MONSAL DALE VIADUCT AND STATION
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 Dulverton and Saltash, the trackwork conforms to N-gauge, the rest of the layout being built to 2mm to 1ft.
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. It 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 the eastern hills, crossing the River Wye by an elegant five-arch brick and masonry viaduct before meandering along the valley sides for about a mile before disappearing into a tunnel again.
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. It is believed that the tunnels on the line are essentially sound and would support a reopening. 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. Debate and grandiose plans rumble along.
Overall the scenery is relatively straightforward, 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.
As to operation, this is primarily envisaged as an exhibition layout with a continuous stream of trains to entertain the public, but also with the potential to be set up and operated in the club rooms, albeit to a much more restricted extent. However, what could be classed as unique is that the layout has the potential to be operated in three totally different guises:
1) as a conventional historic railway scene, in its Midland period, at the grouping, or into BR days. Some serious kit-bashing and scratch-building would be required to provide sufficient authentic-looking stock,
2) modern image, as there has been much talk of reopening the line as an alternative route from the Midlands to Manchester. It could be envisaged that this actually happened, and
3) it could be imagined that Peak Rail did extend its operation, with the line becoming the Midland equivalent of the North York Moors Railway. The operating potential then becomes limitless - it may even be possible to see GWR locos.
The track is PECO streamline code 55 finescale laid on high density foam, with slow-acting point motors scheduled for the scenic section of the board and rescued H&M motors in the fiddle yard. It is anticipated that there will be operating semaphore signals.
As of the end of 2009 all track, with the exception of a small section of the fiddle yard, has been laid and tested. The next tasks are ballasting and building the scenic formers. Some serious consideration needs to be given to both the electrics and the trestles (which are currently workmates and are not up to the job) before we contemplate exhibitions.
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.
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 are being laid, and there are some of us who still think we can slide in the odd bit of O gauge when no-one is looking....
THE MODULAR LAYOUT
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, the SMRS chairman 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.
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 can now operate in a U-shaped format.
The logical extension would now be to make two more corners, so we can operate as a square or rectangle, with continuous running rather than out-and-back. Perhaps for 2012….
An account of building a module is here and some more photos are here.
SALTASH AND THE ROYAL ALBERT BRIDGE
Brunel's magnificent bridge spanning the River Tamar and joining Devon with Cornwall took almost six years to build and was completed in 1859. The Royal Albert Bridge, as it is officially known, is a 'bowspring suspension bridge' comprising of two wrought iron aches supporting the trackbed which spans the river, at this point over 1100' wide. Leading up to the main bridge spans are the ten approach viaducts on the Cornwall side and seven on the Devon side, giving a total length of over ½ mile.
However, once plans had been obtained, a visualisation model made and a start made on constructing the main tubular arches, it became apparent that a somewhat more extensive layout was required. Fortunately Southport MRS offered to take on the construction of this as a replacement for Dulverton. With more resources available, Saltash Station could be included to give some interest on the Cornwall side, whilst for the Devon side plans were made to include a short stretch of the old LSWR line from Plymouth to Exeter.
For a time the layout was exhibited as viewed from the north, or up river, side of the bridge. Saltash town and station were fully modelled but the Devon side only sparsely so (apart from buildings and the LSWR line in the immediate vicinity of the approach viaducts. Whilst it was possible to get up close to the layout with this arrangement and admire the detail, it was difficult to appreciate the sheer scale of the bridge.
The main bridge and Saltash station are to scale dimensions – even down to the regulation 100’ clearance under the spans as demanded by the Admiralty.
However, to ensure that some semblance of reality was present, the approach viaducts were foreshortened a little and a good deal of liberty was taken with the townscape of Saltash itself. However, because of urbanization over the years, it was more difficult to give the same treatment to the Devon side and thus it is largely a basic landscape. Ultimately we intend to make the LSWR Plymouth to Exeter line, which passes under the bridge fully functional.
Most of the building on the layout are scratchbuilt, usually from card, and have been scaled from photographs. There are some totally freelance structures as well as some kit built buildings mainly to ensure that the particular building fits the intended site and also because we rarely had a comprehensive set of pictures relating to that structure. The River Tamar has posed us a bit of a problem. Not so much because of portraying the water, but rather because of what happens on it. 2mm scale boats are not the easiest to come across, particularly for the number of rowing boats and yachts that are needed. One aspect of river life that we have included is the car ferry (unfortunately only one, since the ferry operators have moved the other to Devonport for repairs) again made out of card, and motorised.
Since financial constraints meant that Brunel had to build a single track bridge, it is vitally important that appropriate precautions were taken to prevent accidents occurring in real life. This is equally true of models and to meet such a requirement, linked slow action point motors utilising the integral switches have been used to give a form of ‘interlocking’. One benefit of this being that operation can be carried out only one person although a higher manning level is preferred.
THE GARDEN RAILWAY
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.
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.