A while back I had an idea, make a new layout! I wanted it to be a bit different from what I’ve built before, not really having made anything for passenger services. I’ve always been captured by some of Iain Futers three turnout layouts. I find them fascinating to watch and I really like Iains modelling style, so part of the idea was to capture that engagement. I’d got a board that was kicking around and had track fixed to it with a footprint of 6ft x 18inches which was a good starter for me. You can see the board below track painted, wired and working ready for fixing to a baseboard chassis.
You can read and see the back story behind the development of that urban idea here southern-nouveau-2/, it got to quite an advanced stage, including the fitting of the third rail. It ran well, it has to that’s something I’m really picky about. I spend a few weeks or consecutive days just operating the track and electrics before adding any scenery or paint, including types of locomotives and rolling stock that will never work on the layout, to ensure that its reliable. The Southern project finally fell on its sword around the time I was mocking up the buildings and infrastructure, for one good reason:
This just doesn’t look like an Southern Region station. There were hardly any island platform Southern Electric termini, and however much effort I put into it, I’d always know it was ‘wrong’. It wasn’t just adding the Great Central buildings to get a sense of building volume, but they certainly accentuated it, and got me thinking about a Great Central line that might fit the bill. There’s nothing wrong with freelancing and making something that never existed, but that’s not for me. The North American description of ‘Prototype Freelancing’ is my sort of modelling, building something heavily influenced by the prototype, or having enough recognisable features that the viewer relates it to a region/company or location easily. So we got to the second iteration, when-youre-digging-a-hole/ Now this immediately worked better as a reasonable back history and a prototype likeness that worked, the Quorn Station building models here helping. Removing and backfilling the third rail pots was a pain in the bum, but at least I know how to fit it for the future. The layout still wasn’t ‘working’ for me though and I realised that I didn’t actually enjoy operating the layout in its configuration. I can watch a Futers layout at a show for ages, but ‘driving’ one wasn’t working for me. So something drastic had to change.
I like ‘Off the Beaten Track’, as do a good few friends of mine so I went native, and back to those core interest areas. Whilst I’m more of a builder than operator I do like a layout to actually draw you in as an operator. Shelfie scored on this counter because it had a run round, so the simple addition of a loop would give that play value instantly. Family time had been spent in Northumberland and I’d followed the old branch to Whittle Colliery a small drift mine to the south of Amble. My late father in law had once arranged me to spend a Saturday morning shift (different times!) going down to the coal face. The line was steeply graded and in latter days worked by J94’s and 08’s. So that combination and hoppers, what’s not to like? With the chassis already existing it was a relatively simple task to convert the platform line from the urban idea to a loop. This was done with the addition of a Y point and slewing the track to remove the linear alignment, see the picture above. I also wanted to add some additional stock storage so the platform kick back turnout was reversed to give myself another short siding suitable for a couple of 08’s or brake vans.
With that done it was time for the testing phase prior to getting stuck into the scenery and ballasting, more of that later.
Finally on this day of days, for those of you who read this whom have served, thank you.
Thank you for the post, it’s good to read how you worked it through. Clear and articulate with pictures to boot! While you are quite right about Southern Electric and island platform terminus there is always a precedent, Caterham in Surrey and yes, operation would be a bit bland and simplistic.
Thanks Neville, it took a while to work it through, but once the penny had dropped that this wasn’t working, it was an easy restart!
I’ve long looked at Futers’ Forks as a proposition, but somehow it’s one of those designs that works well for him, and apparently few others (I’ve not seen too many copies). Admitting to the realisation of a blind alley is refreshing, and I enjoy watching the process. Finding out what won’t work is often more important than finding out what will.
Absolutely Chris, the fact that this has had three iterations doesn’t phase me, its helped get it right for what I want, rather than stagnating. I think there are a number of people whom once having started a project that’s stalled may be afraid to go back to basics and worst case, start again.
Reblogged this on sed30's Blog.
Being dimmer than the average bear I have only just spotted, in spite of following your blog for ages, that you laid the track on the board and then fixed it to a baseboard chassis.
I get frustrated when I have built a frame and top and glued and screwed the things together. Then laid track, wired etc. etc. Fine in theory, however if one part of the plan doesn’t work the frame often gets in the way of alterations. Which is time consuming and frustrating.
Is this your usual way of working? I can immediately see benefits. What are the drawbacks?
Hi Kane, Sort of, in answer to your question! The Chassis’ are from Model Railway Solutions and are standard products, they can do custom too. I do tend to make the track separate on boards and fit to a chassis. If you do it properly you can arrange to miss the chassis structure with point motors etc, however, I’m gash and don’t do that, and have occasionally run into problems with clearances, especially on Shelfie1. As far as handling goes the track ‘Sub Road Bed’ can be easy when wiring the loom, and the set up and fixing of the track. The base the track sits on is 9mm MDF, I’d be reluctant to use anything thinner in 4mm scale or larger. Depending on the size it can be quite heavy in itself and can flex, longitudinally and laterally. I’ve not experienced any issues from this (to date). If you’re mounting point motors underneath the board, once fitted they can be prone to getting damaged, as can any wiring looms and droppers. Once the Sub Road Bed is fitted to the chassis board, then setting up board joining and track joints are no different to a conventional build. Hope that’s of use.
Edit: the other thing I’d recommend is the use of lightning holes in the chassis beams regardless of material, they make the routing of wiring so much easier and also help as hand holds whilst moving the layout.
Many thanks for the reply. Really useful. I think this the way forward for me. I like the look of the boxes that Tim Horn produces and have been thinking of ordering some, yet on the floor behind me as I type is some lining paper with track on, glaring up and saying ‘it doesn’t work you know’! Having a board and chassis should provide me with areas for scenic development on several levels and allow a more ‘free form’ approach to which I aspire.
I want to design a layout and build the baseboard around the plan, whereas using a predefined container means designing to fit that. I know Chris Nevard and others do that brilliantly. Can’t get to grips with it myself.
So really helpful response and top tip on Model Railway Solutions chassis.
Thanks once again and best wishes.
Most people just use a rectangular asteroid as their layout sub structure, that’s what I do. If you’ve not already read the ‘works’ of Iain Rice, then they are a good starting point. His style doesn’t appeal to everyone but there’s lots of good for thought, the same with Barry Norman, though arguably an easier read. I shouldn’t forget my bezzy Paul Lunn plenty of good ideas particularly for more contemporary subjects. Kalmbachs annual Model Railroad Planning often has adaptable concepts for UK models too.
If I were to think of one thing that makes a difference, it’s reducing the amount of parallel track to the baseboard edge. That will immediately give you challenges and a variation from many ‘typical ‘ layouts. Hth