CONSTRUCTION

 

The construction of Little Bazeley has been a par force effort of "trial and error" - much of what has materialized in the end happened to do so because something else went wrong or didn't work at all.
Here's a brief account of how it all came together in the end.


 

PHASE I - PLANNING THE LAYOUT

 
Many wise railway modellers will tell you that the most important stage of building a layout is planning it - and they are right. In the case of Little Bazeley, I had the huge advantage of knowing exactly what I wanted, namely an Inglenook Sidings shunting puzzle, and what to avoid (by way of previous negative experience), namely designing a layout which would not be operable on its own and require some kind of "add-on" in order to run it as a shunting puzzle.

Whilst both the idea of having an Inglenook shunting puzzle as well as giving it a name which strongly hinted at a small layout were there right from the beginning, the original concept centered around a much larger concept - a "modular" layout. Planning and thinking one or two sizes above your actual possibilities is part of the fun, but it also shows that if left unchecked this tends to sneak in things you didn't actually want.

 
  Look at the trackplan (to the left) and you will notice that the Inglenook Sidings "module" would actually require a second element in order to provide the headshunt and thus be be workable - not good, not good at all.

This was mainly due to the fact that the initial inspiration for the layout involved modern (and thus longer) stock: the branchline to Lydd, which in the 1980s and 1990s consisted entirely of nuclear flask transports from the nearby Dungeness power station. Whilst Little Bazeley Sidings was imagined to be handling rather more conventional cargo, the motive power on the Dungeenss branch in the late 1980s and 1990s begged to be replicated: the wonderful (well, to me) class 73 Electro-Diesels.

 
Because I wanted the layout not only to be self-contained but also to remain portable, I knew (again from past - and failed - attempts, such as Battersea Sidings) that 4' (120cm) would be the maximum length. Even opting for a ballast depot and using comparatively short wheelbase "Dogfish" ballast hoppers (built in the 1950s), there was no way this was going to fit into the restricted layout dimensions actually possible and available for this project. It became clearer and clearer that in order to fit it all onto a 4'x1' (120cm x 30cm) baseboard, the stock to be run on the layout would need to shrink in length.

This is where coincidence (or destiny, if you prefer to look at it that way) takes over as Bachmann was just releasing their model of a Class 04 diesel shunter in weathered BR green livery and pre-TOPS numbering as D2228.

 
Built by BR as the 'standard' small 0-6-0 diesel mechanical shunter, they were used in areas where smaller shunting locos were needed, such as docks or areas where traffic flows were light. When in addition I discovered that D2228 had spent its working life along the South Coast, matters were settled. Without much thinking, I had thus set the time back to the mid to late 1960s and resolved the problem with overlong stock nicely - as proven by temporarily putting down some lengths of track and actually measuring up the length of rolling stock plus the newly acquired Cl 04 shunter. That way, I knew exactly what I got in terms of dimensions and shunting space.  

 
Whilst this sorted out the length of the track spurs required for the Inglenook Sidings shunting puzzle, I initially tried to incorporate a terminus station into the layout - a typically British habit
 
The idea was to incorporate an EMU shuttle for added variety, but the resulting station concourse would have made for a fairly crowded affair - which definitely was not the kind of location I had in mind and which would carry a name such as Little Bazeley.  
 
So, in a next step, the passenger station and its facilities were reduced drastcially in scope and size by cutting down the double track and two platform formula to just one single trcak with adjoining platform.
 
  This looked and felt a lot better and really could have passed on to the construction stage - if not, once again, for the fact that the EMU shuttle was a nice idea but came with a problem: it would not be operable without an added extension.
 
And so, I reminded myself of C. J. Freezer's booklet 60 Plans for Small Locations (first published in the late 1950s) and his statement concerning shunting layouts:

"it is not obligatory to incorporate passenger facilities into a layout, and indeed there can be very real benefits when a small layout is designed around a specialised service."

 
And so - in a move to "reduce to the max" - the plan for the layout was revised in a way which did away with any kind of passenger facility completely.  
 
This layout and track plan met all the criteria I had set out to start with: it was an Inglenook Sidings type shunting layout which was both portable and self-contained, i.e. which could be operated without any addition to the layout.

It was now definitely time to get out a hammer and some nails.

 

PHASE II - BUILDING THE LAYOUT BASE

 
The start to any layout construction is the baseboard, and here the golden rule is that nothing you put on top of it will really keep the promises it holds unless the baseboard you use is built to last, keeps its shape and provides you with an even surface.

Originally intending to build Little Bazeley Sidings on a "ready made baseboard" by using a 120x28 cm chest with drawers from IKEA (the famous "Moppe", used by several modellers at the time), I found that this was being discontinued just as I was about to start the project.

 
I therefore turned to my previous baseboard construction methods, using 10mm birch plywood for extra strength and rigidity whilst at the same time keeping the overall weight fairly low. The actual baseboard top (4'x1' / 120x30 cm - a size which is still just about portable) is set onto a framework structure which serves as the main structural support for the layout. Thanks to the spacers, it is rock solid and the best insurance against warping.

At this stage, others will still think you're actually in the process of accomplishing some nice practical carpentry work.

 
 

PHASE III - TRACKLAYING & WIRING

 
The track used on this layout is Peco Streamline code 100 flextrack with medium radius electrofrog points - my standard choice for about 20 years now. Using Marklin Z Scale track pins sparingly, the simple track configuration was laid down in virtually no time at all.
 
  As all pieces of track are straight I sprayed them a dark brown colour (using an aerosol spray can) and then touched up the side of the rails with a lighter rust colour (using a fine artist's brush) before putting the rails and points (which were not sprayed in order to avoid conductivity problems - more about this below) down. Weathered or not, the track is now ready, and a shunting puzzle layout needs nothing more than this to be operational.
 
In reality, however, few people can resist decorating this bare gameboard...
 

Weathering the track is an essential part of recreating the atmosphere of the real railways. The colours vary greatly on the prototype, ranging from dark, almost black to to a very light rusty brown. Eventually, it's a matter of taste as everything else. However, applying weathering to the track is best done with a subtle approach, as too much colour can muck up the pointwork and reduce electrical conductivity to critical levels - over the past few years, I found that I was having more and more trouble with electrofrog points after painting and ballasting, as they no longer did what they should have done, i.e. change the polarity of the frog according to which way the points were set.

 

 
The problem is not unkown (straight from the box the points rely on physical contact of the switch blade and the outer rail, so if paint gets onto this there's no electric contact), but it seems to have plagued my efforts more and more in recent years.
 
  It is such a devil of a problem because a blade which no longer provides effective contact with the outer rails no longer supplies the necessary electric power to the frog.

As a result of this, the point effectively becomes an isolating point, with any ongoing track cut off from the necessary electrical power supply to both rails. More often than not, the fault can't be rectified with the point in place. Lifting the point means lifting the connecting pieces of track, too...

The solution to overcome this possible problem is well-known and well-published in the model railway press - add separate wiring to the frog which will provide a direct means of routing current.

     
Like it or not, eventually the facts of railway modelling are such that reliable pointwork simply is not guaranteed straight out of the box (no matter which make you choose), and it gets worse if you weather and ballast your points.

With the otherwise well constructed Peco points, ensuring reliable routing of polarity to the frog is an easy and straightforward task (with the code 75 points, it's even pre-installed to a certain extent).

Because this wiring arrangement requires the changing of the frog polarity to take place simultaneously with the route setting of the point, you either require a point motor which is equipped to do this, or you can stick with manual control and use a single pole single throw (SPST) slide switch which is connected by e.g. a rod to the tiebar of the point.

 

 
This way, if you slide the switch to throw the point, the polarity routing is changed at the same time. The point is connected to the slide switch by a piece of wire which is attached to the tiebar and the slider of the switch.
 
  In order to prevent unwanted sideway movements and to strengthen the connection, the wire is run through a brass tube for the length of the distance between the tiebar and the slide.

It's an easy, dependable, and cheap method of remotely controlling the points. At a later scenery stage, the whole thing will be disguised with foliage and such to make it less conspicuous.

 
For the time being, Little Bazeley Sidings is wired for analog operation (DC) despite the fact that the newer shunters from Bachmann and Hornby are all DCC-ready. The DC wiring on such a small and compact layout is, however, almost as straightforward as it would be for DCC. In fact, apart from the main feed, the only wiring in place is for polarity switching of the point frogs, as described above. As the points are operated manually, there is no need for point motor wiring.
 

 

PHASE IV - BALLASTING THE TRACK

 
Once the functional aspects of the track are settled, it's time to add ballast to the weathered track - an essential part of recreating the atmosphere of the real railways.
 

Just as with the track itself, the colours of ballast vary greatly on the prototype, depending on the type of stone used and how much soil and rust is deposited on the trackbed by traffic on the line.

Personally, I prefer the look of grey ballast - which is not restricted to newly ballasted tracks at all. Many yards with light shunting traffic display light coloured ballast, simply because there's not enough activity to deposit tons of dirt and rust, even over the course of a few years. The weeds, however, are a different story...

The overall effect is, however, not only dependent on the materials used but also on the lighting. Just how much difference this can make can be seen from the two views on the left: the initial stage of ballasting (above), was photographed with the use of artificial light, whilst the same track and ballast at an advanced stage (below) appear to be quite different when photographed in late afternoon sunlight.

 

 
My preferred make of model ballast is Woodlands Scenic medium grey ballast, although the fine grade would certainly be closer to scale. However, with weeds and other green overgrowth to be added later, the appearance to me is just fine, and it seems a lot easier to handle. The ballast is sprinkled in place, then covered in a mist of water and washing up liquid (also dubbed "wet water", this brakes up the surface tension) from an old aftershave sprayer until the ballast is quite soaked. Immediately after this, a mixture of water and white glue (approximately mixed at a 2:1 ratio) is carefully dribbled onto this by employing a syringe (mine came as a spare from the vet). The whole trackbed should be quite white in appearance and then left to dry for a good 24 hours. After this, the ballast will be hard as concrete (well, almost) - which is why it pays to check for dislodged ballast (which can get onto the ties or, far worse, cling to the sides of the rails) while everything is still wet.
 

PHASE V - STRUCTURES

 
On a small layout like Little Bazeley, different modelling tasks start to interact very quickly, and it is a very short cut from basic ballasting and landscaping to setting up the first batch of planned structures.
 
  My plans for the sidings at Little Bazeley were to create a small and somewhat enclosed place, but not too sleepy and isolated, as I wanted at least some justification for the movement of trains. This called for some sort of facilities to be present, rather than just a couple of overgrown and windswept tracks in the middle of nowhere.

I felt that that a small warehouse would be ideal, as this allows for some very general traffic unless specified. My structure modelling experience stems almost entirely from plastic kits, but for Little Bazeley I opted for card - mainly because to me it is such a typically British material for structure modelling that I felt it would reinforce the "Englishness" I was aiming to capture with this layout.

 
It would also have to be a typcially Victorian red brick building, and I found just what I needed in the form of a small brewery complex in the Metcalfe Models range (where the kit carries the product code P0229), consisting of three individual buildings.
 
Obviously, certain details which are typical for a brewery (such as roof vents) would have to be left off in order to turn the buildings into mere storage rather than production facilities, but the fact that there was precious little space behind the tracks meant a lot of cutting and pruning anyway.

Putting card kits together is straightforward modelling fun, and overall I found card to be a lot easier to work with than plastic. If you need to cut items to make them fit a specific space, this can be done accurately and easily - in fact, some parts of this structure ended up being very "low relief" indeed, as can be seen from the building front pictured on the right.

 
 
Besides having a charm of their own, card models these days are pre-cut precision kits, and the brewery used on Little Bazeley is both very sophisticated and versatile.
 

  Just how much cutting and pruning the kit had to endure can be seen from the finished warehouse setup - the building on the left of the structure is the only one built (more or less) in its intended form. The end result is quite pleasing in the sense that even though the warehouse retains the overall visual appearance of the brewery kit (and will no doubt be recognised as such by a number of modellers) it is at the same time unique in the sense that it fits the specific location much the same way a purpose built building would in real life.

 
This type of kitbashing, however, requires extra checks on clearances in order to ensure that all rolling stock intended for use on the layout will clear the loading platform edges and canopies - whilst at the same making sure that there are no unrealistically gaping gaps between rolling stock and (un)loading spots.
 
Both the red VEA van and the yellow 12t van are close enough to give a convincing impression, but without fouling any parts of the building. It is also a good idea to make sure that clearances are compatible with the locomotives intended for use.

It is 1966, and BR(S) Electro-Diesel locomotive E6012 has ventured out to Little Bazeley Sidings on a trial run. Clearances are tight - as they would be on the prototype - but not too tight.

 

 

PHASE VI - SCENERY

 
With the structures all in place, the right hand side of the layout started to look fairly complete in a basic sense.
 

  The left hand side, however, was still a piece of bare baseboard with un-scenicked track.

The idea here was to hide the entrance / exit of the track (which passes through a hole in the backdrop) by means of an overbridge from which a road would branch off down to the warehouse.

The bridge is an old classic of British railway modelling. Although the specific item used on this layout is a 2005 production Hornby item, it still seems to use the same mould employed in the 1960s by Tri-ang.

 
Picked for sentimental reasons more than anything else, the colouring of the plastic on this model as it comes out of the box gives a very toy-like overall impression, but a simple repaint of the entire model did away with this.
 
The contours of the landscape leading up to the bridge are modelled using a single piece of styrofoam. It's a messy business, but it provides a lightweight shell to work on. This is then covered in plaster which then receives a liberal coat of colour to seal things up.

The road surface is already modelled into this plaster coating and only needs appropriate colouring after this, while the rest will receive its final touch with the sprinkling of Woodlands Scenics scatter material.

 
 
The realism of scenic scatter material is greatly enhanced by mixing together two or more different colours, and the grass used on this part of Little Bazeley is a mix of several different types of material both in terms of colour and texture. The final visual effect is far more realistic than the monochrome green of just one specific type of scatter material,
 
  The same mix of different shades of dark and light green scatter material is used for grass and weeds growing onto the tracks in front of the warehouse.

 
The only thing lacking at this stage are bushes and undergrowth, to be added on the far side of the road and scattered along the embankment
 
 
 

BACK TO

 

Back to the Model Railways Shunting Puzzles Website main page


Page created: 07/JUN/2004
Last revised: 22/AUG/2012