Those of you following me on Twitter will have no doubt noticed a few dramatic developments on my layout of late. Whilst these will be worthy of their own posts as they advance, I thought now would be a good time to take stock of my layout thus far and see how it’s progressed over the 2 years I have been working on it.
August 2012 marked my return to the hobby I took up in my teens after I rediscovered my old models on a visit to my parents loft. At the time I lived in a shared flat, meaning I couldn’t have anything too permanent, however a plan started to develop…
2 separable baseboards that could be placed on the dining table and stored when not in use. Cleaning old track and testing my dusty models. This is the first picture of my layout in action!…
(For a sense of location you are looking at the area of track now predominantly covered by the upper level, Langstead Junction Station would be located at the bottom of the picture where the GNER 91 sits).
With everything tested it was time to lay some track.
I initially chose to completely cover the baseboards with a ballast mat. If I had the opportunity to start again, I probably wouldn’t do this… However this layout was, and still is, a learning curve for me.
An original requirement was that my layout had to be storable. This would later create problems but at the time it was perfect
Another early running shot (above). Here I was experimenting with the placement of stations – the buildings were from my original ample childhood collection.
This was my first go at scenery other than the fairly easy ballast base mat. A bit messy, but ultimately it’s still there today.
Modelling had developed leaps and bounds in my absence. Those old plastic buildings you saw above were now looking very dated and toy-like. Over the last 2 years I’ve been particularly drawn to the Hornby Skaledale range as I’m sure you’re aware! These were my first three purchased (above), out of which only the station house now features on my layout.
I really did get hooked on those Skaledale buildings in the early months! They did however start to form the central town scene by October, along with this paving slab work which I still think looks great.
Ballasting really helped tidy up and add definition to the scenic scatter. This was the first point I felt the layout was starting to take a positive shape (above).
Looking from the other side, by this time I had added two more sidings in the centre of the layout to form more of a yard. This picture also shows: the uncompleted level crossing (something which wouldn’t be fully finished until the addition of the 3rd loop), my original power distribution method which was created to avoid drilling, and an outing of the 5 coach rake of LMS coaches I later do a makeover on.
… and a few more buildings were added. But this would be it for the layout whilst living in my old flat. This brings us up to May 2013.
Then I moved flat and got myself some dedicated model railway space! In the summer of 2013 I gave each board it’s own set of legs.
The legs were (and still are) detachable, giving me flexibility to reposition the layout or transport it should I need to.
Above an early picture of it in it’s new dwelling.
Scenery slowly progressed with the addition of some trees and foliage above. I’d wanted to expand the layout since I started, and the baseboards being in two halves gave a provision for this, assuming a new piece would be inserted in between. Instead, it turned out it would be easier to expand in all four directions and create a third running loop.
This was the first major, irreversible, change I undertook on my layout. The removable legs were key in this project, as it involved the complex task of placing the old baseboard on a larger newer one.
Scenery was added to blend the new loop into the old, although a gap was left as it became apparent the level crossing now led nowhere…
…at this time I also added a bridge to create height interest (I really wish I’d measured the bridge’s height clearance with pantograph electric locos as I’d eventually have to raise it so they’d fit)…
…Accommodating this required a complete redesign of the town scene moving from rows of houses to a village square diorama.
…This also meant big changes for the yard scene which had to be realigned. The Skaledale goods shed was sold off and the main station brought into focus. I’d also started to make the wiring more permanent and added point motors.
…I eventually found out a way to solve the incomplete level crossing to nowhere by, well, not finishing it all! This takes us up to about Christmas 2013.
In the new year I got the itch to do something a bit drastic. I was never happy with being able to see the entire layout, which I felt lowered the realism. I therefore decided to board over the rear portion.
Retaining walls were used to fully block off the line from view. Hiding the trains like this felt more realistic and I was excited with the change. It also gave me a whole 2nd level to continue to develop the town scene, although my progress on this stalled until very recently. (I also started work on a signal gantry).
More point motors were added to the layout to nearly fully complete the automation of points. To further my quest for realism I created a new station terminus that gave the impression of it burrowing under the town (much like Birmingham New Street). I also finally settled on a name for the town – Langstead – and christened the station Langstead Junction with Network SouthEast decor.
The yard would become no more. In it’s place an extended 2 platform village station. The fences seen above are the last and only remains of my childhood Hornby buildings!
The signal gantry is now finished, although I’d also started to look into automated colour aspect signals, so it may eventually get replaced.
Another shot of the new station now with footbridge, abandoned bay and semaphore starter.
In mid 2014, the baseboard being in two halves was starting to become largely impractical. Moving the layout had become tricky as it would almost definitely disturb, and accidentally split, the two baseboards which would be a nightmare to rectify. This made maintenance work at the rear of the layout very difficult.
In conjunction with rearranging my office space the two boards were finally permanently joined together by an under-frame, something of which I should have constructed from the start.
This now meant I could finally complete ballasting over the baseboard divide. In the summer of this year, new ballast was added to the entirety of the visible parts of the layout. The trackbed was also painted and it’s scenery developed. This really started to take the layout up a notch.
The village style station also received the ballast and paint treatment and gained it’s name Langstead Broad Oak.
Moving into the end of summer this year and the layout looks like this. Note Langstead Junction has been extended…
…this work gave the 2nd tier a more secure accessible base. I could now rekindle my efforts in extended the town scene. I drew up various designs but this sprung up as a winner, an elevated tube station.
…This in turn created more space to be landscaped…
…which has today turned into an audacious THIRD tier. This will eventually become a TMD/yard area, with the rear line hidden from view. A dedicated post about this and the tube station project will come nearer completion.
And there we have it. Looking back, I’m proud of my progress, I’ve done a hell of a lot in 2 years, and I’ve still got plenty to be getting on with. I never envisaged it would become this sizeable, so who knows what I’ll choose to do in the future! There’s lots of things I’ve learnt and a handful of things I’d definitely do differently if I had the opportunity to, but maybe that’s another post for another day.
As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates soon.
– Andy Carter