Return of the roundy-roundy

Picking up on those posts from the end of 2018 (was it really over two years ago?), I’m not sure whether I have posted these excellent layouts on here before – at least my tagging and indexing isn’t good enough to find them.

Both are a 5′ diameter circle, which is hardly surprising as they use the same design.  One is 2mm finescale, the second N gauge.

The ‘Mini MSW’, Alan Whitehouse’s model of the trans-Pennine Woodhead line, was originally built as a 2mm test track, but developed into a layout in its own right.  The layout is made even more special by the accurate overhead infrastructure, and the scratch-built EM1 and EM2 electric locomotives.

I later came across Terry Tasker’s ‘Circle Line’.  It took some time (and some reading and watching) to realise that Terry had been inspired by the Mini-MSW, and his layout was an N gauge version of the layout.  The big difference is that Terry’s version is operated from the middle, whilst Alan’s layout is a solid board (actually in two pieces).  The circle line is in one piece, that perhaps makes it more difficult to move around – light, but bulky.  This video reveals all.

The track plan for both layouts is simple enough, but there is just enough extra pointwork on the scenic area to give it a little interest.


Here are a couple of pictures of the Circle Line under construction

And here it is in operation, taken from a press photo.


I think that this is a classic, and inspiring design.  Although the Mini-MSW is very accurate in its location, it would be easy to build this layout to allow different regions and periods to be operated, whilst looking generally realistic.  Perhaps signals and one or two small buildings might come from the 1930’s Southern, but trains could be run from all over, and anything from 1910 to 1970 would not look too out of place.

The only catch I can see is that one would need to keep on a bit of a diet to operate the thing.  If it were reduced to a 4′ diameter circle, it would make an nicely transportable layout, if folded in two.  But this would require some dramatic weight loss, or specially selected skinny operators!

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April 1 – time for a little humour

Although we might not miss the service provided by Virgin Trains, their April Fools Day japes took quite a lot of beating!


From the Daily Mirror:

It seems Virgin Trains are big film buffs in their spare time.  In honour of the new X-Men movie, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, the company have renamed Wolverhampton station after its iconic star.

All signage, platform names and station announcements have been changed too.  Hugh Jackman is so far unavailable for comment.





Flying Scotsman sees red

“Virgin Trains has today announced that customers will soon be able to catch a steam train to work, as it’s revealed that the original Flying Scotsman locomotive will be joining its fleet later this year on its East Coast and West Coast routes.”

So said Richard Branson’s jokers, with the special offer of 25% off your ticket “for customers who help shovel coal on their journey”.

To celebrate its arrival, the famed steam train will be given a 21st Century makeover and will be painted with the iconic Virgin Trains red livery, making it the perfect addition to the Virgin family.

The unprecedented announcement comes as the National Railway Museum, which saved the locomotive for the nation in 2004, agreed to release it back into service. The makeover will be taking place at the museum in York, where fans of the iconic engine can watch the transformation as it’s painted during the museum’s fantastic Scotsman Season, running from March 25 to May 8 2016, before fans can really experience the full power of steam.

Jim Lowe, Head of Operations at the National Railway Museum, said: ‘Flying Scotsman has had many different guises throughout its rollercoaster history, and we’re very excited about the steam star’s upcoming transformation. We hope that visitors to the National Railway Museum will be delighted to see locomotive in its new red and white livery as part of our exciting Scotsman Season.’

Hamish Soaring, Head of The Steam Train Rehabilitation Programme said: ‘At Virgin Trains we’re passionate about giving our customers an awesome experience and think that by bringing steam trains back onto our commuter service, we’re doing just that. We would encourage our customers to book the 25 per cent discounted tickets so we can ensure enough coal is being shovelled at all times!’

Flying Scotsman will be available for travel on the east coast route from May 2016 with the service extending to the west coast mainline by the end of the year.

I rather like it…..



Are you stuck over what you should get for a tattoo? Has the inspiration now hit you yet? Or, worse, are you still using paper train tickets like some sort of medieval person? Let Virgin Trains introduce their new contactless ticket system, train tickets permanently tattooed on their body, all done with the magic of Tick-Ink. Chief Innovation Officer at Virgin Trains, John Sullivan, said “We receive hundreds of calls from customers about missing or misplaced season tickets every year and we wanted to provide people with a clever way of always having their ticket on them. What better way than to have it permanently tattooed on their body?” Not sure we’re that die-hard for Virgin Train.


Florida’s Brightline announced that, as part of its evolution to Virgin Trains USA, it would introduce “Convertible Class,” “a shiny happy upgrade … to the world’s first-ever convertible train car.” Along with an illustration of an open-topped coach, the announcement included a link confirming that this was a joke, but offering a genuine one-day-only 50 percent fare sale.


Loss of sense of humour probably went with the loss of franchise…..

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Potpourri #1020

Some more random thoughts for a Monday.  This is one of the best micro-layouts that I have seen for a while (in HO).  Not a lot of operation, but an interesting track layout and plenty of fun shuffling the cars around.


Another idea for a micro – this time an interurban interchange.  Again, simple, but interesting.


Slightly larger, another L-shaped American layout.  Another interchange, somewhere in LA.  Perhaps a chance to run some Pacific Electric?


I’ve never been to Yoker – Google tells me that it’s part of Glasgow – but this engine shed layout would make an interesting stand-alone layout.


Turning to the real thing, an LBSCR ‘Gladstone’ class in 1925.  There are some interesting carriages in the train behind.  Either GWR, or perhaps more likely LNWR stock that hasn’t been repainted yet?  It’s often forgotten that in both the railway grouping in 1923, and nationalisation in 1948, it took some time to repaint everything, and a mixture of liveries could be seen.  Mind you, BR was much the same, and you could see a West Country at the end of steam pulling maroon, green and the new blue and grey coaches.


A more modern locomotive, but an earlier picture – a Brighton Atlantic.  Another most elegant locomotive, and I can’t wait to see the replica slowly being built at the Bluebell Railway.


Ryde shed, IOW, in the 1920’s, with one of those delightful Beyer Peacock 2-4-0T’s in the foreground.  The newly imported O2 in the background has yet to get its extended bunker.

ryde shed

Modelling challenges of the week.  First, one to slow down operation……


And the 1926 rebuild at Cannon Street.  No standard Peco geometry here!


Till next time…..

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Covid-19 diary – Kuritu II – 5 – on the road again

The roads are now in place.  I started by raising the level of the board with some thin foam board, as this is so light, and was also the right thickness.  Just need to be careful to use non-vapour adhesives, and acrylic paints.  I then added the road surfaces, using some self-adhesive flexible road, and printed cobblestones.


Pavements will be added later, as the buildings go into place, in case some wider sections of paving are needed.  I did note a couple of things worth sharing.  First, a large black ‘Sharpie’ pen or similar is useful to blacken the edges of the foam and card and avoid white bits shining through the scenery.  And secondly, infilling track at the level crossings is easy with plastic card.  You need a piece 6mm wide to leave room for the wheel flanges.  Curving a 6mm wide piece is not possible, and cutting the plastic to the appropriate curve difficult.  But if the strip of card is cut down the middle, the two 3mm strips can be curved to suit – even down to the 150mm radius on the layout, then welded back together with solvent to retain the curve.

And here’s the end result.  All roads in place.


And this might be how the buildings will be laid out.  Having taken the plunge (again) and scrapped the town side of Kuritu, I tried a few layouts of the salvaged buildings to see what would look interesting.  I did have to bin a couple of buildings that were a little worse for wear – not from my salvage, but just from a number of years on the exhibition circuit.

Although most of this little layout has been built from things lying around the railway room, I have treated myself to a couple of Kato buildings from TrainTrax to fill in the gaps.  Usual instant service from one of the best traders around.  I think this might work!!

And a question.  Can you have a Terrier addiction?  This new one, ‘Brighton’ arrived today.  Shortly after construction, No.40 Brighton was chosen by William Stroudley to represent the LB&SCR at the Paris Exhibition of 1878 and won a gold medal for workmanship.  The Dapol model has the record of the exhibition above its name on the tanks.

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Size matters?

Reading the latest Model Railway Journal, a letter from Alan Fell caught my eye.  It’s quite long, but I’ve quoted it in full, as it could be helpful to us modellers.  There had been some discussion in previous editions as to whether the enormous 2mm layout, Copenhagen Fields, (CF) appeared lifeless and ‘dead’ to the viewer.  Alan Fell comments:

“The issues raised in the letters of MRJ No. 281 about the quality of modelling in CF prompted me to recall my memories of the layout. I remember well the I emptiness. I found it hard to sustain the highest level of interest in the layout and wondered why, rather guiltily. Pondering now on this matter, may I offer a suggestion?

I believe the issue arises not from the subject itself, nor from the plentiful perception, skill and imagination which created it, but from the sheer extent of what is portrayed in a relatively small area, possible only in a smaller scale.

If we viewed a landscape so extensive with the naked eye, we could see all of it with peripheral vision, but could only focus on one very much smaller part of it at once. In that fractional part we would see much detail, and have some sense of scale and object-relationships thoroughly familiar to our minds. The unfocused full picture would enable us at best to see tones, area-masses, main routes, dominant building materials and major building types, but certainly no more.

It seems to me that the difficulty some find in engaging with CF is that we can see, and are strongly invited to see, an entire large vista in one view, and in doing so we find the detail and density revealed implicitly a disappointment to our of minds by the standard of our ordinary experience of perception, yet adding extra detail in an attempt to compensate would not be prototypical, believable or effective.

If I may venture to say this, it does seem to me that the ‘CF effect’ is one of the potential hazards of 2mm modelling, just as the ‘isolated cameo effect’ of 7mm work carries a risk. These twin effects are not an argument against the use of those scales, where it is clear that frequently much is achieved which otherwise could not be, particularly with some types of subject. Perhaps it does tell us something, however, about the strengths and popularity of 4mm modelling, where, I suspect, it is considerably easier to make ‘naked eye’ and ‘layout’ perception less dissonant.”

I think what is written here is helpful as we detail our ‘N’ gauge layouts.  I can see how the comments come about – CF does look quite empty – but in the era modelled, empty streets would not have been unusual.  It is only recently that grid-locked streets are the norm.  The pictures below illustrate this point.

Perhaps what is needed in ‘N’ gauge is a blend of scenes – some empty areas, but ‘cameos’ of activity such as a group of people at a bus stop, or a group of vehicles on the road. Perhaps this is more representative of a real scene than all-over hectic activity, or all-over emptiness?

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Some small layouts

Three little layouts caught my eye recently.

The first two come from this month’s edition of British Railway Modelling.  Both are in 4mm scale, and both are just 5′ long (say 3′ in N.)  Some of you have probably seen Graham Muspratt’s ‘Canute Road Quay’ on the exhibition circuit.  Loosely based on the dock lines on the Southern Railway, it is ‘typical’ enough to accept sets of rolling stock from all over the Southern, and could also represent other parts of the country.

This photo is from Graham’s blog, and shows the character of the layout.

The Mill, in EM, is of the same size, but has an industrial theme with a mill warehouse behind and coal drops in front.

Photo, RMweb….

And thirdly, a tiny O gauge layout.  Again, shunting is the order of the day….

And today’s modelling challenge.  The photo comes from a friend resident in the south of France.  Obviously they have had problems with their train service!

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Covid-19 diary – Kuritu II – 4 – electrics

Next job, the point motors.  The switches are just recessed into the baseboard.  All the switches come off my old ‘Earl’s Wood’ layout.  I think the little plastic push button switch is about 50 years old and came from an early OO layout build with my dad.  The layout is wired in two sections to allow two trams to the on the move – left half and right half. The slide switch allows power to the sidings to be routed to either controller.

And all the point motors fitted and wired up and working.  Again, all from old layouts.

And the controller rewired with a decent lead to connect to the layout.

Since the above, I’ve run a quick rattle can coat of sleeper grime (masking the points) over the track, and am ready to start some scenery.  I will first lay out the roads, including the sections of track that include the track, then ballast the remaining track.

A cartoon ‘borrowed’ from RMweb.  I rather liked this!

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Potpourri #1019

Another one for the Terrier collection.  I thought that I preferred Stroudley’s ‘Improved Engine Green’ to Marsh’s umber colour, but this little loco looks very smart.

I may have posted this before, but it’s such a great shot of Waterloo in the 1960’s.  No steam, but plenty of interesting EMUs.

A few years earlier you would have found M7 0-4-4T’s on empty coach stock.  Such a powerful little locomotive, lugging 12 or so coaches down to Clapham Junction.  I spent 9 months working in that building they’re finishing next to the line.  Nice to see the revised Dapol N gauge model coming out soon.  Pity they made it so wide.  The M7 was a conspicuously narrow loco…

Here’s another one at Eastleigh….

One at Midhurst in SR days….

And a classic shot at Seaton on a push-pull train in 1961.  Looks as if they are just about to load that scooter into the guards van.

And to finish, another classic LSWR locomotive, the X3, precursor to the T3 and T9 4-4-0 locos, amongst others.  A most elegant design, and one that I’m sure will never be made commercially in N.

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ESNG meeting – 17 March 2021

Bit of a record turnout this evening – and an international connection!  Business as usual to start with, but good to see Martin join us, recovering from a little maintenance on his shoulder.  Phil and Paul were running trains to keep us amused.

Simon disappeared, with the poor excuse that Chelsea were on television.  Well, Norwich were winning as well, and I stayed online!  But he missed the excitement of the evening – first Maxine joining, then Chelle (slightly by mistake), and really specially, Paula, all the way from Portugal.  Thank you, Maxine, for sending her the invite.

Obviously Martin’s convalescence will be productive – there are a lot of point motors to wire up, and he also showed us a train running around the new layout.

All in all, a fun evening, with topics ranging from Covid to omlettes, via a train or two.  And here’s Paul’s usual accurate summary of the evening:

The latest East Surrey N Gauge Zoom meeting took place this evening. An international flavour tonight, with former members joining us from Portugal. I had trains running, 8 at the same time, including 4 Bullet Trains. All worked surprisingly well, but it is a bit of a handful trying to keep your eye on everything! I can have up to 10 trains running now with tram tracks to follow at a later date. Looking forward to real life meetings starting again in the not too distant future.

Brian has been busy again…..

And here’s an idea for a real micro layout – compress the stock as well as the baseboards!

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Covid-19 diary – Kuritu II – 3 – it moves!!

A quick update on Kuritu II.  Not much work done, as I’ve spent a lot of time putting up a fence at church, hedge cutting and shredding the prunings.  Plus, of course, rugby and a football match on television caused a diversion.  Well, they all went to the tip this morning, and it was back to work.

All track is laid…..

For those of you who thought that we had left Europe.  I bought some contact adhesive off Amazon over lockdown.  Made in Germany, and half the text in Greek?  Go figure……

And here we see the first tram around the layout.  A few hesitations over the Peco points – they are a bit old, and I may have to add microswitches for the point blades.  We’ll see if I can clean up the contacts after painting the track and ballasting, that normally gums everything up.

Next job will be to fit point motors and a couple of isolating switches.  Then to plan the location of the road and buildings, and get scenery under way.  I do need to build a sort of mirror image baseboard as the lighting rig, but that can wait.

Last time I showed a picture of a naval ammunition carrying railway in the USA.  This article explains it in more detail.

Paul also posted this on the ESNG Facebook page.  It would make an interesting model and cause just a little comment at exhibitions…..

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