WYEDALE  - OO-gauge Model Railway

General view of model railway in October 2006 - operational but nowhere near complete

Early retirement presented - the proud owner Dave - the perfect opportunity to indulge in a model railway situated in a spare bedroom. In 2004, quite out of the blue, Dave floated his idea and asked if I would provide some assistance. I was keen to help, despite the fact that it was to be largely based on Hornby OO-gauge items in Dave's possession that his son had long since outgrown; I've dabbled in OO, but mainly model in 7mm Finescale, O-gauge. 
A survey of the proposed site suggested that a 10ft by 6ft model railway layout would fit reasonably well. To ensure continued use as a bedroom the layout had to be removable, so the basic layout has been constructed on four boards that bolt together: two 6ft by 1.5ft, and two 6ft by 2ft. Having reached a decision on the site - and hence size - of the model railway, the next decisions where style of layout, the railway company and time period, and the (nominal) geographical location.

Style of layout
This presented me with the biggest headache, as I was thinking along the lines (ha!) of a two station, single track branch-line with a (nominally) concealed ability for a continuous run. However, Dave was keen to have the "works": double track main-line running, MPD, Goods Yard, etc. I'm not sure when the high-level branch station appeared on the plot. But I do recall Dave saying that he must have a canal, not long after I managed to conjure-up a scheme with all of the features he previously desired.
In summary, it's been somewhat of an exercise in fitting a quart into a pint pot as the brief for the design left nothing out, in railway modelling terms!!!!! Undoubtedly compromises had to be reached, however the layout's main features are...

Double track main-line;
4-track through station with 6-coach train capacity;
MPD with turntable;
Goods Shed;
Goods yard/sidings;
Hidden train storage;
Tunnels & bridges;
High level branch;
Reverse loop

... not to mention some seriously sexy point-work, and a canal and small village at the lowest level.

Initial design with high-level area shaded green - reverse loop in orange

The above schematic was developed featuring a two island platform main-line station (bottom), Motive Power Depot (MPD) with turntable (right), Goods Yard (top left) and high-level branch station with a Bay platform (top right); having a branch terminus (at high level), I decided to incorporate a reverse loop allowing 'out and back' operation of branch trains. The fact that the reverse loop impacted on the (proposed) operating area opened the flood-gate, so as to speak, as this 3ft by 6ft area in the centre of the layout is now occupied by three 3ft by 2 ft scenic boards. Much more on these scenic boards later!
For a less cluttered view of the initial design, click here to view the low level, and here to view the high level - displayed in separate browser windows.
Railway Company and Era
These decisions were in many ways determined by the locomotives and rolling stock in Dave's possession. They were a somewhat eclectic mixed of steam and diesel with a bias towards the LMS. The decision to concentrate on the LMS was reinforced by the choice of nominal location for the model railway of the Midlands. The time period is the modeller's classic, a pretty flexible late LMS to early BR where the trains are primarily steam-hauled.
The (model) railway's geographical location
Several factors came together in a rather spooky way to determine the location and also a name for the model railway layout. Principally, my suggestion that an over-bridge, or short viaduct, be modelled to carry the reverse-loop track-work led to a global lowering of level of the three central scenic boards. This aided the incorporation of a lock on the canal, complete with a change of water level either side. Whilst all the central scenic boards are the same depth the ground levels were built-up on the middle and right-hand boards. Thus allowing a good height (a scale 25ft approx) for the railway viaduct on the left-most scenic board; the reverse-loop track-work being at the same level as the main boards.

Small viaduct carrying the reverse-loop is right of centre

I've included the above photo (taken Oct 2009 - 5yrs into the project) at this point as it gives an impression of the overall depth of the landscape modelled with the canal basin (centre of the photo, & lacking water) being the lowest portion, and the rock cliff, at far right, being one of the highest points giving around a scale 75ft difference in height. It was also around this time that the name and the location of the layout was (finally) decided upon.
We had essentially modelled a gorge with a water-way, a viaduct carrying a railway across it, and the whole immediate area rather full of railway. A quick bit of Googling resulted in a near-perfect match of our totally fictitious creation to a real location in the (White) Peak District of Derbyshire known as Wyedale. Two constituent railway companies of the LMS made in-roads into the general area to serve the towns of Buxton and Matlock, these were the London & North Western Railway Co. (LNWR) and the Midland Railway Co. (MR). Together their lines (eventually) provided a central route from London (St Pancras) to the northwest via the Peak Forest. This route north was down-graded as the LMS further developed what has become to be known as the West Coast Main-line (WCML). For the purposes of the model railway it is assumed that a diversion is in operation such that Duchess-hauled expresses are routed through its principal station at Millers Dale.

Before going any further, it's time for a break to run some trains...


All baseboards are made from plywood in a fairly traditional manner with the top surface supported by a central spine with cross-braces every 12 inches. The exception to this style of construction are the central scenic boards. 

The above photo shows the legs (with diagonal bracing) that are fitted to both ends, and together support the whole layout; the diagonal braces make for a remarkably solid structure, overall. The central scenic boards are reinforced, underneath, with lengths of 15mm timber. Note short lengths of 15mm timber used to strengthen all joints including those on the scenic boards.
With the four main boards assembled and standing on their own legs, it was time to translate the paper design into actual trackwork. The significant compromise has been the use of Hornby points as well as PECOs and some fairly tight radii, as by rights the trackwork ought to occupy at least twice the space. Fortuitously, Dave had acquired quite a lot of Hornby track and points from various sources, and much use was made of various sections of Hornby track to ensure there were no absolutely ridiculous radius curves; in the majority of instances, once the position had been determined, the Hornby track was replaced by PECO flexible track; thus achieving a smoother flow and better alignment.

Station Approach trackwork - Hornby points identifiable by their surface-mounted motor

The whole design for the model railway hinged on whether the station approach trackwork would be practical. Very quickly it became apparent that Hornby curved points would have to be used due to the tight radii required. The alternative of having more of the point-work on the station board resulted in a severe shortening of the platforms, and hence reducing the length of trains that could be accommodated. 
The first real casualty of the design was the platform for the branch train along the outer edge of the station board - just not enough baseboard width without making the main island platforms ridiculously narrow. A PECO 'Y' point was employed to provide the necessary, increased track-separation for an island platform.
Note in the above photo the use of Hornby track sections for determining the position of the turntable. This led to the second design casualty, a direct path across the turntable to a siding or the Loco Shed was not possible! This fact has presented no operational problems whatsoever.

Modeller's note: Without exception, we've had to modify the Hornby curved points to make the check-rails work for modern OO wheel-sets. 

The above photo shows the greater proportion of the trackwork in place; the notable exception being the junction of the reverse loop and the main lines:-

The junction point-work is on the left towards top of photo

This junction point-work was again somewhat of a compromise in that Hornby points and diamond-crossing had to be used, although needing to be attacked with the razor-saw to fit the space and achieve a reasonable look! Space for the Goods sidings and Marshalling Yard was always a problem and proved to be the one area where the design was in error. Some major juggling was necessary to ensure the reverse loop was as compact as possible, and this aspect impacted on the space available for the Yard. Nevertheless, we managed to squeeze-in a useful size run-round loop and three sidings. The goods head-shunt is completely hidden by the high-level boards, and therefore includes a diode-controlled dead section for safety.

It must be time to run some more trains!?...

High Level Branch
Access to and from the branch is by a rising line with a gradient of 1 in 30, which all locos manage, with a six-coach load, with hardly any difficulty. The high level branch is spread over two additional, oddly shaped baseboards of rather unconventional construction, somewhat reliant on the ballasted track for their strength. All of the branch trackwork is contained on these two baseboards and features a main platform loco release run-round loop, and ample run-round for handling goods train. The branch has been designed to accommodate a Duchess-hauled (six-coach) excursion train, as well as more typical branch passenger services. The Bay Platform can accommodate trains of up to three coaches.

General view of the high-level branch terminus: Topley

Control Panel 2 can be seen in the above photo, which has rather limited control, primarily over the branch and the goods yard. The controller can also be used to operate the MPD. Note this control panel and the main control panel are mounted on sliders so they can be pushed-in, out of the way. See 'Electrics' for (cab) control of trains between the branch and the main lines.

The layout is wired as 'Cab Control' allowing overlapping control from the three power controllers, which are nominally designated 'Outer Main Line', 'Inner Main Line' and 'Branch / Goods Yard'. This arrangement permits up to three trains to run at the same time, and for continuous movement of trains across main lines, as well up and down the branch. The only exception to this is the reverse loop, where a train needs to stop to allow switching of the controller polarity (as fed to the track section) prior to moving out of the loop.
All point-work is electrically operated by touching (to make an electrical contact) a wand onto studs positioned close to the point on the track-plan, on the control panels; points forming a cross-over operate as a pair from a single set of studs. The junction point-work, where a train from the inner main line enters the loop, or a train on the loop joins the outer main line, has the single-line point automatically set according to how the points on the main-lines are set.
Electrical (isolation) breaks are marked on the control panel track-plans and the electrical sections have their change-over (between controllers), or isolating, switches positioned centrally on the electrical section, as drawn. All switches providing a change of controller, for an electrical section of trackwork, are of the centre-off type, thereby allowing total isolation of a section.

Near final version of the electrics - MPD isolated sections not shown

In the above diagram, electrical breaks are shown in red; most of these coincide with the mechanical breaks in the rails between base-boards. The egg-timer symbols represent the electrical feeds, the majority are fed from control panel switches, the remainder are simply jumpered across the base-board break courtesy of the multi-way plugs and sockets.
The MPD includes a thinly disguised Hornby motorised turntable, which is controlled from either control panel by a sprung centre-off switch. These switches are double-pole, double-throw types wired to give directional control of the rotation of the bridge. As well as mechanical modifications to the turntable, there are permanent (separate) electrical feeds to the bridge and surrounding trackwork.
It became obvious once trains were run, following the near completion of the electrics, that selective pick-up and put-down of mailbags (from the mail train) would be ideal. Instead of using Hornby's operating ramps, a scheme was devised using PECO point motors as the basis to raise and lower ramps to actuate the mechanism inside the TPO vans. This scheme works extremely well despite being quite difficult to fabricate and get working, initially. Two levers on Control Panel 1 operate the picking-up and putting-down of the mailbags by the TPO vans; there's an opportunity here for someone to devise a scheme to re-load the trackside mailbag pick-up hook, but at least it's possible with the current set-up to put-down the mailbags from all three TPO vans (in the mail train) in one pass.

An early decision was to have colour-light signals on the layout. A rough head-count of the number of signals required quickly led to scratch-building these from plastic and the use of coloured LEDs to save on power consumption. Because of the nominal time-period of the layout, modelling license was liberally applied and a form of prototype railway colour light signals have been modelled. Rather than have separate switches to operate the colour lights, on the control panels, I devised a scheme whereby the lights would operate automatically, dependent on how a route was set. Principally, the primary control for the signals is the power (for the train) feeding the track; where a point determines the route a train will take, the control for the signal is taken from beyond the point, in the direction of running. This feature provides the operators with a visual indication of whether they've set the route (power & point -wise) for the train correctly, or not. (Sadly this is not as foolproof as you might think, despite the fact that the lights change at a slightly lower controller setting than that required for trains to move.)

Time to let the brain cool-down (that's if you haven't skip the electrics) and watch some trains...

The scenery has presented some of the biggest constructional nightmares. One would think that with a pretty small space available it would be quick and easy. It's most definitely not the case if you desire to have an element or two of realism - accepting that as far as model railways are generally concerned it's (again) an exercise in squeezing a quart into a pint pot. The fact that the three small boards that fill the centre of the layout are separate was a mixed blessing. Working on a small board is much easier, but blending the boards together, to hide as much as possible the joints between, is almost an impossibility; especially as regards to waterways, roadways, tracks and paths - fields are bad enough.
The basic materials used for the scenery were expanded polystyrene blocks & sheets, ash, sand, sawdust and lots and lots of PVA wood glue - neat & diluted. The principal technique employed was to sculpt (using a bread-saw) the essential shape in expanded polystyrene and to this apply a liberal covering of an ash and diluted PVA mix; some sand was added to the mix for bulk, where needed. Sawdust mixed with diluted PVA was used for tracks and paths, and when dry roughly sanded to produce an even surface. Final finishing of the landscape was achieved using fine, medium and coarse (pre-coloured) scatter material - chiefly the lighter greens - again fixed in-situ with diluted PVA.

Scenery - nearest board in the initial stage

The potential for landscaping and for the positions of buildings was very much dictated by the lower level of the scenic boards and the waterways. A diagonal route for the canal running between tunnels appeared the best option for including a basin with boat works at one end (right foreground in above photo), and a mill with pond towards the other end:-

Litton Mill with Wyedale Parish church beyond - scenery fairly well advanced

The change in water level either side of the lock was somewhat of a bonus in that it allowed the surrounding higher land to appear less severe above the lock. The above photo was taken shortly after adding the model water to the canal. This particular type of model water is supplied in granular form to be heated to become liquid and poured into place; in truth it sets a little too quickly and quite a bit of tweaking was required using a hot-air gun - not the ideal tool to be used in proximity to plastic and expanded polystyrene.

Twin Victorian cast-iron footbridges over canal and entrance to basin

I've included the above photo as it shows the early stage of setting the footbridges in position; the object of the bridges being to deflect the eye from the joints in the water, at the board edges. It may be apparent in the above photo that the meeting of the bridges is spread across two boards, this needed a lot of work to achieve. Also of note, in the above photo, is the depth of the model water, a scale 18 inches! It doesn't need to be this deep to achieve the effect, it's just that the basic canal banks where constructed of strips of 6mm balsawood, and it was desired to have the water overlapping in places.

And finally...
Here's some more recent (although rather poorly lit) photos of the pretty nearly complete model railway and scenery:-

Wyedale village centre across the canal with Millers Dale station beyond

General view of Wyedale with Litton Mill and parish church in foreground

It's worth making a quick comparison of this photo with the similar angle shot of mill & church (above) taken in 2010

View up the canal with Great Longstone Signal Box & Goods Yard in foreground

The tunnel in the cliff (in truth a bit of an afterthought) is the only way in & out of Wyedale other than by canal -
of course there's the railway but it's a fair walk & climb from the nearest stations at Millers Dale & Topley

This final photo of Millers Dale station shows that maintenance is needed from time to time -
the roof-ends on the nearest station building have come unglued. Notice no expense was spared in station lighting!

Train services & operation - section to be added

One could ask what's left to do!? The answer is quite a lot, believe or not. For one thing all the hedgerows, disguising the baseboard joints between the main layout and the scenic boards, require a fair bit of work to make them look more convincing.

Page under construction 30th Oct 2012 - probably take just as long as the model railway has!