Solrail 2019: Better late than never!

It’s a while back now, but the weekend of the 16/17 November last year saw us out on the road to Solrail 2019. Whats notable about that I hear you ask? Well, principally the fact it takes place in Workington, which, for a layout that lives in Deal, couldn’t be much more the opposite corner of England if it tried. It may not have passed readers by that Six Quarters takes it’s inspiration from the area, so if anything it was like taking it ‘home’ – well at least that was the logic behind such a mad trip!

So at 06.45 Friday morning, we were on the road in the Citroen Berlingo hired in for the job – it may not have been daylight but we were checking out the features that had made this Van of the Year 2019, as we headed off towards the A2 to commence the mammoth journey…


The early start saw us making good time until we came to a halt in the roadworks on the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, where we were able to take in the technical details of shipping container design on the plentiful HGV’s alongside us, and have a good old moan about why they aren’t travelling by rail.


Fueled by a couple of coffee stops, progress was rapid and by lunchtime we had made our first port of call – Locomotion at Shildon. Numerous interesting exhibits were on show with quite an LNER bias:


Our favourite exhibit had to be this Clayton mine loco though, brought to the surface from the last deep mine in the North East and still in the condition it came out the ground, which is largely comparable to most of the rolling stock we turn out!


One footlong Turkey and Ham with all the trimmings later, we were crossing Stainmore Summit, keeping our eyes peeled for signs of the railway that once was – it’a a shame the massive metal viaducts were all dismantled. Next stop was the Eden Valley Railway at Warcop for a quick sniff around, despite it being closed. Oly had got wind there was a bit of 400 action available, and this turned out to be the case, making us feel much closer to home! There was also an interesting collection of industrials sat awaiting their turn in the restoration queue.


After this we blasted off into the North Lakes, arriving in Workington just before the sun set: the building the show was housed in being quite impressive:


We were setup in no time and soon ended up in conversation with our next door neighbours, who were fortunately local and able to provide some gen on good curry houses and spots for decent beer. Unfortunately the gen on the second point was that ‘Workington is sh*t for beer’, something we couldn’t argue with it turned out! Fortunately the curry was good though and this got us through to the Saturday… where Oly was able to adopt his ‘look chilled while operating’ pose for the camera.


It was immediately obvious the layout was attracting a lot of interest from the locals, with numerous people recognising the building on the layout or actually living in Lowca itself. Given that we are used to answering questions regarding where the layout is set with ‘in Cumbria’ needing to give an answer that the road would be Lowca High Road and the railway crossed by the rugby club was a little unusual…

Sunday took this to another level as we ended up meeting two drivers from the prototype location, Ray Penn and John Harkness, it was great to have a chat with them about operating practices in the early 70’s on the site, and some of the staff who worked there. To top that off, SQ received it’s first piece of silverware!

Before heading home on Monday, we took the opportunity to have a poke around some of Workington’s rail infrastructure, which is all very attractive and modellable, before we headed down to Lowca to see the prototype site ourselves. Another blog post will follow looking at Harrington No 5 Pit in the near future, hopefully with plenty of then an now images to show how things have changed, so for now here are some photos from Workington:


And one from Lowca, with Oly posing in the Van of the Year 2019:

With the sun shining, we headed off through the Lake District, the better weather being more conducive to admiring the view:


Before being hit with a wall of fog as we headed into the Pennines!


The rest of the journey was uneventful, a foot long Turkey and Ham with all the trimmings was consumed at Scotch Corner (there’s a theme developing here…) and the layout returning to it’s shed at about 18.00. All in all a very enjoyable weekend and well worth driving 850 miles for! Many thanks to Phil for the invite and to all those who made it a really interesting experience.



4 Replies to “Solrail 2019: Better late than never!”

  1. You just reminded me that I was supposed to be doing a write-up too. Ah well, doublebad! 😂

    Thoroughly enjoyed seeing Six Quarters and you guys!

    Six Quarters, the awesome Coppel, and the absolutely gorgeous Irish narrow gauge layout whose name currently eludes me made this the most rateable Solrail I’ve done yet.
    May be the last I attend in a while due to relocating north soon but a suitably high note to go out of my immediate world on if so!
    Thanks for bringing the layout; it was well loved by many!

  2. Great read, sounds like a mammoth journey! I usually do one big one a year, heading the opposite direction. Lots of inspiration in those photos of Workington too chaps!

    1. Thanks James! It’s funny how a railway crossing a river and passing under a road can provide so much inspiration, but the positioning of the various pipes and outlets, along with the curves of the retaining walls certainly does it there…

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