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An Irish Exhibtion Layout

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Hi Guys over on yet another open thread, I did say that at present i don't have that much in the way of Irish standard gauge rolling stock (4 class A and a few wagons and a couple of Bachman CIE (green) coaches), Now I was wondering and this is manly aimed at you guys who do the exhibition circuit.

It may take me a couple of years to build up the stock but what do you think would be a safe amount to have to operate let say a secondary branch line through station on the Dublin to Sligo route in the 1940's to 1960's period?


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Interesting. Over many years and at least a dozen layouts, would say that a through layout needs more stock than a terminus to fiddle yard set up. The former needs more operators too - especially if there is a fiddle yard each end, rather than a continuous run where you can just let trains circulate.

 Fintonagh, my Clogher Valley layout, has just four trains and at shows, a sequence takes around 30-40 minutes to complete, depending on how much visitors want to talk to you. Incidentally, over 100+ shows, have found that, for me at least, there needs to be a balance between sequences that are interesting to operate, but not too complicated so that it becomes stressful.

 Overall therefore, half a dozen trains can be plenty to keep visitors amused, because the vast majority will only spend a few minutes in front of a layout. A couple of spare locos is always a good idea though, because at shows there is always a greater chance that things will go wrong. After all, not many folk operate trains at home for 6-8 hours on the bounce and that is another reason to avoid making operation too complex.

 Another factor with exhibiting is that the more stock you have, the longer it takes to set up before a show and likewise put everything away at the end. I can get Fintonagh set up in about 45 minutes and back in the car afterwards in half that. Then there's the issue of moving everything too and from the car/van/trailer, including when it might be raining, or worse. 

 I could go on, but if you can get hold of any of Iain Rice's books like Cameo Layouts, he goes into detail about all the things to consider. Exhibiting is good fun, but it's not easy!

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If you are planning to build up a representative collection to provide a good variety of trains pasing through a station on the Sligo line within that period, we may first of all divide the period in three.

1. Pre-1953. Everything is steam here. Many varieties of ex-MGWR 0.6.0s, some 4.4.0s and the "Woolwich" 2.6.0s rule the roost, on both passenger and goods. Carriages are a mixture of old six-wheelers, corridor bogies of various antiquities from 1900-1920s ex-MGWR stock, to late 1930s Bredins. Wagons are a mix - but all four wheeled, loose-coupled, and no two alike; cattle and covered vans making up the vast bulk of vehicles on most trains. Guard's vans are mostly ex-MGWR types. Locomotives are all grey on this route, bar the odd Woolwich in green. The black livery has yet to appear. Carriages are in the older CIE dark green with lining above and below window level, though some are still in the GSR maroon (identical to LMS livery of that time, lining included). In 1940, all GSR maroon; after 1945 the green gradually appears - and the plain grey tenders gradually mostly get pale green flying snails. By, say, 1953, there is but an occasional maroon coach. All wagons are darkish grey, not the lighter shade seen in the 1960s. Use the forthcoming Hattons "Genesis" six-wheelers - while these are more GSWR in appearance, there were occasional forays of ex-GSWR 6-wheelers 9especially full van brakes) onto the Midland in CIE times.

As far as models are concerned, unfortunately the MGWR is by far the most neglected of the larger companies here, so a bit of improvisation is necessary. SSM do a kit of Bredin stock, but a typical train will have one or two of these, plus random old wooden ones. With nothing on the market either RTR or in kit form that is even remotely like any MGWR design, scratch building is necessary for the purist, but those green Bachmann coaches might do. They are actually English LMS coaches in Irish livery; no more like any GSR / CIE stock than a Morris Minor is like the Starship Enterprise - but they are available, RTR, and cheap. JM Design of this parish did a superb MGWR 2.4.0 (G2 class) brass kit but I don't think these are available any more - but the Bachmann "Woolwich" is. Get several of these if you can. For pre-1945 they are all plain unlined grey; for the 1945-53 period, maybe two green and two grey. SSM do several old "soft-top" wagons, and you will definitely need lots of Provincial Wagons' CIE cattle wagons.

2. After 1953, passenger services were revolutionised on the Sligo line and most other main routes - even Cork-Bantry - with the introduction of the AEC railcars. Everything else as above, but if you go for this period you can get a Silverfox AEC set - but beware - Silverfox insist on turning out CIE (and other) stuff in completely wrong liveries. I have mentioned this to the owner but he persists. The green is completely wrong for either the pre-1955 darker green of CIE, or the post-1955 lighter colour. Roofs are pale grey - in all cases they should be black. Markings are white - they should be pale green. A mess - and it's not an accurate model - but it's all there is right now. Modelling and long rural route in the 1950s without an AEC set or two is like modelling the Sligo line today without an ICR. I have an idea that Worsley do - or did do - a "scratch-aid" brass etch for a "proper" AEC set, but unsure if it's still on the go. For those with skill, patience and time, a much better option. You'd need (ideally) two sets, maybe with different intermediate coaches. Silverfox do a passable 1951-53 series standard which would do as an intermediate - but again, needs complete re-livery. Goods the same as pre-53. From 1955, silver "A" class diesels appear, primarily on goods but also passengers. The "Birmingham Sulzers" (B101 class) never worked on the Midland; and there's no RTR model of one anyway. Late 50s, the "C" class too; though primarily on seconadry services (like Cavan). After 1958, both the "A" and "C" classes start being repainted green, but a mixture of both persists until the "black'n'tan era". Park Royals start appearing in 1955 - first silver, then green, and after 1963 gradually black'n'tan.

3. 1960s - once 1963 beckons, steam vanishes and diesels appear. By degrees, black and tan coaches appear, while six-wheelers are gone. So, for the 1963-67 period, perhaps 50 / 50 green coaches and black'n'tan; and bring out the new 121s, initiall grey and yellow; the last to be repainted black'n'tan was evidently about 1968. So in the 1960s, you can have a mix of diesel liveries - A & C in (filthy!) silver, green, black, black with full orange band, black with yellow ends; 121s in grey and yellow or black'n'tan; new 141s and later 181s in black'n'tan. Wagons of more modern types ("H" vans, Palvans, an some 4w opens) appear in a lighter grey, and the standard 20T and 30T guards vans replace older types. Cravens appear after 1963.

So - to the shopping list; and how many trains you want informs how many of the following you get.



Bakky "Woolwich" 2.6.0

Maybe a 00 Works J15 - though these did not work on the Midland - but unless a RTR MGWR "L" (J18) class appears, they'd have to do.

SSM kit of a J26 0.6.0T for shunting, but at this stage not line work.

IRM "A" class

SSM kit "A" or "C"

Murphy 141 & 121 classes - essential for 1960s.

Railcars - essential for 1953-64; Silverfox is the only option, or the more complex brass kit.



SSM Bredin kits

IRM Park Royals


While not 100%, a few Hattons Genesis 6-wheelers - especially the full brake - these were used on galway and Sligo Mails into the 1960s, and one or two even ended up black'n'tan, which is why just that variant is offered in that livery.

Silverfox 1951-53 coaching stock - if black & tan, fine; if green, complete livery repaint necessary (oir at least tell him black roofs!)

Worsley Works - some CIE coach etches, if I recall correctly.

And, essential for diesel haulgae - and I am surprised nobody buit JM Design have offered them yet - TIN VANS! No lighting or heating behind any diesel loco otherwise! (BR & Dutch vans don't appear until 1969-72 period).




SSM / Provincial older "soft-top" wagons and vans

Provincial cattle wagons

JM Design guards vans

IRM "H" vans - maybe a few of their flats too.

IRM corrugated open wagons

A handful of British wooden-planked open wagons repainted and weathered within an inch of their lives.


Than's all I can think of for the moment. Hope that helps.


Edited by jhb171achill
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I was a member of the group that operated the MRSI 21mm gauge Loughrea Layout that regularly appeared at exhibitions during the late 90s early 20s. Although there 5-6 regular members in the group Brian Fennel and myself provided (an assembled) most of the locos and rolling stock.

In the early days we found that 4 locos were adequate to operate the layout over a 2-3 day exhibition, though the loco stud later expanded. A pair of J15s (TMD/SSM kits) did the lions share of the work although we both had a pair of GNR S Class 4-4-0s (TMD/SSM).  Other kit built and scratchbuilt steam (mainly GNR locos) were available but did very little work, 1-2 ending up usually parked around the loco shed 

I later added a number of diesels Model Irish Railways whitemetal bodies on modified Athearn chassis including a 001, 141 and pair of 121s

Coaching stock was covered by Brian's 3 SSM GNR corridor coaches and later Brian's rake of SSM GSWR 5 wheelers (1 assembled as a MGWR coach), I provided a pair of re-painted/re-gauged Hornby Stanier coaches and later a 2 Car IE push-pull set converted from Lima MK 3 coaches.

Wagon stock was about 30 or so vans and cattle wagons a mixture of Brian's scratchbuilt and my re-gauged and converted Parkside BR wagons. Another member of the Group Jim McGuire contributed a beautiful scratchbuilt ex- MGWR 20T goods brake.

So to summarise two (reliable) steam outline and two diesels, a short rake of coaches and about 20 wagons were adequate for operating a branchline terminus layout over a long weekend.

No mechanical problems to speak of with our kit built steam outline locos assembled from SSM kits, only problem was when I used a Labelle oil with insulating properties to oil the bearings with live axle pick up in preparation for an exhibition stages at the Inchacore Works 150 anniversary, though my 001 Class saved the day successfully working cattle specials without a problem throughout the weekend.

Both Brian and I agreed that we spent a lot of time assembling kits that were in appropriate for the layout which would have been better spent scratchbuilding more appropriate ex MGWR locos and stock.

With a through/crossing station on a secondary main line you are probably talking about a minimum of 6 locos and 2 sets of coaching stock and 30 or so wagons. Operated an N scale Irish secondary main line layout based on Sligo Line timetable about 40 years ago, found 4 diesels adequate to operate the service. Pair of 121s and 5 coaches on main line passenger service, B141 on the night Mail and daytime freight services and a 001 on the overnight goods. You would need another pair of locos and set of main line coaches if your modelling a station where the passenger trains cross en-route or the sets distinctly different. You would need an additional loco and rake of tank wagons if you decided to model the trice weekly Sligo ESSO oil train. 

Building an exhibition layout based on a through station on a secondary main line would involve a tremendous commitment in terms of space and time particularly if you intend to work to 21mm gauge and model the steam era. Difficult to achieve as an individual effort.

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