Tunnel Portal

April 30, 2011

Modelling civil engineering features is one of my favourite layout building past times. It’s no coincidence that I tend to choose layout themes with more infrastructure features than buildings; Platform4a & 4b being a notable exception. Folkestone East upholds this tradition. I have to build just three buildings for the main part of the layout: the signal box and relay room; an equipment building and the substation which supplies current to the conductor rail. Should I consider building part of the branch, structures will be needed for that too, but time will tell! The main civil engineering structure on the layout is Martello Tunnel located in the Dover direction. I have just a few fuzzy archive pictures of this, taken years ago, but enough to establish the main features of the tunnel portal and the overall shape too. There will be in accuracies, I am sure, but given the inaccessibility of the location, it’s the best I can do!


Work started with a scaled template of the portal opening which has a distinct shape.

A start was made with styrene card which has the opening cut in it to check for clearances and shape. The shape of the opening was not quite right at this stage, so more work, particularly at the top, was completed at the work bench.

Looking better, with a Heljan Class 47 undertaking clearance tests. A ‘tubby duff’ is an ideal candidate for this work because, with adjustments notwithstanding, they remain the widest vehicles in my fleet.

Brickwork has been applied to the portal and its position finally determined with a spirit level. Woodland Scenics plaster cloth has been used to complete land forming behind the tunnel entrance.

Completed ready for painting and scenery. The area alongside the chalk hillside (red arrow) is where the turn back roads will lead off to terminate at the end of the layout. Both the roads and three berthing sidings end adjacent to the tunnel entrance at the real location. However, I would waste around 2-feet of length if I did such a thing, and that length is needed because the tunnel itself hides the left curve in the mainline as it heads back to one of the two fiddle yards! Such design compromises require careful scenic treatment so they work, yet it allows an additional two coach lengths enabling the layout to comfortably accommodate 8 plus 2 charter train sets or 2 by 4-car EMUs plus 2 MLVs or an MLV plus TLV depending on the era I am running! I could go for longer trains, but extended train length would look out of place relative to the overall size of the layout and the length compression needed to fit it in my cabin.

I have found a couple more images of the portal since finishing it, equally as fuzzy and grainy as those I worked from. One image does indicate that the right hand side buttress may not be angled – difficult to tell with the shadows. Nonetheless, I will stick with the one I have built (I like the symmetry) and can modify it in the future should really clear pictures turn up. Scenery is next!

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DBS ‘Canadian’ Class 67

April 28, 2011

A very flashy-looking Dapol N gauge Class 67 landed on my desk this week: 67 018 named ‘Keith Heller decorated in Canadian National red livery’.Dapol must be well on its way to producing one of every Class 67 and almost in every livery variant too, either as a powered model or un-powered. It’s an interesting take on the Class 67 because the deep body side is considerably more pronounced in a plain colour, unlike EWS livery where the gold band breaks it up a little.

Printing and livery finishing is tight, sharp and accurate when compared to photographs of the full size locomotive. It came with etched nameplates applied and the usual bag of parts and components to detail the buffer beam.

DBS 67 018 has been used in connection with the EWS manager’s train and various other ‘prestige’ workings. Given the popularity of this award winning model, Dapol has chosen a popular, up-to-date livery scheme which looks great on the model. Coupled to the smooth performing mechanism, working lights and simple to use 6-pin DCC interface socket, it’s value for money too.


Lazy West Coast day.

April 24, 2011


April often brings amazing weather to the Scottish Highlands and the West Coast in particular. Good Friday and a break from the usual to make one of our regular trips west to Poolewe and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) garden at Inverewe, 6 miles north east of Gairloch. Sarah has particular connections with, and childhood memories of this garden because her Uncle James Gibson and Aunt Annette were closely involved with the NTS and Inverewe Garden in particular. A trip out to this far flung north west corner of Britain would be a considered undertaking for many, even real garden enthusiasts. Fortunately for us, it’s a two-hour drive.


Spring brings new hope and lots of seedlings! The glass houses at Inverewe are stuffed with new plants for the gardens which suffered like many in the UK after a period of prolonged and particularly harsh cold weather last December; the second in less than 12 months. Normally, conditions in this part of the world can be very mild, hence the unusual and tender plants that can be grown at Inverewe.

Palm trees in northern Scotland! You see, we do not live in a perpetual zone of permafrost as some in southern Britain might think!

Plant supports in the walled garden with a difference! Sarah weaves willow and we have a dedicated weaving material bed in our own garden which has various plants that produce material suitable for weaving, including willow. This is something we might have a go at next year!

One of the prime reasons for visiting Inverewe is the abundance of Rhododendrons originating from the Himalayas; eucalyptus from Tasmania, which have done well to survive the cold when so many eucalyptus trees are now sadly dead in Scottish gardens, and one of the world’s rarest plants, the Wollemi pines (‘Wollemia Nobilis’), planted in 2009 and doing well.

The garden extends over 22ha, so it takes a good few hours to walk round it, look at the various plants, take lots of pictures and to learn new things for the development of our own small 2 acre woodland garden. The one thing we lack is the acidic soil that enables Inverewe to grow its riot of beautiful and exotic plants. Nonetheless, there’s always something to learn and I love looking at hard landscaping and garden structure, and it’s those things that can be inspirational. I will close my blog today with a shot of the walled garden which is a prompt that I must start on the kitchen garden in the next couple of weeks as there are vegetable and salad seed to sow!


Project layout: back scenes

April 5, 2011


With three layouts on the go at the same time, dividing time between them takes a little management. One is my British outline N gauge project layout ‘Dudley Heath’ which replaces my attempts to do a Black Country type theme in EM gauge in favour of dedicating my 4mm scale resources to Folkestone East (the second of the three layouts). After completing the ‘problem corner’ on the Folkestone East project, I have decided to complete controls, back scenes and landforms for the little Dudley Heath layout. After extensive testing of track, clearances and the basic power bus wiring comes the first of the necessary structure to support the landscape.


The work follows the usual pattern of risers from the main baseboard frames with sheet material, plywood in this case, glued to them. This layout is designed to be portable, so something stronger than fibre board or hard board is required. I used the latter on Folkestone East to reduce cost because that layout is not going anywhere, so such durability is not so vital. The view above shows one scene receiving a narrow backdrop up to which an embankment will be constructed. The three staging yard tracks to the rear will be hidden underneath the landscape but not inaccessible.


An end board is measured to fit ready for profiling and installation of a Digitrax UP5 so a Utility Throttle (UT4) can be connected for control at the end opposite from the control bridge.


The ‘control bridge’ spanning part of the fiddle yard with a further view of back scene construction. Once all this work is complete and the controller bus fitted too, the layout can move onto basic land form creation,  fascias, structure modelling and scenery including track ballast.