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The Newcastle Line 1975-96

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                                    “THE NEWCASTLE LINE”


My second home layout was entitled “The Newcastle Line”. I began work on it after I moved back to my home village of Ballywalter in 1975. The previous few years had been spent at university and  during holidays I stayed with relatives, so there was no scope  for much railway modelling after the dismantling of the previous layout in 1972.

A slight diversion – I had two “railway” friends, Edmund Calvert-Harrison and Alan Franks during this time and the three of us planned and began work on a joint layout in Banger, where Alan lived. He was a County Down man (he actually worked on NIR at Belfast Queen’s Quay for a time), Edmund was an “LMS/NCC man”- he provided illustrations and plans for the volumes written by NCC historian JRL Currie.  I had some interest in both railways and we devised a layout which incorporated a terminus at “Newcastle/Bangor”(Alan) , a junction station which would be “Ballynahinch Junction”(me)  and another terminus (Portrush –Edmund) inside the continuous run which had some lower level storage sidings in front of Ballynahinch. Quite a lot of track was laid and I brought some bits from my stored railway, including track and stock, but then after a year or two in 1974 the three of us scattered due to work and other commitments and I recovered some of my “bits”. The plan also continued a Minic motorway (guess whose?): I attach it below; I still think it might be a good plan for a reasonably sized 00 railway –minimum curve was 2 ft/600mm. see below.



What I designed for myself soon after, was in my bedroom at Ballywalter. It was an L shaped single track point to point, with a terminus based on Newcastle as close as I could get it.  I particularly wanted to model the station buildings which had always intrigued me.  The initial boards were screwed to walls and floor. –it was a permanent structure from Day 1.  I owe a lot  to the inspiration of Peter Denny’s famous “Buckingham Branch”, which featured in Railway Modeller and other magazines from about the late 1950s to the 70s. I would still aspire to his standards After a bit of  thought I built a removal section across a bed and then used a foot wide board along the large window in the room for the “fiddle yard”.  The section over the bed later became “Ballynoe”, a small passing station on the Ardglass line just a few miles from Downpatrick. This increased operating potential, though Ballynoe on my layout ended up as a junction with access to storage sidings and a continuous run (see later)!


Newcastle with train due to depart  (taken c1985); I still have al the stock shown here, and cottages,loading gauge, crane are still in use some 35 years on!


a view towards teh station building; modified Superquick goods shed (stone plasticard); the road ont eh far right connected to teh storage sidings.


Looking from the Tower as a train departs.

My stock was a mixture of various r-t-r models and a few of my early Northern Ireland items, such as BCDR No 4, and exGNR No 171, a model of the RPSI’s “S” class loco then running in preservation. I converted a Tri-ang Southern L1 class 4-4-0 to look quite reasonably like the GNR engine –but never got round to actually lining it and numbering etc…it had to wait a long time.  I’d a Hornby Dublo 2-6-4 tank engines but never converted it to a Jeep, although a Dublo LNER N2 0-62 tank got repaintedfor a while in BCDR colours and numbered “32”!!


 The 4/4/2 tank which features is a heavily bodged old K’s “Adams Radial” kit –it still runs well today even though I had to remotor it about twenty years ago – I worked on it in the early 1980s if memory serves me right. It was some years before I took the plunge and lined it and got a number plate made!

. The BCDR used lower quadrant signals on lattice posts – a combination not used on any major mainland railway as far as I know. So a mixture of LNER lattice posts and LNWR arms sufficed. The 0/6/0 tank on shed is fancifully numbered “31” – the County Down never had more than 30 engines. But a new cab on an old Hornby Dublo (again!) made a small 0-6-0 BCDR tank look quite feasible; it’s about the same size as a class of BCDR 0-4-2s and still makes the odd appearance in 2021.


I  visited Newcastle and as a result built the station buildings, with it’s big clocktower  (It  still remain to this day). The model structure was scratch built from plasticard, my first major effort with this medium, and I was very pleased with the result. With its tower and spire, it’s a wonderful example of late Victorian over the top enthusiasm and confidence.  The station actually remained open for rail traffic some five years after the BCDR closed. This unusual state of affairs came about because another railway, the Great Northern (Ireland) also had running powers into the station and their line remained open until 1955. My model wasn’t totally to scale (you can’t really do it –Newcastle was a right sprawl of a place), but I did think it captured much of the look of the station. The real engine shed was smaller and there was no bay platform – but I liked the Superquick models and used them for engine shed and goods shed. I had vague plans to replace them but that never happened.


The pic on left is taken through a mirror!  You couldn't physically see from this angle unless you were a spider or fly!


For the first time, i had a "designed" control panel, with cab control (DC); the old H&M "powermaster" is still working, the flashy new H&M3000 (left) was much less reliable and gave up after about 10 years..

I began converting various 6 wheel coaches into the eighties and soon had a reasonable BCDR train –if you didn’t look too closely.  The firm “Ks” in those did a six wheel GWR passenger van which had a very good chassis when teamed up with ratio GWR 4 wheel coach bodies.  I later built Ballynoe and it came out well, though my plans to replace the station  buildings (Peco) with a “proper “one never happened. I did build the goods shed and it has survived to do service  at Ardglass on  my current layout.


One purchase in the early eighties was a Q kits “A” class – they made one with power bogie supplied and I got this; I painted it in CIE “Supertrain” livery ( current at the time) and numbered 059. It lacked pulling power-it was basically a resin but I still think it looks presentable despite recent competition!.  Of course, it never pulled local goods trains on the Ardglass line! 

A rake of Lima Mk2s were going to become an NIR train but that never happened. Eventually by means of a a tight descending curve on the end of one storage road, which then was joined to a goods yard road at Newcastle, I managed to provide a continuous run of sorts.  I enjoyed running round this “loop”, and also experimented with “timetable working” using a slowed up clock which appears in one picture!  It was good fun.

Of course, my Hornby Dublo is there, and with a working TPO too!


I drafted an article and got a friend with a decent camera to take some pics but it was never published: I’ve drawn a bit of the info for this piece.


Warkbench, parish church, and level crossing  - the "scenic" section.

Round about 1996-7, I decided that maybe it was time to retire “Newcastle” and design something with a bit more operational and scenic potential. I wanted to retain the Newcastle the station buildings and began planning. As I lived (by now) on my own, I decided to run some tracks through a roofspace just behind the top room. This would affectively allow me an extra 3 feet for the layout, and make possible some refinements. I wanted a double track continuous main line and a branch inside it (sound familiar?)  So, the Newcastle Line was dismantled  and new boards built for the middle of the room, now designated solely as the railway room! That will be the third layout in my  brief histories – coming soon-ish..






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I always am impressed by quality modelling done a long time ago. 

It must have been so much harder to do anything 'back then' such as getting or sourcing materials or equipment, no quick 'googling' of an image if you were trying to recreate something and the costs must have been proportionately so much more expensive than today.

Fair play on this-  looks great!

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