of the size it should be for N scale, but it is still very impressive.

 

Following on from the Challenge, Pete is working to complete the bridge and it will be the centrepiece for a new N/2FS layout he is creating.

It's actually only 50% of the length it should be, not sure about the height of the structure but it will be the correct scale 100ft above the river.

 

I can't claim all the credit for creating the new layout as Rob has done a sterling job using his carpentry skills to adapt the layout baseboards, and I hope to get some assistance from some of the other team members with other aspects of the build.

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Now that is the sort of thing that I had hoped that we would see on GMRC. Great work and a real credit to the hobby.

 

Edit: Perhaps a bit subjective as to what is and is not "Italianate", but I don't think that Mortimer is the only survivor. Perhaps the only one that can definitely be attributed to Brunel???

Edited by Joseph_Pestell
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  • 2 weeks later...

The Royal Albert Bridge was Pete's pet project. Drawings were found on the 'net and reduced to N scale, but it was still too big for the layout. The model is actually about 70% of the size it should be for N scale, but it is still very impressive.

 

The distinctive curved tubes forming to top of the bowstring part of the bridge were formed from plastic water pipe. Peter had spent a week or more trying to force a curve in the pipe, but it kept straightening out again. The final, and successful, solution was to use a heat gun during the filming at Fawley Hill. This finally induced curvature that remained after cooling. The girders running along side the single track were Peco bridge sides, in large numbers. The rest was Plastruct and plasticard. Despite working on it for three solid days, not all the Plastruct cross-bracing was completed, and the suspension bridge links and chains were not even started. However, it had to be added to the layout to complete the N gauge track circuit. Installing the bridge was not easy because it was pretty much in the centre of the layout, and the rest of the scenery and backscenes were already in place. Plus the resin in the river was not completely hard. The bridge was initially mounted on a strip of wood because the glues were not fully hardened, and there was concern that it would fall apart if not supported. This pretty much mirrored the situation with the original Maidenhead Bridge. The supporting woodwork was removed, and the bridge pillars installed before judging though.

 

 

Following on from the Challenge, Pete is working to complete the bridge and it will be the centrepiece for a new N/2FS layout he is creating.

 

so has Pete given up on Camford Junction then?

 

Tim T

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The 'Challenge' madness has put a six month dent into the Camford Junction progress, but once Warley is out of the way, we hope normal service will be resumed. There are now six of us on the Camford Junction team.

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Just had an enjoyable read through this, very impressed by the results - and under very challenging conditions too. IKB would have been a nervous wreck if he was to do the same... :)

 

Edited by Mikkel
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