Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Building my own studio!


A rarity for me; this will be a very short post today!

When you click on my blog, you might just see a new "page" at the top; yes, finally I am well on my way to having my own space to work on music production and modelmaking commissions.

Whilst I am trying to work on a modelmaking commission this month, at the same time I am making good progress (mainly thanks to my Dad) on my studio space. I aim to update this as often as possible; could be daily, could be every other day, or it may just be whenever we have progress to show on the build.

I decided not post it as a daily update via the normal blog posts here, but have instead dedicated a single page to it. The first 6 days of the build are now up for you all to see:

Building my own studio space 

Hopefully you'll find it slightly interesting, for me it's fair to say that I'm super excited to have a dedicated space to work in.

Any questions or comments, do go ahead and post them, as always!

Monday, 31 August 2020

Coastguard Creek - Taking on Feedback

 A huge thanks to those who have given me ideas; including users from Twitter, RMweb, and Blogger. I've been quite surprised by the positive feedback, and the suggestions made have all been taken on board and implemented into the next version. A special mention to those on RMweb for their photos of ship breaking and repair yards. Pete's selection of photos in particular have been incredibly helpful getting a taste for what such a site looked like, and how it functioned.

To that end, the ship breakers (now specifically a barge breaker/repair yard) has had a revamp, and has been enlarged by 100mm with two new prototypical buildings. I knew that I wanted to include such structures, but I could not for the life of me find anything suitable; suddenly I have two to model!

Above: First things first, I haven't bothered making the track less wonky or changing the hands of points etc. It's too time consuming to remedy that at this stage, and not really worth doing until I've physically tested the track plan out. The only change is to ease the curve to the ship breaker's building.

Note how I've actually narrowed the right hand end of the layout by 50mm, and squared it off. The decision to narrow it was to reduce the amount of sea modelled, but I might change my mind when it comes to the mock up if I find things are a little tight. The backscene has also been angled a little bit more to make it less obtrusive. The left hand end has been widened by 100mm to allow more room for the breaker's yard. Let's go through a few more changes...

Above: As pointed out by a few people, the angle that the track originally went into the breaker's boathouse/workshop was too sharp, resulting in it looking very weird as it was obvious that in real life the track would end up going through the side of the building a few metres in. The curvature of the track itself was reduced, and the building placed at less of a severe angle now that it didn't need to align to the slipway. Note the new (red) sign!

Above: To give a little more room for an extra building in the yard, the curvature of the stream was also reduced. We'll get onto the new brick building that required the change later, but note how I've added another girder and a small gate for pedestrian access to the yard. Looking at it now, perhaps these should both be the other (near) side of the railway, next to the old military gate house! Note the new path taking pub patrons to the road at the rear.

Above: On first glance, it might not appear that much has changed here, but there have been modifications. The rock armour is more prominent; going right down to the shoreline, and the right hand sea defence now curves around to go in front of the backscene. This allows more room for the sand dunes directly behind the coastal path (the defences clearly installed in more recent years, hence the presence of sand dunes behind them). The hill that the lighthouse sits on is also a little higher, and the whole lot a little closer to the board edge than before.

Above: With 100mm added onto the front of the breaker's yard, we have more space for buildings and the slipway. It also gives us more room to show more of the wharf; seen here with a mix of brick, concrete, and steel sheet piling. The small stack of sleepers will be surrounded by clutter and weeds on the model.

Above: The new brick building is much larger than the small corrugated iron hut it replaces (the hut can be seen tacked onto the boathouse on the left). This is a copy of that found in Pete's photos (see here), but with two major changes. The most obvious being that I've angled part of the front wall to allow sufficient clearance for the railway. The second change being that I've flipped the building so that the garage is not on the new angled wall. The blue doors will likely be pretty wonky and weather beaten!

Above: The other major additions are on the far left of the yard; all once again copied from Pete's photos. We have a small barge being scrapped, and this relatively large rope house for winching the boats onto the slipway. I haven't modelled it, but I also plan to add the cradle as found in Pete's photos. Note the additional ironwork reinforcing the shed, and the large concrete plinth with support beams holding up the winch. I'm hoping to be able to turn this winch on the lathe, although time will tell if I manage it! Either way, all dimensions will be roughly calculated, and as always I'm aiming more for a general feel than a precise re-enactment. Note the new fence behind the shed to hide the backscenes close proximity.

Above: A rendered image showing a general overview. As none of the model has proper textures added (only colours), it won't look particularly good being rendered; hence the decision just to screenshot the raw 3D model except for this one image. Hopefully it gives a glimpse of what is to come though.

And that's about as far as I should take this 3D model; at least until the physical mock-up has been made, tested, and works as it should. One final thing to note is that I haven't bothered modelling the fiddle yard, simply because I'm not decided on what approach to take as of yet. I'm not particularly worried about that right now, but it might be something that the mock-up will help me make a decision on!

As always, thoughts, photos, and suggestions all welcome.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Coastguard Creek - A new layout?

It's been almost a month since my last post, but in that time I have not been dormant at all; working tirelessly to come up with a layout idea that would be fun, semi-unique, not too huge, and of course feature some locations that inspire me around the coastal regions of The New Forest and Southampton Waterside.

A few notes before we get started:

  • There's no guarantee that this layout will be built - this is just an idea at present, and is subject to change, especially during real-world mock-ups.
  • The fiddle yard would be removable, and is a simple 2ft long 3-track sector plate.
  • The track plan has not yet been tested to fit the space, but it will be restricted to 0-6-0 locomotives which hopefully allows for sharp radius curves; we'll see!

Welcome to Coastguard Creek!

You all know by now that Sandy Shores is my dream narrow gauge scenario that I wish existed in real life. I suppose Coastguard Creek is not far off a standard gauge version of the same! It's not quite the same level of "paradise" though, especially with the ship breaker's yard and a lack of beach, but it's a nice compact scene with a plethora of coastal elements that I love; the classic lighthouse, slipway, lifeboat/watch house, and the quayside. It also has plenty of quirky elements to appease me; the propelled crane being the most unusual, as well as the (hopefully) animated gate. I think that if it were to exist, it would be a very interesting prototype!

The big compromise (in my opinion) is instead of curving the baseboard to make things interesting, and keep my layouts unique and fun, I've kept the baseboard rectangular. To somewhat offset this, the backscene curves partially in front of the fiddle yard, and very little is parallel with the baseboard edge. Like I said, in some ways the layout is quite similar to Sandy Shores, with a similar aesthetic and the crossover in the middle; there's just much less sand and a little less rust!

Oh, almost forgot; as it stands this layout is OO only...

Inspirational locations:

(In order of influence)

  • Lepe - coastguard cottages, lighthouse, watch house, slipway, sloped concrete sea defences
  • Ashlett Creek - the pub, quay, and mudflats
  • Medina Wharf Halt - tiny wooden platform
  • Queenborough (Rushenden Branch/Shipbreakers) - much further afield, but I really like the propelled standard gauge crane and general atmosphere, particularly the weedy track and muddy estuary.
  • Lymington Pier - as you'll see at the very bottom of this post, I was heavily in favour of Lymington Pier being a significant inspiration. However, various layouts have come to light recently that have done a very good job of capturing the location, and I also want to move away from passenger services. There is a little nod to this location though.
  • Chatham Dockyard/Southampton Docks - general atmosphere around the shipbreaker's yard

Note that as Sketchup (the 3D design program) does not allow me to add additional lights, I have shadows from the pelmet that would not exist in real life. For some screenshots I forgot to remove the pelmet, sorry!             Class 03 Diesel made by Sketchup user "Phil M.".

Above: The track plan isn't too complex, and only features four points and a crossing, and I think allows for a lot of shunting possibilities, with some limitations on headshunt lengths that will provide additional challenge! The focus is obviously on freight, with only a tiny platform for the coastguard cottages. Note that although there is no run-around loop, there is half of one; the other half provided by the sector plate.
    1400mm is perhaps a little long for a single board, but not totally unmanageable, although I'm not sure it'll fit in my car without going over the front passenger seat. The 600mm width is ideal, although I may set the fiddle yard and scenic extension in front to both be 300mm rather than the uneven sizes they are currently. Perhaps part of the shipbuilder's yard will be a separate small board so that I can keep it more compact.

Above: A front view shows how effective the large pub building and trees are at blocking the scenic exit; something I really struggled with on Sandy Shores due to its remote nature. Note how the rear coastguard cottages are each stepped up by 5mm to provide a bit of interest; this goes against the prototype, but you'll be amazed how much of a positive impact this subtle change has on the overall scene.

: The ship-breaker's yard on the left sits on it's own island, in effect creating a separate scene entirely; this is another way to help divert attention away from the scenic exit. I also plan to have a lot of scrap parts from boats lying around, and many other details in this area to keep the eyes busy! I'd also like to add a path on the river side of the pub so that patrons don't need to walk across the railway quayside.

: The ship breaker's yard is mostly made up from my imagination, although I remember seeing a building similar to the larger one from an old video of Chatham Dockyard; the translucent plastic sheets allowed locomotives (even steam locos!) to access the various sheds. Not sure that would fly in today's world! This area is subject to modifications if I find some suitable prototypes.

Above: I hope to make the gate openable with servos or similar. I've never had an animated feature before, so it should add a lot of interest if I can build it!

Above: For the halt (named "Creek Halt") I'm looking at one or two of the Hattons 'Genesis' 4 wheelers that are in development to provide a very basic passenger service. Perhaps even in the form of a mixed freight which would offer something different to the norm, although something tells me that this wouldn't occur after pre-grouping? The halt itself is based on the one once found at Medina Wharf, IoW - albeit with a nameboard. Note the path up on the far right up to the lighthouse and cottages.

Above: A well-known structure I wanted to include was the Watch House at Lepe. As mentioned in the last post, this was originally used to check for smugglers going up the Beaulieu River. The coastguard cottages in the background and sloped concrete sea defences either side of the watch house are also from Lepe. Despite so many inspired elements, in the end I chose not to call the layout Lepe; I learnt from building Calshot that giving a layout a real life name will immediately draw in unfair comparisons! Coastguard Creek  therefore combines Ashlett Creek, and the coastguard cottages here at Lepe; I thought the alliteration was quite nice as well. I've gone through a number of names, including Coweshot (Cowes & Calshot), Calshot Creek, and Lepe Pier.

Both above: A couple of shots showing the quayside. I'm tempted to add an additional two sections of timber baulking to the left, as I feel there is a little too much brick in this area. I always love to provide multiple textures. The timber quay is inspired by Lymington Pier. The crane I would assume to be made by Booths, and would likely need to be scratchbuilt...

Above: A semi-overview shot shows another angle proving the effectiveness of the various view blockers. A lot of foliage will be needed to disguise the proximity to the backscene.

Above: A high view of most of the layout shows the curved nature of the track plan and various stepped levels to provide more visual interest. The random shapes next to the watch house (boathouse) will be rock armour. Obviously buffer stops will be needed on both sidings and the headshunt!

Above: I've shown a simple removable 3 track sector plate. The control panel will likely need to be inset into the scenic board (as shown) if the track from the ship breaker's siding is unable to be curved onto the sector plate. Preferably though, it would be situated where said track currently ends; leaning back towards the backscene at an angle for ease of use. 

Final thoughts

Potential adjustments:
  • I would love to be able to access the sector plate from the ship breaker's siding, however, the current design would require a sharper curve than 1st radius!
  • The lighting pelmet would need to extend over the front by a couple of inches.
  • The position of the control panel may be a little awkward to access/see/use.
  • The layout is pretty long for a single board at 1.4m (not including fiddle yard).
  • I'd like to angle the far right end backscene so that it's not at a 90 degree angle to the viewer (see below)

Above: Potential alterations include a board join (red dotted line), and the removal of the top right corner (shown semi-hatched) in order to fit a full length angled backscene. The front right corner has also been removed for ease of construction.

Some may wonder why on earth I've put so much effort into doing an almost complete 3D model. Whilst for some people that may make the act of physically producing the layout pointless, for me, the focus is always on making sure I know the design works before I start wasting materials. I find the fun is not only in the design phase, but also in the building of the layout. I do not lose any interest in building a project even if I plan almost everything beforehand as seen here. A large percentage of people will likely think the opposite, which is absolutely fine by me; each to their own!

As mentioned, there are certainly aspects that could be improved upon, and the track plan will definitely need to be mocked up and tested to check it fits the space; but I feel I'm finally heading in the right direction! Time will tell... any case, as always, I always appreciate thoughts and suggestions!

BONUS - Previous Versions

I realised that I might as well show some of the previous versions that got me to this point, as they might be of interest; so here goes...

Above: Version 0.3 (Yes, there were two previous versions, but they are quite similar to this 3rd one)

Heavily taking cues from Lymington Pier, the car ferry and passenger platform are prominent features of this design. Pros include a narrow board and nice sweeping curve; with a stream and two bridges. Cons include a heavy passenger presence (over more interesting freight), and some seriously low relief houses at the back.

Above: Version 0.4 - A wider baseboard at one end allows a heavier presence for freight, although results in too many viewpoints that will not have a backscene behind them. Back to the drawing board!

Above: Version 0.5 - Taking cues from Neil Rushby's Shell Island, I've gone for a squarish board with one curved edge at the front. This gives use a really interesting set of angles to work from, but something didn't quite click for me. (Ignore the weird grey shadow from the pelmet)

Above: Version 0.6 - A more unusual board shape results in more interesting sight lines, and even a loop of narrow gauge (plus sidings) for added interest. Unfortunately the narrow gauge pushed the standard gauge mostly to the rear of the layout. I also think the narrow gauge loop may be a little too tight... (half of Peco 1st radius!)

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

The next layout will be...?


  1. The next layout will likely be set around RAF Calshot/Fawley refinery/Lepe/Southampton Waterside (although I haven't totally ruled out the IoW yet)
  2. I'd like either a combined OO and 009 layout, or one of each connected by mutual fiddle yard
  3. I can't decide whether to have: modular, double-sided, multiple self-contained layouts, or something else...
  4. I must design for what will fit in my small car - no board longer than 4ft, preferably no wider than a normal interior door frame, although I'll stretch to 3ft if necessary.
  5. Either way I'd like something both unique, and fun to operate!
I know there's a lot of text here, but if nothing else, do take a look at the photos and renders as they'll give a good overview of my ideas.

Now, onto the full version! 

I thought planning my next layout would be relatively easy, but I've been giving it a lot of thought over the past two weeks (with many hours spent doodling and playing with 3D models in an effort to squeeze real locations into a minimum space), but the designs kept getting larger and more complex, and I kept finding interesting sites nearby that are crying out to be modelled. Either way, I'm certainly no closer to something that I'm happy with!

Regardless of whatever ends up being built, I feel relatively confident in saying that it will be inspired by areas surrounding (and including) Calshot; I'm of course a sucker for coastal scenes, but there are also a lot of very interesting areas to be inspired by here. Not only are there quaint seaside locations, but they are intermingled by some pretty serious industrial sites! I guess in the real world we'd call this contrast an eyesore, but in model form it creates intrigue.

This is going to be a LONG post, but I've included plenty of (hopefully interesting!) screenshots of 3D models that I've mocked up to show my initial ideas, as well as a few prototype photos; either ones that I have taken, or ones found on


SECTION 1: The narrow gauge (009)

My first thoughts naturally turned to a layout based on Calshot, Ashlett Creek, and Fawley. The idea (ha!) was to keep things small, and produce 3 small boards; each capable of being a standalone layout if I didn't have room to set them all up in one go.

However, my best intentions were sidetracked even at this very early stage by the idea of a standard gauge circle of track, which in turn set each module to be 762mm wide; a little too wide, really. For some reason I kept this size going for a long time despite never adding any OO gauge in the designs! Let's take a look anyway:

Above: A lot is going on in this screenshot, but it shows a few progressions of ideas. The bottom-most doughnut would is a simple non-scenic test track featuring a 3rd radius circle of 009, plus 3rd and 4th radius circles of OO gauge track. Above that, we have a 3-part circular layout featuring two scenic, and one non-scenic boards. Next up, the middle pair of designs show the same diameter circle, but with an elongated egg-shaped section comprising of two larger scenic boards (with the rest non-scenic). Finally, the top right set shows a fully "presented" version of that idea, with one board (Ashlett Creek) mocked up as an additional scenic module. Let's take a closer look at that one board:

Above: Using rough dimensions from Google Earth, I mocked up the two main structures; the tidal mill, and the pub "The Jolly Sailor"; both of which were partially built on Old AGWI Rd. To form a continuous run, a non-prototypical spur is run behind some trees on the edge of the mill pond (at the rear). I've always said Ashlett Creek would make a very attractive scene with very few modifications, and indeed it would easily stand by itself as an exhibitable layout (although with only two sidings, perhaps three if you count the rear spur; not exactly a thrilling layout to operate!).

Above: The tidal mill at Ashlett Creek is a very dominant building. Looks like I've modelled it a little too small (height wise), but the general atmosphere is there. Note the quay, which once had a standard gauge steam crane to offload barges brought from Eling Wharf. These materials were things like sheet metal, and concrete piles; all used in the construction of the oil refinery a mile or so away. Two narrow gauge tracks also terminated here from the refinery for the same purpose.

Above: Just to the left of the mill is The Jolly Sailor. I already started a model of this when I was building Old AGWI Rd. The old narrow gauge railway ran to the right of the pub. As you can see, it's a very modellable location, and needs little in the form of compression. I'll likely leave off a few of the later extensions to the pub though!

Above: Another look at the Ashlett Creek module, but this time with a slight modification shown on the right hand version; the backscene height (and thus also the pelmet height) has been dropped to see how low I can get away with it being. I'd say this is the absolute minimum, coming in at 200mm from baseboard edge (at pub height) to the bottom of the pelmet; that's 150mm less than the left hand version. The overall effect is interesting, whilst it might make it look somewhat cramped with the lower headroom, the layout certainly appears a lot wider. As noted, I think I misjudged the height of the mill, so this may actually turn out to be too low...

Either way, I usually prefer a tall backscene as it makes you feel more involved in the scene, by completely removing everything outside of the scene itself. In reality, a pelmet this low will be an issue unless the layout is shown at eye-level, which of course is unfair at exhibitions as it stops children or people in wheelchairs seeing the layout. Typically, a lot of exhibition layouts have relatively short backscenes with a gap until the lighting pelmet (i.e. the pelmet is located higher above); particularly layouts operated from the rear. Unfortunately this isn't good when it comes to photography for obvious reasons! Fortunately, I prefer to operate layouts from the front or side so that I can also engage with the audience; so a tall backscene presents few problems. This does make the layouts considerably bulkier though, which is why I don't permanently attach my backscenes and lighting rigs/pelmets. 

Above: Using the exact same 762mm x 762mm board size, I've also shown how I can condense Calshot to form a second module. I've just noticed the hangar is too far left and covers the track, but you get the point; it fits in nicely. Whilst the small spit was covered in hangars and workshops, there were also plenty of places to "park" seaplanes, so I've tried to keep it feeling relatively open, and only model the hangar in low relief (as on the original two Calshot layouts). I usually avoid half-relief structures unless they can be well camouflaged, but with structures this big, you'd be looking at a large baseboard otherwise; and this is the smallest hangar! Note the two small structures either side of the hangar that will be used to try and hide the exits; both are prototypical.

Above: The hangar and small rightmost building on the render can be seen here in a photo I took back in 2009. The little cottage was built in I think 1900 as a coastguard building, and was eventually incorporated into the seaplane base here as a store and medical building. The hangar dates from 1913, and is of a "Belfast Lattice Truss" type (a barrel ceiling supported by a wooden lattice truss). To the left were a myriad of warehouses, a powerhouse, and more ancillary structures. Note the name given to the hangar; all the main buildings here had names assigned to them to celebrate prominent figures, and their involvement in RAF Calshot.

Above: I visited the spit again in 2010. On this trip I even took a look inside the old castle. At one stage the castle accrued several ugly additions to its roof; not least a coastguard room and weather tower. These have long since been removed and the new coastguard tower seen in the background is the modern replacement. The view from the top of the castle is rather nice, but I bet the view from the coastguard tower is even more impressive! I'd love to keep my model of the castle and incorporate it, but it's such a huge structure that it would take up an entire layout by itself; especially with the moat as well!

Above: Something I haven't modelled before is "Top Camp" - the accommodation camp at Eaglehurst, which the narrow gauge railway at Calshot ran from. I knew that I didn't want a large scene for this as practically all the buildings are the same style, but one photo inspired me in particular; this showed a store and the 3-road engine shed. Outside the shed were two wagon turntables which were used to shunt rations over to the cookhouse adjoining the various mess halls. This 45 degree (instead of 90 degree) module is much smaller at around 300mm x 500mm; including large curves that cut off most of the corners. The track curves do look a little on the harsh side though, so will need checking if a module like this is built! Another thing to bear in mind is that any continuous loop would have to go behind, as this is a dead-end module.

Above: Most of "Top Camp" was demolished, but there are a few buildings to have survived. Here's St George's Church; a stones throw away from the original loco shed; and shows the typical construction style of these buildings. The surrounding land has now been turned into a cemetery. The old officers mess (off-shot to the left) was turned into a pub after the RAF base closed (which was later known as The Flying Boat Inn). Unfortunately, it closed due to low demand in the mid 90s, and burned down in 2001.

Above: Eventually I realised that 762mm would be too wide to fit through most doorways, so I came up with some reduced size "standardised" modules; one of 500mm x 500mm, and one of 600mm x 600mm. Again, these have 90 degree curves on the front edge, and are curved halfway along the other two sides to form a sweeping backdrop. Here you can see my attempt to fit Ashlett Creek in. It's a little tight on the 500mm module, but perfectly achievable on the 600mm one!

However... then I realised a problem

(a.k.a the problems with circular/double/multi-sided layouts) a circular layout/double-sided layout really "fit" for exhibitions? Unless you've got a very small layout that can sit on a table (ala Ted Polet's Nixnie - an excellent example of how to do a double-sided layout), or you're on the very end of an aisle/have space all around the exhibit (which is extremely unlikely at shows unless you're put into a small room on your own); probably not! These layouts are a lot of fun (especially for children who like to follow the trains around), but sadly there's a reason most layouts are rectangular, and typically have one viewing side. Double-sided layouts in particular are really interesting, but I find harder to pull off effectively in an exhibition scene.

Above: Eventually I realised a problem with these 90 and 45 degree corner sections, regardless of size. Can you see what it is? Look towards the left side and you'll see that the jetty is halfway in front of the backscene, and therefore half off it; that's a photographers' nightmare! Our eyes may be good at filtering out backgrounds, but cameras most certainly won't be. This is a big no-no in my books (and is exactly what Old AGWI Rd suffered from).

The problem with "missing" backscenes around curved layouts is not something I often see mentioned in the railway modelling "circle" (pun not intended!); and it results in it being incredibly hard to photograph more than a small section of the scene in one go without there being a missing backscene somewhere in the shot. I've seen many an exhibition layout "ruined" by either the lack of a backscene entirely, or the inability to frame a photo in the way I'd like due to the curvature.
A double sided layout where the two sides have full-wrap around backscenes, and the curve is hidden off-stage (and thus are more akin to two separate layouts) would solve this problem, but then you lose the nice "flow". Ted's first solution for Nixnie was to purposefully create one significant feature (a wooden trestle) on the curved end piece to force the viewer to look mostly from this one angle on the curved section. The other way Ted reduced the problem was by planting a large amount of trees in strategic places; mostly behind the trestle to hide the backscene edge, but also on the corners of the board so that you can still get some oblique angles with a background of trees rather than people! You'll never get it perfect, but Ted's methods are both really effective and also subtle ways of doing it if you are determined to have a curved section.

Despite having just moaned about layouts with curved edges, the "problem" is that I don't like square/rectangular boards! Yes, you can call me a hypocrite now!  I typically find it more natural to let the scenery more or less dictate the shape of the board; or failing that, to curve the edges substantially as seen above to give more flow. The problem is not only is it more difficult to build and store the boards, but you end up making those unintentionally unflattering angles for photography as already mentioned. Even my layout Sandy Shores suffers from that to some degree, but I've tried to set the important features towards the middle or rear of the layout to help offset this.

As with all railway modelling, compromises are therefore the name of the game, and whilst I'd love to have all manner of whacky board shapes, it's probably best if I compromise on board shape if I am to get some decent photos by the end of it! Here's a slightly more subtle curve that may work a bit better (although obviously still leaves potential for some angles to have a partially missing backdrop):

Above: This is where the designs got bigger again, but this time not in width, but in length. 900mm (3ft) x 400mm (1.3ft) is still perfectly manageable though, and would easily fit in my car. (It's about a foot less than Sandy Shores in length). This means that we now lose the nicely flowing circular layout, and end up with what is essentially a rectangular box, presumably with a hinged or removable fiddle yard behind. The end of the jetty is perhaps a little close to the board edge for my liking (taking photos of it would be hard), but other than that it's a lot better.

It goes to show that there's a lot to take into account with layout design, likely more than you would initially think (and I include myself in that category, as I totally forgot the amount involved, too!). 

SECTION 2: The standard gauge

Even though every layout except Sandy Shores has had some OO, none of it has been operational since 2011 or thereabouts. That means that none of my standard gauge locomotives have even turned a wheel for 9 years! I started off thinking about a layout (preferably with a circle of track) that I could finally give them a good run on...

...however, realising that even a third radius of OO track was not only unrealistic (i.e. too sharp), but also very large, I'm leaning towards a 4 board stack-able "roundy-roundy" test track for this purpose. To satisfy my cravings to shunt goods stock, I'd have another layout either on its own, or as part of the narrow gauge layout. With regards to the round test track, I haven't thought about many specifics, other than it likely having an inner circle of 009, and one circle of 3rd (+ maybe also a 4th) radius OO track. This really needs to be as slim as possible, hence the idea of splitting it into four, and stacking the boards for storage. In reality, the depth of the boards needn't be more than some 35mm PSE and 9mm plywood; much less than my default 100mm as shown in the earlier renders.

Of course, a circle of track is not exactly fun to operate; hence the idea for a separate shunting layout. This train of thought (if you'll excuse the pun) wasn't helped by suggestions of a standard gauge terminus in a sort of Isle of Wight guise. I must say, the idea of an O2 along with some nice old coaching stock still being used on a BR branch line very much appeals to me! Of course, that is a possibility, but in actual fact the tipping point was re-reading a few books on the various railway systems along the Waterside*...

* The Waterside, Southampton. Not marked on any maps, but is a local name given to the west side of Southampton Water; so the section of coastline from Eling to Calshot.

First, A Brief History Lesson

To cut a very long story short, the original plans for a standard gauge railway along the Waterside proposed a line from Totton to Lepe/Stone Point - a farmhouse on the coast in the absolute middle of nowhere! The reason? Well, the original somewhat optimistic idea was to tunnel a railway underneath the Solent to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight (only 2.5 miles away, compared to 11.5 miles from Southampton). This idea fell by the wayside, eventually, but not before more plans were drawn up for a 470 yard pier at Stone Point for Steamer services to the IoW and Channel Islands. After many, many years, a plethora of plans, land purchases, test drilling, and a bitter rivalry between the LSWR and the SM&AR/M&SWJ; it was the LSWR who ended up getting a line, but not to Lepe/Stone Point, but to Fawley oil refinery, which was, at the time, under construction. This was said to be the terminus... "for now", as there was consideration being given to extend to Calshot; which is partly why both of my versions of Calshot had standard gauge track. Clearly, the LSWR never got over the threat of the M&SWJ building a line to the IoW, and potentially taking their lucrative custom... which is strange considering by this point:
  1.  The tunnel idea had long been branded unworkable
  2.  A pier at Stone Point would've been relatively un-sheltered and thus not really suitable for steamers
  3.  The LSWRs' own steamer and IoW rail services were in full swing
  4.  Any line would feasibly have to join up with the LSWRs' own line at Totton, and thus would be subject to their terms and charges
  5.  The M&SWJ had already filed for bankruptcy!
Anyway, the point is, that gives me a lot of scope for some "realistic" alternative history for the Waterside area, and further west to Lepe.

Above: With the idea in my head sown, I set about making a few variations on the Lepe/Stone Point theme, albeit without a 470 yard pier because that would equate to a 5.6m long baseboard, minimum! The design shown is large, but still narrower than Sandy Shores. Note the Artitec HOe ferry (with the track removed as it's purely used for cars), and the station canopies which are a representation of those once found at Lymington Pier. Yes, that's a small lighthouse on the hill, as well as 4 coastguard houses, and in the foreground, the "watch house". The latter was used to look out for smugglers trying to navigate the Beaulieu river! The coastguard houses are very pretty, their walls being covered in multi-toned slates; something you don't often see in this part of the UK:

Above: As mentioned, Lepe is a pretty beautiful hamlet. There's not much room between the houses and watch house, so any plan would need to be single track; and even then I think it's a little optimistic! In reality, the railway would be much further to the right, and definitely wouldn't go behind the watch house; but I can't not have these beautiful buildings on scene!

There's just one slight problem with this plan, and is one that all my OO gauge layouts have faced; there simply isn't enough length before the station to make passenger services entertaining to run! In fact, that also applies to Sandy Shores; the platform is immediately after the scenic entrance. Assuming I did build such a scene, goods would definitely account for most of the traffic on the line. I'd likely treat the layout as an inglenook (perhaps including the platform line, which I suppose could double up as a freight loading platform) to make things more interesting.
Rolling stock would be a variety of 4-wheeled wagons, and whilst 4 wheel coaches would be nice, perhaps the Hornby Push/Pull Maunsell set would be more useful given the later period I intend to model (40s-60s) That said, there's not a lot of length to accommodate a passenger train, so maybe a single coach is all that is required (I've got my eye on this Maunsell ex LSWR 58ft comp). Motive power wise, The B4 tank and USA tank are particularly strong contenders, and maybe the O2 and a Southern Terrier as well. Thankfully, there are also a few in my existing collection that would suit; notably the Q1 (albeit a bit on the long side), the BR standard class 2, and BR class 03/04 diesel. Everything else I really ought to sell!

SECTION 3: Where to now?

Well, it always helps to start off with a list of constraints; perhaps that's what I should've done first instead of leaping into condensing real life locations into random board shapes and sizes!

 I've not been at home for the past 2 weeks, so haven't had access to the track that I'd rescued from Old AGWI Rd, but that, along with some cardboard mock ups, will be a good way to go about planning in earnest from here on out.

I'm currently leaning towards the idea of two self contained but join-able (via a central traverser fiddle yard) layouts; one depicting an alternate history of Lepe, and the other a mild alt-history of Calshot. Time will tell if that's what I end up building though! Ideally, I'd have more room for the standard gauge layout, but I'm trying to downsize here; plus, all boards would have to fit in my tiny car in one go...

Well done if you made it to the end!
Any comments or suggestions are wilfully received, as always.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

End of the Line (for two layouts!)

I mentioned recently how I've been having a big clear-out. Well... ...things have somewhat escalated!
Remember how I said that Calshot would require a lot of work to bring back from its dusty state (remember that it's been without a cover in a dusty garage for 10 years!), and that Old AGWI Rd. also needed a fair amount of work...?

...well...they've both been completely dismantled. Yup. Crazy, I know. But I feel a lot better now that I know I can start from scratch using lessons learnt from building Sandy Shores. I knew deep down that Calshot would likely need to be scrapped, but I even I'm surprised by Old AGWI Rd meeting the same fate!

Calshot (MkII)

Like I said, refurbishing Calshot would've been extremely unlikely, but it's always sad to see a once much-loved layout get broken up; especially your first "proper" exhibition layout. Still, 10 years in a garage doesn't do much good for a layout, and there's no point hanging onto something I haven't touched in as many years.

Above: Even after a de-dusting, the 10 years that Calshot was suspended from the garage ceiling had clearly taken its toll. The track was in remarkably good condition, but the woodwork had started to warp; especially the rear lattice frame. The backscene was long gone (it suffered mould damage at some point), and even assuming the electrics all worked, it would require a new fiddle yard, fascias, new infill between the tracks, and a major scenic revamp!

Above: Some of the buildings from Calshot will need a lot of work if they are to be reused on the next layout!

Old AGWI Rd.

I fully intended to continue work on Old AGWI Rd now that the commissions have been finished, but the more I looked at the state of it after 5 years of storage untouched, the more problems I saw that would need fixing. Some relatively minor (cracking clay everywhere, and some wonky walls and lifted track), but as I looked underneath, I encountered more serious issues; particularly that the entire ply trackbed is only supported by polystyrene! What was I thinking?!

Above: The OO gauge section was woefully unsupported, and had bowed considerably even though nothing had even been on it!

Above: At the time, my dad and I thought we were being clever by making custom mounts for the point motors. However, the sticky foam pads gave too much leeway, and as you can see, this caused things to go out of alignment after a while!

Above: This dodgy kink in the track was one of many problems I found; you have to be so careful laying track, especially where you have to use insulated fishplates. Lesson learnt!

Above: These tracks (plus another one elsewhere) spanned a drainage channel. Unfortunately, because of the rush to have the track laid and working for its first show, I never got around to making the bridges or brickwork underneath. Retro-fitting these would not be impossible, but it would be very difficult!

All these problems were compounded by my inability to set up the whole layout at once without clearing an entire room of its furniture! This effectively sealed its fate, but there were a myriad of other reasons; such as not knowing what to do for a backscene, having a tiny fiddle yard, and remembering how difficult it is to set up on my own. Simply put, the more I thought about it, the less it made sense to keep it; so I'm glad I've made the bold decision to dismantle all 4 boards!

Above: The tools required for dismantling the layouts; the most used tool was actually the butter knife, although the hammer came a close second.

: Having unscrewed and levered the PSE battens off of the polystyrene, more tedium awaited me as I used an old track saw to remove all the polystyrene. PU adhesive is pretty strong; had I used PVA it would probably have been a lot easier to salvage the polystyrene!

: All but the ply trackbed and a few damaged bits of fascia were kept; having been carefully removed.

It has taken me three days to dismantle both layouts due to how careful I've tried to be; I've even sorted and kept every single screw! I've also tried to reduce waste as much as possible. Only nails, broken screws, and a few bits of damaged ply will be thrown away.  Sadly, most of the polystyrene ended up in two bin bags as it did not come off easily (it ended up breaking into tiny chunks). Other than that, only a couple of tiny bits of straight track were unrecoverable, and I even managed to get a short length of inlaid track off in decent condition, which I was pretty surprised at!

: Removal of the partially infilled track was a test of patience, but my solution was to score just past the ends of the sleepers, and lift the clay up with the knife. Seemed to work pretty well, although you had to be careful not to bend sleepers. I also had to be wary of hidden track pins.
Most of the wiring (from Calshot, specifically; as only a few droppers were installed onto Old AGWI Rd.) was bundled up so that I can reuse it, including keeping the wires for the point motors in separate coils to save time when it comes to re-wiring them later.

Here's one salvaged pile of bits (if you'll excuse the tablecloth!):

Above: This is my total haul with regards to track, wiring, point motors, screws, bolts, hinges, and other electrical components. There are also a few small scenic items in one of the tubs, although I've also kept the castle and its gate house from Calshot for now; though I don't think I'll have much room for it on the new layout!

Above: The controls panels from Calshot (top), and Old AGWI Rd. Note how much neater John's wiring is on Calshot! I have much to improve upon for the next one. The only difficulty now will be desoldering all the switches and such. After a bit of research, I see that there are desoldering pumps and such that you can get, so that'll likely be a worthwhile investment for me. 

So, where to now?!

Well, I've already had some interest in building a third version of Calshot, believe it or not! Similarly, I think the oil refinery will be something completely unique, so I'd love to feature a little bit of Fawley if there's room for it. Luckily, the two places are relatively close in real life, so with a fair amount of selective compression, my current vague plan is to build a smaller layout, or perhaps small modules, featuring a little bit of both layouts. How that will work, or what it will look like I've no idea... yet... but I do have ideas starting to form! I must however remember to design for the space I have available, not the space I wish I had! A small layout is the only thing I should build in my current circumstances, so I'll have to be strict on myself... this space!