The Path to Shifting Sands

Model railways have always been there in my life for as long as I can remember, entirely due to the influence of my Dad.  Through my younger years I progressed from a basic chipboard based 00 gauge circuit on the floor, later converted into a terminus layout but still on the floor (and even featured in 'Junior Modeller' in the Railway Modeller), followed by two terminus layouts raised on cupboards.  These layouts generally followed the current scene of the time, enlivened by the various new colour schemes of the British Rail sectorisation era. Various diversions along the way included a Great Western branch terminus built on a redundant chipboard bed headboard (an early 'micro layout'), a couple of under-resourced and unsuccessful attempts at 7mm scale narrow gauge (O-16.5) and a long spell as a member of the Model Bus Federation with a vast fictional bus fleet. The latter diversion is notable as it was the start of the realisation that I could make things for myself from scratch - this was before the diecast manufacturers took modern vehicles seriously. In parallel I re-focused my model railway activities on 4mm scale railfreight and multiple unit activities set in the 1980s (which was by now 'historic') with a greater attention to quality over quantity. After a break for studies, I returned to the same theme in 1999 and the result was 'Padgate Lane WRD' (featured in Model Trains International issue 43), which appears to have been well regarded at the time and certainly met the approval of local members of Diesel and Electric Modellers United.

Some of my earlier 4mm scale layouts (Authors Collection)
I suppose I've always fascinated with miniature railways and my first encounter with O9 had been the construction of one of the Alphagraphix Romney Hythe & Dymchurch coaches whilst still at school, glazing the windows and adding N gauge coach bogies.  However this scheme came to nothing and the coach was passed on to a friend.  My next noteworthy encounter with the scale/gauge combination was seeing Owen Ryder's 'Boot' at the Wakefield show, where significantly I picked up and took home a copy of his 'Ratty Modeller' newsletter, including a plan of the Ravenglass-built tram locomotive 'The Flower of the Forest' (more on that another time).  My visits to miniature lines increased from the late 1990s  and in 2002 this spilled over into my model making resulting in coaching stock being made from Keil Kraft  'Routemaster' bus kits and a loco bashed together from Dapol railbus and Drewery shunter kit parts.  Built to 7mm scale on 9mm gauge track they represented 15" gauge trains, albeit quite small ones as I was later to find out.

My original Dapol based locomotive and a 16 seat open carriage
Constructing carriage bodies from Routemaster bus parts
This was only ever supposed to be a brief distraction from my 4mm scale activities, so a small layout requiring some coaches and 3 or 4 locos was planned.  It would have to be small, and early plans show a long, thin layout, in some cases on a folding baseboard.

Folding layout design, note the features such as the boardwalk path and rock emporium that survived through to the layout as built.

Another plan this time separate scenic and fiddle yard boards.  The boating lake remains and the rock emporium would have been at the front corner near the footbridge.

Elements of both schemes together - this was as close to a finalised design as planning got at this stage.
The dummy workshop and carriage shelter arrangement may look odd but in miniature railway terms almost anything is possible.  The workshop was a dummy as the plan at this stage was that any steam locomotive would also be a dummy and services would all be worked by diesel locomotives!  I actually mocked up this arrangement to see how it would look on the layout:

Mock-up of the workshop/shelter/caravan arrangement.
At this stage some doubts started to set in and I was very close to abandoning the project and either returning to my 4mm scale efforts or getting further distracted by Gn15.  In the meantime I had set up a circuit of Peco N gauge set track on a cork notice board to allow some testing of equipment in an effort to keep the project alive:

The test track in action on the kitchen table with the railbus-based loco and the infamous 'Yellow Peril' in action
It must have worked, whilst studying the test track one day I had a vision, could a terminus to fiddle-yard layout be squeezed into a similar space?  A quick measure, then a sketch confirmed it could....
The original sketch for the looped-around plan.
Some development work was required but I was on to something, I eventually realised that by increasing the scenic area I could get the open feel of a seaside scene and the project went from being a distraction of a side project to my main modelling occupation for the next few years.  The rest, as they say, is history...


1 comment:

  1. I would very much like to see the photos which are now blank that accompany the Shifting Sands construction. Is there any way?