• Introduction

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    There is, whisper it gently, a secretive faction within the Society known only by the code words 'armchair section'. It has no leader, and by definition no active membership and no activities. Except of course sitting in front of the fire in Portland St, drinking tea and nattering about any and all things railway.

    Every chairman since Beeching was a lad has tried to encourage, cajole, persuade and occasionally threaten the more static membership to get up and go model, even to the point of limiting the seating capacity of the lounge. A sort of musical chairs without the music. Success has been limited, as there will always be members who prefer to model at home and socialise at the club. And quite right too, as every chairman ultimately comes to realise. And being an inclusive Society, we embrace diversity whole-heartedly, with barely a grimace and hardly a shudder.

    Fortunately there are others who see the clubrooms as an extension of their domestic layout space, or in some cases as the whole of said space, and use it accordingly. And even the odd armchair member can occasionally be seen with soldering iron or Stanley knife in hand, if only to prove they still know which end to hold…

    Click on a link at the top of the page to see the results of their labours.

    For descriptions of two past layouts, click
    here for Saltash and here for Dulverton.
  • Monsal Dale

    • Monsal viaduct seen from Monsal Head
    • The station platform
    • Station Road bridge. A skew bridge on a steep slope that was a challenge to model

    Rather than retaining a Great Western theme, our third layout in 'N' gauge is a representation of the Midland mainline through Monsal Dale. As with our previous layouts, Dulverton and Saltash, the trackwork conforms to 'N' gauge, the rest of the layout being to 2mm to 1' scale.

    Monsal Dale lies in the heart of the Peak District in an area of outstanding beauty.  Being situated close to Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham, it has inevitably become the weekend playground of their population.

    Monsal Dale is a deep valley cut into the limestone hills of Derbyshire, playing host to the River Wye, a small rural road, and, now, the Monsal Dale Trail.  The railway line bursts out of Headstone Tunnel in the east, crosses the River Wye by an elegant five-arch brick and masonry viaduct and meanders along the valley sides for about one mile before disappearing into another tunnel (Cressbrook). There was a small station with a siding and an extensive passing loop on the down side. This station served a sparsely populated countryside, with the siding serving a small quarry. Day trippers kept the line going for many years but eventually it succumbed and stopping trains ceased in 1967, with full closure the following year.

    However, this may not be the end of the story. The tunnels on the line are essentially sound and open to ramblers and cyclists, and thus would probably support a re-opening of the line. This has been mooted on a number of occasions as either a diversionary route for the west coast main line trains to Manchester, or even as an extension of Peak Rail through Matlock to Buxton. Debate and grandiose plans rumble along.
    Why model Monsal Dale?
    The line through Monsal Dale is bounded at both the eastern and western ends by tunnels which provide convenient scenic breaks. On the ground, the distance between the tunnel mouths is just short of a mile, which in ‘N’ gauge would require a layout over 10m long. Although an acceptable length, a more manageable layout has been achieved by judicious compression. This has been done mainly by shortening the passing loop and reducing the distance from the viaduct to the station, whilst leaving the latter’s dimensions unchanged. Indeed, there is probably some merit in this selective compression since this can provide visual interest over the whole extent of the layout. Although typical 50-wagon mineral trains could operated if desired, a more realistic length is the 20-25 wagons that the passing loop can accommodate.

    Overall the scenery is relatively straightforward. The number of buildings are minimal, apart from the station, tunnel mouths and two or three bridges. The height of the hills to the south provides a perfect backscene to hide the fiddleyard.
    • Viaduct and station baseboards showing basic construction
    • Viaduct and Monsal Head
    • Monsal viaduct with London-bound Blue Pullman (scratch-built)
    • The station and Station Rd bridge. Down mineral train hauled by a 4F
    The overall layout size is just over 4.5m long and just over 1m in width, comprising three boards each folding lengthwise to form a fully enclosed box (with end pieces added) for storage and transportation. This has been designed to minimise the damage that inevitably occurs during transport to and from shows. Construction is from various thicknesses of plywood and is a modified space frame, with expanded foam for the scenery, both for strength and sound deadening.

    The track is all PECO streamline code 55 finescale, laid on high density foam, with slow-acting point motors over the scenic section of the board and rescued H&M motors in the fiddle yard. Hopefully there will be operational semaphore signals.

    As of the beginning of 2013, the layout is fully operational, although as yet signals have not been added (can we install the new Dapol ones?). All the basic scenic work has been completed. However, as with any model railway more and more detail can always be added.

    We now need to increase the amount of LMS stock, both locos (particular 4Fs for banking purposes), as well as rolling stock.  

    One further item that might need some serious consideration in the near future are the point motors in the fiddle yard. These are recycled H&Ms but they are problems in operation. It is not clear why – could be mechanical (either the motor itself, which is self-latching, or the linkage to the point) or it could be electrical (dry-soldered joints).

    Some data for exhibition managers is

    Video by Tony Kuivala, at Woodvale 2013.
  • Talisker Glen
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    Talisker Glen is a fictitious station set in the West Highlands of Scotland. It has a connection to the Inverness main line and has regular passenger services to Inverness, Wick, Thurso and beyond. It also contrives to feed the daily sleeper service to London.

    The bulk of the freight traffic comes from the local distillery. This has a narrow gauge railway to provide a rail link to the exchange sidings, which includes a dual-gauge crossover. The distillery will be the main scenic feature on the layout.

    We hope to create a distillery in every detail with every stage of the process demonstrated. The narrow gauge line is of type which might still exist today, as a freight-only line to transport the barrels down the glen to the exchange sidings.

    The layout has nothing to do with the Talisker distillery, apart from the supply of bottled research material.
  • Portland Street
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    Our newest layout, imaginatively titled 'the dual gauge' until we thought, with great originality, of 'Portland Street', after a boulevard not a million miles from outside the front door.

    It arose from a cunning plan to remodel the existing fixed layout into something more user-friendly, and at the same time move Saltash downstairs, for ease of despatch to exhibitions. Both N-gauge and OO tracks have beeng laid, and appropriate scenery added.

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    Re-plastering proceeded in parallel with track-laying, after a short delay while a little industrial archeology was carried out, to see if secret messages from long-forgotten railway employees were inscribed on the uncovered walls. Or possibly even to discover the remains of said employees, walled-up by a stern stationmaster enraged at some minor misdemeanour. Nothing found, unfortunately.
  • Modular Layout
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    The modular layout concept has been around for some time, and can be used to encourage modellers to turn up at an exhibition or other meeting venue with a modestly-sized section of layout. Miraculously they all fit together, and an instant and possibly quite large, composite layout ensues.

    No stranger to pinching ideas, and on occasion less nebulous articles, Chairman Peter decided it would be a Good Thing if the Society did likewise. To encourage participation, and give at least some chance of everything working together, the Society would produce the blank templates for participants to model on. A small but surprisingly heavy prize would be offered for the best one, and all the entries would be displayed, and hopefully run, at the 2008 exhibition.

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    So it was said, and so it was done. Only five made the 2008 deadline, but over the years the numbers have increased and for 2011 Frank made two landscaped corner pieces, so we could operate in a U-shaped format. And new for the 2012 exhibition, two more corner pieces, so a complete rectangle with continuous running is possible.

    An account of building a module is
    here and some more photos are here.
  • Garden Railway
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    To have a garden is to require a garden railway to adorn it. That's it, nothing difficult, one just has to recognise that this is so. The SMRS has one. Of course. 

    Simple and profound that this truth is, there are still some unfortunates to whom it is not obvious, to say the least. Fortunately there are many reasons available to convince one's critics why it is so. One may be lack of spare bedroom space indoors for anything bigger than an N-gauge circle. Another is the need to provide the carefully-landscaped garden with the ultimate designer accessory, to make it stand out from the average domestic plot and give it an air of distinction and style.

    And so it is with the SMRS. We have a garden, or rather the club premises has one which it's temporal owner, ex-Railtrack, has seen fit to allow us to use, and maintain at our own expense. For the easement of bureaucracy they have conceded this without going to the trouble of giving us any legal right to go so much as a centimetre outside the back door of the clubhouse, outside loo notwithstanding. An uneasy truce prevails, with each side pretending it knows nothing of the matter.

    The idea of a garden railway had been maturing gently for some time, whilst the indoor railway projects have slowly developed towards middle-age. One factor was the donation of a quantity of old coarse scale O-gauge track, hand-built and of good quality. Like all good modellers we hoarded this largesse carefully until we could find a use for it. The trigger was the decision to clear the garden of its considerable piles of rubbish and create something more worthy of the name. Removal of the hedge separating us from the adjacent 1:1 scale commercial operation sparked the thought that we could use part of the border thus exposed to create a long-needed freight link with the shed at the far end of the property.

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    At present it is unpowered, allowing the purists to play with live steam, clockwork and the occasional battery electric. To facilitate construction the line was kept simple, merely a trench in the soil along the side of the concrete path, filled with 10mm limestone chips. We resisted the temptation to reach through the fence to acquire the somewhat over-scale genuine article. A line of bricks served to restrain the ballast and the single-line track was then laid loose on top. At the far end of the garden a loop was installed, of somewhat variable geometry as the remaining track was a mixture of different curves and straights. Trial and error saw both ends meet, in protoypical engineering style. A sprung point allows the traffic to go round the loop and return whence it came.
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    Two years on, the track has not so much bedded in as subsided in places. A major overhaul was therefore instituted, with a further hardware donation allowing the line to be double-tracked. Removal of the point allows the possibility of electrification to supplement the live steam and battery locomotives currently certificated for use on the line. The quantity of extra chippings required has been considerable, as was the weight of the bags, but the increase in operational scope and reliability has been significant. Now if only the full-size replica could follow suit....