ESNG modelling updates

Some snippets from around ESNG and friends….

Chris has been wagon building.

Hi Jon, hope all is going well. Just finished these two ex LSWR wagons. I have found your Ludgate article and photos very interesting!  With best wishes, Chris C

Brian has battled the elements.

Looking back, it was warmer in the garage during lockdown number one, than it is now!

Good to keep in touch with Duncan (who even reads this blog – poor lad.)

Hi Jon,

We’re all Ok too. Should have been in Germany for the last few weeks though, but that’s 2020 I guess. Hopefully, things might be a bit more normal by easter.

It looks like you’ve done a lot more modelling than me! You’re finally doing a minories! I went through your minories archive the other day, thinking about doing a modern-image version in T-Gauge. The points would obviously be difficult, but it would be small. I then realised that I could do a true-scale model of East Croydon from the bridge to the end of the platforms in about 1m, with no points… an interesting thought.

Mostly, I’m slowly progressing radio-controlling the oxford mercedes ambulance. I think I’m on about version 27 by now, but that’s how I work these days… print the parts out, change everything by 0.1mm, and print again.

I know there’s no NGSE in 2021, but hopefully we can all meet up early next year.


My parcel of FineTrax arrived yesterday.  I was glad that I had waited for it to arrive before setting out a full size track plan.  The downloadable B8 point template is slightly larger than the point in the flesh.   So I reprinted it at 96% of its size to get it right.  Interestingly, the Y-point template is spot on.

I suppose that I’d better get on planning the baseboards now – although there is a certain domestic pressure to write the Christmas cards – I recognise that phrase, “Isn’t it about time WE did the Christmas cards.”  For WE, read YOU….

Still, the contents of the box look rather interesting!

However, I wish I had one of these to lay my track for me…..

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Potpourri #1006

FineTrax parcel should arrive today.  In the meantime, here are a few inspiring photographs.  As ever, apologies if I have missed the copyright on these.

West Croydon station in Southern Railway days.  This station had an interesting layout, and pre-grouping had a loco shed and carriage sidings – later used to store EMUs.

In later days, the rare sight of a rebuilt Bullied Pacific on a van train at East Croydon.  (Photo by Charlie Verral)  There was an interesting track layout to these approach roads.

An ex-LBSCR C2x shunting at Bromley north in BR days.  One of the few British locomotives to have two domes – hiding Billington’s top feed apparatus.  To my eye, the single domed version looks far better….

Two pictures of the incredibly elegant LSWR Adams X3 4-4-0’s.  Mostly scrapped by Southern Railway days, but a single survivor, a T3 class, is preserved.  The second photograph is from before WW1, and is an empty milk train.

And this coloured picture is of Vauxhall, unloading milk churns onto the platform.  In later days, milk tank wagons unloaded into a piped system, that was then pumped across to the milk bottling plant.  For the rest of the day, the platform was host to a string of suburban trains, next stop Waterloo.  The ‘Elephant and Castle’ pub, seen over the first van, existed until the late 1990’s, when it became a Starbucks.

An equally elegant LBSCR H1 Atlantic in BR days.

Beauty and the beasts?  Exeter St David’s, and two Z class 0-8-0T bankers return to their starting place by piloting a Bullied Pacific heading a passenger service.

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A Minories of my own – 3 – location, location, location

I’m still working on the baseboard design for the layout.  I’m minded to wait until the FineTrax points arrive in the post, so that I can check that the published templates match the real thing.  The problem with a layout on arches, is that the raised baseboard section needs to be shaped to match the track.  I’d be confident that I’d get Peco geometry correct, but am less sure about FineTrax,

In the meantime, where is this station, and what have these outer platforms been tacked onto?  I have placed it to the west of the old Ludgate Hill station, imagining a new link built from Waterloo to directly link the Holborn Viaduct line with Waterloo.  This does make a bit of a mess of Ludgate Circus, and I’m making no attempt to match any of the actual road layout, but Ludgate West is a tentative name for the layout.

This location gives a lead as to the train shed that forms the backdrop to the station.  Here’s The Engineer magazine’s sketch of the structure.  There are plenty of pictures of the bridges at either end of the station, that may give a lead as to structures to choose for the layout.

I’m not sure where I got the next photos from, so my apologies for any copyright problems.  They show the old Ludgate Hill station in its latter days, and in one case, ready for demolition.

Hopefully, I can report on the baseboards next time out.

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Vaccines are coming!

Exactly…..  With most of us, they’d be bored out of their minds…..

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ESNG meeting – 2 December 2020

ESNG members have been getting ready for the meeting – Allan and Phil please note!

Meanwhile, back at the meeting….

An evening where the technology seemed to come out on top.  Allan kept appearing, freezing, and disappearing, and this was blamed on the Purley internet, rather than the Cha(i)rman himself.  Even Ron couldn’t rescue him.  Chris tried to join us, could see us, but couldn’t hear anything.  When you think about the level of conversation, he might have had the better end of the deal.  Paul ran a few trains, and Simon had some more 3-D printing on display.  Once again, great to see everyone!

Mr Atfield apologised for his absence from Zoom.  You can teach an old dog some new tricks, but having mastered email, Zoom may still be step too far…..

Hi all. Just to let you know the Atfield is still alive and model making and slowly getting to grips with c.21 alien technology!
Thought some might be interested to see pics of some new modules in progress.  “Old town” is a straight dashboard with added backscene using s/hand buildings.  “Frenches” is similar with extra track to access bay platform on Peter Imms’ town module or others. Many buildings recovered from Reigate. A nod to Mr Apps with a caravan in a front garden and you might recognise a certain milkman delivering.  Finally a figure-8 low level “drive-a-train” module for exhibitions (ever hopeful) with a high level viaduct carrying 4 N-mod tracks.

The strange Cl.20 and wagon represent an adapted loco with exhaust scrubber unit used during construction of the Channel Tunnel.  I saw some pictures in a book and thought it would make an interesting conversion of a defunct Farish Cl.20!

Stay safe and have a peaceful Christmas.
Looking forward to some meetings in 2021, Derek.

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A Minories of my own – 2 – underneath the arches

Moving forward, I need to select the height of the arches under my Minories.  An obvious place to start is the South London prototype.  We could also move out to Liverpool or Fenchurch Street to the east of London for very similar pictures, but these are typical of my area of interest.

We start around Brixton.  All these first pictures come from Google Streetmap.  These are very low arches, with little headroom, but they have a most attractive decorative line of brickwork at the top.

The next two are close to London Bridge.  A similar design, but a higher structure.

This is in Walworth, on the SECR line up to Ludgate and Holborn Viaduct.

And this is close to Blackfriars.  A very plain, but high, structure.

Google couldn’t provide me with many drawings of such mundane things as railway arches.  But this is a neat architect’s drawing of a South London project.  The arches have a lot of decorative brickwork on show.

Finally, for the prototype, we return to Brixton, and two architect’s drawings that I have extracted from a planning application open to the public on the web.  They show the same sort of area as my photos above, and details of the arch decoration.

So, that’s the prototype.  How could I model this in ‘N’ scale.  ‘OO’ would be easy, as the Ratio/Wills plastic kits do a very nice arch.

But that’s no good for ‘N’.  I’ve rejected the vacuum formed arches you can get.  These are cheap and cheerful.  The brickwork is oversized, and really closer to stonework.  And the arches on my proposed layout will be in the foreground, so need to be well modelled.

There seem to be four options.

Metcalfe make a very nice brick retaining wall, with some complex detailing.  However, the arches are retaining wall shaped, not the prototype occupied arches.  Not useable.

Scalescenes sell a downloadable set of arches in a range of different brick and stone finishes.  This is brown brick, and it looks the part.  They also sell a neat set of shops or industries to fill the arches.  I’d need to get these well printed, probably on laser-jet for durability, but they look pretty good.  And the basic download is cheap.

A solid outsider is the German laser-cut ‘High-line’ series produced by DM Toys.  These kits are made from laser-cut, pre-coloured, card, and MDF for the trackbed, if used.  They are fairly expensive, but not unduly so for my relatively small layout.  And they are a whole lot cheaper than some equivalent UK laser-cut arches.  Perhaps the catch is that they do look German.  That may not be a problem, as arch design does vary a lot around London.  One could replace the fancy railings with simple ones, as in Brixton, and cut the pillars between them down a bit, but the lack of decorative courses of bricks at the top of the wall stands out.  And UK arches do seem to extend higher into the structure.  The brickwork does, however, look excellent – perhaps a little overscale, but not too much.

Finally, Scalecast sell silicone moulds to cast your own arches in stone or resin.  Nice detail here, but I don’t really fancy casting all of them, and making the occupied arches may be tricky (of course, they do a mould for ‘OO’).  Perhaps not this time!

So I think we are left with a choice between DM Toys and Scalescene.  DM Toys would have the advantage that they also make a couple of neat bridge kits to match the arches, but I think that Scalescenes win, as they do look so much more ‘English’.  Will they look OK in the foreground?  I think so, but it occurs to me that it would be possible to use the Scalescenes downloads as templates for scratchbuilt arches in Plastikard.

But at the moment, all I need to do is to fix an elevation for the upper board.  Scalescenes provide this useful sketch that gives the required dimension – 43.5mm between levels.

Next, I need to draw up a cutting list for the baseboards.

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A Minories of my own – 1 – planning

It’s time to move on from my (occasional) Covid-19 diary, to something new.  As you, gentle reader, may well realise, I have spent the last couple of months trying to work out a layout that I actually like.  This is the story to date…..

Starting out, I almost settled for this!  A Brio Minories.  Now that’s what I call a design…

Givens for the design

I decided that I wanted to build an urban layout.  And although I am attracted by the idea of a ’roundy-roundy’ layout, an end-to-end is more practical in our house.  As I have posted previously, the inspiration is there in ‘Minories’ and in Ian Futer’s ‘Victoria Park’.  But I haven’t been too happy with an urban 2 or 3 platform station.  The answer to this is the lovely ‘Surrey Arms’ layout, where the layout models some side platforms with a backdrop of the main train shed (think Victoria or London Bridge for two companies sharing the site, or even Kings Cross suburban.)

Surrey Arms is in a cutting, but I really wanted to put the station on arches, like most of the southern termini.  I’d hoped to do something a little different from a Minories, like the ‘O’ gauge version below with it’s central carriage siding.  But that turned out to be a little tricky, as Minories is such a perfect plan.


Although I intended to use Finetrax code-40 track for the layout, I started designing on the computer using Peco geometry, for simplicity.  I then realised that using USA ‘Fast Tracks’ handbuilt templates gave me something very close to Finetrax – after all, a B8 turnout is the same except for the sleeper spacing.  And things like Y-points were already included in my computer library.

So I started with this version, based on one from an RMWeb thread.  Reasonable radius points, but platform 1 is arrival only.  This is on 2 x 800mm boards.

I also tried this one, based on West Kirby on the Wirral.  Only two platforms, and the scenic layout is 1 x 1200mm board, with an add on non-scenic section for the end of the platforms.  This is not entirely silly, as the platform ends are often hidden by an overall roof, making uncoupling difficult, and the least realistic part of any station model is the concourse, as there is no movement there.  I’d have had to make the track for this one.

I didn’t really connect with these, and tried a purer Minories.  All the points are B8’s, that look good.  There’s an extra loco/parcels siding, and the classic Minories platform curves are mitigated by using two Y-points on at the entrance to the station.

Using B6 points in places gives a shorter layout, but I didn’t think that it looked as good.

This was then cut down to make a shorter, Victoria Park version.  Losing a crossover at the throat makes the station shorter.  Either the two entry tracks are bi-directional, or one becomes a headshunt/loco road.

And if I returned to almost a classic Minories, except for the Y-points, I thought that the end result was a very pleasing design.  This turned out to be the final design!

Visualising scenery

Dropping the track plan into allowed me to sketch out the scenery.  The 1200mm long Minories started as a 300mm wide board.  I though that the platforms at the back just looked too wide, and I didn’t want to widen the front of the layout.

I really liked the next iteration – the 1200m long Victoria Park lookalike.  Just 250mm wide, this seemed to have a better balance.

A bit of a nudge

Come Black Friday, I saw that there was 20% off Finetrax. It pushed me over the edge so I bought the code-40 bullhead track that I need for a ‘Minories’ look-alike.

The final iteration

And thus to the final iteration.  Back to 2 x 800 x 250mm boards (although the framing to support the backscene will take it up to 1200mm.  This seemed to tick all my boxes, at any rate, and it might even get built!

So, I’ve ended up with almost a standard ‘Minories’, but with a tweak here or there. On two 800mm long boards, and the station is raised on the classic South London arches.  Operation is limited, but fun for an hour or so, and it would work well at an exhibition.  There are a number of buildings and structures to construct, especially the over-track signal cabin at the layout entrance, and the train sheds.  You might well have selected one of the other plans, but I think that I’ll stick with this one.

Next steps

There are a number of things to do next:

  1. First step will be to use Finetrax templates to lay the layout out full size.  This will check all the clearances and determine the size of the high level baseboard.  I want this board to be open underneath to give access for point motors and wiring.
  2. A big decision is what to do for the fiddle yard. A ladder of points is easy but takes a lot of room. A balloon loop shorter but wider, and the radius is could be a little small. Traverser, tricky for my brain. Cassettes, easy to do but also very easy to drop!
  3. I also need to decide how to build the railway arches.  There are a number of possibilities, but the one will fix the distance between the two levels on the layout.
  4. Only then can I start making the boards.

Well, that’s been an epic post, but it does mean that I have to build something now. I just hope that it doesn’t keep changing, like my American layout did.  More will follow…..

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We would have been in Stuttgart – 4 and really the last one…

I thought that I’d done with these, but here are a few more Stuttgart memories from Allan.  Starting in 2018….

The rather delightful module that came from Japan with Mr Kato.  It was built by a secondary school class, some of whom came to the show with him.  The civil engineer in me liked the rip-rap protecting the channel banks….

Makes you cold, just looking at it!

And 2017….

That ERIC gets everywhere….

The ‘up-and-under’ to change running tracks from Europe to the UK….

And lastly 2015…

The first Japanese module came over in 2015 with this group of young ladies.  For some reason, Allan didn’t get a photo of the module, just the class of 2015……

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Training the next generation?

A great picture from Sean of the layout he built for his son:

“Here’s a picture you can use of Lucas getting his first layout for his 7th birthday. Keeping it going with the youngsters”

It seems to have gone down rather well…..

At least he didn’t want one of these to run on the layout.  It might just overtake Paul and Graham’s trains!

A slightly different modelling challenge?

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We would have been in Stuttgart :-( – 3

And some of Allan’s pictures from last year.  Once again, setting up and socialising seem to appear in a lot of shots.  And some ESNG members are evident, as always.

This should be the last reminiscences!  Back to 2020, now….

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