Friday, 20 January 2017

ASHBURTON AND TOTNES

INTRODUCTION


King George II

Two railway models with common themes – each is set in South Devon in the heyday of steam on the Great Western Railway. Both use N-gauge track and share a collection of locomotives and rolling stock. Ashburton is a small working diorama of a well-known branch line terminus while Totnes is a larger continuous circuit.

Ashburton was first exhibited at Bletchley way back in 1997 and appeared in Model Railway Journal issue 94 in the same year and more recently in the Railway Modeller of January 2011 and British Railway Modelling of July 2012. 
Its next outing will be at Warminster on 17 June 2017.

Totnes made its exhibition debut at Railwells in August 2008 and was featured in the 
January 2009 issue of British Railway Modelling magazine and issue No 205 of the Model Railway Journal. Outings included Doncaster in February 2010, when it received the British Railway Modelling "Layout of the Year" award, Aylesbury in May 2010, St Albans in January 2011, were it was awarded the Denis Moore cup for the best scenic layout and Uckfield in October 2012. 
After several quiet years, its most recent appearance was on 8-9 April 2017 at Trainwest, Corsham.


Totnes - Dean goods 2568 approaches Dainton Tunnel with an up milk train

ASHBURTON

Yet another Ashburton layout! This one began life in the late 1970s as the branch line appendix on a much larger fixed layout comprising Totnes main line station and the Quay branch with the River Dart and Dainton Bank. The whole formed an L-shape, about 4m x 4.5m, occupying a large room in our flat in London. However, when we moved to Somerset in 1987 the intended railway room - the loft - was only about 3.0m wide so something had to go. The appendix was removed.
A general view of the approaches to Ashburton station


A livestock train approaching Ashburton station


There it stayed, preserved in a plastic bag for six or seven years with the vague idea that one day it may come in useful. Perhaps it would form the basis of a small portable - even exhibitable - independent layout. And thus it was reborn. Of course, little of the original baseboard remains but at least the need to construct buildings and rolling stock was minimised.


Lever's Seeds store in the goods yard with a milk train beyond
The branch 'small prairie' waits on shed


The layout is set in the late 1920s and takes the form of a simple diorama. From the familiar Ashburton track plan the single line runs across a small stream and enters a (mythical) steep rock cutting, hiding a sector plate which connects to storage roads and a run-round loop buried under the rolling hills of south Devon.

A livestock train waiting at the home signal
Weighing and bagging house-coal



The buildings and scratch-built or modified locomotives are to 2mm/1ft scale, running on N-gauge track. For normal operations, stock includes a 517 with a rake of four-wheeled coaches, a 14xx and autocoach, small and large prairies, panniers and a saddle tank with passenger, cattle and goods rakes. However, don’t be surprised to find the odd more exotic visitor!

Ashburton station with the Railway Hotel and the gasworks beyond

'Pannier' 8731 waiting at the home signal


An article about the layout appeared in the January 2011 edition of the Railway Modeller. 

TOTNES change for the Ashburton Branch

Many years ago, while living in London, I began construction of a large fixed N-gauge layout of Totnes station, the River Dart and estuary, Dainton tunnel and the Ashburton branch. The whole thing was an L-shape, about 4m by 4.5m and 1m deep. It was approaching completion when we moved down to Somerset some twenty years ago. Despite its massive size, it survived the move, minus the Ashburton terminus, which had to be surgically removed to fit into the loft. A remodelled Ashburton now forms the basis of a small independent layout that has been going the exhibition rounds for the last ten years.

All photographs in this post © Tony Wright except where shown otherwise
General view of the layout
A view of the River Dart and rail bridge with the station beyond. 
The Ashburton Branch runs towards the foreground.

Totnes station
A general view of Totnes station from the south with the River Dart estuary beyond. 
A 28xx class hauls a down coal train towards Plymouth.
After desultory progress towards completing the Totnes layout, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t likely to generate enough enthusiasm to finish the work. So, about five years ago, I decided to remake it, concentrating on the station, town and river, on new baseboards. At least the result would be transportable and the pressure of getting things into a suitable state for exhibition would perhaps generate sufficient incentive to complete the tasks. The result is a layout about 3m by 1.7m, with a simple double-track oval plan. It comprises six new track boards and two scenic boards to fill-in the centre and a panoramic back scene. Although I had to take some substantial liberties with geography, I hope that the result retains the character of the locality.

Totnes Plains 
The Dart estuary with the Quay branch
Baseboard construction is of 4mm ply perimeter and cross beams, reinforced with stripwood and thickened at the board joints. Board junctions are located by loose-pin hinges and joined with M10 bolts with wing nuts. The layout is supported on a fold-out box construction which provides storage for many of the ancillary items – power supply, tools, etc. Lighting is by a concentrated array of tungsten halogen lamps on a high single pole. The track bed is 9mm MDF on a ply spine beam and the track throughout is Peco code 55, carefully ballasted with fine sand. Turnouts are again Peco, with Seep motors. Everything is controlled from a plug-in panel with separate Gaugemaster controllers for the up and down lines.


Dainton tunnel  
County of Cornwall with a down stopping passenger train emerging from Dainton Tunnel.
 

The ground levels of the scenic areas are Sundeala insulation board, cut and glued to form a three-dimensional monocoque, then coated with filler and grassed with stuck-down lint fibres. The River Dart in the foreground is of casting resin while, in the background, I’ve used painted and varnished MDF.

Totnes station

An up express hauled by No 111 "The Great Bear" thunders through the station.


For me, the good news is that almost all the buildings and many civil engineering structures, trees and details were salvaged from the earlier layout. Generally, buildings are scratch-built and made of mounting board with the late lamented BuilderPlus stone and brick papers. Trees and foliage are largely Woodland Scenics and Heka on simple wire armatures, with some proprietary specimen trees in the foreground. Block planting in the background is formed with teased-out filter fabric on wire mesh structures. The backscene panorama is of 2mm MDF, fretted to shape, in front of a separate painted sky backdrop.


Totnes station 
  A 517 class 0-4-2 tank with a down train of four and six wheel coaches passes under the footbridge. The station pilot, a 45xx, waits on the goods shed road, ready to bank down goods over Rattery Bank. The original station had overall roofs over the up and down platform roads, probably demolished during the major remodelling works of 1932.

The rolling stock is also largely already available from the earlier layouts. The stable of over 20 locomotives are mainly scratch-built or heavily modified proprietary models. Coaching stock is a combination of proprietary models and kits and wagons are proprietary, all weathered. The operating programme is still in its infancy but is based on prototypical movements of the 1920s and 1930s.


Steamer Quay  
The river steamer Berry Castle with the Town Bridge beyond.


Signals remain absent – there are dozens within the Totnes station limits and I need to make most of them operating. That should keep me busy for a few months.



Castle House 
  Beyond Castle House and gardens, an up livestock train emerges from beneath the main road bridge, hauled by a saddle tank.


St Peter’s Quay Pool

The River Dart and the mill tail race, separated by a small park – The Island – meet at St Peter’s Quay Pool.




Unloading timber at the Town Quay Photo JBS


LOCOMOTIVES

A selection of the locomotives running on Ashburton and Totnes

The stable of locomotives were made over a period of more than 25 years, several being modified during the course of their lives. Many are based on proprietary mechanisms, others are entirely scratch-built. Most make use of components and fittings from various sources, including the 2mm Scale Association and commercial suppliers. Throughout, locomotives are painted and weathered, number plates added and tenders or bunkers filled with crushed coal. All are fitted with Kadee / Microtrain couplings. 
No 111 “The Great Bear” c.1922
The Great Western’s only 4-6-2 ‘Pacific’, for its time a huge locomotive.
Built 1908 Withdrawn 1924

The model is based on a Fleischmann powered tender drive, selected for the correct wheelbase and wheel diameters; all the rest is scratch-built. The un-powered engine chassis is of split-frame construction with wheels from the late Mike Bryant range, on half-axles with insulating muffs – the typical 2mm Scale Association method. Current collection is transferred to the tender. The engine and tender superstructures are of plastic card with metal details and fittings.
No 6005 “King George II” c.1930
The most powerful 4-6-0
Built 1927 Withdrawn 1962

The model started life as a Farish King – with fairly severe modifications. The mechanism is adapted with a replacement worm and worm wheel giving a 38:1 reduction instead of the original 25:1. Cosmetic frames with springing and brakes are bonded to the chassis block and a new keeper plate is made from copper clad printed circuit board (PCB), with phosphor bronze wire pickups. Driving wheels are salvaged from a Fleischmann mechanism and are of scale diameter. with scratch-built rods and working outside valve linkage. The bogie truck is scratch built, with the characteristic outside bearings for the front axle. The motor pole pieces are thinned down, and enclosed in a new narrower fire-box wrapper of nickel silver shim, with the correct waisted shape. The engine superstructure is modified to give clearance for the larger diameter wheels. New boiler fittings and cab details are fitted and bright steel details are added. The tender chassis has current collection linked back to the loco and axle boxes, brake gear and other details added. The tender superstructure is modified in detail with the coal space correctly represented.
No 4073 “Caerphilly Castle” c.1930
The first of the ‘Castles’.
Built 1923 Withdrawn 1960

The model started life as a Farish Castle – with fairly severe modifications. The mechanism is adapted with a replacement worm and worm wheel giving a 38:1 reduction instead of the original 25:1. Cosmetic frames with springing and brakes are bonded to the chassis block and a new keeper plate is made from copper clad PCB, with phosphor bronze wire pickups. Driving wheels are from the Beaver range, of scale diameter and at scale centres, with scratch-built rods and working outside valve linkage. The bogie truck is scratch built. The motor pole pieces are thinned down, permitting a completely new fire-box wrapper of nickel silver shim, with the correct waisted shape. The engine superstructure is modified to give clearance for the larger diameter wheels and the skirt between boiler and footplate is drilled away. New boiler fittings and cab details are fitted. The tender chassis has current collection linked back to the loco, and axle boxes, brake gear and other details added. The tender superstructure is cut down and modified in detail to represent the earlier 3500 gallon type.
No 4083 “Abbotsbury Castle” c.1935
A later ’Castle’.
Built 1925 Withdrawn 1961

This model is a fairly simple modification of the old Peco Jubilee – remarkably similar in key dimensions to the Castle. Well, Stanier was trained at Swindon! The model engine and tender chassis and mechanism are largely unchanged with new cross-head slides added. The engine superstructure has a slightly raised firebox top and a new cab to conform to Swindon practice and has new fittings and details added. The tender superstructure is of plastic card with a very substantial coal load, necessary to cover the vertically-mounted motor.
No 4915 “Condover Hall” c.1930
The Hall was the GWR all-purpose main line engine par excellence.
Built 1929 Withdrawn 1963

This model is proprietary, by Dapol, with a tender-mounted skew-wound motor and a cardan shaft drive to the driving wheels. The tender is modified, plastic coal removed and replaced with the real thing. Otherwise, the main changes are new name and number plates, replacement tender lettering and a partial repaint and weathering.
No 4918 “Dartington Hall” c.1930
The Hall was the GWR all-purpose main line engine par excellence.
Built 1929 Withdrawn 1963

The model started life as a Farish Hall – again with severe modifications. The mechanism is adapted with a replacement worm and worm wheel giving a 38:1 reduction instead of the original 25:1. Cosmetic frames with springing and brakes are bonded to the chassis block and a new keeper plate is made from copper clad PCB, with phosphor bronze wire pickups. Driving wheels are from the Beaver range, of scale diameter with scratch-built rods. The pony truck is a modified Peco Jubilee unit and the cab is scratch built. The tender superstructure is an unmodified 4000 gallon type but with details added.

No 4924 “Eydon Hall” c.1935
The Hall was the GWR all-purpose main line engine par excellence.
Built 1929 Withdrawn 1963

This model is proprietary, by Dapol, with a tender-mounted skew-wound motor and a cardan shaft drive to the driving wheels. The tender is modified, plastic coal removed and replaced with the real thing. Otherwise, the main changes are new name and number plates, tender lettering replaced with the “shirt button” motif and a partial repaint and weathering.
No 6820 "Kingstone Grange" c.1937
A mixed traffic 4-6-0
Built 1937 Withdrawn 1865

This model is proprietary, by Dapol, with a tender-mounted skew-wound motor and a cardan shaft drive to the driving wheels. The tender is modified, plastic coal removed and replaced with the real thing. Otherwise, the main changes are more robust current connection between loco and tender and a partial repaint and weathering.
No 7808 “Cookham Manor” c.1938
A lightweight 4-6-0
Built 1938 Withdrawn 1965

This model is proprietary, by Ixion/Dapol, with a tender-mounted skew-wound motor and a cardan shaft drive to the driving wheels. The tender is modified, plastic coal removed and replaced with the real thing. Otherwise, the main changes are more robust current connection between loco and tender and a partial repaint and weathering.
No 3824 “County of Cornwall” c.1922
A pretty engine, though its short coupled wheelbase made it a rough ride.
Built 1911 Withdrawn 1931

The model is entirely scratch-built. Power is provided by a tender-mounted Portescap 1219 motor with a small flywheel and a simple bent wire cardan shaft to a worm gear in the engine firebox. This feeds a double-reduction gear drive, giving a reduction of 37:1. Both engine and tender have split frames with wheels from the late Mike Bryant range, all wheels collecting current. Transfer between the engine and tender is by phosphor-bronze springs, soldered to the tender and bearing on the insides of the engine frames. The engine and tender superstructures are of plastic card with metal details and fittings.
No 3373 “River Plym” Bulldog class  c.1930
A vintage engine with beautiful proportions.
Built 1903 Withdrawn 1948

The model is entirely scratch-built. Power is provided by a tender-mounted Portescap 1219 motor, with a small flywheel and a simple bent wire cardan shaft to a worm gear in the engine firebox. This feeds a double-reduction gear drive, giving a reduction of 37:1. Both engine and tender have split frames with wheels from the late Mike Bryant range, all wheels collecting current. Transfer between the engine and tender is by phosphor-bronze springs, soldered to the tender and bearing on the insides of the engine frames. To avoid excessive movement on curved track, the rear axle of the bogie is in the main frames, with some side-play, and the front axle is in a separate pony truck. In essence it is built as a 2-6-0. The bogie outside frame is supported by a pivot on the main chassis and a pin-in-slot on the pony truck. The engine and tender superstructures, details and fittings are of sheet and turned metal.
No 4706 2-8-0 c.1930
The big one – designed for use on fast fitted freight turns.
Built 1923 Withdrawn 1964

The model is entirely scratch-built. Power is provided by a tender-mounted Portescap 1219 motor, with a flywheel and a simple bent wire cardan shaft to a worm gear in the engine firebox. This feeds a double-reduction gear drive, giving a reduction of 53:1. Both engine and tender have split frames with wheels from the late Mike Bryant range, all wheels collecting current. It is taken to both the third and fourth axles, reducing the stress on connecting rods. As a conceit, there is operating outside and inside valve gear, the latter almost totally invisible under the massive boiler. The superstructure is of plastic card, adhesion weight is not a problem with such a volume to fill up with lead. Current collection from the tender chassis is transferred to the engine by phosphor-bronze springs, soldered to the tender and bearing on the insides of the engine frames.
No 2857 2-8-0 28XX class c.1930
The archetypal coal and mineral main-line engine
Built 1918 Withdrawn 1963

This model started life as a scratch-built superstructure on a cut-down Minitrix 9F chassis (the fifth axle being removed), re-motored with a small Minitrix motor in the boiler. Perhaps inevitably, the motor was inadequate and eventually gave up the ghost. However it seemed a possibility to use a Farish 8F chassis. The motor pole pieces are thinned down to allow an improved fire-box shape and the chassis idler gear is modified to give a two-stage reduction of about 42:1 - only possible with the older brass gears. The tender is on a modified Farish chassis with current collection, again with a 3500 gallon type superstructure of plastic card and metal details and fittings.
 No 2892 2-8-0 2884 class c.1939
A later version of the coal and mineral main-line engine
Built 1938 Withdrawn 1963

This model is proprietary, by Dapol, with a tender-mounted skew-wound motor and a cardan shaft drive to the driving wheels. The tender is modified, plastic coal removed and replaced with the real thing. Otherwise, the main changes are a partial repaint and weathering. 

No 9304 2-6-0 ‘Mogul’ c.1935
An intermediate mixed-traffic engine.
Built 1932 Withdrawn 1963

The chassis of the model started life as a Farish ‘large prairie’ tank engine, married to a Farish tender. The mechanism is unchanged with a reduction of 25:1 The engine is re-wheeled with Beaver wheels a new keeper plate and a scratch-built pony truck. The tender is on a Farish chassis, modified to a 3500 gallon type, with current collection. Throughout, the superstructure is scratch-built in plastic card with metal details and fittings. Currently awaiting refurbishment.
No 2568 0-6-0 ‘Dean Goods’ c.1930
An antique engine, based on the earlier ‘Armstrong Goods’.
Built 1898 Withdrawn 1953

The model is entirely scratch-built. Power is provided by a tender-mounted coreless 1018 motor with a small flywheel and a simple bent wire cardan shaft to a worm gear in the engine firebox. This feeds a double-reduction gear drive, giving a reduction of 50:1. Both engine and tender have split frames with driving wheels purpose made by a member of the 2mm Scale Association. The engine and tender superstructures, details and fittings are of sheet and turned metal.
No 2252 0-6-0 ‘Collett Goods’ c.1935
A 1930 replacement for the ‘Dean Goods’.
Built 1930 Withdrawn 1959

The model is proprietary, by Peco, with tender drive. Minor modifications are made to improve current collection and increase tender adhesion weight.
No 5185 2-6-2T ‘Large Prairie’ c.1935
A local passenger and mixed traffic engine.
Built 1931 Withdrawn 1960

 The model is based on the Farish large prairie, re-wheeled with Beaver wheels. The mechanism is unchanged with a reduction of 25:1. New scratch-built pony trucks are fitted. The superstructure is scratch-built in plastic card with metal details and fittings.

No 4536 2-6-2T 45XX class ‘Small Prairie’ c.1925
The branch goods engine.
Built 1913 Withdrawn 1959

The model is entirely scratch-built with a split-frame chassis. Power is provided by a Mashima can motor with a small copper-tungsten flywheel in the bunker. A two-stage gear train gives a 42:1 reduction. Wheels from the late Mike Bryant range, all used for current collection including the pony trucks. These use the pivot for one polarity and a fine phosphor-bronze wire spring for the other.
No 4536 2-6-2T 45XX class ‘Small Prairie’ c.1925
The goods banking engine.
Built 1913 Withdrawn 1959

The model is proprietary, by Dapol, and has been modified by removing the motor, current collection and weights to act as an unpowered “banker” at the rear of goods trains.
No 5505 2-6-2T 4575 class ‘Small Prairie’ c.1935
The Totnes station pilot.
Built 1927 Withdrawn 1957

The model started life as a Fleischmann tank, with scratch-built split-frame pony trucks and has a new superstructure in plastic card with metal fittings and details

No 1506 0-6-0T ‘Saddle Tank’ c.1922
An antique tank engine – many were later converted to panniers.
Built 1878 Withdrawn 1937
Buried under this model is a Farish ‘pannier’. The mechanism has a replacement worm and worm wheel set, giving an improved reduction ratio of 21:1 instead of the original 16:1. A new keeper plate is made from copper clad PCB, with phosphor bronze wire pickups. Brake gear, sand boxes and guard irons are fitted. After separating the superstructure, all the boiler fittings are filed off to leave a flat top. To this is araldited a nice fat sheet of nickel silver, Then the whole lump is ground and filed down to the correct profile, checked with a simple metal gauge running on the footplate. The footplate itself is shortened slightly and new smokebox and boiler fittings are added. A new old-style cab and bunker is formed of sheet metal.
No 8731 0-6-0T ‘Pannier Tank’ c.1935
Maid of all work.
Built 1931 Withdrawn 1962

This model is in essentials a Farish ‘pannier’ with lots of minor modifications. The mechanism has a replacement worm and worm wheel set, giving an improved reduction ratio of 21:1 instead of the original 16:1. A new keeper plate is made from copper clad PCB, with phosphor bronze wire pickups. Brake gear, sand boxes and guard irons are fitted. The solid skirt beneath the tanks is cut away and a new lower section of the boiler covers the gear drive. A new brass safety valve bonnet brightens things up and the chimney is raised to scale height by the simple expedient of adding a suitable metal washer under the cap. Sanding gear rodding, separate wire handrails and various bits of pipework are added.
No 5741 0-6-0T ‘Pannier Tank’ c.1935
Maid of all work.
Built 1929 Withdrawn 1957

This model stated life as a Farish 94XX ‘pannier’. The mechanism is largely unchanged but with a shortened footplate and chassis, new keeper plate and wipers and a new superstructure of plastic card with metal details and fittings.
No 1435 0-4-2T 517 class c.1922
A diminutive tank engine.
Built 1877 Withdrawn 1932

This model was a first essay in scratch-building using metal – essential to achieve a reasonable adhesion weight in such a small volume. The chassis is of split frame construction with Mike Bryant wheels. Power is provided by a Sagami motor in the cab and firebox with the worm in the boiler and a copper-tungsten flywheel in the bunker. A two-stage gear train gives a 65:1 reduction. To achieve the maximum weight, the boiler and smokebox, the side tanks and even the tool boxes are also made of copper-tungsten.
No 4820 0-4-2T 14XX class c.1935
The branch line autocoach passenger train.
Built 1935 Withdrawn 1932

The model is a coupled engine and autocoach. The latter is the powered component, based on a Fleischmann diesel railcar with a modified chassis. The drive mechanism includes a small flywheel and a two stage reduction gear with a lay shaft, giving an overall ratio of about 50:1 – great for slow running. The coach superstructure is of plastic card. The engine has a split frame chassis and Mike Bryant wheels and current is transferred to the coach by permanent fine phosphor-bronze wires. Engine superstructure is based on Langley etchings with turned metal replacements for the white metal components.
No 1425 0-4-2T 14XX class c.1935
Branch line autocoach passenger train.
Built 1933 Withdrawn 1956

The model is proprietary, by Dapol, with just the basic modifications.
No 19 Diesel railcar c.1940
The “Flying Banana”
Built 1940 Withdrawn 1960

The model is basically the Farish unit with a fairly heavily modified drive mechanism, with a small flywheel and using a double reduction drive to achieve on overall ratio of about 50:1. It will crawl along, albeit rather noisily!

No E 430 4-4-0 Southern L12 class   c.1930
Now for something completely different *  
Built 1905 Withdrawn 1951
The model started life as a Farish Midland compound – with major modifications. The mechanism is adapted with a replacement worm and worm wheel and a modified drive chain giving a two-stage 56:1 reduction instead of the original 25:1. Cosmetic frames with springing and brakes are bonded to the chassis block and a new keeper plate is made from copper clad fibreglass, with phosphor bronze wire pickups.  Beaver driving wheels are of scale diameter. with scratch-built rods. The bogie truck is scratch built, with new near-scale wheels. The motor pole pieces are thinned down and rounded to fit in a new firebox/boiler/smokebox of brass tube. This sits on a new footplate, splashers and cab assembly of brass. New boiler fittings of polished metal details are added. The tender chassis has current collection linked back to the loco and axle boxes, brake gear and other details added. The tender superstructure is scratch-built in brass and is pivoted on the chassis to bear on the rear of the locomotive to improve adhesion.
*     On a regular basis, a Southern locomotive was diagrammed to head a GWR train on the Plymouth – Totnes – Exeter route to gain route familiarisation. The converse was done on the Plymouth – Okehampton – Exeter route.

TAIL PIECE

So how small is small? The locomotive below is 112mm long, 17mm wide and 26mm maximum high. The scale is 2mm to 1ft, a strange combination of metric and imperial units which equates to 1:152. This is about half the size of the most common model railway scale - OO. The gauge of the track (the distance between the rails) is 9mm.

"River Plym" in comparison with a £1 coin

2 comments:

  1. Nice to see your work again John!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful to see this blog appear!
    Ashburton / Totnes is one of my "go to" layouts when I need some N inspiration :)

    ReplyDelete