"Often one plans and builds something
that later shows itself to be less interesting or of less value than originally anticipated.
Occasionally the reverse is true: the product proves better than hoped for."

(John Allen, Model Railroader, November 1972)




Many wise railway modellers will tell you that the most important stage of building a layout is planning it properly - and they are right. In the case of Little Bazeley, I had the huge advantage of knowing exactly what I wanted (an Inglenook Sidings shunting puzzle) as well as having already built and operated a previous layout based on the planning concept applied: Little Bazeley Mk1.
Built in 2004 as a simple, self-contained and straightforward 1'x4' (30x120cm) Inglenook Sidings shunting puzzle, the original Little Bazeley layout was still providing fun and reliable operation. I did, however, feel like I could do with some change after all these years, and so I began to mull things over for some time before Little Bazeley was decommissioned and dismantled in September 2021.

In essence I felt like going for a slightly larger layout, though it would still have to be easy to handle, quick to set up and take down again, and convenient to store - all given my lack of exclusively designated "model railway space".

Little Bazeley was fully portable and could be handled by one person, but it still took some manoeuvering through doors and up and down stairs. So ideally what I really wanted was a larger layout, but one that was smaller.

Terry Allen, "Encyclopedia of Model Railways" (Octopus, 1979)

  Obviously that's like trying to pour the proverbial pint into a quart. There was, however, one approach to this conundrum that could work - the folding layout. Not the one which folds up against a wall but rather the one which folds back onto itself, thus conveniently cutting its length in half for storage purposes.

The go-to layout of this type is Cyril J. Freezer's Minories, a classic design in its own right. First published in Railway Modeller in 1957, it has since been a regular feature in most of Peco's track planing books such as the Railway Modeller Book of 60 Plans for Small Locations.

Freezer's design is an attempt to model, within a minimum of space, an urban passenger terminus - a setting which is somewhat linked to the fact that the trackplan was designed over a two-section folding baseboard. The hinges required to achieve this have to be well above "ground level" in order to allow for enough clearance height for e.g. buildings - something easily disguised with retaining walls and bridges.

It is fair to say that Freezer was a designer, not a builder of layouts. His Minories folding layout is considered a classic because of its concept and design; Freezer never actually built a Minories layout.

Designed for a setting focused on urban passenger services, there was no reason this couldn't work for a layout with a seaside freight only theme. Besides, it really was the only way to make my "smaller but larger" shunting puzzle layout happen.

In spreading out the Inglenook Sidings trackplan over the two segments of the folding layout I opted for an entirely linear flow of the track; the plan was to have the scenery break this up and provide visual interest. A contained headshunt track was supplemented by another stretch of track which is assumed to be the connection to the station but which could be used as a second headshunt.

It was time to order some wood and get out a jigsaw, a drill and some screws.


The start to any layout construction is the baseboard (two of them in this case), and here the golden rule is that nothing you put on top of it will really and truly work unless the baseboard you use is built to last, keeps its shape and provides you with an even surface.
Since I wanted a layout framework which would be solid yet lightweight, I used a sheet of 10mm poplar plywood as the base, onto which I glued a 20mm styrofoam insulation board, which in turn was covered by another sheet of 10mm ply in "sandwich style".

Once the side- and backdrop are added, this results in a very sturdy yet lightweight layout frame and basebaord (which also results in comparatively silent running of trains).

There is, however, one major problem with this approach, and it is really quite obvious: as there is no cavity underneath the trackbed-baseboard and also no access from below, there is also no way to run cables underneath it.



As a result, all electrical connections need to be run "above ground". It is probably not as much a problem with a simple track configuration such as the one I was intending to use, and it does provide a neat "enclosed box" when folded up.

All in all, the concern given to the sturdiness of the entire layout structure is most likely somewhat over the top, but the idea was to have a folding layout that would actually withstand frequent use of its folding feature.

Accordingly, the corner supports chosen are more than just a tad on the solid side.

But since I was also intending to have a setting similar to a stage front (a reflection of my appreciation of theatrical layout design) this was actually also okay from a visual standpoint.

Once everything is assembled, a good coat of acrylic paint seals the baseboard tops, safeguarding the stability achieved in putting them together. Most if not all scenic work, including track ballasting, will involve no small amounts of a mix of water and glue to fix it all in place (more on this under ballasting, below), and baseboards that haven't been sealed this way may well start to warp.

As on the original Little Bazeley layout, the track used is Peco Streamline code 100 flextrack, mixed together with a few pieces of Peco Setrack code 100 "snap track". Apart from the fact that code 100 track can reliably be used with older models, it is also very sturdy (a quality more finescale track may or may not offer). While some modellers decry code 100 track as "toy like", careful weathering and ballasting will improve the visuals to a point where at least I myself am more than happy with it.

Other than checking for clearances, a shunting puzzle layout requires care in making sure that the length of individual tracks holds the required number of rolling stock.

In this case, both the classic 5-3-3 Inglenook formula as well as the "reduced" 3-2-2 version were measured out, since I was planning 1980s British Rail as well as the odd US operating session (3-2-2) along with BR 1960s and 1970s (5-3-3).

The one change in comparison to the original Little Bazeley layout is the switch from Peco Streamline medium radius "Electrofrog" points (which have a "live" frog and require a certain amount of wiring in order to change the polarity of the frog according to how the points are set) to the same size "Insulfrog" points (which have an electrically insulated frog and require no extra wiring to operate).

The only reason why "Electrofrog" points were made in the first place was the bad electrical pickup in older models and subsequent stalling on electrically "dead" frogs. But since this is no real problem with more recent locomotives and older ones can easily be improved, the extra wiring required seemed too much trouble for no real gain - which is probably also why Peco introduced the "Unifrog" point in 2017; out of the package it will behave like an "Insulfrog" point but the frog can be made to act like an "Electrofrog".

One potential snag exists with DCC and "Insulfrog" points: a potential shorting problem as metal wheels go through the frog. Even though this only seems to be the case with wheels on some US models, I decided to play it safe and add insulator joiners to the inner rails past the frog.

Once everything panned out, the simple track configuration was laid down in virtually no time at all using Marklin Z Scale track pins sparingly.

A test run then makes sure that all electrical connections work properly before the cable runs are tucked away.

  As a first step in weathering the tracks, I took the baseboards outside and sprayed them a dark brown colour using an aerosol spray can from the DIY store, masking the point switch sections in order to avoid conductivity problems. Some modellers let the paint dry before they wipe the top of the rails, but I prefer to do it immediately. Once all is dry, it's then easy to touch up the masked-off sections, as well as any others which might need it, with a fine brush and rust-coloured acrylic paint.

In order to brake up the uniformity of the colour, I then added a few touches of RailMatch's "sleeper grime" (an acrylic paint) to the sleepers. This is a simple way to achieve a fairly realistic look, further enhanced once ballasted.

Weathering the track really 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. In the end it's both a matter of taste and a reflection of area and era.

Weathering the track is, however, best done with a subtle approach, as too much paint will easily muck up the pointwork and reduce electrical conductivity to critical levels. Some test running after this stage is essential to iron out any bugs before the next step - adding ballast.

As hinted at, the wiring does not stand up to much scrutiny, most likely reflecting the fact that this is the aspect of the hobby I enjoy the least. However, since there is no complicated track configuration, the "spaghetti bowl approach" to wiring is acceptable to me, even more so since all the wiring is ultimately camouflaged by a layer of scenery.

There is also really no difference in this case between an old-fashioned DC wiring approach and a DCC friendly one, other than the insulator rail joiners on the inner rails past the frog of the points, which require additional feeder tracks.

The sidings section has additional feeders at the buffer stops which, given the short length of tracks, is most likely overkill. All the wiring follows the common colour coding of "black is at the back" (and therefore red wires to the front rails).

The wires are all hidden underneath ballast and scenic scatter material, and run to a central "access point" on each segment of the layout where the individual feeds are joined in a screw terminal to one outgoing set of black and red wire each.


These access points are enclosed by a base shaped of styropor which provides a footprint for a scenic element (a cylindrical tank on the sidings segment that was rescued from Little Bazeley Mk1, and a platelayer's hut on the headshunt segment) which both hide the screw terminal and allow access if need be.




Once the functional aspects of the track are settled, it's time to add ballast to the weathered track. And 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.

Ballasting takes time and concentration and shouldn't be rushed - which is why I always do it in segments.


I have been using Woodland Scenics ballast for decades and saw no reason to change that. Opting for the "fine" grade dark brown ballast (B71, which is usually marketed for N scale), I used highly conventional (and proven) methods for applying and securing it.

The ballast is sprinkled in small quantities (you can always go back for seconds but too much at once just creates a mess) from a small teaspoon and then straightened out using my index finger, a fine paint brush, and a toothpick. Once the required look is achieved, a mix of water and white glue (approximately mixed at a 1:1 ratio) with some added washing up liquid (which helps to break surface tension and prevent the ballast from rolling up into clumps) is slowly applied from a syringe (mine came as a spare from the vet).

Disturbing the carefully positioned ballast can further be avoided by applying the mix of glue, water and washing up liquid close to the edge of the ballast shoulder. From there it will be drawn in by its capillary force, i.e. its ability (thanks to its lower surface tension) to seep into the dry ballast material by itself.

The side of the track running along the warehouse loading dock was "masked off" with a foam insulation band, resulting in a neat and clear-cut edge of the ballasted area, enabling the loading dock to simply drop in and fit perfectly (the same technique would be applied in the case of tracks running along a platform).

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 and solid - which is why it pays to check for dislodged ballast (which can get onto the ties or cling to the sides of the rails) while everything is still wet. Also make sure to repeatedly move point blades during the drying process.


I did add a small amount of "weeds" here and there while ballasting, but overall it is easier and more of a controlled process to add overgrowth after the actual ballasting.



I had gained some initial experience with card kits on Little Bazeley Mk1, and I liked the process and the results so much that I never went back to plastic kits for structures.

My plans for the sidings at Little Bazeley Mk2 were essentially the same as for the original layout: to create a small and somewhat serene place off the beaten track but to still have some structures (as opposed to just a couple of overgrown and windswept tracks in the middle of nowhere) to visually justify some amount of freight movements.


  For the first version of Little Bazeley I had kitbashed the brewery kit from Metcalfe, but I had been admiring the low-relief factory kit from Scalescenes long before I started to think about Little Bazeley Mk2.

The look and feel of this kit was exactly what I wanted, and after some slight hesitation triggered by a few doubts regarding my card modelling skills, I decided to have a shot at building it.

Unlike traditional card kits such as Superquick and Metcalfe (which contain printed and die-cut sheets of card and are therefore practically ready for assembly), Scalescenes kits come as pdf documents which can be purchased as downloads and then need to be printed out, glued onto card, and cut out by the modeller.

It was this extra work which initially had me hesitate, although I found that with a little practice and diligence it was not as big a challenge as I had expected. And to make matters even easier, pre-cut card base layers are now available from ChrisInDen Models for many Scalescenes kits, including for the T027 low-relief factory which I used for the warehouse on the layout.

With Scalescenes kits you essentially build layered rectangular shapes and then wrap a texture "skin" over the top layer of card. This results in a more realistic, seamless finish; pre-printed die-cut card kits always show a groove and the bare card on folded edges.



The only tools needed (aside from a printer) are sheets of card in three different thicknesses, a cutting tool, a steel ruler, a cutting mat, and either glue or self-adhesive labels. I used an Xacto knife for the finer cuts and a cheap snap-blade cutter for the thicker card. Instead of glueing the texture onto the top layer card I used full page self-adhesive labels.

It is always a matter of taste, but I found the Scalescenes factory to have a far superior and realistic appearance than any other kit (both card and plastic) I know of. The textures are beautifully rendered and less uniform than other kits, and the sturdiness of the built model is amazing.

As an added bonus most Scalescenes models are available in a variety of textures; my choice for this model was London Brick, one of six different textures available.

Since Little Bazeley is a folding layout, the height of the backscene is somewhat reduced. As a result, the factory kit would have been too tall, but leaving off one storey was no problem at all.

The lack of height was compensated in width by simply adding a second kit (once you buy a Scalescenes kit it can be printed as many times as you require, which also means you can print out any part again in case of a mistake).


  The kit used builds into a low-relief model, but I wanted some depth to the building, so I assembled side walls from scratch and then cut to size and glued in place a piece of styrofoam to the back of the kit and added a roof.

Scalescenes offers a variety of individual texture sheets which come in handy for this kind of kit-bashing (the build in progress on the left is from the first kit I built as a test, with red brick texture).

The London Brick texture already had a lightly weathered look to it, but I added a little more visual tear and wear with a light dusting of dark chalk pastel in places, and then covered the finished structure off-layout with several light coats of matt spray varnish. The kit comes with a choice of parapets featuring different inscriptions; I reworked the plain stone parapet and added my own company name (a slight nod to Edgar Allan Poe as well as to Cox & Wyman of Reading, the latter printing almost all the paperbacks I read as a teenager in the late 1970s and early 1980s).
The right hand segment of the layout - the "headshunt section" for the shunting moves - also features one main structure, which essentially is there to hide the single line of track disappearing off the layout. Theatrical layout design tells us that tunnels and bridges are some of the most effective ways to accomplish that. Looking at the Scalescenes range of kits, I really liked the plate girder bridge (R012a) and its option to have a brick parapet instead of steel plates. Going for brown brick colour here, I decided to build the kit into a bridge over a very narrow rail passage and scratchbuild retaining walls to the sides, assuming that this structure had to be built at the time to safeguard the railway from a geologically unstable hillside close to the sea. Beyond the bridge, the single track is imagined to run into Little Bazeley station.

The retaining walls were a straightfoward build using weathered brown brick from the girder bridge kit and coping stones from the factory kit, on a structure built up from layers of 2mm card.

As can be seen from these pictures, all ballast and ground cover was put down prior to setting the structure onto the layout, leaving just enough clear space around the edges of the footprint of where the bridge and the retaining walls would go. It is really important - in order to prevent any warping and/or discouloring - to seal the surfaces of card kits with several coats of matt spray varnish before glueing them down and bringing the scenery right up to them.

Adding that scenery gives it all its final touch, blending the structures into the landscape rather than having them sitting on top of it. It also allows you to hide any imperfections in the build - nothing like a tree or bush to accomplish that.

Scalescenes, by the way, offers a few free kits to help familiarise yourself with the basic techniques used to build these card kits. There is also a very active community on social media, sharing pictures of their work and providing help and answers on the Scalescenes facebook group.




In terms of chronological order, we are of course now turning back the clock a bit - in fact to right after the bare baseboards have been built.

Philosophies differ on this point, but I personally prefer to put down the basic shapes and contours of the scenery ahead of any tracklaying. So after measuring out and determining where the track will go and marking it all down on the baseboard top, it's landscaping time.


  My go to material for this is expanded polystyrene, also known as styropor, which has a lower density than extruded polystyrene (styrofoam) and is a lot lighter in weight (effectively made up of 98% air), which also makes it easier to cut and sculpt with a hot wire tool.

Once those contours are cut and glued in place they are covered with a coat of plaster of Paris. Once dry, this is sealed with a liberal application of acrylic paint.

I try to use a colour for this step which corresponds roughly to the colour of the intended scenic material, making it easier to blend everything together while also preventing unwanted "colour flashes" in any area where the painted contour is not entirely covered by scenic material. It is at this point that I lay the track, and once that's been painted too, things are starting to look like something.
The parts where scenic scatter material goes are painted with diluted white glue, and the material then applied in layers: first some ground cover, followed by various bushes. Most of the material used comes from the Woodland Scenics range and is a wild mix of items marketed as ground cover, foliage, bushes, and lots more. I also make sure to mix the colours, in order to avoid an unnaturally uniform look.
The left hand segment features an area of standing brackish water. I painted the waterbed a dull murky colour, and - once the scenery along the edge of the water area was in place - used Woodland Scenics Deep Pour Water, which is a two-component product with a base and an activator.

During the mixing process, I added Woodland's "murky" water tint, and then poured the mixture, approximately half an inch (1.3 cm) deep, into the waterbed. The two-component mix looks and behaves likes resin and is completely dry and set after 24 hours.


The tone of the basic scenery on the right hand segment is that of a fairly overgrown and slightly undulating landscape,
  Apart from a very small water area the left hand side of this segment it is characterized by a lot of low bushes, brambles and undergrowth (again achieved by mixing material, mostly from the Woodland Scenics range, with wild abandon).

The character changes on the central and right hand part of the headshunt segment, with a tarmac road leading to a hardstanding (for the transfer of goods from rail to road vehicules and vice versa) and the retaining walls and the bridge over the track leading onto Little Bazeley station.

The road was presculpted from plaster during the initial contour work of the scenery, while the hardstanding is built up from sheets of plasticard; the edges are then smoothed out with air-dry modelling clay.


By being "gameboards", shunting puzzle layouts really don't require any scenicking at all - although very few railway modellers will, of course, be able to do completely without any scenery at all. It is, after all, much more pleasing to the eye, and if shunting puzzle critics point out that their operation has nothing to do with real railways, then at least the visuals can display some of that atmosphere.
Sometimes, railway modelling has more to do with nostalgia than anything else, and the "Reduce Speed" sign is definitely a point in case. This plastic injection sign came from a pack of three I bought in the mid-1980s from Beatties in London.
  Marketed at the time by Merit, those signs have a pedigree reaching back to the Tria-ang days, and I distinctly remember having one of their "Whistle" signs.

That sign was actually missing from this pack, since I had used it on one of my 1980s layouts. I was slowly getting into what I thought to be "weathering" back then, and the two remaining signs in the pack display my attempts from those days. Which is also why, at least for the moment, I refrained from adding some more convincing weathering.

And of course the price sticker has a certain whiff of nostalgia too. Beatties have not only long gone from High Holborn in London, but vanished for good.

Amazingly enough, those very same signs can still be found today (distributed by Peco) and are still made in England.
A layout depicting a seaside location will not usually need a lot of trees, given the more or less constant winds blowing in and hindering the growth of large vegetation. But since the sidings and station at Little Bazeley are imagined to be in something of a cutting, strengthened by some brick walls, a few trees seemed admissible (since they area also great props, in Theatrical layout design parlance, to break up straight viewing lines).
The trees are from a range that can generally be termed "cheap model trees from China sold on eBay". They are somewhat infamous for their overall identical appearance (which of course explains the cheap price) but also rather popular, since it is fairly easy to improve their looks.

Usually the excuse for giving these a go is the sheer number of trees needed and the cost involved if that forest were to be built with better material. In the case of Little Bazeley, I just happened to have these lying around after a curiosity purchase.

The ones I had on hand actually didn't look that bad "as is", but cutting down and painting the bark and then soaking the existing foliage with spray glue and sprinkling Woodland Scenics "blended turf / green blend" on did make them look more like individual trees and somewhat hides their origins.
Buffer stops are an important feature of railway sidings - and a great modelling item that can be used to help support the overall atmosphere of a layout. In the case of Little Bazeley, the buffer stops are somewhat worn and overgrown, which translates into "been here a while".

There is plenty of variation in terms of area and era when it comes to buffer stops, but the most common British type is built using pieces of rails. It is offered by numerous model manufacturers and thus also the type of buffer stop most frequently seen on layouts.

  The sleeper-built buffer stop is a much older type of construction to prevent rolling stock from running off the rails at the end of a siding. It seems to have originated with the Great Western in the 1850s - and is therefore singularly unprototypical for a Southern Region branch in Sussex. But since Little Bazeley is a reflection of personal preferences more than anything else, all of the layout's four buffer stops are Peco ST-270 sleeper-built ones.
The article number prefix indicates it's from the setrack range, which explains why it is moulded in one piece (the white beam is detachable). Maybe somewhat less sophisticated than Peco's SL-41 sleeper-built buffer stop (which is a kit), it is a nifty little accessory which can easily be turned into something a little more convincing.
Two or three layers of brown, black and sleeper grime paint applied by dry-brushing (where most of the paint is wiped off the brush before using it, producing thin streaks of paint that don't cover up all of what's already there) are all it takes to make the buffer stop look worn and used.

I had first experimented with Peco's sleeper-built buffer stops on a module I built in 2020 to test out a few things (seen to the right here) before starting out on Little Bazeley Mk2, where the "buffer stop situation" turned out to be a little different.

At the end of the headshunt, on the right hand segment of the layout, I placed a sleeper-built buffer stop the usual way; after some basic weathering and once the adjacent wall segments were in place, I added the usual wild mix of scenic material.

At the end of the sidings on the left hand segment, however, I found that putting down the buffer stops in their original size would take away too much from the length of the tracks - a critical factor with a shunting puzzle. Given that I had a wall in place, I simply cut down the buffer stops to size. Quite a bit.

Adding bushes and brambles growing up around the buffer stops helps to disguise just how shallow they now are.

Any commercial products mentioned here are purely bona fide indications of what I have been using myself.
I have no connection to any manufacturing companies nor do I profit from listing any products or brands.


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Page created: 30/OCT/2021
Last revised: 25/MAR/2023