SAR "Commercial Street" - LMS "Wellingford & Bakewell Bridge Railway" - GWR "Porthminster" - Port Dock Station

Tuesday 14 March 2023


SPIRSBY – a joint venture exhibition style layout BASED ON SPILSBY in Lincolnshire, UK.

Having built many layouts, all very different from each other in most cases, this was to be something I had not attempted before. Some key points were that, the station and its surrounds were to be as close to scale as possible with a little modellers licence of course. It was to be an exhibition style layout with high presentation standards. It was to be of a railway company not of my main interest, in this case the LNER, which created its own challenges. It was to be a joint venture with a fellow modeller, in that he would supply all the running equipment to a certain era (early 1930s), company and area specific, and I build the layout to run and operate it all on. All engines and rollingstock would require the use of Kadee couplers. I have been using Kadees for forty years and will swear by them for hands free operational excellence. This sat well with him as he was slowly converting a lot of his rollingstock as well. Also, I have trained up a dozen or more members to operate with Kadee couplers on many of my previously displayed layouts at exhibitions.

Research begun in earnest and very quickly we realised there were very few branchline termini to choose from, something the LNER did not inherit during the grouping. In the end, Spilsby, a rural market town was to be the candidate. The terminus was at the end of the short branch that left the mainline at Firsby, on the Boston to Louth mainline route. Set in Lincolnshire, the four mile branch line was built and opened in 1868 as the Spilsby & Firsby Railway, was taken over by the Great Northern Railway in 1890, and then swallowed up in grouping with the LNER. During its peak, there were seven trains a day, suppling the town with most of its requirements. There were mixed passenger and goods trains, a goods and coal train every day. Passenger services stopped on September 10th, 1939 with goods continuing on until the lines closure December 1st 1958.

It had numerous facilities conducive to operational interest for the operator and those viewing from the front of an exhibition style layout. Spilsby didn’t have a signal box in its day, so, with higher traffic operation in mind, I decided to have signalling and point rodding to add to pump up the importance of this little railway terminus. My friend would build a GNR signal box of an appropriate size, lattice summersault signals to suit the yard demands, a 5-ton yard crane, supply some fine 3D crossing gates, station fences and seats – all specific to the GNR for this project.

My model of SPILSBY station building on the layout. The layout is called SPIRSBY. I named it Spirsby – a convergence of Spilsby and Firsby due to the inaccurate placing of the buildings at the street end of the station yard and the addition of the road crossing, signalling, point rodding and a signal box. 

Looking down the yard from the end of the line.

I will a take some more photos in the near future to add to this topic as most of the shots I took on my phone and are not good enough for publishing for now, cheers.

Saturday 9 February 2019

Switch stands for the yards

Researching switch stands fot the yards and main line turnouts was a difficult task and one I found to be frustrating. There appeared to be  ,more than just a few different styles that were employed along the length and breadth of the Virginian Railway. I narrowed down the target style in my chosen area of the VGN in and around the New River which includes the old absorbed Deepwater sections of the Virginian lines. These had a circular target and and horizontal arrow.
The target colours are red for the circular and yellow orange for the arrows...
 Also evident in certain yards were the small switch stands with the four aspect lamps with coloured targets. I used a small block of timber with four washers glued around the outside.
The small 10BA washers were dished out using a centre punch into some plastic!

Components included a small piece of tube and other cut pieces of styrene.
The basic switch stand completed without throw lever.

A cluster of switch stands if that's what you might call them...
These were then coated in Dullcote and are now ready for installing on the layout at a later time.

The handcar shed and store room...

Also available from is their Cullen Handcar shed kit. This will compliment the Depot building. Just not decided on where it will be placed in the station yard yet but that will be decided when the scenery is under way on the layout.

 Just to make the standard style building a little different from the others, I added an extra store room on the end from the leftover wall parts in the kit.
Completed with the timber tacks in front to rail side.

Weathered with powders and with the original white doors.

A Depot for the station area...

The station down at the wharf needed to be small and the kit No.180 of Cullen was just what was needed. A nice kit to put together. I pre-painted the ribbed walls with orange acrylic paint before assembly.
I chose to use the earlier Virginian Railway orange and white paint scheme as opposed to the later grey paint scheme as it looks so much nicer. I know strictly speaking it should be grey for 1959 but my excuse is this station wasn't updated when most of the rest of the VGN system was done.
the basic building assembled.

Completed before weathering.

The waiting area shelter has nice detail.

Weathering with powders and little dry brushing.
The freight room door should be white too but I didn't paint that to give the impression it was probably replaced at some stage in its life and not painted. The splintered timbers on the timber platform sides come like that and is nice touch to give some age.

Coal loads for VGN and N&W Hoppers

We recently got stuck into make the coal loads for our hoppers. We want to be able to load them in at the tipple loaders, run the trains to the Port and unload them there. This will hopefully give a better life like operation on our railroad. We gathered all the hoppers together, and over a few evenings we made them all production line style. We started with the load made from balsawood. We chose to use the carved balsawood method as its easy, reasonably quick and gives the desired look we want.

As there were four different sizes of hopper to make loads for we had to count out each size and make them to fit. We have a mix of Accurail, Atlas, Athearn, and Bachmann hoppers. Each had to be customised for correct depth using blocks glued at each end to support the load to allow it sit level.
We will be making a magnetic wand to allow the operator to remove and place the loads into the hoppers. We tried a small button sized rare earth magnet and this appeared to be good for the lifting of the load. We screwed in a small countersunk screw in the centre of the balsawood load for the magnet to search for...
Testing the magnet.
The loads were carved into two or three profiles, some flat topped, some with multiple heaps and some rounded. The loads needed to appear above the top of the hopper sides as they appeared in historic photos.
A load sitting in an Accurail hopper.
The loads for my hoppers were then sprayed from a cheap Matt Black pressure pack, making sure the black covered the sides and ends as well as the tops.
PVA wood glue was applied
to the dried black load.
The glue was spread out as
evenly as possible - but not
on the sides or ends.
We crushed up real coal and sieved the pieces into three usable grades that we though would look right. A fine grade called "pea", a mid sized grade called "egg" and a larger size called "lump". These sizes are three of the five grades that were to come from tipples in the Appalachians that I had found during my research. The other two were "slack" and "nut" grades.
Seen here with mid sized "egg" grade. The coal was
just sprinkled on from above, the side and ends to cover
as much of the black surface as possible.
Some close up shots of the completed loads......
Coal loads with "pea" sized grade and on a multi heaped load base.
Coal loads with "egg" sized grade.
Coal loads with "lump" sized grade.
To finalise the loads for handling, we will be coating the underneath of the balsawood loads with paint or sealant to stop them fraying. Nothing worse than seeing bits of brightly coloured balsawood sitting on the hopper edges or the layout.

Monday 28 January 2019

The New River Company Tipple

I acquired a Walther's Cornerstone New River Mine kit and built it to instruction. Quite a beast of a kit in size. Noted was the fact that all the windows in the kit were not painted. So using my finger dabbed onto a thin pool of black paint, I dabbed the window frames to colour them.
I always knew it would need to trimmed at the rear to fit into the backscene. The rear 25 to 30mm of the whole building was cut off with a Dremel cutter. The rear track would need to run through the building, so an opening was cut at the front and back.
You will also see the tracks in the yard have been relaid...! This was necessary to accommodate the wider track centres of the loader. A little less track space but was necessary obviously.
 After cutting off the back, I added details such as the boardwalks, steps to the boardwalks with hand rails.
Once all the added details were painted, some weathering was started to bring it into the late 1950s era. Horizontal lines were drawn around the corrugated cladding with pencil to represent the joins in the sheets. Weathering was done using enamel paint dry brushed on for the rust. The first pass with the brush is shown in the above photo and another pass in the below photo with a slightly different colour. Black soot stains were made with black powders. Resting in its final position, it will be an imposing feature on the layout.
After some research on the area most likely to have a tipple on the Virginian Railway that at least looked like this model, I settled on the New River region in West Virginia. So I picked a fictitious extra tipple that was located at Oakwood.
The signage I designed on my computer and printed on plain paper on my ink jet printer. I then applied PVA glue to the back and pushed the paper into the corrugations on the surface. This gives the illusion of the sign writing being painted onto the corrugated iron.

The bridge that links our layouts

We could have joined the layouts via the lower level at the pier but decided it would be better to do so at the upper level. This required the trestle bridge on my part of the layout to slightly extend to the baseboard edge. Geoff's layout would then need a bridge in the same style to match up. So I built the whole bridge across the join.
I purchased some "Bents" that were ready made and available in different heights. Starting with the central part of the bridge, I worked out a spacing that allows a nice spacing and would also look right for the heavy locos that would be driven over the deck. Having them close together will visually look right and strong enough to support an articulated steamer.
The spur siding needed clearance for a boxcar so the "Bents" either side needed to be angled.
This shot give you an idea of its size with one of our 2-8-8-2 VGN steamers on the bridge.
The main deck support was piece of Meranti sanded up and suitably stained to match the Bents.I cut up a heap of extended width sleepers for the deck and individually glued them onto the main timber deck. The gap in the centre is where the join will be.
At the join, some copper sleepers were employed to gain strength. Some stock Code 70 rail was then spiked down and gauged accordingly.
Along each side of the sleepered deck a stringer was glued down to strengthen everything as per a drawing of these original style bridges. With added cross bracing and horizontal braces the bridge now looks the part. The whole bridge was then re-stained with wash of black Indian ink thinned out and brushed over all timber parts of the bridge to give that weathered look.
Geoff made a couple of small plate girders to add over the planned roadway which sits between the river and the rising land to the right of the photo. At a later date I added check/safety rails down the centre of the track on the bridge. Next we continue finalising track laying....