Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Best Laid Plans

There are certain articles I always go back - Chris Pendlenton's North Shields in MRJ No 58 is a prime example of this, so much so I'm on my third copy of it now! Another on is one article in Iain Rice's sadly missed RailModel Digest Issue No. 2 (along with an excellent article on Southwell) on Iain Rice's specialist subject, layout design.

He is, of course, very well known for his books and articles on this subject, both in the UK and in the USA. The two approaches from 'typical modellers' on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean are quite different. UK modellers often seem to think about exhibition layouts with the emphasis being on appearance and American modellers seem, if their magazines are to be believed, to focus on operation. In Issue 2 Iain Rice proposes a plan which combines a UK prototype with an emphasis on operation.

Go back fifty or sixty years and many UK layouts were set up for operation - layouts like The Sherwood Section, for example, were very much focused on operation. Layouts like these seem to have mostly died out as many people lack the time, money and space for such 'empires'. The plan here addresses these rather nicely. It's inspired by the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Vally Railway in Wales, which was known for class 03 and 08 diesel shunters which had been reduced in height to clear structures along the line.

The plan would give a real sense of running trains from one place to another - something which has a huge appeal for me. The space required is quite reasonable too, at less than 10' x 8' - a room like this most people would try and squeeze in some kind of country branch station which could, if one wasn't careful, end up appearing cramped and rather unnatural yet the industrial subject here is quite at home in compact area and tight curves wouldn't look out of place.

I love how it combines various locations which would generate traffic and how they feed the exchange sidings where the branch meets the mainline. It's very much an opportunity to model a 'railway' rather than just part of it and in a space which many people could find and justify.

Looking at plans like this encourages you to think a bit out of the box in the approach to layout design yet it could easily have each scene modelled in the same way UK modellers tend approach small layouts with an emphasis on detail. Maybe this would be the best of both worlds? Plus having two or three friends round for operating sessions would help to bring the layout to life and would be a great way to spend an evening!


  1. Now that looks like it will be fun to operate!!

  2. A "small empire" is the sort of thing I would really like to get to, eventually. The way that two scenes have been squeezed into the central island is really clever. And you could narrow gauge it easily...

  3. Iain Rice's track plans are almostalways intriguing - for years I've wanted to do the one set in the East End of London and based on the GER Bishopsgate goods depot. It would be the perfect thing for my wagon fetish...

    I'll look up that article on Southwell later tonight and see what is in it. I'm contemplating entering the RMWeb 2010 layout challenge, and want to raid some of the minimum space ideas that IR is so good at to get the creative juices flowing.

    If I had a spare room, I would certainly be tempted by that busy trackplan. As you say, a real sense of purpose. One of the inspirational layouts for me has always been the Eastwell Ironstone Company. The time period of modelling does nothing for me personally but the eclectic trackplan with industrial sidings diving off in all directions is what has inspired me to create a "big" layout based around a brewery and maltings at some point in the future.

  4. I've drawn up my own layout plan based on the BP&G. It was a table layout with access around all sides, the washery with a line sharply curving, cuttings, limited clearances and then an exchange siding with a loop to represent the mainline. It became a non-starter when I stripped down a Bachmann 08 and found that I couldn't reduce the height of the body without milling out part of the chassis. I'm guessing a modification of the forthcoming Bachmann 03 would be a lot easier though :)

  5. I've only just picked up on this entry despite following this blog - how did I miss it!

    It's a real shame more of this type of thing isn't seen in today's magazines. Most published plans today suffer a lack of imagination, both operationally and visually. I don't think computer graphics have helped with the portrayal.

    The only person coming close these days is Paul Lunn - he of course uses traditional methods which I think allows a less restrictive and more fluid move from what's in the mind to the printed page.

    Back to the plan here; the clever design of this one relying on an interlinking almost diorama kind of approach using curved conerless backdrops is most refreshing and a real change from the 'set track' type of approach often seen. I imagine with some good planning, it ought to be possible to have removeable sections to take to exhibitions out of what is primarily a 'layouts that never leaves home'.

    Thanks for sharing!