Tunnel Portal

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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