“The processes (trials and tribulations) of building my N Gauge model railway, but we don't mention the expense. :-)
Parish End is a set of sidings, loco shed and line side industries in an un-named town in the industrial north west of Britain where the pigeons fly backwards to keep the muck out of their eyes and is served by the LMS Railway Company.
Just think muck, grime and decay and you'll get the picture.
The era modelled is 1930's to 1950’s, though Rule 1 shall apply as and when.”
So says the blurb on my Facebook page for the layout. If it’s on the Internet, it’s got to be true. :-) An idea
Fast forward some 45 years from my first and short lived “ownership” of an N Gauge layout (see Issue 1 for that miserable saga
) and Janice and I were now living together and making plans for our forthcoming marriage. We’d sort of fallen into the age old comfortable trap - get in from work, prepare dinner, eat dinner, wash up and crashing out in front of the TV and then heading off to bed and repeat ad infinitum. Janice decided that she was going to resurrect her hobby of knitting which she did and enjoyed in her youth / previous marriage. This left me with a bit of a conundrum, all my hobbies had been pretty extreme, they mostly had to take place out side and needed lots of planning and not the sort of thing you could do at a drop of a hat - rock climbing, mountaineering, hot air ballooning, archery and kite buggying on the beaches between Dunkirk and Calais and they were all weather dependant activities.
After a lot of thinking I hit upon the bright idea of doing an N Gauge layout seeing as I didn’t really have a look in on the one a I had when I was 11. Not that I’m bitter and twisted about that nor still for not having a Scalextric either.
I didn’t know anything about N Gauge, though thought it might have improved and become more popular over the interim decades.
I started doing some reading up on the internet and bought a few magazines and then ultimately went to the model railway show at Needham Market four years ago. I liked what I saw, spoke to lots of people and came away with loads of grandious ideas.
Janice and I then got married and not long after she asked how my model railway plans were going? They weren’t really. I’d cobbled together a track plan of sorts and that was about it. I decided to take the plunge. One afternoon I went over to Orwell Models / Coastal DCC and had a long chat with Kevin et al and came home with a ton of Code 80 Flexitrack, points, wire, and an ESU Ecos controller (I’m slightly dyslexic and found that the pictorial layout of the controller was a heck of a lot easier for me to manage rather than having to remember CV addresses etc. - “Set it up and forget it” said Kevin at Coastal DCC), a Farish LMS Jinty, a pile of DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital point motors and half a dozen wagons and a credit card bill equivalent to a small country’s national debt.First steps
Soon after I got hold of some timber and made myself a baseboard 6’ x 2’ and started laying track, generally sticking to the plan. The layout I decided was to be called Parish End, which came to me totally out of the blue. I liked the sound of it and it didn’t sound too twee. I also wanted it to be modelled within an industrial townscape - dirty, grimy and neglected. Once the track was laid I attempted to wire it all up. After a few months struggling with poorly laid track, manky soldering, poor connections, loads of frustration and grief I gave it up as a bad job. In a fit of pique I ripped everything up salvaging what I could and restarted with an amended Hornby track plan I’d found. I started laying the track and found that I’d run out of space on the layout - not enough length to lay all the track on the plan and not enough room to extend the boards. Parish End 2 wasn’t looking too hopeful.
After some research and asking around I found that N Gauge points are considerably over scale as compared to their OO and real life counterparts. Therefore a 12' x 4' OO Gauge layout wouldn't scale down correctly to fit on a 6' x 2' board. I had a re-jig of the track and found that I wasn’t going to get anything like what I wanted on the board and as it sat wasn’t really useable either.An alternative
I started looking at alternative track plans and decided that I’d do a “roundy roundy” with a few sidings. The layout I chose was for a 6’ x3’ board. I lifted all the track and points etc. once more. Chucked the damaged / beyond redemption stuff and bought some more new stuff as well as making another board up.
This time I took my time, Parish End 3 was going to be the one. I checked everything as I went along. All was good. I could run trains round and round, get them into sidings and out again. I made a start on doing a raised area at the back (a row of low relief houses sat beside road, which was supported by retaining walls. I’d bought a stack of Metcalfe kits and had slowly made a start building them. I was bitterly disappointed. I could get the kits made without any problems. I just couldn’t get them to look anything other than a cardboard kit. I found a supplier of wooden laser cut N Gauge buildings and bought a couple of houses to see how I got on with them. Brilliant. They went together well, painted up well and looked great and weren't too expensive either. I foisted the remaining Metcalfe kits onto Phil Basham and David Tunbridge. I subsequently bought a few more houses and got them built and I was still pleased. What I wasn’t pleased with was the layout being a “roundy roundy”. It was boring as anything just watching a couple of trains going round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round . . . Something had to be done. I was annoyed, frustrated, cross and had already spent a bundle on the layout(s) so far and hadn’t got an awful lot to show for it apart from a teetering mountain of receipts mainly due to buying by that stage 6 or 7 locos, about 25 wagons and half a dozen coaches.A Phoenix arises
Time for action, a last ditch attempt was called for. I did a huge amount of research, copying track plans, amending them, ditching them, finding others until I eventually I got to a stage where I was happy with what I’d done.
A new set of boards were bought from Tim Horn, the layout board maker in Fakenham as my woodworking skills aren’t brilliant and I find doing woodwork literally a pain because of my manky hip. More on line buying and trips to model shops for yet more new track and points, rolls of wire, decent soldering iron and paints etc.
I made a start on Parish End 4 in May last year. It was going to be a 8’ x 3’ L-shaped layout. 8’ lof ayout and the 3' “L” being a small two lane fiddle yard concealed behind buildings. I didn’t need a larger fiddle yard as the majority of the loco movements were to be done within the scene itself. Everything went pretty much swimmingly. Track got laid and tested, more low relief buildings were purchased, more building kits bought, and some scratch built ones were made.
Coming forward to March of this year. The track was finally laid. Points were modified so that they didn’t rely on blade contact for conductivity and Janice had very kindly bought me a Fleischmann DCC turntable and controller for my last birthday, which was duly installed and worked well. A few more buildings had also been assembled but not planted.
Then the lockdown started. Janice started working from home and I felt I needed to keep out of her way whilst she was working. The layout was in my garden office, so I decided that whilst she was at work,I’d work on the layout for a couple of hours or so each day. Most of the scenics have been done. I’ve printed a few 3D buildings which I designed myself and the track has been weathered to a suitably filthy appearance.
All I need to do next is to make a start on putting down static grass and ground cover, practicing making some more wire armature trees, add detailing (people, post boxes, crates and barrels for the goods shed, grave stones, crates and factory yard junk . . . . . . . . . . . .
There is light at the end of the tunnel. It is a feint glimmer, and thankfully it’s not an oncoming train.What next?
As and when Parish End 4 is completed (if a layout is ever completed), I’ve got planned in my mind a box file layout in N Gauge built to as high a standard as I can and as highly detailed as I can get it.
And, if and when we ever move to the Yorkshire Dales the layout I’ve promised myself will be in 009 as I’ve alway liked narrow gauge railways and the huge amount of artist license you can get away with.
If you’re interested, here’s a list of some of the stuff I use on Parish End:Electrics:
- ESU Ecos 50200 DCC controller
- DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital point motors
- DCC Concepts Alpha Panel Mimic Board
- Tam Valley Frog Juicer
- Tam Valley Reversing Loop Module
- Fleischmann 9152C DCC turntable and controller
- DCC Concepts Alpha Meter to measure voltage and amps used when layout is running
- Dapol operational LMS Home Signal
- C R Signals Yard Lights
- The buildings are a mixture of some kits, scratch built, kit bashed and the 3D resin printed buildings were designed and made by myself
- Walthers factory kits (American N Gauge slightly out of scale, but seeing as they’re factories, it doesn’t matter),
- In The Greenwood low relief and full laser cut houses, shops and pubs
- Osborne Models laser cut Creamery
- KS Laser Designs pavements (much better than my attempts)
- Custom laser cut mill by a chap up in Thurso
- Retaining walls laser cut based upon Metcalfe’s offerings made by the same chap up in Thurso
- Graham Farish Scenecraft Loco shed, low relief workshop and Depot Mess Room and Toilet and water tower
- Kestrel / Faller church
- Street and building lights - Layouts4U
- Private Siding gate scratch built and hooked up to a MERG servo controller