Whilst experienced at American outline N scale modelling (1:160 scale), I was until a couple of years’ ago, still to take a closer look at British outline N gauge (1:148 scale). Dudley Heath, a project layout for British Railway Modelling (BRM), is my first foray into British outline N gauge. A portable layout designed for storage and use in the home rather than as an exhibition layout is the concept, measuring 260cm in length and 90cm wide. It is dismantled into two sections with six legs and protected by hinged hard covers when in storage. With so many modellers living in small homes or needing to be flexible in their careers with regard to relocation, a tough, compact and portable layout may provide the answer.
The track formation before scenery and back drops.
I chose an up-to-date theme for the layout, with the option of back dating to the mid 1980s, the transition between BR blue and sector eras. The West Midlands, namely the Grand Junction line is the inspiration for the project which will feature N Brass Locomotives catenary masts to represent the early West Coast Mainline electrification masts used in the area.
Capturing the flavour of West Coast Mainline electrification in the west Midlands is the aim of Dudley Heath. The bridge forms the exit to the south and represents a raised bridge with cast concrete beams used to replace an arch.
Baseboards are based on L-girder construction with cross bracing to support risers.
The two baseboards are joined with simple coach bolts and pattern makers dowels for accurate alignment. No glue (only joinery screws) is used during construction except to make the L-girders. This makes it easier to strip and reuse the baseboard frames for another project.
Risers, carefully levelled, support the base board tops. There are two scenic sides to the layout offering much more operating potential. One staging yard is at the end of the layout whilst a second is concealed under scenery.
Baseboard tops of 12mm ply, well braced, provides the real estate. It can be cut into for landscaping features if desired thanks to the free space under the boards created by the risers.
Care was taken with train lengths when translating the track plan to the baseboards. Staging yard road length is a particularly critical dimension.
Track laying using Peco code 55 track. Polarity change switching in the diamond crossing frogs is by a Hex Frog Juicer.
The main staging yard with control panel located over it to save space and make the layout more self-contained.
Back drop construction with the three-road staging yard to be located under scenery to the rear of the picture. A block occupancy detector indicates the position of stored trains.
The hidden staging yard. The scenery was replaced with removable covers for access shortly after this image was taken.
A Digitrax block occupancy detector was installed to trace the position of trains in the hidden staging yard. It works on a form of track circuitry where current flowing through the rains due to the presence of a train which draws power activates the block detector light. The lights are clearly visible on the control panel which has switches for turnouts only. The layout has no electrical blocks other than those required for train detection.
More back drop construction.
Finishing off the layout structure with side fascias and boards to hide the layout framing, protect the end staging yard and neatly enclose the scenes.
Hinged hard covers were made to protect the layout during storage and transportation.
This picture shows how the layout is stored under my Montana Rail Link layout. The hard covers enable the two boards to be stacked.
Having completed track, wiring and back drop construction, work commences on infrastructure such as platforms.
Back drops are painted white.
Structures are scratch built and are based on those found in the Bescot area.
Scenery work had commenced by mid 2012 and was nearing completion by September. Static grass and Woodland Scenics products are predominantly used. When scenery and structures are completed, the OHLE masts will be installed and electric trains can be run.
Rolling stock continues to be developed as work on the layout progresses. Dapol Class 56s and a model of the NR New Measurement Train made their debut at the Peterborough exhibition in October 2012. This view will soon be partly obscured by catenary masts.
The layout is currently seeing more structures built such as the station buildings and another foot bridge. Once complete, OHLE gantry installation will commence. With that done, Dapol Class 86s together with a Graham Farish Class 87, 90 and 350 will be introduced. Longer term, a mid 1980s era will be introduced with electric stock appropriate to the area.
An interesting three-car combination common to the Rugeley-Birmingham New Street service created using a Dapol Class 153 and Graham Farish Class 170.
A Class 150/0 unit was introduced to the layout in mid 2014. The centre car was built from two spare bodies and one un-powered underframe using cut and shut modelling technique.
One of the best photo-locations on the layout is now being transformed with the addition of OHLE. The portals representing WCML Mark 1 heavy-weight catenary is being assembled and installed. A W&SR set powers past with No. 67 013 in charge.
OHLE portals by N Brass Locomotives were assembled and installed on the plain line side of the layout first. Seven were needed for this side of the layout. The project had to be completed, bar detailing, in time for the 2015 Perth show.