Layout Progress #7

What I have I been up to? little jobs since being back from Wales really:

  • I sorted out two internal user wagons based on prototypes from the ever great Bartlett website.
  • Changed the crew in the Andrew Barclay from blue clad steam men to the hi viz wearing NCB men of the 70s.
  • Added single arm gate and post on entrance to yard
  • Small fence next to bus stop
  • Removed foreground telegraph pole.
  • Added stand pipe
  • Planning next layout

I think the biggest change visually is not actually modelling but the removal of the pole. It was in the wrong place and removing it made me realise it was that bugging me the whole time. It really has changed the way I look at the layout at least. I had fallen out of love a bit with the layout but following these small adjustments the enthusiasm is back and I spent 5 minutes just standing back and looking at it and I am very happy how it all looks. Just gotta get that ruddy building sorted…

Next weekend my sister is down from Twickenham and I know you are all wondering why you should care, well she is a dab hand at watercolours and after months of fannying around and saying it was never going to happen I think she is going to try and do some backscene landscapes to make the whole thing look a little deeper and more Cumbrian. I am terrified at the idea quite frankly.  But like Chris says I can paint over it if it all goes horribly wrong.

The lack of depth had been a small bug bear but I had always planned to just live with it, but some chatting on MRH and a random text from Chris late one night ‘I think SQ needs a painted backscene and I have no idea how you can do it’ I am going to have to take some brave pills. Chris is also down at mine for the weekend and oddly will be the first time he has seen the layout.










Wales and the future of the railway

I have mentioned in passing that as the class 700 entered service new challenges would raise their heads and the next hurdle is getting our ‘ERTMS’ signalling system into passenger use. Now what is ERTMS?

ERTMS, if you did not know, stands for European Railway Traffic Management system and is made up of a few parts but the two fundamental parts are GSM-R and ETCS.

These two parts form the basis of a new signalling system that will control the trains in the UK in the future.

GSM-R is the radio system that trains in the UK have been converted to (or being converted to), it works on the same sort of frequencies as your mobile phone and is therefore capable of transferring data and voice communication. The data aspect is very important as through this link information is shared between the signalling system and the train and enables the whole system to function.

ETCS is made up of various levels, the most common and user friendly is ETCS Level 2.

Level 2 is what currently is being installed in the UK and for this blog post is the only level to talk about.

ETCS level 2 works with traditional track circuits but replaces the needs for line side signage and signals as it is transmitted to the cab through ‘balises’ and the GSM-R. A Balise is a piece of plastic in the track that contains information for the train, the train reads this through a ‘balise antenna’ fitted to the underside of the train that using radiation energises the balise – there is no power to the balise in the track.  For those of you who travel through London on GTR services the little yellow balises are obvious in the 4 foot of the track.



Recently in the industry a lot has been mentioned of ETCS and Brexit but it bares remembering that more countries outside the European union (including a planned application in the USA) use ETCS than those inside and that is due to the fact that it is a proven system ready to run off the shelf. Why would a country develop a system from scratch when one exists? What Brexit may enable is the UK to avoid certain rules such as converting to KPH/Kilometres, however we will see.

There are two types of ETCS level 2 currently planned in the UK, they are called ‘Overlaid’ and ‘non overlaid’. GTR’s ETCS London section will be overlaid. All this means is the traditional signalling remains and ETCS is overlaid on top of it. This will mean the signals will change colour as they do today but with ETCS giving the commands.

Non overlaid is as you image and that is the complete removal of signals, exactly as the UK’s first application, on the Cambrian, was done.

So what does that mean for modelling? Well if your modelling an ETCS section it means you now have to model ‘marker boards’.

Looking below (ignoring the STOP board which is for a level crossing) imagine the yellow and blue board on the left is a signal, ETCS gives the train a ‘movement authority’ between these marker boards.

So if you passed one of these marker boards without an adequate movement authority you have committed an age old SPAD (signal passed at danger). The system however negates risks in SPADs by continually supervising the driver. So the system is fundamentally more safer than what we operate today.

In a nutshell that is how is works, using mobile data and track balises the system will plot the course between marker boards and send this information to the driver in the cab.



And what has that got to do with me being in Wales?

As I mentioned above the Cambrian line was the first implementation of ETCS level 2 in the UK. The national program delivering ETCS across the UK has designed a training course for the  Operations ETCS project managers on various railways to go to the Cambrian and learn to drive the system to a level that they are then able to go back to their parent company and become competent to provide training etc on the system.

This course was the first one and was split into two segments, a week in the classroom and three days practical handling on the Cambrian – this is where still holding a full UK train driving licence comes in handy!

Here is the cab of a 158 showing the onboard ‘face’ of the equipment the DMI (driver machine interface) any ETCS train will have a DMI to show the information to driver.


The course was great and you will be pleased to know I passed with flying colours, driving under ETCS is a doddle. For example on the digital speedo curve, can you see the white ‘hook’ that tells me how fast I can go, if I go over it the train brakes for me, that is how the speed supervision works. As you come up to the end of an authority as mentioned above the hook starts to descend and if you do not brake in time again the train brakes for you.

The only issue with being in North Wales for the best part of two weeks was completely falling in love with the area and now my mind is running with 70s Cambrian layout plans and looking at house prices on Primelocation and wondering why on earth living in Kent costs so much.

The weekend in between gave me ample opportunity to explore the preserved railways and get my first true taste of narrow gauge. It was mega deviant and mega awesome.

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I also bagged a visit to the Llangollen railway and what a place that was…


I leave you with a final photo of myself and 158 836 at Machynlleth, my first mainline diesel, another first was being signalled by GWR lower quadrants at Shewesbury, all in all not a bad work course for a change!


This was a very basic little bit of information on ETCS and I hope it gives someone some benefit and interest,

Thanks folks and modelling to resume soon,



Another Layout! 

From Here on in to be known as Layout 2 until a better name can be devised…

It may or may not have escaped regular readers notice that I haven’t constructed, or even tried to construct a layout for a very long time…. Aside from Stoating Bank which was a joint effort, and a couple of club projects I’ve been involved in, my last layout was built when I was 16!

This has been fuelled by a number of things, time/inspiration in my late teens and early 20’s meant nothing happened then I was looking to move into my own house, and there seemed little point in building something without knowing it would fit in the new place… Then finding there wasn’t space in the new place to store something big enough to model the heavy freight operations I really fancy…. You’re probably getting the idea!

Anyway, a few weeks back the OTCM planning committee decided I should build something small, and to satisfy our craving for a run down US outline setting, it would be based on a US shortline and be quite small, with a maximum of one point. This may seem operationally limiting, and it is, but it was designed to kickstart the layout building mojo and refresh my techniques ahead of doing something a bit larger (when I sort somewhere to store it!) while also allowing a big chunk of construction to take place in one weekend so instant progress could be seen.

One thing leads to another and after talking to Paul Tasker at the local club one evening (he’s the bloke who comes up with ideas for things like moving back scenes in Scalefour news, which probably explains this….) it was decided that with one removable scenic module, the layout could also represent an NCB internal line!

So there we have it, that’s how this concept came about, somewhere in the northern USA and Yorkshire all in one scene, and this odd combination has already raised a few issues but I’m committed now!

Now, onto the layout, since last weekend was the designated work weekend. 

A gradient was always on the cards, and the fact we had been on a visit to the Foxfield railway the week before cemented this, and probably made it steeper than planned. I also wanted to try out using foam baseboards, rather like those on Pempoul, and using code 55 rail for the trackbed. This is the plan I came up with after much prevaricating:

I always find it difficult to transfer ideas from a small size on paper onto a full size diagram, but battled on nevertheless, and before long had the foam core for the boards cut to size and a trackbed made and secured to it from 6mm ply:

I now took the opportunity to add more foam to create the base level for the landscape, before calling it a day on Saturday evening. Sunday was then spent adding the wooden frame around the foam to protect it, and carving the landscape to match the scenic contours cut into the wood:

Note that the area rear left from the curved front will house a module that can be changed depending to what is being represented – at the moment I feel this will be an American single storey warehouse and possibly a corner of a slag heap for the colliery railway.

Before the weekends work was drawn to a close with a good old papier mache session to give a nice firm base for the scenery. 

Note some sleepers also got laid along the way! The original concept had been to get something running by the end of the weekend but not starting until 14.00 Saturday and having family round to my parents wanting to chat to me meant progress was not as rapid as originally hoped….

This was the final scene on Sunday evening, with fiddle yards in position although I didn’t bother bolting the whole ensemble together – note the compressor got excited and did a wheelie to celebrate!

Keep an eye out for some more updates soon.


Fortune and the internal user

Today while my youngest had her afternoon nap and my wife looked for holidays we cannot afford I decided to go upstairs with my eldest and get in the loft and find something Chris swore was up there.

I never did find the Prairie tank Chris had imagined I had stashed but I found a few half baked projects and ideas that could be rekindled for the new layout. All the while Evie shouted up the ladder asking if the Christmas tree was coming down.

When Evie and I were back with the layout I took out my bulging box of ‘I will finish one day’ models and filled it up with the items from the loft that had now been promoted from ‘buggered it up/can’t be arsed to fix it’ box.

Evie then thought it would be a great idea to go through all of her Dad’s half baked ideas and lay them out like a sort of nightmarish graveyard scene of wasted money and deviant dreams.

While she was playing (what could possibly go wrong with a nearly 3 year old toddler and various sharp plastics, white metal and god knows what else?) I was looking at the layout having a think about what I could do next.

Then I get a ‘Daddy look at this’ and I turn around not to see a bit of a Dave Alexander tender kit stuck up her nose but to see a flat wagon and some bits of whitemetal laid out.

This wagon is a mainline flat I had changed the buffers on and given spoked wheels and was one day going to put a tub wagon or sorts on it as an NCB internal user before it had fallen in the ‘CBA’ drawer.

I saw what Evie had done and suddenly thought how great it looked. With my mojo recently lacking I thought that once the little blighter had gone to sleep I will do this model as she posed it and I must say I have felt a return of the mojo and a little admiration for my little modeller. So thanks Evie!

I think I will add a chain maybe or something similar when I have it but here, thanks to one of my kids, a nice little internal tool wagon.

There will not be much from me now as I am off to Wales and the Cambrian coast to drive class 158s for a couple of weeks on a training course. I will do a little travel log on my return. Narrow gauge steam to feature.

All the best


Layout Progress #6

Evening everybody,

After some quick progress in quick succession the layout has reached a stage where it has petered out, this has also coincided with an insanely busy period at work and chicken pox for both my kids. All this coupled with long days on crappy commuter trains mean my modelling mojo has very little fighting chance.

However a couple of major milestones have been reached. The LED lights I spoke about last time were cheap but not really up for the challenge of exhibition lighting. I set the rig up but I could not balance the light to get the effect I wanted. In an exhibition environment I think the LEDs, although customisable, would struggle with a strong secondary light source.

I needed a quick win, as my tight as a duck’s behind approach had never let me down yet, the multi coloured LED’s now light up my children’s toy box much to their delight. But what about the layout?

Well my local B&Q (Like a DIY only Walmart) was flogging complete light tube kits for sub £20. So I brought and installed that, it sort of gives the effect of Sun breaking over a grey cloud. Just what you dreamed of I imagine when out in the UK’s collieries hunting death steam.

Here it is all lit up:


There a couple of things obvious in this photo, the ruddy point pull handles are still not cosmetically sorted and the middle one I broke – very frustrating and completely my own daft fault.

The second obvious thing is that ruddy great gap on the left, I am working on this so do not fear and hopefully the building that goes there will cover up the FY entrance and give some scenic interest that will draw a spectator in.



Another wagon gone through the same treatment as detailed in the weathering video, but with a new panel on the right hand side, chassis and load to still be sorted.

I have also had a good clean up of the room in which the layout lives, which although dull for a modelling blog, has meant everything is in reach and I have found things I had forgotten about – Yellow Morris Marina being one.

Me and Chris have been chatting and he got me hankering after some mainline weathering so I dug out this old project and sorted out the weathering, detail parts have been lost in attic transit but I do like it, but she might have to go if my ideas of a traction cull come to fruition.


I have not really done an update on my work activities, and the train operator me and Chris both work for has been getting a proper pasting of late. I will not dwell on that, it has been a very tough time for both of us. However  In a small glimmer of hope the class 700 was finally put into service these last few weeks and this has meant I can at least celebrate while the class 700 gears up for its next hurdle that it needs my help to steer it over.

So here is Driver D. Lodge doing his stuff. It is very humbling to look at a photo like this and know I did my fair bit, even down to training Mr Lodge to drive it.

Siemens Train, Blackfriars, London 24 May 2016.

Thank you and here is to the week bringing some more opportunities to do some modelling,