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In Norman Jackson’s obituary there is a photograph of him, in trademark folded arm pose, overseeing the operation of Dulverton. Although club members will have seen the Dulverton fascia board on the wall in the clubroom, they may be unaware of the layout’s history and so I thought it might be an apt time to describe this.

Firstly, in real life Dulverton was the midway station on the Taunton to Barnstable line as well as being the northern terminus of the Exe Valley line. The line followed the main Taunton to Exeter route as far as Norton Fitzwarren and then headed due west. From here it was single track but with passing places at each station, the only exception being Yeo Mill Halt. The line saw a varied selection of traffic during its life, particularly during the holiday period when many specials from the north used it, although generally using GWR locomotives, principally Moguls. An exception to this was that LSWR motive power was seen, mainly T9’s and ‘N’ Class, presumably because they had running rights. The Exe Valley line provided almost exclusively 0-4-2 tanks, auto fitted. Towards the end of its life, the line played host to the very occasional diesel.
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Now to the model. In the early 1980’s there was a hiatus with the club. We had a membership but no clubrooms and consequently no club layouts.During this the club met at the Carlton Hotel and with the imminent expectation of a new home, two club layouts were conceived, one in ‘OO’ gauge based on Radstock and the other being in ‘N’ gauge and based on Dulverton. We eventually secured some premises – the leaning house on Southport Road, Scarisbrick (no longer standing) and a start could be made on construction of both layouts. For the record both layouts were built but Radstock, I believe, was only exhibited one or two times but Dulverton lasted on the exhibition circuit into the nineties, going to such places as Kendal, Southport Station and the Woodvale Rally. It was eventually retired going firstly to our then treasurer, Gordon McKinnon, then to Phil Wellings and then on his death, to Alan Beattie where I believe it still resides.

The baseboards for Dulverton were built totally out of 4mm ply on the braced egg-box principle. It was immensely strong for such a light structure. However, if any of you are contemplating this method of construction, a word of warning. Do not add the diagonal bracing and track bed until the basic frame has been made, erected and checked for squareness otherwise you may find that no amount of persuasion will allow the boards to be connected together.
Although the station track plan was just about to scale, a concession made was making the approaches to the station double track. Whilst this made for much improved operations at exhibitions, it made shunting and particularly services with the autotrain from Exeter extremely tedious to carry out. Most buildings were scratchbuilt from card, using drawings produced by Ian from scaled photographs. The only exception was the hotel, which was freelance to fit the available space, and in any event I did not have any photographs at the time. The building plans are still available for anyone who is interested. Point operation was by wire in tube and the electrics were simplicity itself (two ring mains with droppers from the track).

As long as shunting was not attempted, operation was relatively straightforward and generally trouble free. This was surprising and testament to the care with which we laid the track (flat and with no curves less than 18” radius). The main bugbear was the points. When the layout was built, Peco points were all insulfrog, and I had not got into switching the frogs at this time, so unreliable point operation after a couple of years or so became the order of the day. The other complaint was the lack of suitable and reliable motive power. For GWR use, Farish provided a pannier, a Hall and a Prairie. Other locos had to be built from scratch or kits, and of course there was no autotrain (we had to make do with a pannier and scratchbuilt autocoach, as well as a motorised scratchbuilt autocoach and a non working 0-4-2).

In conclusion, I believe it was a very good layout for its time and set the standard for future layouts. If built today, I suspect that an even better job could have been achieved – live frog and switched points for greater reliability, a more varied availability of stock, and not least the modelling experience we have built up over the years.