Salford Chapel – Episode 4: More Visual Updates

Some further updates on the Salford Chapel layout:

To the left of the road bridge I’ve completed the laying of scenic scatter. The only area remaining in need of scenic scatter is seen to the right of the signal box (above top). This is because I’m waiting to add some maintenance steps on order from gaugemaster. I’ve added another small patch of painted road next to the headshunts, this plot also features a small shed with some wire drums stacked next to it. (See bellow).

The above shot shows the ‘main line’ diverging away into a ‘tunnel’ to the right and, looking back on Episode 13, heads towards the Manchester Central lines… In reality it heads towards the fiddle yard/track. The footpath providing access to the station from the road bridge has been fitted with a wall. 
I painted some cheap strip-wood from Modelzone, (which proved very easy to cut – you only need a Stanley knife!), and painted them using some matt grey model paint. Similar to the type pictured above. Miraculously the colour I chose was exactly the same as the girder bridge! Win!

Another shot showing the ‘main line tunnel’ and footpath linking to the steps.

I’ve added two semaphore signals, the one on the right is a station starter for the main or right hand siding; the one on the left services the headshunt.

They both formally started life like this Hornby example (above). I dismantled the top half and tried to glue it to the side of the footpath wall. The glue wasn’t strong enough so I dismantled it further and attached the signals individually to the girder bridge. An offcut of the signal support has been used as a ‘support’ for the footpath bridge. (See above).
The reverse shot showing pedestrian walkway towards the station. You can also see the area above the signal cabin which still needs some scenic scatter adding. I am wondering if the station starter semaphore (left) may be slightly too high and ‘out of scale’ with the rest of the model, particularly compared to the car pictured… Perhaps I will move it down eventually.

This shot better shows what I mean, it just looks too high doesn’t it!?

Anyway, similar to the footpath, some painted stripwood has also been added to the rest of the road bridge.

Another nice shot under the bridge.

Back in the station a wagon is loaded with two wire drums (Bachman) and some milk churns (Hornby Skaledale range). Some additional churns sit on the station. There are no shortage of wagon loads on offer in model shops, but you could also consider this neat little idea, showcased in Episode 9, for making your own.
The reverse shot from the station looking at the signal cabin. Come back soon for some more updates both on Salford Chapel and my Main Layout!

Salford Chapel – Episode 3: A Visual Update

So now it has a name I can update you on how it is taking shape…

As you can see I’ve added some grass scatter. You can check out my Main Layout blog and in particular This Episode to see my technique for adding scatter.

I’ve added some thicker clumps by the buffer stops and using my finger and some glue, smudged some scatter into the ballast to add to that authentic track-side vegetation look.

I’ve also painted on a roadway. I’ve actually used a Dulux tester pot in a matt grey finish. Now of course you can pick up proper model paints – and I have got some for smaller areas which will pop up in future episodes… However, for larger areas consider getting a tester pot from your local hardware store, you’ll get more paint for your money, it drys super fast (or at least this one did) and at the end of the day it was very easy to wash off your bush! It also provides a really nice finish! 
In the background you’ll notice the bridge now looks, well more bridge like…
These are plastic Peco Bridge Girders and I picked these up from a couple of quid at John Dutfield in Chelmsford, but I’ve since seen they are pretty common and pop up in modelzones too. You’ll also notice I’ve laid some tarmac, this is the Noch stick on roadway stuff left spare from my Main Layout
For the red-brick-Manchester walls I’ve simply used sheets of printed pattern. Again, picked up from my favorite model shop for a few pence. To apply the sheets to the wood I created a very watery PVA mix, wallpaper paste like, and this worked perfectly – although it was ever so tricky to stick into place, especially under the bridge. You could of course consider printing your own, or even painting, but this method really is very cheap and easy to achieve something very aesthetically pleasing. I would however recommend sticking the texture sheets onto the wood first and then assembling any structures 2nd…
This is exactly what I did for the rear station walls. Was so much easier! 
Again, this wood came from the B&Q wood yard, but I’ve since seen that even Modelzone at Westfield’s stock strip wood similar to this. Theirs is much flimsier but on the flipside – much easier to cut! 
This close up shows the pre-printed texture sheets come with a finish at the top. The figures are from Noch.
I also came across a plastic stair case pack. This may be harder to come across in Modelzone or similar so I’d recommend your local model shop or the gaugemaster website. I’ve trimmed to size and will eventually paint for a nicer finish.
And there we have it! More updates soon!

Salford Chapel – Episode 2: It’s All In A Name

Seeing as I am relatively new to building layouts, my primary Main Layout on this blog is firstly a test, a spring board if you will, into trying new techniques and ideas. As a result, and unlike many serious model railway layouts you may find, it doesn’t have a theme, and it is not era or location specific. It may as well be called Somewhereville, although I’m not American so It’ll more likely be called Nowherechester, Anywherington  or something equally British sounding. But that’s OK, it’s a place for me to appreciate the trains I like rather than their setting.
Now I’m doing my side project, my shelf layout, I can start to explore the idea of giving it a theme, a setting and maybe an era. 
Reminding you of my layout plan, we have: 
  • An out of sight fiddle yard (top right – red track) which at the point of planning will be obscured by a wall and tunnel portal. 
  • A short platform, capable of handling a modern single car Sprinter (i.e. Class 153) and will just about accommodate a two car Pacer (i.e. Class 142). A passenger coach and small steam loco will also fit for bygone eras. Short freight trains can also be accommodated. 
  • A number of sidings all designed to accommodate whatever arrives in the platform. These can either be used to assemble wagons (of any era) or to act as stabling yard for the afore mentioned Sprinter/Pacers. 
  • At this point I’m still reluctant to set an era. Purely because I like the idea of a busy yard with steam trains assembling wagons just as much as I’d like to see DMU’s arriving at some forgotten terminus. But with some clever planning we should be able to make something that would fit plausibly into either category so I can run either scenario.

Most modellers base their layouts loosely on an actual location. (See Tanglewood Common in previous Episodes). It would be easy to set this layout in a rural location. The small station with single platform would work, as would a little freight yard for arriving goods and departing local farm yard produce. A real location would be somewhere like Sudbury or Ongar (pictured above). 
This would however involve landscaping a tunnel for the out of sight fiddle yard. In such a confined space such as this layout this may look odd and indeed prove difficult to pull off. Let’s remind ourselves where I’m actually up to in the design…
Instead of landscaping a grass bank and tunnel portal, I found it far simpler to use strips of wood that will form walls. A further strip of wood bridges the yard which will later become a road. This both forms the ‘tunnel portal’ effect to the out of sight fiddle yard (at the top) and acts to add an interesting height layer to the layout. 
This changing things. Because the road bridges the yard and creates a tunnel underneath it, we are implying the layout is in a cutting, where the road ‘bridge’ is actually ground level. This coupled with the use of the wood as walls to me implies more of a built up location. Still plausible for passenger services but this time we’ll turn to industrial style traffic for freight rather than farmyard produce.

There are no shortage of city stations built into cuttings. Exeter Central (above top), London Liverpool Street and to some extent Huddersfield (above bottom).
But the problem with these stations is that they are quite large, and in most cases are through routes. 
Finding a single platform inner city termini isn’t impossible though.
There’s certainly Colchester Town (above top) and Wrexham Central (above bottom). Both of which have managed to stand the test of time despite having much larger through stations in their wake. I like the idea that my station is competing with (in the steam era) or struggling to survive (in the modern era) against larger city stations. These examples are not in cuttings, sure, but we’ve got ideas to work with now. 
The other thing I want to think of is the architecture of the setting. I’ve already chosen a couple of buildings which you can see in the above picture of my layout from the Hornby Magna range. 

Despite Ashby Magna (of which they are based upon) being in Leicestershire, there is something very ‘Manchester’ about the their red brick facades. 

Anyone from or has ever been to Manchester and it’s surrounding areas will notice that pretty much everything, and I do mean everything, has been built out of red brick. This I have always felt contrasts starkly to the stone structures found in neighboroughing Yorkshire and gives it a very distinct characteristic. Here’s a picture of the abandoned Manchester Mayfield station for example…

Manchester is a good place to pick for a setting. It’s steeped in an illustrious rail history. The first inter-city passenger service in the world started here in 1830 in the form of Manchester Liverpool Road on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. To cater for Britain’s main industrial city, Manchester Mayfield, Oldham Road, Central and Exchange, all now defunct termini, would have served alongside the now glistening Piccadilly (formally London Road) and the not so glistening Victoria stations. Not to mention Oxford Road, Deansgate, Salford Central and Salford Cresent as well. 
Those of you with a keen knowledge of Manchester’s rail network will realise most of it runs elevated on viaducts through the city. That’s fine, we’ll just have to develop a slightly different back story for our layout that sets it in a cutting rather than on a viaduct. 
So without further ado I present the fictitious location of my layout…
From the south, a line diverges from the viaduct of the former London Midland lines into Manchester Central & through routes to Piccadilly and Yorkshire. It runs northwards over the River Irwell and dips underneath the Manchester to Liverpool line most likely in the place of the A6042. Tunnelling under Ordsall Lane and Chapel Street, the line arrives in the industrialised Blackfirars/Eastern Salford area of the city, just to the north of St Phillip’s Church. The station would probably  sit in the spot the University of Salford’s Centenary Building now occupies. A link line may also exist feeding into Victoria towards the north and east of the city.
I have given the station the name ‘Salford Chapel.’ Perhaps it takes it’s name after Chapel Street just to the south (similar to the theme of naming stations after roads in the city – Oxford Road, Liverpool Road, London Road etc.), or perhaps in reference to St Phillip’s Church… you decide!… It also nicely sits with the theme of both existing Salford stations starting with the letter ‘C’.
In my mind, despite its proximity to others stations, it has survived for providing this area of Salford with a link southwards whereas lines in the area only serve westwards out of the city. 
How BR name boards may have looked…
Or on modern Northern Rail branding. 
Image Credits:
Wikipedia (Exeter Central)
Manchester History

Salford Chapel – Episode 1: A Side Project

As you may be aware I’ve been toying with the notion of a side project, based upon the inspiration of some of Epping Railway Circle’s end to end (or shelf – this will become an important word later on) layouts, like this one…
So far my current layout has developed from concept…
To construction…
To something that really is starting to look rather good.
If you track back to Episode 2, you’ll remember I set myself the task, amongst others, that my layout should be easy to set up and set down. This was, at the beginning, achieved successfully. However as I’ve done more, and added scenery and buildings that can be plopped down the set up and set down time gets a little longer each time. In reality there is never going to be a fast and easy solution to setting up and setting down any model railway that isn’t a permanent fixture. Especially as in my case I’m quite particular in making sure all the trains go back into their correct boxes (must’ve inherited this trait from my Dad) and all the buildings are stacked such that they’re not going to damage each other in storage. 
Now, this isn’t as big a problem as I’m making it sound. I actually quite enjoy the fact it takes a bit of time to get everything set just so. Equally as sad I also enjoy making sure everything is packed away in it’s appropriate place too, right down to putting the boards back in the cupboard; it makes me feel like I’ve successfully achieved some of my targets of this project.

What I will say is, that because setting up and setting down is a now a more lengthy process I feel more obliged to get the layout out when I know I can dedicate a weekend, or a run of days off to its use and continued construction. One day, this will not be a problem when I hopefully don’t have an as busy flat and have maybe some more space at my disposal. It would be really great to have something much smaller that doesn’t need a weekends dedication…

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an abandonment of my original project by any mile, quite the contrary, as I have some updates for you on that front from what I have worked on recently. This side project is also a chance to explore making a more of a model scene, rather than somewhere to enjoy running all the various trains I like. By this I mean there is more potential in a smaller shelf layout to explore things like setting, era and theme. After all, on an end to end layout it’s not possible to set a train going purely for the enjoynment of watching it run. The enjoyment in a shelf layout is different – there’s scope for operational planning, shuffling wagons about mimicking real life scenarios.
So here we go, rather than taking months to tell you where I’m up to on this project, most of the techniques I have already done so rather than taking months to explain where I’m up to, I will update you more swiftly…

Here’s the design. I agonised over this for quite a while, and maybe there is scope for a separate blog of how many versions of this plan I went through until I got to this one…

The dimension is 120 cm x 30 cm, why will become clear shortly.

It will feature:

  • A small terminus station, which could either be a rural location of forgotten inner city branch.
  • A number of sidings and head shunts. These will all comfortably accomodate a 2 car Pacer DMU or a tank loco + coach by design, meaning I can give this either a modern or historical setting, or preferably something neutralish so I can chop and change.
  • An out of sight ‘fiddle yard*’ (the red line) where trains will appear to vanish up the main line and into a tunnel.

*Fiddle yard is a term used by model railwayers to describe a set of sidings or track out of sight from the rest of the layout. They are usually un-landscaped and hidden in such a way to maintain the illusion of a setting for the rest of the model.

A trip to B & Q and I come back with this. It is, rather unsurprisingly, a 120cm x 30cm pine untreated shelf. (Shelf being a key word remember). This will act as my baseboard.

The track fits on it thussly…
You’ll be wondering why these dimensions?
My desk is exactly 120cm long, as is my coffee table (nearly). It’s also relatively small and inoffensive so storage is going to be no problem at all, but it’s going to be easy to move about and I can plonk it in more places when in use.

This time I wanted to explore the use of motorised points. Therefore I’ve raised the baseboard up by putting it on a ‘frame.’ And by ‘frame’ I mean two pieces of strip wood. I nailed the shelf to these.
Completed baseboard on frame.
I can confirm that pine will accept track pins with ease, as will it accept drilling: to come later…
I have however elected to lay down some cork on top of the baseboard which will hide the nails of the frame and also provide a uniform surface for everything else going on top.
Some modellers will find proper cork sheets. Me? I’m using floor tiles. They’re even slightly laminated which will later prove helpful when sticking things to it… They’re also rather brilliantly (roughly) 30cm x 30cm meaning I’m not going to have to cut a great deal!
PVA glue (100% as opposed to a mix with water) will do just fine here.
This time, whilst laying the track, I have drilled holes as I go for track power supplies and points. A good tip I picked up on the forums was to pre solder power supply lines to the fishplates, this will help you not melt the sleepers as I did in my other layout…
This partly worked… It would have worked better if I wasn’t using utterly rubbish solder but it did involve snapping off a bit of sleeper from some track which you’ll see in following photos.

Once this was all complete I added some point motors.

Now, I could take up a whole blog talking about point motors. They come in a variety of flavours and costs. Most modellers will opt for something that is fitted underneath the board, some even go the whole hog with wires and pulleys mimicking signalling systems of days gone by.
As this is my first go, I’ve opted for surface mounted point motors. Peco PL-11’s to be precise. They are really simple to fit – simply latch onto the side of your point and nail down. A small hole will be required for the wires to disappear under your board. (Hence the frame). Most modellers will opt for something more discrete but this is my first attempt after all.
Again you can go and get really cheap switches but I’ve elected to get the more expensive Hornby ones. This was in part because they give a much nicer, and more authentic, signal cabin lever experience but partly because they are much easier to wire.
I could go into much more detail, and maybe I will do a dedicated post about the point wiring  at some point, but essentially for PL-11: You connect the red and black wire to the switch. These dictate which way the point sets. You then connect all the green wires (these are your commons) to one side of your power supply. The other side of the power supply feeds power to the switches. In the above picture, this one is brown, but it quite hard to see.  Again, I will properly explain this all at some point. There are also good places to go to explain how to do it… Like here

Rather excitingly, all the points worked straight away! Very pleased with myself.

Wiring takes shape underneath.
Next up it’s time to start adding some ballast. Check out This Episode for a more detailed breakdown.
I’ve used a slightly different colour than before. I’ve also stuck down the platform and buildings here using some super glue.
After another trip to B & Q, I’ve obscured the fiddle yard using some strip wood. I’ve also taken the opportunity to build a bridge for some added scenic interest. (I’m going to talk more about the decisions I’ve made on the landscaping in future blogs).
Another view, the mainline disappearing into the ‘tunnel’ on the right. Cleverly hidden by the strip wood.

And that’s where we’re up to!