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21B Bournville Shed


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Given our appearance at Warley this year, I thought it about time that something about this layout appeared....We have been building this version of it for over 3 years afterall! The basic trackplan follows Ordnance Survey maps and signalling diagrams, but away from the shed there are some quite significant compromises made to keep the layout a manageable size that actually fits in our club room and leaves room to work on it.BournvilleTrackPlan.jpg

The shed and associated sidings fits nicely into a 8' x 2' area leaving the conundrum of getting to and from the fiddle yard still to solve. Its a long time back now and predates me joining the club, but I believe the original plan was to have a fiddle yard at either end. To this day I sometimes think we'd be finished by now if I hadn't had my way...but I digress. As a club we have had 3 hours per week to access the club room, which is nowhere near enough when we then have to set the layout up and break it down within that time! I joined Bournville MRC back in early 2011 and quickly found myself pushing the layout onwards, allow me to roll the clock back...




When I joined the club, this is how 21B looked. Code 80 track and templates tacked to two unbraced sheets of sundela. The track plan was sound given the constraints of code 80 track and laid out well, but for the first few weeks there was mostly discussion and not much momentum.




The frames arrived for the sundela boards made from reclaimed ply and pallet wood. I didn't say it then, but I wasn't too excited about the prospect of building this layout on that foundation. Myself and Dave (0121modeller) went home that night and had out own little chat away from the club and came up with a devious plot to do away with both the sundela and the regurgitated framework. Did I mention that I'm very good at treading on peoples toes and upsetting them? :angel: We decided that the fiddle yard should form a continuous run, and that we would build the fiddle yard boards more traditionally from timber frame and 9mm ply. The rebuild plot got under way...






Dave is a genius with woodwork, so I laid out where I wanted the framework for maximum rigidity in the corner boards and he did the rest.




We built the fiddle yard boards around the original sundela, and when complete it was pointed out to us that perhaps we should replace the original layout boards with a similar build to that of the fiddle yard. Devious? Yes. And I know it was probably a step too far for some of the older members for two newcomers to effectively come in and take over. We did lose one or two members and a few others stepped back never to touch the layout again, I'll take the blame for that squarely on the chin. But what it did was give the club something to actually work on, no more discussion, the decision had been made and there was track to lay.






Track first went down in the fiddle yard where I could completely deplete the stockpile of code 80 track we had. Farily standard stuff, copperclad and brass alignment dowels at board joins to keep alignment. Tedious work though, and with our restricted access times it took a while to get it down! Wiring it up however was a complete nightmare. Quite how Ken and Arthur kept their sanity doing that job, I will never know. Its due for rebuilding now too as parts of the fiddle yard are pretty much life expired thanks to having to set up and break down every week, so that job is on the menu again following Warley!

Edited by Zunnan
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With the fiddle yards laid, and the code 80 track done away with, I got my wish for laying the rest using code 55. Before too long we had a continous circuit, the track was screwed down (and stayed thus for a few years!) and the wiring commenced.






Ken and Arthur took on the fiddle yard, I did the front. I also argued that as we were eventually going to be relying on the ballast to hold the track down, I was no way going to accept using solenoid point motors. I think the club secretary nearly passed out when I said I wanted to use Cobalts and how many we needed!








With the running lines down and testing commencing I had one or two incidents with locos falling to their death, so I hemmed in the open track edges with extruded loft insulating board which would later form the basis for the scenery. I made a start on building some of the structures because I could at least take those home with me, and around this point the club committee announced that we were to be holding our first club exhibition at Rowheath Pavillion. The N Gauge layout was to feature and it was literally no more than bare baseboards and a circle of track! Eddie Davis volunteered to build the engine shed, and I had one of my treading on peoples toes moments again, and took the front boards home for the two weeks before it was due to appear in public for the first time...

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The two weeks I had the naked front end at home for gave me free reign to do what I wanted with it. I laid the entire shed complex in a day and then began the task of wiring it up and throwing a control panel together. The layout is wired as two completely separate loops, there is a crossover at the one end of the layout but there is no electrical connection between the up and down line controllers. The shed has its own supply and is wired for one engine in steam, the whole lot is live with isolating sections provided by either pointwork (coal ramp, coal stack and passing loop on the entry roads) or via switch for the roads in front of the shed and the dead lines at the rear. To be able to cross over from shed to Kings Norton running line, a portion of both running lines including the crossover are switchable to be run from the sheds output via two DPDT switches that effectively hijack each of the running lines.








Just before its first outing, I returned the front of the layout to the club and with Eddies first build of the shed (a cardboard mockup) we were about as finished as it was ever going to be in time for the exhibition. The back end was also rushed through using telephone wire and all was packed up and shipped out. My memories of that first exhibition were of puffs of smoke from the solenoid point motors and of a very rapid decision to rip out the telephone wire at the earliest opportunity! I remember that job beginning during the exhibition...I also began my now traditional working on the layout front throughout an exhibition by finishing off the wiring of the front end by providing power and isolation to the dead roads and coal stack. The public did seem to enjoy that however and I spent more time talking about what I was doing while laying on the ground below the layout than actually doing anything! After the exhibition, Ed announced that he wasn't happy with the shed he'd built and embarked on what I'd call his worst nightmare! 00 gauge modeller building a fairly complex N Gauge structure.






What he did however was nothing short of phenomenal. The club had decided that it would be a nice idea to model the inside of the shed, turntable and all, hence the open roof of the cardboard build, Ed took this idea and went about building the shed out of aluminium so that it should stand up to the rigors of repeated handling to remove the roof as and when needed. I still think he should have built two shells and left one of them in bare aluminium. It looked fantastic in bare metal!



Ed also built his first iteration of the coaling stage, which he wasn't really happy with as its proportions were quite some way out. Like the shed, this one was rebuilt with something that he's a little happier with. He also swore blind that he's never going to touch N Gauge again...we shall see! ;)

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Around the time of the metal shed being done and the extruded foam being carved to shape I started working on some of the structures along the line. Just in time for our second exhibition the Cotteridge Park and Pershore Road bridges had been completed and were bedded in with hanging basket liner.




Parts of the layout were coming to life, but the 3 hours access per week were (and still are) a a complete nightmare to work around.




Out on the road again, bare bones and much cork underlay still prevail. Mary Vale Road bridge now has its location to slot into, but this is where things at my end really began to fall apart and my ability to work on the layout waned. For our second exhibition I temporarily planted Mary Vale Road and had profiled the Birmingham end to take the retaining wall which dominates that end of the layout. Everything was a bit of a blur, and for a few months I was unable to get to the club after contracting a mystery illness which almost resulted in kidney failure. With my unplanned exit, I hadn't left any instruction on what I wanted doing to the layout and things stalled. The fiddle yard was patched up, and part of the canal was started.






During my absence I pondered more and more exactly how to go about profiling the Birmingham end, and when I finally returned I attacked the layout with a saw, gouging out the embankment that leads from Mary Vale Road down to Cadburys, then bringing it back up to above rail level for the retaining wall. The canal also went in permanently, so that got the saw to loft board and buried in hanging basket liner treatment too! A row of Metcalf houses appeared on the layout as well. Although they're a temporary feature until a permanent solution can be made, I actually quite like the appearance they give the layout. Dave made the panel of allotments which the houses back on to which finish up the houses quite nicely.




By the time of Solihull MRCs exhibition in 2013, the ground cover was starting to creep over the layout and the canal was taking shape, but the biggest change was getting rid of most of the visible loft insulating board beneath a coat of brown paint. Simple things make the biggest change sometimes!

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Ground cover and more absence from the club have been the running theme for Bournville this year.




A nice long break from taking it out on the road took some of the urgency out of things, and while I was away from the club the hanging basket liner disappeared to make way for static grass. Definitely a good thing! I love basket liner, but coming back to see what I saw was a very pleasant surprise. I cracked on and started putting the stub of the Lifford Loop in and bedded in the signal box.




For the first time in two years tracklaying in the shed complex began again with the roundhouse innards taking shape just in time for the layout to go out on the road again.




At our exhibition the turntable garnered some quite critical 'its too small' comments, which I couldn't help but to laugh at. Bournville had a 57ft turntable, so that is exactly what I have built and posed a Black 5 on it for the exhibition. Now, a Black 5 is 62 feet long, and the tender gap on the model is quite overscale which only lengthens it. 'Its too small, you can't turn that engine! Its not very good is it?!'. Out with the ruler...'This says the table is 57ft long mate, which is what the real thing was. That engine is too long' was quite a common discussion. I think when the guys from Warley MRC came to have a look at progress (or lack thereof) they were quite...errr...unimpressed. I'm glad I could overhear their comments, that gave me the to do list in the run up to Warley! Battle lines drawn and all that. ;)

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Lets recount the last few weeks...




An influx of new members saw some real vigour injected into the layout. My often caustic way of modelling and innate ability to tread on everyones toes and take over the smaller jobs had until now very successfully reduced the number of members willing to work on Bournville Shed to Ed Kyberd and myself. I was completely burned out, and Ed is a Midland hating P4 GNR modeller at heart was nearing the end of his patience with it all too. With Warley only weeks away, I stepped off the gas a bit as more members began to work on the layout, although I'll freely admit that I still got in the way and took over some work going on at times...I'm getting better at leaving people to get on with it without me meddling too much though...I hope!




The backscene support finally went in, as well as a basic but nicely effective 12v lighting rig by Arthur and I concentrated on bending the back corner and fascia boards to shape while everyone else concentrated on ground cover, removing the screws that had held the track down for the past 3 years and finishing up the ballasting. By the Thurdsay before Warley all that was left bare was a patch of ground where Dell Road sits. I had also promised myself to at least begin to build some purpose made coaches for the layout in time for Warley.




I unceremoniously buried the last of the cork below three 'slightly' modified Kestrel semi detached houses and rather basic gardens leaving Ed and co to blend them in to the layout.




My little treat to myself was a welcome departure to working on buildings or soaking hardboard and bending it to shape. An Etched Pixels D1701 non corridor Composite that I cobbled together a while ago was stripped down and repainted, and it was accompanied by two Worsly Works D1964 non corridor Brake Thirds. All still need glazing, interiors building and lettering, but they mark a change in my focus for the layout which should hopefully keep me at arms length and allow club members to safely work on the layout without me hovering behind them and taking over!

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At Warley I did manage to continue with my tradition of getting in the spectators way and doing some work on the layout mid exhibition...although not on the scale of operation that I usually do! This was just planting ground signals and building three Ratio LMS round posts using the signalling diagram that I had sneaked into the info boards placed around the layout.




A Southbound 'Pines' headed by 45699 'Galatea' emerges from Church Road tunnel and coasts alongside the canal as it heads towards Bournville. 'Leander' would probably be more appropriate, there is a D J Norton photo of her thundering past Bournville shed.




The 'Pines' is brought to a stop at Mary Vale Road bridge, probably being inconvenienced by a movement on shed. Someone is in for trouble soon! Bournville Station should be at this location, the signal is technically the station starter but it also protects the crossover to the shed and Lifford Loop.




3F 43766 slinks off shed, probably to the exchange sidings at Cadburys. One of those ground signals is in the wrong place...I'll add that to the 'I'm tired and needed coffee at the time' section on the to be fixed list! 43766 was a resident of Bedford in the period of running depicted. It, like most of the other locos I own are eventually to be renumbered predominantly of Bournville or Saltley inhabitants. One that won't be renumbered is the weathered Fairburn that Farish do, it was shedded at Monument Lane very close to our running period, so it is not impossible that it ran the Birmingham West Suburban on occasion.




Wind up time at Warley, the shed is emptying itself into the stock boxes and the hall lights give a pleasing dusk light to the layout.


So, life after Warley. Whats in store now?


Scenically the layout is around 50% complete, so as ever, that is the ongoing task to be worked on. More critically however, the fiddle yard has probably seen its last train. Its temperamental, the switches are way past their best and some of the point motors have given up on life. We've identified a few areas we would like to expand capacity by breaking some roads down into sections to fit multiple shorter trains and the two through roads are redundant for that task so its probable that we'll turn it into a car park for light loco movements on and off shed.

Edited by Zunnan
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In all of my rambling, I completely forgot to add in our prime source of imagery that is used for inspiration. Most is down to D J Norton recording the scene in the late '40s through to the 1961 demolition, but there are other photographers to credit who's work has been pooled together on the Warwickshire Railways website.


Photo - by D. J. Norton

Birmingham West Suburban Railway - Warwickshire Railways


Also highly valued are the recollections of exhibition goers who had first hand experience of Bournville Shed. It has frequently been directly due to their input that alterations have been made or details considered that we were previously unaware of.


I also completely forgot about a little video that I put together some time ago which shows the layout very much under construction from a trackside and trains perspective.


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  • 2 years later...

Time for a long overdue update.


21B has had a bit of a hiatus, and found itself being used as clubroom shelving for a little while, so needless to say, when it was dusted off it needed some TLC to get it back up and running! Now that we have addressed the majority of the electrical issues and most of the knocks and scrapes it has taken, a little forward motion has been made in working on the scenery.


My first thought was that its the little things which make the most difference, being in N however means pretty much everything is little! So rethinking along those lines, I started looking at lineside images for those details that are so often taken for granted and are quite often overlooked. One thing at Bournville which stuck out was the telegraph routes on either side of the running lines and the truly enormous poles used where the route crossed the running lines. The Ratio offerings are among the better 'ready to plonk' items off the shelf, and while perfectly OK for a sleepy branch line, they don't really reflect a major artery out of a city. To be honest, absolutely nothing available even comes close to what I was looking for, and as the past few years has proven, whatever is used needs to be able to stick up for itself! This also ruled out hacking about whitemetal models...So in the end I measured up some remaining telegraph poles and started cobbling up N gauge representations with suitably sized brass rod. Making one pole was enough to make me realise that what I was thinking was in fact insanity, so a rethink with some aluminium angle and more than a few 0.5mm drill bits (and a LOT of coffee) resulted in a jig that allows me to manufacture 5 poles at a time with anywhere between 1 and 12 arms.




Being in N, I wasn't too concerned about representing everything on the poles, I like to think of the scale as representing the bigger picture. Though to be honest, the thought of modelling hundreds of insulator pots each measuring 0.5mm by around 0.1mm ran a mile faster than my dogs will! To be honest, sometimes I think a simple representation can work just as well as an insanity inducing all singing all dancing reproduction in miniature. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it!




When removed from the jig, the rod used for the arms needs cutting down between the poles. Using high temp solder helps keep everything attached, and the jig doesn't half help keep fingers from blistering. A quiet evening resulted in a small forest, including the monstrous two tiered poles for crossing the main running lines at the signal box.






Even though they're pretty basic, they do the job for which they are intended. A lick of paint in mostly greys and a hint of brown has since been applied in readiness for planting. And to be honest, while I was expecting the lack of insulators and basic construction to irritate me somewhat, I'm surprised they've turned out as they have.

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After the pole production I decided I'd have a stab at resurrecting some LMS diagram 1901/1923 etches which the dog intercepted when they arrived in the post 4 years ago. Mangled doesn't even come close! Much rolling and flattening of the sides, annealing and straightening of window vents, and one or two slightly strong words later, and the chassis was deemed a complete write-off! The sides and ends however were in decent shape, so project diner was officially up and running! While I was waiting for these etches to arrive, I built the Ultima 68ft chassis kit...when I offered up the Worsley 'N Gauge' sides to the chassis I quickly noted the Ultima chassis was 2mm scale, and not N Gauge. Great! 1 coach, 2 chassis which couldn't be used!


Thankfully, my temper meant that I was GOING to build a coach...and code 75 bullhead rail makes a decent approximation for N Gauge coach solebars. Plenty of copperclad sheet lying in the bits box meant I had a basic chassis quickly cobbled together, and some stress relieving with a razor saw meant that I at least managed to salvage the Ultima trussing and soldered it to the copperclad.


Considering the dog damage...






A testament to how well etched Worsley Works parts are! And very much a scratch aid given only the sides and ends could be redeemed!


After the body, cobbling up an interior was positively simple! No compartments to faff around with for starters! The missus wasn't so pleased with me whittling down Evergreen rod on the sofa in front of the TV mind you...




Painting for the most part was straight forward. However, some NGS transfers seem to be labelled incorrectly and my order for LMS/BR lining turned out to be Gold/Black rather than Yellow/Black/Yellow. As I need lining for Crimson/Cream I'll keep what was sent for the second LMS dia1901/1923 waiting in the wings to be built. In the meantime, this left me with lining to do by hand...and in true botched fashion that sums up this entire build; my rOtring pens are all out of ink!


I still need to source a roof for this too...

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  • 2 years later...
  • 1 year later...
On 12/01/2020 at 12:05, FoxUnpopuli said:

Bump.  @Zunnan - how is Bournville shed progressing?  :D  Got a sitrep?


How did I miss this for so long...


We have had a change of premises, which helped in not needing to dismantle the layout every week and saved on the usual minor bumps and scrapes needing repair all the time. I started on a major rewiring crusade on the back end as this is where the layout suffered most over the years. The industrial CDU we were using also failed irreparably, so a new way to power the fiddle yard needed to be devised.


Moving premises did help greatly in this rebuilding, as the layout has always been temperamental due to its regular handling. It has however led to a much bigger problem, with lockdown and the club effectively going into hibernation for 18 months the roof of the premises the club resides in failed and the damp atmosphere over such a long period has wreaked havoc on just about everything within. Leading up to our exhibition the other week, it was a real fire fight against damp damage to get the layout even remotely running. Everything from seized solenoid point motors and relays, even the DCC concepts point motors, have all needed attention. The real stinker has been damage to the track, the damp environment has had a reaction to the adhesive used for the ballasting, especially in the shed area where real coal has been mixed in. I've measured short circuits of 6 ohms on plain track when disconnected from the layouts wiring!!! After rebuilding 16 Cobalt Blue point motors, and chasing several nightmare shorts which traced into the ballast rather than wiring, I thought I had a handle on repairing 18 months of damp storage...Thursday we noticed the boards have warped and track on the main lines buckling from expansion issues, something not present a week prior at the exhibition.


Always something to do...though this latest issue on top of the electrically conductive ballast is a real doozey to even begin to start planning remedial work. We need new premises! Or a new roof...But being as Birmingham Uni are gazing their eye with a view to yet more student accommodation (among other issues) I think another move is possible sooner or later as we get the feeling our premises are at risk.

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