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.


Weymouth MRA Exhibition

Back in 2014, this is where it all began.

The layout was built in time for the Weymouth exhibition and now we’re back for our fourth show as we celebrate our third anniversary.

Of course the layout has changed somewhat since 2014 and grown in size, there have also been a considerable amount of modifications over the summer.

The turntable was operated for the first time using the mechanical latch mechanism, this proved reasonably reliable on the first day but became troublesome on the second day, further tweaks to the design of the latching pin are needed and it should work perfectly once this is done. Better still is that the turntable now looks almost completely stock.

The LED yard lights are another addition over the summer and proved much brighter than the previous grain of wheat bulbs.

The refurbished EMU made its first appearance and ran successfully with the MLV all weekend without substitutions being needed. There is a speed difference between the two units but at Warley we won’t be running the Bachmann units.

Looking from the right hand side, the new lights can clearly be seen.

The EMU trundles happily along to the main station.

Another good view of the lights!

The level crossing finally has the correct inserts, no more risk of cars getting stuck if they try to cross!

The coal train, with added coal.

The recycling wagons, with added recycling.

The coal adds a little weight to the wagons but the two 0-6-2 tanks still coped with ease.

Peeking into the engine shed.

A better view of the coal wagons.

Arty view of the turntable sidings, even the signals worked properly this time!

Busy station.

EMU waits to depart, while a Co-Bo hauls the Pullmans on the outer loop.

GWR 0-6-2 and LMS 2-6-4 (Wrenn body)

69565 and 69566 once again being used to haul the coal train. These are a good speed match and ran together faultlessly.

The other non-visible major modification was the total rewire of the rear boards, all worked without any issues and with greater flexibility to park up two complete trains in each of the inner and outer sidings. This means that more stock can be put out when we do larger shows.

No locomotive failures once again, the only work required before our next show is to modify the turntable latch, which is already in progress.

Hopefully by the time we get to Wincanton, everything will be running perfectly, just in time for Warley!

Still tweaking the turntable

I decided that I wasn’t happy with the indexing of the turntable and have spent much of our downtime this summer trying to engineer a solution that works.

The infrared sensor worked reasonably well but the turntable didn’t always line up properly. Basically the slits in the edge of the turntable that were originally designed for the latch are just a little to large and despite numerous attempts, I just can’t resolve the issue.

So back to the drawing board and came up with plan A – solenoid, latch and infrared  sensor.

So the idea here was to file a slot in the original latch, attach the wire and link to the solenoid. The solenoid would pull the latch and the turntable would operate exactly like a standard one using the original mechanism. The infrared sensor was retained and moved the other end of the solenoid, working on the same design as before ie once the beam is detected, turntable stops and cycle complete. It also meant some additional components were needed to operate the solenoid and  a re-write of the program, also allowing a short delay for the solenoid to operate before moving the turntable.

The theory was good, the reality not so good. There just isn’t enough clearance under the board to mount this effectively. We’re this a loft layout then this would have worked a charm but it was not to be.

So the infrared was reinstalled while I worked on plan B – latching pin mounted under the turntable.

So we’re using the same solenoid but with an extra latching pin, fabricated from a smaller, damaged solenoid. This sits underneath the turntable and uses the same position as the original latch but from the underside. The original latch was modified and the original indexing pin filed away, this allows the new pin to index from the underside while retaining the original appearance.

The infrared is gone, replaced by a microswitch mounted so that the actuator arm rests on the back of the solenoid shaft. Once the pin drops through the turntable slots, the microswitch makes contact, ending the cycle.

And rather unbelievably, this actually works! Quite a reassuring clunk from the mechanism when it releases and engages but the indexing is now almost spot on in both directions. Some fine tweaking will probably be needed during our next outing but plenty of opportunity to test and adjust before the big Warley show.

Garden shed engineering that works!

Warley – 60 days to go!

The excitement is building!

This week the exhibitor’s pack has arrived, which means this is really happening – we’re doing Warley!!!


Work continues to get the layout as near to perfect as possible. This week, work to rewire the rear boards. Three of the four are now completed but of course can’t be properly tested until all four are done.


On the front of the layout, we’ve swapped over the emitter & receiver for the turntable sensor. Previously the receiver was underneath and prone to interference from direct sunlight. This won’t be a problem at Warley but has caused a few issues throughout the year, so it makes sense to correct it during the three month downtime period.


The yard lights have also been updated. I mistakenly ordered grain of wheat bulb versions, which would be ok if they were the only lights within the layout but as all the rest are LED, I decided to replace them with the LED version. For now only the first front board has been completed, next week I aim to have the yard lights replaced in the second board and reconfigure the points switches. I also hope to have completed the rewiring of the rear sections.


We’re also now back to five lights in the turntable section after I managed to wire one of the original grain of wheat lamps without the resistor. If you’re thinking of installing 6 volt lamps on a 12 volt supply, don’t expect them to last very long – the puff of smoke was quite impressive!

Lack of updates

Since exhibiting at Churston, there’s been a lot of work going on as we take advantage of the three month break.

Four projects were started, of which currently one is completely finished. The others I’ll provide updates on in due course but this is why there have been few updates here, as my time is spent making sure that everything is perfect in time for the big show at Warley.

So this rather sick looking EMU motor car arrived:

This time I’m going to try and re-create the green EMU. The rust is quite advanced…

The paintwork is quite badly damaged so the only option is to strip to bare metal…

After a heavy session with the wire brush…

It was then ready for primer…

The original graphics were re-drawn for the green version. Printed, stuck and lacquered…

These arrived from Ebay, broken roofs and scruffy sides but excellent chassis!

Luckily I had a spare motor coach body, so one motor coach has been turned into a trailer coach and the other restored to a motor coach to give me a two car set for minimal cost!

Next job is to three rail it.

Further details on the other projects will appear here shortly.