The Festival of Railway Modelling – Alexandra Palace

The Festival of Railway Modelling – Alexandra Palace

Going to the Festival of Railway Modelling brought back memories of my father taking me down to London to visit the Easter Show at either the Central Hall or the Great Horticultural Halls in Westminster. I always looked forward to these shows as a child and I can honestly say this was no exception. The line up of layouts that were published lived up to my expectation, it was a superb show and Warners and the Model Railway Club must be congratulated on their choice of layouts.

It had been quite a few years since I had seen Copenhagen Fields and WOW what a spectacle. The MRC must be congratulated on such a masterpiece of modelling and for their continued enthusiasm for after 31 years their excellent standard of modelling has not waned, as Tim Watson commented it has been and still is a big part of his life.

On entering The Great Hall the enormity of the exhibition  was apparent and the first layout seen was Abbotstone by the Winchester Railway Modellers in 0 gauge, a Southern and Great Western joint terminus, with a varied amount of trains. The station building was a fine model along with the small town scene over the entrance to the fiddle yards.

00 gauge Sanford and Banwell followed, modelled on a location on Cheddar Valley line in Somerset. A DCC controlled layout with a varying selection of trains running, in an authentic setting, along a four track section with the station modelled at on end.

( To see larger images click on the pictures)

Barton Hill and Trevanna Dries, were next on the agenda, both fine examples of small space layouts. Barton Hill is modelled in N gauge and depicts an EWS depot just outside Bristol, a finely modelled layout with plenty of action. Whereas Trevanna Dries was a small EM gauge layout depicting a clay drying depot in the Par and Newquay area in the September of 1985, with trains departing with hooded clay wagons or box vans with bagged clay.

Across the aisle was Merney Junction a layout in 33mm gauge depicting the Metropolitan Railway in mid Buckinghamshire. The layout is a work in progress with some of the stock needing painting, but this did not detract from the fine modelling.

The Shipley Model Railway Society’s wonderful model of Leicester South (GC) showing a large goods yard and warehousing facility followed. The modelling is of the highest standard and although it is in 00 gauge the trackwork has been hand built. The era modelled is British Railways between 1948 and 1963 and spans the joint ownership of the line between the Eastern and London Midland regions. There was plenty of action with even the wagon turntables working in the goods yard adding to the movement.

Alongside Leicester South was Horfield, depicting a station just north of Bristol Temple Meads. The scene has been split into three periods reflecting the changes in motive power, rolling stock and liveries over the years, culminating in the early diesel period. The layout depicts the 1 in 75 climb of Filton Bank giving rise for the need to use banking engines on some trains. The full sequence of operation lasts about one hour and features around 42 trains reflecting the variety of traffic found on this stretch of line.

For the older members of the audience there was a layout presented by the Hornby Collectors Association in 0 gauge, where many of us could see models that we had during our youth. This was a very large layout with plenty of action and time for reminiscing.

One of the highlights of the show for me was a small but interesting layout of the Great Western Branch line called Woodstowe, modelled in 16.5mm gauge. I had seen it featured in the Railway Modeller but to see it in the flesh was a real treat. The standard of modelling, scenery, buildings, trackwork and rolling stock is superb. It ran really well and the fact that a lot of the rolling stock is ready to run, shows the standard of what is available from the trade and with a little patience can be turned into superb models.

There was a group of continental style layouts in varying scales and the star of these was the superbly modelled and detailed Mer les Bains. Based on the Chemin de fer de la Cote it is built to a scale of 1/32nd and meant that all the stock had to be scratch built. With cameos all over the layout providing a real French feel, from a group of men playing boules, to the café scenes, a superb layout.

In the next group of four layouts there was a a choice in scales. Beamish Colliery was built to G scale and was a minimum space round layout. It is a depiction of a what might have been, assuming that Beamish Open Air Museum had decided to re-create a 1960’s village complete with a mine, a narrow gauge railway and station. The attention to detail and cameos are superb.

Next in the group was Fisherton Sarum built in 00 gauge and using Salisbury MPD as the inspiration for the scene and structures. Set in the period 1946 to 1949 it allows for plenty of action and movement with a wide range of Southern locomotives and rolling stock to be shown.

The LMS was next to be represented with the layout Prospect Wharf and Yard, a depiction of a busy urban goods yard with a large goods warehouse which was originally used as a canal warehouse. At the other end of the layout is a large brick built Midland Railway warehouse with the rail side supported on steel columns, to the rear of the warehouse is a new modern cold and cool store facilty. A very well thought out and busy layout.

For the Gauge 1 live steam enthusiasts was Anglia Roads from the G1MRA East Anglia Group. Provision is made for live steam and electric operation. The live steam locomotives are fuelled by meths, gas and coal and create quite an evocative spectacle when running. The layout comprises of two stations, a locomotive depot, turntable and a steaming bay for the live steamers, there is also plenty of siding space to house stock when not in use. Great Fun.

Then came for me the STAR of the show, Copenhagen Fields started by members of the Model Railway Club in 1984. This diorama depicts the approach lines into Kings Cross up to Copenhagen Tunnel and spans across to the Kings Cross goods yard which is currently under development. The scene depicts the area immortalised in the 1955 Ealing Comedy film ‘The Ladykillers’ and in the background can be seen the Metropolitan Cattle Market now long gone but the tower still stands to-day. The model uses a reducing scale towards the rear of the layout giving a sense of distance, all in all a superb layout and one I will look forward to seeing again.

( To see larger images click on the pictures)

In the West Hall was another selection of layouts, Rhydwyn Fawr Steel, a superb depiction of a steel works. Modelled in 0 gauge the layout shows the day to day goings on in a busy steel foundry. Dominated by the large steel mill on the left with exchange sidings to the right. A fleet of freelance locomotives haul varying loads around the layout from large torpedo wagons full of blistering hot molten metal to general supplies. On a lower level at the front of the layout is a small servicing depot and to help viewers understand what actions are taking place on the layout video presentations runs in sequence with the moves to explain what is happening.

Facing was Calderwood a Lancashire and Yorkshire based beautifully modelled, depicting the movement of coal and other general services. The layout comprises of up and down main lines with a small goods yard including passing loops and a refuge siding.

Then we moved into the more modern era with a working freight liner terminal with working cranes moving the containers around the yard. Set in East London around 1990 you can view Intermodal trains arrive from places such as Southampton, Felixstowe and Tilbury where trains are unloaded by two large cranes. The containers are stored or re-loaded on to different trains ready for despatch to further afield. A Superb layout with an up to date feel.

Then followed the really big Gauge 3 modular exhibition layout, starting life as a shunting layout at around 16ft long. It can be seen connected to another layout at the far end. The model has a real charm of a rural bygone era with small class locomotive and simple short trains, it has a real Colonel Stephens feel.

Backed up to this, a layout called Long Line, modelled in N gauge which was  107ft overall allowing them to run scale length trains which did not look out of place. The layout being modular can be operated at varying lengths and the newer sections are still under construction. The line depicts ‘a might have been’ railway running from Exeter to Plymouth passing across Dartmoor, giving need to construct many viaducts. All in all an interesting layout.

There was a group of 3mm scale layouts, one in particular using original TT3 stock and track, whereas the others had a more Finescale appearance with hand built track.

In addition a  group of N gauge layouts showing what could be achieved in a small space.

EM gauge was represented by Empire Mills, a nicely presented model from the Model Railway Club, situated somewhere close to St Austell it depicts a small freight only branch line. Modelled in winter it conveys a very bleak scene. The layout has been designed to take on different guises, so the next time you see it could be depicting a coal mine. Let’s wait and see.

Close by was another scale layout this time modelled to P4 standards, Waterloo Street, was inspired by the real Waterloo Goods branch line in Aberdeen. A mix of freight stock can be seen and the track plan follows the original location, but which has had to be compressed.

There was also Lough Motive Power depot modelled in 0 gauge, it is based loosely on Slough shed but has been straightened out. Set in the late steam and early diesel period a variety of locomotives can be seen with facilities which include a running shed, turntable and diesel refuelling point. Trackwork was by Peco with pointwork from Marcway. There is still more work to be done on the scenics and buildings, but then again ask anyone when their layout will be finished and they always answer that there is always something to do.

At present I have only spoke about the layouts on show, but these are always supported by the societies and the traders.

There was a strong society presence from the Scale 7 Group, Scalefour Society, the 2mm Aasociation, 7mm Narrow Gauge Association, Double O Gauge Association, N Gauge Society, 3mm Society, the Gauge 0 Guild, the EM Gauge Society, the S Scale Society, MERG –Model Electronic Railway Group, Diesel and Electric Modellers United and the HMRS..

The Railway Societies were well represented by, Battle of Britain Locomotive Society, Medway Queen Preservation Society, the LNER Society, LNWR Society, the Great Eastern Railway Society, The SNCF Society, the Darjeeling and Himalayan Railway Society,the Swiss Railway Society, the Austrian Railway Group (ARG), the Class 47 Preservation Project, the 73082 Camelot Locomotive Society, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society, the Great Northern Society

The ready to run trade presence was very strong with the pre-production models of the New Terrier in varying liveries from Dapol, progress reports from Hattons on their New 14xx and King class locomotives. There was also a strong presence from Hornby and Bachmann.

All in all it was a great show with plenty of quality layouts, Well Done Warners and the Model Railway Club of Great Britain. BRILLIANT.

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