Saturday, 5 November 2011

WLJR: Sands End (Part 1)

Back to the Beginning

It all happened after taking my Godson to the Bluebell Railway for a “Thomas the tank engine day”. I was bought a Hornby Terrier by my partner, because I went "oh look at that cute little engine, isn't it so pretty in bright Malachite green".  Inexorably this led to getting a brake van to go with it, and then some wagons so that I could look at it on the shelf and not think how forlorn it look all by itself.

Then the inevitable happened.

I realised that British outline wagons were half the size of American freight cares, and therefore I could run trains that had twice as many wagons in them on a layout in the space I had planned to build an American interurban line in, or so I thought.

Then I started looking at the Hornby Bulleid light Pacific, and remembered that when I was younger that this was my favourite passenger locomotive. It just looked so sleek. In my mind it has a retro-futuristic feel to it "yesterday's locomotive of tomorrow" if you like?

So I found myself being drawn back into British outline.


Initially I resisted the idea of using Protofour standards, I had learnt my lesson from the past, and I also knew that it would involve me building track.

At the time I had been stalled trying to build a layout based on the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Electric Railway that require making what I thought at the time was a complicated crossing through a turnout configuration. This track formation was required to make the plan have some resemblance to the location in downtown Santa Rosa, in Sonoma county, California. 

Unfortunately, I/we went along to one of the Scaleforum shows, and I was reminded why I originally changed to these standards, because the wheels and track look lovely. Some nice people at the Exactoscale (Hi Len, Hi Andrew) stand promised that there would soon be easy to build turnouts and that making track wasn't all that hard, honest "guvnor".

As they say, ignorance is bliss...

Down by the River

As the estate agents say, location is everything, and for me choosing the right location for my new P4 British layout was of tantamount importance to me. I had to model somewhere I could legitimately run Bulleid Pacific's and yet be small enough that it would fit along the twelve-foot wall that I had for my layout. A lot of ideas were examined, before being discarded. Some nice prototype locations did commend themselves to me, and I even thought about a totally freelanced location at one point, but I find it easier to play with a real place than invent a plausible fictitious site.

I then read a mention of the West London Line, and I imagined something a bit like the Holborn viaduct link, a small, but vital part of London’s cross railway routes. However, what I thought was a small branch line that snuck around the outskirts of London, was I discovered later actually a major trunk route for an enormous amount of cross London traffic. Still, Bulleid Pacific's ran down the line like herds of Wildebeest on the plains of the Serengeti

Given that a double track mainline is no bad thing; I thought that by judiciously choosing a station on the extension line, I would get away with selectively modelling a compressed part of the line. At this point I would state that my aim was what I would call semi-purist i.e.: in the style of, rather than an exact copy of one place. Therefore I would have the London & North Western Railway buildings, and Great Western Railway signals, with Southern locomotives, which are the best bits after all.

Of course anyone else on choosing the West London Line might have said "why not model the Chelsea & Fulham, or  Battersea railway stations?" To which I would have replied, yes but they are boring, being as they are through stations with no turnouts for shunting trains.

The irony of being able to build a prototypical layout with no turnouts, when I had never built a piece of track in my life, does not escape me. How hard could it be?

Choosing a Time Period

I think this is critical to modelling a railway, since the appearance and disappearance of locomotives and rolling stock has an impact on what you see. Also, choosing a time period can really affect the appearance of your track, which was set by the railway company that built the line. Ironic huh? Never really into track, after all you buy the stuff in yard lengths from a suitable manufacturer and plonk it down on the board.

So there I am studying track and buying books on GWR track, and how to hand build trackwork. All because the track pretty much defines the type of chairs used, the style of the turnouts, and the time period will define the size of the sleepers, and you need to know how long things like sleepers lasted, as they could last a very long time indeed. Once you go P4 you are no longer in Peco country,

The choice for me came down to being sometime after the end of the Second World War, because I wanted Bulleid Pacific’s in Malachite green. So I initially thought circa 1945/47, but this evolved slightly as time passed, because I want to run specific Bulleid Pacific variants that didn't come into use until after the nationalisation of British railways that occurred on the 1st of January 1948. I think it is called “mission creep” in the military?

Transitional Liveries

I ended up settling on 1949 as the cut off date for my project, because this is an absolutely fascinating transitional period for British Railways liveries. It gives me the widest choice of livery options due to the time it took to repaint all the locomotives in the new corporate colours, which meant that there were a plethora of hybrid Southern/British Railways livery variations.

I can also judiciously choose to only model those variants that interest me, and ignore any locomotives in British Railways Brunswick green, as I think it is a rather dull looking livery, which IMNSHO I think rather spoilt the modernity of the Bulleid Pacific design.

Finally, it also allows me to have both nine foot and eight foot six inch sleepers, with the former being used in the sidings, while the later would be used on the main tracks, because if one is going to go to all of the effort required to hand lay track, you might as well have as much variation as possible.

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