The auto train in platform 3 has just received a clear road from the branch starter signal - one of the new Dapol range of working signals
Hain and Westrym
Hain and Westrym is yet another GWR layout set in the 1950/60 era (Oh no, not again! – I can hear some of you cry – but I did actually work for British Rail Western Region at Bristol Temple Meads station briefly in my youth at that time – so what else could it be but ‘Great Western’! ) As well as offering a wide variety of interesting operations, it features some unusual/interesting constructional, scenic and electronic analogue control features, described later.
Westrym is an imaginary small market town on the Cornish mainline somewhere just to the west of the Devon/Cornwall border, a typical small country junction station, with a branch line, goods yard and a very small loco depot. The era is late 1950’s/early 1960’s, when diesels started to appear, but GWR colours still flourished. The place names are ficticious.
The station has the expected shortish platforms with 2 main running lines and a branch platform, with connections to the up and down lines and to the usual goods facilities and a small loco depot. The single track branch climbs fairly steeply to Hain a small village with a typical GWR ‘Pagoda’ halt, disappearing ‘off-stage’ into a tunnel representing the rest of the branch-line to the coast - which acts as a storage road for either a ‘B set’ – usually hauled by a small ‘prairie’ or an ‘auto train’ hauled by a ‘push-pull’ fitted pannier tank, or occasionally a 2 car DMU.
Aims of the layout
This present layout - almost certainly my last (sadly I have a terminal brain disease), was designed to be suitable for both youngsters to use and also my more sophisticated railway friends, many of whom have their own layouts and stock.
It is actually my 15th ‘proper’ layout (i.e. not
including many other brief forays/experiments) and was to be ‘00’ - right back where I started over 60 years ago. A brief history of the previous 14, together with
several track plans, some pics and links to those which have websites, can be
found elsewhere on this website by following this link.
Having now been constructing layouts large and small for over 6 decades - from ‘N’ ‘009’ ‘00’ and 16mm live steam outdoor narrow gauge - I have come full circle having started with ‘00’ in my teens in the late 1950’s.
I had already on medical advice dismantled and sold off my final garden railway – click here for the link - and recouped a considerable amount of money from the sale, which was set aside for a possible final venture.
I was especially impressed with the quality and performance of models available today in most of the major scales, but horrified with the huge prices being asked for. ‘N’ gauge was rejected due to my failing eyesight and ‘0’ gauge because of insufficient space and huge cost of r.t.r. locos and stock, so it was back to ‘00’
Manufacturers please note – not all of us want DCC fitted/ready locos. Analogue still has many advantages. It would be good if more locos could be made available without DCC provision at a lower price.
I am not a ‘rivet counter’ but I do try to achieve a good and uniform standard of modelling, a well-constructed and pleasing layout which operates well, giving a reasonable impression of the era and geographical area modelled, but I have really struggled at times with the construction and painting of models for this current layout as my close vision is now becoming quite poor due to cataracts in both eyes.
Planning of the layout
A compact layout in the garage was then planned set rather higher than is usual, with the viewing height just below eye level, utilising the latest stock and points with their much finer wheels and clearances. An outline track-plan was also sketched out, together with section breaks and track feeds.
Code 100 was chosen, as my close vision was deteriorating quite seriously and 'insulfrog' points, as I wanted very simple wiring and hand operated points.
The controllers would be as usual of my own (analogue) design. The controls had to be simple enough to be operated by a child - my youngest grand-daughter was at that time only 4, and couldn’t wait to be operating the trains.
A plan of the baseboards was also prepared with the actual base-boards to be 6mm sheets of 'MDF' each approx. 32” x 16” on a timber frame. The baseboard frame was 32” wide along one wall for the main station and town area and 16” wide along the other 3 sides, with some infill triangular pieces on some corners
This of a slightly unorthodox design. With the exception of the 2 lift-out sections, the outer and inner frames and cross bracing timbers were all 1½ “ x ¾ “ softwood, with the outside timbers supported on brackets screwed directly to the garage walls and the inner ones supported on (unusually!) moveable legs – this was done so that a leg could be slid sideways to be clear of electrical or mechanical work required under the base-boards. Initially only a few temporary cross-members would be installed to keep everything square and rigid. The permanent ones would only be added after installing all under the baseboard linkages and wiring.
Careful consideration of the gradients had to be made whilst designing and constructing the frames. A separate higher level base-board frame (using lighter section timber) would be constructed on top of the main frame, ensuring sufficient headroom for and access to trains below. The exact length and width of the frames would be determined so as to involve as little cutting of the 'MDF' as possible – yes I do wear a mask!
Construction of the layout
The frames were constructed as described, but there was also access into the garage from both ends to take into account - the main garage door (roller type) and a standard door into the house at the other end.
To cater for this, 2 lift-out sections were designed, which rest on ledges protruding from the adjacent boards, but so far have not needed taking out as everyone seems able to duck under - even my friends and grandsons who are well over 6'!
Before proceeding any further the platforms (Ratio) were made up (but not painted at this stage), as they would be crucial in getting track clearances right.
A good supply of 'Peco' code 100 point templates were downloaded to enable types and positions of the points to be ascertained. I have a fondness for curved points for crossovers, and used a good number.
Despite the compactness of the layout, I was able to use entirely large or medium radius points on the main lines and only had to use a couple of small radius points in the goods yard.
The curves on the main-line were all kept to 4' radius or more and the branch-line to 3' 6” or more. The gradient on the branch was kept to 1 in 40 or less. Apart from the station area and the hidden storage roads under the branch line, which are level, both north and south approaches to Westrym station are uphill with gradients of 1 in 50 or less.
The correct points together with adequate track, joiners, insulated joiners and buffer stops were all ordered from my usual very efficient discount retailer. A decision was also made to use the splendid ‘Woodlands scenic’ shaped underlay, so I ordered some rolls of that too.
All the points were temporarily laid to check things actually fitted, then fishplates put in and connected with each other and plain track. The electrics had already been worked out and the track feeds put in together with insulated fishplates where needed – all track feeds are soldered to the underside of the joiners – I hate unsightly blobs of solder on the sides of a rail. All was then connected up to the control panel – rather a misnomer, in fact actually a small box about 9” x 4”. Virtually all the isolation was to be done using the ‘insulfrog’ points, and in the end only 2 isolating switches were required – one to isolate a train/loco in the branch bay, the other to do the same at the end of the branch (in the tunnel).
Much thorough testing followed, with the platforms temporarily in place to check correct clearances Next the point blades were ‘masked off’ using strips of rolled up tissue paper, then all the track-work was lightly sprayed with grey car primer. The tops of all the rails were cleaned off with ‘cellulose thinners’ together with any point blades which had not been adequately protected. A loco was run to check all paint had been successfully removed from the tops of the rails. This spraying was done before the track underlay was in place as the paint solvent would have dissolved it! (or at least deformed it).
At this point the 2 double and 1 single tunnel mouths were lightly glued temporarily in place. These had already been weathered – light coat of grey car primer, then acrylics to pick out some stones in different shades and ‘dry-brushing’ to weather (acrylics don’t take well straight onto plastics)
Next the baseboard edging was cut from 3mm plywood, screwed to the outer wooden frames and painted jet black. The exposed areas of baseboard were then painted brown, except for the areas behind the 2 stations. The whole length of the layout behind Westrym was to be the main street so was painted ‘tarmac grey’ – which on many layouts is far too dark a colour. The area behind the halt at Hain was similarly treated.
Before any landscaping was carried out the back-scenes were installed. As no-one seems to produce any back-scenes of Devon or Cornwall I settled for some sheets of the Yorkshire Dales which are remarkably similar. These were self-adhesive and needed a smooth flat surface to be attached to. As the garage walls are rough brick, panels of thick corrugated cardboard were cut from very large cardboard cartons and fastened to the walls with ‘no more nails’ to act as the smooth base (ideally seal the cardboard first – I didn’t!)
Attention now turned to the basic landscaping – construction of hills, embankments, tunnel mouths etc… There are many ways of creating landform, mine is fairly quick, cheap and easy. The base is crumpled newspaper, with layers of kitchen roll on top. Then a thin layer of very runny ‘filler’ is spread on lightly and carefully with a knife – too much pressure will make holes in the kitchen roll – I normally apply 2 or 3 coats – left to completely harden before adding the next.
Finally a base coat of greyish brown was painted over the top – I generally use poster paint or cheap children’s paints. Grass mats were used in some areas, but various scatter materials in others. Hedges were made from horsehair, well flocked in various shades of green.
Now it was time to turn to permanently lay the
track. A few feet at a time the ‘Woodland Scenic’s’ underlay was carefully inserted
under the track and temporarily pinned down. Off cuts were used to fill in the
gaps in the centre of points. When complete, now that the track was higher, a
train was run to especially check for clearances in the platforms and tunnels.The smoke deflectors on the underside of the Ratio footbridge had to be removed, as some stock was fouling them.
All track-work was then painted using diluted acrylic paints – small sections at a time, cleaning the tops of rails quickly before the paint had completely dried – a long and tedious job!
Time for testing again. It took quite a lot of time and effort to remove every trace of paint from the running surfaces, but eventually everything was back to perfect running.
On my layouts I usually have a big control panel with lots of section switches and all points operated by point motors, and generally ‘push to make’ switches (sometimes I use an ‘electric pencil’). On this occasion I opted for a simpler approach.
A conscious decision was made to use insulfrog rather than electrofrog Peco points, to avoid having to use a large number of section switches – consequently there is also no control panel as such, just 4 controllers – of my own design - contained in a small box. These are 1 UP Main, 2 DOWN Main, 3 BRANCH and 4 YARD. The UP main also acts as the MASTER when required – and any or all of the other 3 can be switched to the Master – this is especially useful when for example running from the UP main into the yard, which would otherwise entail using 3 different controllers and remembering to set the direction switches correctly and to match the speed controls.
There are only 2 isolating switches on the control box. One is for isolating a train in Hain tunnel – which can hold the branch train hidden until next required.The other isolates a small length of track in the branch platform (3) so that more than one short train or a loco can be held in platform 3.
The branch line may also be switched from manual to auto control. A Heathcote shuttle module was used for this. The requirements were for a gradual start/stop from each station together with holding the train in the tunnel beyond Hain halt.
The shuttle unit with an intermediate station stop was
chosen, using reed switches in the track and a small magnet on the underside of
the locos. I was able to simplify the wiring by firstly using the same reed
switch to stop the train in the halt in either direction of travel, and also
just used a stop reed in the tunnel, as a slowdown reed was not
necessary. It took a considerable amount of time to get the acceleration and deceleration. Absolutely clean track and wheels are essential to get the prototypical slow stop and start. My tried and tested method is to use a Peco track rubber on its side at roughly the same angle as the cone angle on the wheels and clean right and left rails separately, the wipe off the tops of the rails with a cloth or piece of kitchen roll dipped in white spirit (ensure good ventilation) - this will take off the black deposit left behind by the rubber and will save you a great deal of time in cleaning your locos wheels. Unless I have been doing rather more running than usual I normally only need to clean once a year in late Autumn when I 'shut up shop' for the winter. I also completely cover up the layout with single sheets of newspaper to keep out the dirt and dust.
As the latest locos take a very small current, the whole railway is run on a small 2 amp transformer – this has a rectifier built in giving a 12 Volt DC output – sufficient to run up to 4 trains simultaneously (as long as you don’t try to start them all at once! – if you are in a club, get your electronics ‘expert’ to explain it to you) as well as a very quick acting cut-out. Each controller also has its own individual cut-out – but so far (touch wood) one has never operated – the one in the transformer rectifier always cuts out first.
'Peco' made a very backward decision, in producing the latest insulfrog points without the very useful small contact on the switch rail of former days. The latest points are nothing as reliable in switching the current, nor are the newest ‘over-spring’ units reliable – I have had springs fall out of some of my recently bought points, and it is not easy put them back in – that is if you are lucky enough to even find them!
This being so, I have opted for a ‘belt and braces’ approach to positive switching of current. All points are on this occasion manually operated by push rods, which also operate 'D.P.D.T' switches. The wiring is such that no train can proceed unless the points are correctly set. It is quite amusing when friends come to ‘play’ to see an express abruptly come to a halt as it approaches say a trailing crossover set against it.
Manually operated un-couplers were designed and installed in suitable locations. These are so discreet they are hardly noticeable from normal viewing positions.
layout was originally pretty well comprehensively signalled using (mostly modified) Ratio kits,
and all arms could be moved for photographic purposes. However, once the new 'Dapol' servo operated signals became readily available the Ratio signals were replaced.
There has been a lot of bad press
about these on 'Facebook' and 'U-tube', but my experience of them has mostly been good, as long as you do you do not exceed the stated voltages - all mine operate on pure DC - I initially used a single pp3 9 volt battery but this not really adequate to run 12 signals. I changed the power supply to a bank of 6 AA batteries, which should last a good deal longer.
I did however receive 2 faulty branch signals in the post - one had a pin missing in the socket in the control box which connected to the plug going to the switch, and that had to be returned for a replacement; the other had a faulty up/down switch - luckily I had a spare in stock and used that. I have to say too, that a little patience is needed to adjust the signal arms, to get the up and down positions just right (get it wrong and the arm will not bounce correctly on return either.
Now it was time to start on that other tedious job – the ballasting! ‘Gaugemaster’ ‘N’ gauge ballast looked the most suitable for the chosen geographical area, and the usual method of using diluted PVA with an added drop of detergent was employed. The 3mm track base enabled me to make an impressive ballast ‘shoulder’ on the main lines. When the ballast was dry, the temporary track pins were removed. After 2 years of operating I decided to put a loco run-round in the goods yard to add further interest. This also necessitated putting in an isolating switch at the neck of the headshunt to hold the loco whilst other movements were taking place in the yard, if the loco was not going to immediately run-round after uncoupling.
In parallel with all this activity on the baseboards, much building of various kits was in progress, and these were installed when complete. More stock too was acquired and almost all appears somewhere on the gallery page - click here to view
Hedges, fences, bushes, trees and other accessories were installed, and much enjoyable running was had.
Buildings initially were mostly from the ‘Ratio’
and ‘Wills’ ranges – many modified and all weathered to some extent – for
weathering (both buildings and stock) I use a combination of enamel and acrylic
paints, weathering powders and felt pens and crayons. When it was decided to model the whole of the main town area, a great deal of low-relief 'Metcalfe' kits were used. The gallery – to view
click here – has many
pics which show this up well.
Accessories were from sources too huge to list, but I did make use of both ‘00’ and ‘H0’ figures – using ‘00’ in the foreground and ‘H0’ further back. Vehicles for the period chosen are from the usual manufacturers – especially from the excellent ‘Oxford’ range.
Visitors have been many and enjoyed operating the layout, some have even used
my layout for 'running-in' a recently purchased new loco, either not having a
layout of their own or only a very small one. I have an increasing circle of friends and acquaintances who return regularly every year, some several times each year.
Stock (to date)
Castle class 5043 ‘Earl of Mount Edgecombe’ in early BR green livery, DCC ready, lightly weathered, superb runner with ‘Cornish Riveria Express’ headboard (removable), real coal, driver and fireman, and express passenger head lamps
1 x rebuilt very ancient GW brake van with new roof and replacement new Hornby wheels, heavily weathered
Warship class D841 ‘Roebuck’ in BR green livery, lightly weathered, superb runner
Prairie tank 4539 in GWR green, lightly weathered, with real coal and stopping passenger head lamp, excellent runner
Prairie tank 4592 in BR black, moderately weathered, with real coal and stopping passenger head lamp, excellent runner
Pannier tank 6424 in GWR green, lightly weathered, with real coal and auto train head lamp, excellent runner *
Class 56XX 0-6-2 tank 5637 [6877) in GWR green, lightly weathered, with real coal and goods train head lamp, superb runner
Class 108 2 car DMU in BR green, lightly weathered, superb runner *
2 x Collett GWR corridor coaches
1 x Collett GWR corridor half brake coach, fitted with red tail lamp
1 x GWR auto coach, fitted with red tail lamp and additional fittings on rear (driver’s) end (rear coupling removed)
17 x china clay wagons with new replacement tarpaulins (highly realistic), heavily weathered
1 x ‘Toad’ brake van in BR grey, lightly weathered with red tail lamp
5 x assorted private owner and GW coal wagons all with real coal and moderately to heavily weathered
3 x BR Cattle wagons, weathered
1 x GWR ‘Newton Abbot’ shunters truck, weathered
4 x Vans (various), lightly weathered
1 x ‘Pratt’s Spirit’ tank wagon, weathered
1 x ‘Western Consort’ class 52 maroon (coupling 1 end only, cab light plug disconnected from board), lightly weathered
1 x GWR ‘D’ fruit van, weathered
1 x GWR Box van, weathered
1 x GWR vented van, weathered
1 x GWR Banana van, weathered
1 x GWR fruit MEX van, weathered
1 x Wm Butler Tar wagon, weathered
7 xGWR Centenary coaches with ‘Cornish Riveria Express’ headboards, fitted with replacement Bachmann Collett bogies wheels & couplings
1xGWR Centenary half brake with ‘Cornish Riveria Express’ headboards, fitted with replacement Bachmann Collett bogies wheels and 1 coupling and red tail lamp (no coupling lamp end)
2 x ‘B set’ coaches, one fitted with red tail lamp
16 cars (various - all 50’s/60’s models)
* fitted with magnets for automatic running on the branchline
All the above may be seen in on the gallery page – just follow the link here
schematic diagram of Hain and Westrym - a run-round loop has now been added in the goods yard