Wimborne vs the beast from the East!

So we found ourselves back at Queen Elizabeth’s School in Wimborne again.

After a chilly setup on Saturday, the layout once again went together without issue or fault.

The Beyer Garratt appeared once again, spending most of the first day happily trundling along with the coal train and on the second day it was allowed to rest a little while the other three sidings were put to use. We also encountered an issue with the valve gear jamming at one end of the Garrett so this had to be resolved.

Saturday night brought fresh falls of snow and after a slippery journey to the show, the decision was taken to close early as visitors had mostly decided not to venture outside. Before we packed down, I put all of the SR EMUs together to form a 14 coach rake, which looked quite impressive!

So we ended up finishing earlier than expected but still came away with more potential bookings, we were also kept fed & watered, another sign of a great exhibition!

Never done an exhibition in snow before.

Our next outing is at the end of April, time to service the locos ready for a four day outing at Abbey Hill.


Milton Keynes

February saw us on our travels again, this time all the way up to Milton Keynes for their one-day exhibition. After a lengthy Friday afternoon drive, we setup at our leisure and then retired to our hotel.

Once again we were very well received, and in the company of another three rail layout and members of the HRCA. We were kept busy all day.

Once again, we met people who had seen our layout on the internet, either via this site or the YouTube videos and knew all about us!

The layout again ran really well, with no major hiccups. A few pieces of worn track were replaced during the show but that didn’t stop us from running.

The turntable continues to run without fault, good really considering the amount of time and effort that has gone into it.

I also collected this, my latest treasured possession – the Beyer Garratt, produced by Jodel models and custom built to order.

With the two creators on hand, it seemed only fair to try and get a double header going…

And why have two when you can have four?!

So that’s roughly £2000 worth of locos sat on my upper loop!

Huge thanks to John Bann & Derek Smith for producing the loco for us, and for lending us the additions for the photo.

Thanks also to the organisers of the exhibition for their hospitality, feeding us and finding us a nice hotel!

We received a few enquiries to attend other shows in the area so we may return some day…

Reflections on 2017

It’s been a busy 2017!

With the Warley exhibition in mind, we always knew that we’d need to pull out all the stops and resolve all those little niggles before our biggest ever show.

At the start of the year, I racked out the trailer ready for our first show and soon realised that there was potentially room to extend the layout, and having worked out how to automate the crossing gates I also realised that there would be no room within the existing boards to mount the crossing so the centrepiece of the new extension would be the automated crossing.

After two shows we were modifying the new extension already, thanks to the donation of a goods depot (thanks Tony!) which meant ripping up track and ballast that was barely dry!

With the layout now extended to 21ft, we originally planned that the extension would be optional so the remaining boards and extension piece had to be designed to operate with or with out the 5ft extension boards. However now that we’re used to exhibiting at this length, we’ve decided that the layout won’t be offered in its original 16ft form in future.

As the layout grew, attention turned to the fiddle yard. Previously a couple of the sidings had been modified to allow parking of two trains on some sidings by adding switches and relays, with the layout now longer there was plenty of space to do this on each of the sidings both inner and outer. But there wasn’t sufficient space within the 37 pin board connectors to allow this. When first wired there were no electric points in the fiddle yard and as these have been replaced, along with additional sidings and the upper section, wiring has been added and added to the point that it no longer made logical sense and the diagrams were impossible to follow. The best option was to strip all the wiring from the rear sections and rewire from scratch using a proper wiring chart to ensure that each board is wired the same way. Much easier for fault diagnosis and with the wiring streamlined and duplicates removed, it was just possible within the 37 pin connectors to accommodate all the additional isolators for the sidings.

This then meant that the control panel had to be modified. Having already been adapted to reflect the additional extension, it would now need even more switches, more holes and another re-design of the panel graphics. Realistically the only option was to replace the front panel and start from scratch. Another long and time-consuming job.

A good opportunity while rewiring the rear sections to take a closer look at some of the points in the fiddle yard, some work well while others don’t. Most now work reasonably well but some have a habit of switching back when the train passes over them, I have a potential solution by using servo controls which I’ll explore further next year.

The turntable project continued this year, culminating in replacing the light sensor, firstly for an infrared detector and then finally to a solenoid and microswitch operation. All of the Arduino based projects have required some form of tweaking or another before they settle into reliable operation and the turntable was no exception but now finally operates as intended, and with a design that it almost invisible!

Warley is now a distant memory, over in a flash after so much excitement and so much time & effort preparing. An ambition realised and a great success.

Rolling stock wise, I continue to restore and modify as and when items arrive. In recent weeks I’ve parted company with a number of locomotives as we attempt to fund the purchase of a Beyer Garratt locomotive. Both the prototype version and the final version of the Gordon Highlander Deltics have been sold, both making a profit. Duchess of Abercorn, which features on the front of this site has also gone to a new home while another Abercorn is currently in production to replace the one just sold. My home-restored City of Liverpool and 0-6-2 tank engine 9597 have also found new homes. Sad to see these go but ultimately it will be worth the pain!

As for 2018, well we already have a number of exhibitions lined up which will keep us busy. There isn’t a massive to do list this time as we addressed all the issues that were apparent in the run up to Warley!

Expect some updates on 3D printing in the new year, and keep looking in to see if we can reach our goal of purchasing the  Garratt!

With just a few days remaining of 2017, it’s time to say the usual thank you’s to the many exhibition organisers for hosting us again this year. Thanks also to everyone that took time out to come and see us & chat with us. The many people who follow this site, the Facebook page and the YouTube channel – there will be more to come next year, but I’m not quite sure how we’re going to top 2017!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Revisiting the 2017 checklist

So at the start of the year, I posted my aims for this year and listed 10 items that I was looking to achieve this year…

1. Finish wiring the top loop rear section (points at the far end need to be wired)

Completed, all points now operate correctly.

2. Repair & rewire the rear fiddle yard to include the isolated sections that never worked previously, the dead-short on one of the inner sidings and several pairs of non-operational points.

Completed, entire rear section rewired from scratch as part of the extension project.

3. Relocate the board connectors and utilise the patch leads that I made last year. (leftover from last year’s list)

Completed, all sections now connect via patch leads.

4. Install the Arduino signal aspect controller.

Completed, but only after several modifications to the design!

5. Replace & repaint the back scene.

Completed, entire back scene replaced during extension work.

6. Expand the layout by adding an optional 5ft extension.


7. Automate the gates of a single road level crossing using servos and Arduino.

Completed and installed in extension section.

8. Reorganise and correctly label the stock boxes.


9. Clear the desk of restoration projects intended for sale, and then sell them.

Completed, surplus stock sold.

10. Ensure that everything is ready for Warley in November.



Quite a successful year I reckon.



We came… We  saw… We played trains…

The one we’ve been planning for so long – two years ago we started to get excited as we received confirmation of our attendance at Warley 2017 and this year has been all about getting the extension added and all those other little minor issues that we never got around to correcting finally sorted.

Although normally a crew of two, this time there were three of us just in case things got busy.

After a long journey to the Midlands (the furthest we’ve been so far) we were marshalled with near-military precision into hall 5 of the NEC and managed to park the trailer right next to our pitch, making this the easiest setup we’ve ever had!

Having arrived on Friday afternoon, we had a leisurely setup and plenty of time to test everything. A bent rail was discovered on one of the boards, most likely this happened when we loaded the trailer after the Wincanton show (probably not related to the 180 mile drive!) and even after straightening with pliers, it became obvious during the Friday test session that there was still a problem, so the offending track was replaced.

In the weeks leading up to Warley, much work has been carried out to the layout, tidying wiring on the rear boards (totally rewired) fixing points that didn’t work and restoring more rolling stock so that we could run stupidly long trains along the upper loop. All worked without fault. On the shuttle, the Bachmann and Hornby units were left in the stock boxes, leaving the shuttle running exclusively to the recently restored Green EMU and the Lima Railcar. Okay so the Lima has no place on the layout really but, like the EMU, both ran alternately for over 8 hours on both days. Not bad really.

Casualty wise, mercifully there was only one, Canadian Pacificic ground to a halt and as we were busy chatting, we didn’t spot it. The aroma of burnt lacquer from the cab would suggest that the armature is cooked but I’ll explore later and rewind if needed.

The two 0-6-2 tanks that traditionally hauled the coal wagons (recently replaced by two Deltics) found new work hauling a rake of thirteen blood & custard coaches, a job they managed with ease.

The turntable performed well, a few sticking issues at times but a lot of interest, along with the level crossing gates.

At this show, we met people who have been regular viewers of this site and the Youtube videos. It’s the first time I’ve experienced meeting people who have never seen our layout before but know all about it. And as for the saying “never meet your heroes…” well our hero is the legend that is Ron Dodd, famous throughout the hobby and Youtube for his many videos and his superb layout. Not only did we get an invite to come and see his layout, he also photographed ours, and even let us pose for a selfie. What a nice man!!!

We were kept busy for the entirety of the two day show, lots of interest and several requests to attend shows elsewhere. In no time at all though the show was over and it was time to pack down and drive home. Months and months of hard work and all over in a flash!

If you ever get an opportunity to exhibit at Warley, do it! – I’ve just had one of the best weekends of my life. Superb accommodation, great food, amazing atmosphere and very well managed – I can’t wait to go back again!!!

There are plenty of pictures to be uploaded, which I’ll put into a Warley gallery. Video footage will also follow once uploaded and edited.

We are very grateful to everyone involved with the Warley model railway club for their assistance & professionalism, a nod also the staff of the NEC who kept us suitably fed and watered (and even sorted those horrible lights out!)

This brings to an end our 2017 exhibition diary – and what a way to end. Time to chill out (and repair Canadian Pacific!)


‘Twas the night before Warley…

Many years ago, I came to Wareley and looked on in awe of the Hornby Dublo loose-laid layout and would look at my own simple layout, on boards with its shabby locos and rusty rolling stock thinking  that I could never compete, let alone exhibit at such a large show.

BUT… We’ve done it! – we’re actually here at Warley all set up and ready for the weekend.

Many hours have gone  into trying to ensure that layout is the best it can possibly be, even yesterday coaches were being restored in readiness for this weekend.

its been almost two years since we received confirmation and suddenly now it’s a reality. So here goes with our biggest show to date…

Wincanton Model Railway Exhibition

The first ever show at Wincanton, and our final chance to get everything ready for our big trip to the Midlands. Our final “Warley warm-up” was a great opportunity to fully test all of the recent repairs and modifications to get the layout as perfect as possible.

The isolators for the fiddle yard all now work, both inner and outer, which frees up space for more trains to be stored.

Double heading on the top loop. All the points now operate correctly and with the redesigned control panel, operation is both simple and reliable.

The goods wagons ran without fault, thanks to the insertion of tiny neo magnets in each coupling.

The LED yard lights with their yellow sleeves create a perfect ambience.

The goods depot is more of a diorama but with added swarf and some cut-down coffee stirrers, looks very effective. Both shunters run but look more effective here, plus the shunters aren’t renowned for their pulling power.

All the roads from the turntable now work, whereas previously only a couple could be used. The indexing is also now perfect. More on that in a bit.

The green EMU, another restoration using vinyls looks brilliant operating along the shuttle and runs really well. The modifications needed to make this work on the shuttle are invisible.

Twin Co-Bo’s, a sight not seen for some time as one had been stripped for spares to maintain other locos and EMUs. After an extensive rebuild and rewire these run without fault. Also making a reappearance were the maroon sleeper coaches, these were heavily modified as they’ve never actually run properly, thanks to their pivoting bogies, all of which have been replaced with the more reliable, fixed version.

Up until this weekend, the coal wagons have been hauled by the 0-6-2 tank and engines, usually 69565 and 69566, however it became clear that the recent addition of the coal to each wagon has added extra weight, and the little tank engines were starting to struggle. No point risking burning out two treasured locos, so with so many Deltics available, St Paddy & Crepello have taken over these duties. One Deltic could haul this rake but why not have two?!

Ludlow Castle has probably been the most troublesome Castle of all but following recent work has now settled into reliable operation and saw plenty of use.

The back scene, replaced in its entirety when we upgraded to 21ft, looks much cleaner and tidier and the layout is about as perfect looking as we can make it!

And finally, the business side of the turntable!

I’ve tried light sensors and infrared and while both worked reasonably well, there were still times where the bridge didn’t quite line up and locos derailed. Not a good look at a large event, so many hours have gone into designing a latch mechanism that could also incorporate a microswitch. The Arduino had to be reprogrammed to allow for the operation of the solenoid, and to allow time for the solenoid to activate before trying to move the bridge. The latest version was only finished with less than a week to spare and worked perfectly.

It also means the the original latch can be refitted and with the latch filed down so that it’ll never engage from above, creates a near-invisible modification.

Thankfully any locomotives that failed were repaired on site, meaning just a fe requiring minor servicing before the main event. The good news is that there are no further layout modifications required. Everything has worked as planned!

in less than two weeks, we’ll see if all this hard work and expense has been worth it.

With thanks to Steve Rodd and the organisers of the Wincanton show.