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Today Bawdsey left the building, but not in a bad way. The layout had been stored for a couple of years and it’s last exhibition was Larkrail two years ago. With other projects and ‘life’ getting in the way, the layout wasn’t being used.

Fortuitously Tony Gee connected myself with an interested party, one of the layouts original operating team. Another friend had expressed an interest in the layout, but kindly stepped back (thanks Pete), when the original team said they’d definitely take it on.

So yesterday I assembled the layout for the last time, cleaned the track and plugged it in. No problems, it worked as advertised, a testament to the techniques and skills of Chris Matthewman, the original builder.

Today it had its last photoshoot in my custody for one of the magazines, and a few minutes ago I waved it goodbye with its new owners. Initially it’ll be a home layout but the possibility of doing some exhibitions with its new, or rather original team is quite likely. Most importantly though, it’s gone to a good home which was critical to passing it on.

This is likely the final post for this blog, thanks for tagging along over the years.

Paulmp ‘Bawdsey’

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You know those days when everything seems to have gone well, and you sit back thinking, ‘the boy done good’, well heres one of those bring you down to earth moments. Looking through the images taken a day or so ago, I found this little gem. Fortunately I’d taken several very similar shots so I don’t have to unpack the trainset again.

I took the opportunity to see how the Hornby Gresley Suburbans looked on the layout too, apart from being a bit too clean, they capture the look and atmosphere of the Suffolk branch line well. When the Thompsons arrive I’ll weather them all together in a batch, to get a uniform finish in terms of overall color and texture. Then I work on the details. More to follow soon.

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In the time honoured ready to run tradition of ‘we never ad it so good’ Heljans Waggon und Maschinenbau railbus has arrived. The unit is packed in Haljans standard sturdy blue box with foam insert and a vacuum formed cradle. The cradle is a one way fit due to the chassis moldings so take care when re-packing it. First impressions are that a) its heavy, and b) it looks like one. Mine runs quietly and well with smooth stopping and starting. I’ve not yet had the top off, not running DCC this isn’t a priority as I don’t need to chip it. The instructions advise that its a 21-pin DCC fitting.

HELJAN 8702 W&M RAILBUS E79963

The quality of the finish is excellent and no blemishes were found on my sample. The only problem with mine is I appear to have an Antipodean Export version.

Antipodean version

I’m hopefull that will be an easy fix to change it to Bawdsey. The glasing throughout the vehicle is clear and well defined, there is very little light refraction through any of the windows, the curved cab windows are exceptional in this regard. Internally the seating is well represented in a light grey molding that includes the cab interior and partition. The cab partition on mine shows a slight distortion on one of the vertical bars but I anticipate that too will be an easy solution. Painting of the seats will give a marked improvement to the overall appearance of the internal components.

As Bawdsey is EM my thoughts are how easy will it be to convert this model. I’m pleased to say that I think this will be one of the easiest conversions to EM and S4. The wheelsets drop out from a gearbox cover held in by three screws.

Heljan Railbus Gearbox Cover

Once the cover is removed the wheelsets drop out, the final drive gear wheel being offset on the axle. The washers hold the axle in its location restricting the lateral movement, and will need to be replaced once new wheels fitted, the gap in the chassis being a width of approx 22.5mm. The pick ups are four simple phosphor bronze wipers bearing on the top of the wheel tread. There may be some value in tweeking these to collect from the rear of the wheel faces reducing the potential of dirt contamination from the wheel treads.

Heljan Railbus Gearbox Cover Removed

I’m sorely tempted to put the layout up and convert this straight away, it just looks right. You’ll note theres no mounting for a tension lock coupling, Heljan noting that as these vehicles ran as single units rather than in trains or with ‘tail traffic’ they’ve supplied the scale screw coupling as standard, which I think is a good touch myself. Also the running lights only show ‘white’ in the forward direction of travel. Theres no red tail light showing, the units were not fitted as such relying on the traditional red oil lamp. Also supplied as extras are a set of steps to fit underneath the doors for low platform or halt access for passengers and crew. If you want to model an East Anglian branch line in the late fifties and early sixties, particularly with diesel motive power, then this really is a golden era.

Heljans Waggon und Maschinenbau Railbus

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In my previous posting of the 12th, I mentioned that an organisation had used one of the my images without permission in some advertising for an event.

I have now had the opportunity to speak with the organisations manager, whom has been extremely apologetic, (which was pleasantly surprising opposed to previous occurances with others), and helpful, in investigating and looking to resolve the issue. To this end the apology and a small donation to the local air ambulance and Help for Heroes has been agreed.

I have also ammended the previous posting, some of my comments have been left to demonstrate the sheer frustration that these sorts of issues cause for photgraphers and writers etc when work is used without authorisation, and to keep this in context.

I have also deleted my final comment about the show, made in the heat of the moment, and as a gesture of goodwill towards the organisation concerned.

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It’s come to my attention that there are unauthorised images being used from this blog to advertise an exhibition this year. I will not comment extensively on this at the moment, however I can assure readers that there are no showings of the layout booked for this year Jan -Dec 2012.

This is annoying for several reasons,

A/ It’s copyright theft for starters, and in ‘About’ there is a bit of a clue on my feeling towards this, so the perps must be spectacularly daft, and with a healthy PR image budget. If they haven’t got one, they’re going to need one.

B/ It shows an image of a layout, Bawdsey, that isn’t even going to be there, and no discussions have ever taken place between me about exhibiting at this show. This, gives potential visitors a misleading impression of the quality of the show, and if someone went on the basis of the ad, they’re being misled, or to put it another way, lied to. It speaks volumes for the organisers lack of respect for their customers.

C/ It isn’t even a show on my ‘radar’, except for very rare occaisions we dont do those types of events.
I will update this posting in due course.(edited: see 16th Jan copyright posting)

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Bawdsey BR Eastern Region (Originally ‘Strove’ LNER)

Many introductions to a layout description start with a brief rundown of the authors start in the hobby, and then into the basics of how they built the layout. I’m no different to many of us who’s interest started as a child from my father’s interest. The difference with this layout is that I didn’t build it, I bought it. If you’ve been in the hobby for about fifteen years or so, bought the Railway Modeller regularly, and visited exhibitions on the northern circuit in the first half of the ‘noughties’, this layout may seem familiar to you. It was built by the late Chris Matthewman, appeared as ‘Strove’ Railway of the Month in September 2001, and took part in twenty one exhibitions under Chris’ ownership. This then is a look at the layout today, and some things to consider if you purchase a second hand layout.

I visit Roy Jackson and his EM layout regularly, on one of his running days David Woodward had some EM locomotives for sale, from Chris Matthewman’s estate. I was captivated by an LMS 2-6-0 ‘crab’ from DJH origins which I subsequently bought. Whilst talking to David he advised me he was helping with the estate sale after Chris had died, and I asked what had happened to ‘Strove’ as I’d seen the layout once and had been considering making an East Anglian branch line. He advised me it was available and with the families blessing arranged a sale with myself. At the time I had quite a few other projects under way both at home and modelling. To get a layout that was ready to go, and that I could just play with was a key motivation too.

How it started

Buying a second hand layout can be difficult. ‘Strove’ hadn’t been used for about two or three years, so David arranged for it to be set up so I could view it working and see its condition prior to purchase. Having viewed it I was pretty certain that I wanted it, and we agreed a couple of weeks for me to think about it and decide definitely if it was for me or not. No stock would come with the layout and not unreasonably it was ‘sold as seen’. This was not a problem, as I had stock of my own, and Chris’ reputation as a builder who’s layouts were of good quality and reliable made the choice to go ahead relatively easy. One thing to bear in mind if you do a similar purchase is that there are no warranties and you are on your own as far as maintenance, see later. The layout had been built with old equipment and very much a typical 1960/70’s style. This means that you can’t go to the local model shop and expect to get a replacement component. If a problem occurs you will have to repair or replace the component, and possibly modify it to make sure it fits. I’ve described this layout on occasion as a ‘heritage’ layout, and if you think in terms of prototype diesels and multiple units, and look underneath, whilst well executed and tidy, its most certainly got some age to it. Having said that, it has been very reliable. Chris used to attend exhibitions with his layouts and his attention to detail, practical design and reliability really come to the fore at those events. To date I’ve had two point blades fail and one point throw arm from the motor to the microswitch. This last fault meant that I had to re-make the component, bending cutting and forming aluminium tube, there was no ordering it on-line, and this is a real consideration when you buy someone else’s layout. The layout didn’t come with a transformer either and one was made for me specifically for the layout. Unfortunately one of the components failed burning the unit out. John Mcrea was very helpful in coming to my assistance, and rebuilt the transformer box upgrading components along the way, and this resulted in a reliable unit.

The signals are all operational apart from those that are ground mounted, and are operated by Fulgarex electric motors, however the mechanism reflects its age in that there are lead weights and cotton cord all in the mix, making it a ‘unique’ arrangement in terms of maintenance. Obviously with Chris having passed away there’s no one to ask how to fix something, I have to work it out myself or ask friends if they have any advice or experience that can help. If you are buying or are going to look after a layout these sorts of issues must be thought over. A previous owner may not want anything to do with their layout once they’ve handed it over, and I imagine it’d be extremely frustrating to have an unserviceable layout especially at an exhibition.

When I bought the layout I had a firm idea of what changes I wanted to make to it. One of the assurances I gave Chris’ wife was that any development would be sympathetic to the layout and of a similar quality. My main interests in railways are predominantly BR era 1950’s through to the 80’s. The layout was firmly based in the 1930’s and fortunately little changed through the war years and it was only when BR got into its modernisation plan that we saw wholesale changes across the rail network. I wanted to run early diesel initially, and then also have steam introduced to my stock at a later date. The buildings are all permanently fixed to the boards and are of mounting board and Superquick paper construction. Any changes to them would mean very careful work. Over the years the layout coloring has faded slightly resulting in a toning down of the colors, so any changes would need great care to carry off. To date the main changes have been removing the majority of the people on the layout and things like horses and carts which whilst appropriate for the earlier era, would have reduced significantly by BR days.

I’ve shown the layout as being re-signed using Modelmasters transfers for BR station lettering. On the platform one of the porters has just dropped off the running in board and two BR totems to complete the signage change. The signal box is in early LNER colors, by the 50’s it should have been cream or white main panels with the framework in either green or black. I looked at changing this but decided that it would be too difficult to effectively mask the layout, windows and panels to get a suitable quality finish. I did carefully remove the original signal box name plates and replaced them with nameplates for Bawdsey. I do have a mind to do a few further changes to the layout in particular, a new backscene depicting winter together with new trees are under consideration as is a row of houses to be added to the front of the layout. Any changes like this will need careful design as the layout all packs into a custom built carrying frame and also I don’t want to disrupt the visual balance of the existing display.

The layout has a regional design element that places it firmly in East Suffolk. Chris took Aldeburgh as his starting point and based the layout on that station. As it had key elements of Aldeburgh it was logical for me to look at that area and see where a railway may have been built in addition to the Aldeburgh, Snape Maltings and Framlingham branches. Having an aviation background I looked at the area Great Eastern lines through Norfolk and to south of Ipswich. During the war Orford Ness and Bawdsey , (south of Ipswich), were very secretive areas, Bawdsey having a major part in the development of Radar, as did Orford Ness. I imagined that the original railway served Bawdsey and that the Quay with its ‘ferry’ to the Felixstowe side of the River Deben had in the past grown to a size that a Branch line to Bawdsey and the Quay could have been built. I also imagined that the branch had a Junction at Alderton with a further branch to Hollesley and then across to Orford. After the first world war these lines would have been ripe for rationalisation even then, but the second world war provided a lifeline in helping supply the military establishments at Bawdsey, Orford Ness, and RAF Woodbridge. The layout is now set in the period where the old traditions and working practices of grouping and pre-grouping companies are being absorbed into post 1948 British Railways, and prior to the arrival of Dr Beeching’s infamous axe. Even by this time the decline in traffic and modernisation changes would have signalled a grim outlook for the railway. At exhibitions I’ve had a number of ex RAF personnel mention they were stationed at Bawdsey too.

I have been very fortunate with the rolling stock for the layout. The coach and wagon stock I already had in OO gauge. They were converted to EM gauge by either replacing wheel sets or re-gauging the existing sets. I’d previously worked in EM gauge so there were no challenges there and the motive power comprises two class 24’s(Bachmann), two class 15’s(Heljan), one class 08(Hornby) and a Vulcan models whitemetal 04 kit. For exhibition purposes I carry a spare class 25(Bachmann) and a couple of Western Region steam locos in case of any irreparable damage to normal stock. The Bachmann class 24’s have had quite a bit of work done to them. They were used to prototype develop the Shawplan laser cut glazing for that model, (as was the Hornby 08), they also have had roof panels changed and new exhausts fitted, as the Bachmann roof is a compromise from class 24 and class 25 details. Once you compare before and after the difference is particularly noticeable.

The Heljan class 15 like the class 24 is particularly appropriate for an Ipswich area branch line, all these needed were the wheels changing, the rest of the locomotive is as far as I’m concerned is excellent. Wheelsets across the diesel fleet are a mix of Ultrascale and Alan Gibson, both of these types are easy to fit. There are two types currently operating on the layout that aren’t entirely typical for a Suffolk branch in this era. They are the class 08 and the class 108 DMU, these have been used to enable me to get the layout up and running to a consistent standard which is important when attending an exhibition. For the future both these types are being replaced with further Cravens class 105 DMU’s and a converted Bachmann class 03. Also in the wings are potentially a Hornby/Lima class 101 and typical Suffolk steam types with an Alan Gibson J15 and London Road J69 to be built in the next year.

The layout isn’t on the exhibition circuit as such due to my occupation, but when it does go out I try and get the operations as authentic as possible. As mentioned above the recent introduction of Heljan’s class 15 and Bachmann’s Cravens DMU helped in giving the layout an immediate regional flavour. The layout’s regional design element is based firmly on Aldeburgh. The track plan has been mirrored, with a couple of sidings added, but the buildings are very close to direct copies of the prototype, with one or two detail and dimension alterations. Together with the layout I received a pack of notes made by Chris, and there are some charming hand written notes and sketches which are a pleasure to look at. It underlines the quality of the work, when you look at the buildings they are all square and straight lines are straight. The realism of the model is emphasised by these critical touches, and it takes a while for people to notice that the buildings are made from as simple a product as Superquick brickpapers. Chris had also developed an operating sequence for the layout, where each part of the track plan is used at least once in the sequence. It rotates through approximately twenty moves and returns the stock to original positions at the end. Having had the time now to do a little extra research changes are being made within the sequence. I started by swapping the steam locomotives for diesel and running the sequence. This worked ok, but we found that with modern stock some of the moves wouldn’t work, specifically due to length of vehicles. It also became apparent why some moves were now unrealistic, the influx of diesels in real life meant that local trains were now DMU operated, rather than coach stock, and no coaling and watering would need to be done.

These cut down on running round passenger stock and the opportunity to run mixed trains, so I came across the benefits of BR’s modernisation programme in model form. The sequence does operate very well and now there’s just some fine tuning to be done. I’ve recently added a DMU with parcels tail traffic into the mix, it took a while to get the operation into a logical gap in the established sequence, the parcels van needed to shunted and removed by other trains without unbalancing the flow of the traffic. Couplings are currently three link, but I’ve done some promising experiments with Dingham auto couplings and in addition some stock may be fitted with those. I’ve been fortunate in having some expert guidance on exhibitions from my late father, Roy Jacksons ‘Retford’ team, and Peter Kirmond all giving valuable common sense assistance. I must also thank Ian Mellings and Al Reynolds for also coming out to play trains with me, it makes the job of a layout owner much easier with such valuable help.

Finally I should also thank David Woodward, Cheryl Matthewman, and the late Chris Matthewman. It’s a privilege to own and operate this layout.

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I’ve now had a few successful exhibitions with Bawdsey, the most recent at Alexandra Palace, if you were one of the visitors who spent time looking and or chatting about the layout or the Bawdsey area thank you for taking the time to do so. Not least of all thanks are due to the operating team of Al, Ian and Pete who make the task of exhibiting very easy indeed.

One of the things that the weekend threw up was what to do in the future for Bawdsey. We run it to a schedule/sequence and within that there is a branch train that goes to Bawdsey ferry.

The OS map above shows where I think a viable branch could have worked, going west would have taken the railway across marshland with the associated problems of that kind of land for railway infrastructure. Taking the line to the east allows it to run on a more substantial underpinning, as well as taking it close to the RAF Bawdsey site. The actual ferry at Bawdsey was steam driven at one time, with a chain pulley system. I doubt that I’ll make that, but may adapt an Artitec kit if I can find one to a small road vehicle ferry. There are a couple of plans that really appeal, one by Barry Norman of a quayside, and a variation of a design by Iain Rice. My final design is likely to be a mix of the two.

The layout is likely to be a ‘shelf’ style design, possibly exhibitable, but that is yet to be decided. When ‘Bawdsey’ is stored it sits along a wall in the workshop, the idea is for ‘Bawdsey Ferry’ to sit on shelving racks above the stored layout, and to have a display something similar to Chris Nevards ‘OO’ Catcott Burtle, http://nevardmedia.blogspot.com/2011/02/friday-snap.html or ‘Horselunges’, an S4 layout currently on the exhibition circuit.

'Horselunges' S4 layout

The other option that is open to me and I quite like the concept of, is making the ferry branch in N gauge, perhaps changing the era for late 1960’s or early 1970’s using the Graham Farish 03 and 08’s. Whilst that’ll save space it’s unlikely to save time. I learnt that lesson a while ago making ‘Collier Street’ for Peco, a small N gauge layout with a reasonable amount of detail takes as long as a 4mm version to complete. I’ll decide definatively onthe scale once I’ve got a clearer picture of the final layout plan.

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This year I was only anticipating doing one show with the layout, however I have received an invitiation for a show in July this year which we will hopefully be able to attend. Details will appear here once confirmed. For 2012 we have three tentative invites, one which will see the layout being shown in its natural ‘home’, East Anglia. In the background I’m working on a couple of new trains to add to the sequence, one a ‘Hunt Special’, using some of the latest Parkside kits, see above.

Also in the works is a ‘London Road’ J69 etched brass kit. Its a while since I’ve done a complete etched locomotive kit, but the quality of Iain Rice’s artwork and simplicity of design looks very good. The kit originated in the ‘Riceworks’ range. It’ll have a High Level gearbox and hornblocks, Gibson wheels as the main specification, for a ‘simple’ compensated chassis. I don’t anticipate having to buy anything else as the quality of the castings and components looks second to none. Next is the research for an Ipswich/Norwich or Lowestoft based locomotive for the details and finish. I also intend to add a further Vulcan kit Drewery diesel shunter, this being a kit in the ‘one day’ pile. This has a different cab with the ‘teardrop’ eyes rather than the Bachmann later cabbed variants, and will also have the side skirts and cow catchers as per the layouts existing locomotive. By the time of the 2012 exhibitions I’m hopeful that the Hornby Gresley Suburban stock will be available, and a few of those will be added to cover the earlier part of the layouts era, to be mixed with an Alan Gibson J15.

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Green Day

Well the train set is tested and packed away for the trip tomorrow. Life being what it is I didn’t get much of the stuff I wanted to do done, but I’m pleased with robustness of the layout. After Manchester last year it was put away so I could put a car in the garage, decadent soul that I am. I re-assembled the layout in time for visitors after the Nottingham show and the layout worked first time, with only minor rerpairs needed. One thing that will need doing before its next showing is the backscene being reworked, I’ve long been a fan of a diffused backdrop suggesting distance, and Chris Nevards blog has a superb example of just how effective it can be. Definitely food for thought.
http://nevardmedia.blogspot.com/2011/03/earth-and-sky.html

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The five wagons here are very welcome additions to the stock roster for Bawdsey. They are typical freight wagons that would have been seen across Eastern Region and wider spread too. They are all from the Bachmann stable, and will be converted to EM, weathered and have three links couplings added. The layout will be at the Alexandra Palace show at the end of March, so these wagons will need to be completed for them, and hopefully at least one steam locomotive may be added too.

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