(With apologies to Richard Llewellyn)
Urban railways have fascinated me for years. I still have plans to model the Great Northern suburban operations in London; I even have a couple of locos from a still born attempt to model this scenario. I love the way urban railways cut through towns and cities in such close proximity to their surroundings. It surprises me that more people don’t model these railways – they are perfect for modellers where space is at a premium. Land in cities was more expensive than it was in the country. This is why minor country stations could be very spacious despite their, sometimes, lowly status. On the other hand, some quite important mainline stations in cities are surprisingly compact. If you ever wander round King’s Cross, you’ll notice that it doesn’t actually take up that much space.
One thing I have noticed is that urban lines can be quite ‘green’ in appearance; especially now when very few resources are available to keep embankments clear. I’m lucky enough to be working on the Hull Docks branch enhancement at the moment, Hull’s railways provide a real fascination for me, and part of my work involves regularly going out on the docks branch itself to record various aspects of the work. On one walk out last week I took a few photographs of the coal trains which ply the branch – once I was back in the office looking at these photos it struck me just how green the area around the line is!
The photo at the top of this piece gives you a good idea or how much vegetation surrounds the line – class 66, 66 184, is approaching the bridge which takes the railway over Beverley Road in Hull. However it is this second photo, taken a few seconds earlier which reveals the full extent of the local greenery. Vegetation comes right up the embankment, almost to the track itself. Trees have fully established themselves on both sides of the embankment, making it hard to see trains going by in many locations! The only give aways to this urban location are the pylon and gas holder in the background. These elements combined would, I think, provide a very appealing basis for a layout setting.
I’m not sure I can recall many layouts which do reflect this greenery in the modern-urban context. Anderstaff Yard is about the only that readily springs to mind, with perhaps Widnes Vine Yard, which I’ve mentioned on here. But others do seem few and far between. So, next time you see an urban layout which is based in the last few years, have a look and see how ‘green’ it is.