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Clogher Valley Project

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Things seem to have gone a bit quiet on the layout and workshop fronts lately, so here is the start of my new project - a layout based on a Clogher Valley Railway theme.

Arigna Town still has plenty of life left in it, but I have a shelf space above it which gives me approx 2m long x 45cm deep and 30cm high. Initially, I draw out quite detailed plans of a small through station, with no loop, but two sidings [see pics below]. This would have been worked from turntable fiddle yards at each end. However, though I was happy with the design, in terms of operating, it would have kept two people very busy, for the 4-5 trains would have meant a sequence lasting no more than 10 minutes or so.

Now, like the SLNCR, the CVR was a through line, with no branches, but I had a rethink to see if a terminus-fiddle yard layout could be done in the space available. The answer lay in a layout called Loose End, which I build around 20 years ago. This was a standard gauge, roadside line, based on the Wantage Tramway, where [in 7mm scale] the track plan for Wantage Town station is a mere 2.3metres long. Add in the fact that the train shed is very similar in appearance to the one at Fintona AND the latter is only about 10 miles from Clogher & you can easily see where my mind was going.

Looking through Patterson's book on the CVR, it seems there were early plans for a line from Fintona to Armagh [long before the CVR was built], while the improbable Ulster & Connaught would have seen a line to Newry, via Keady. So, things were now starting to fall in place & with a proposed name of Fintonagh, my terminus could be a town in either direction!

Have attached a plan I've been working on. The track work is fairly well inked in at the moment. It will be 21mm gauge [of course!], using hand built track with [probably] code 75 rail and copper clad sleepers. Am toying with the idea of making it DCC, so I can control the points without a control panel and [just maybe] introduce a bit of sound - though not sure on the latter. Probably use Kadee couplings and electro magnets for shunting. Stock most likely a couple of Sharp Stewart tanks, the railcar & 'Unit', while Branchlines coaches and wagon chassis will provide much help with the rest.

To give you a flavour of what I hope the overall scene will look like, have included some photos of Loose End. This was set in Kent, where there is indeed a village called Loose, just outside Maidstone, though most of the buildings come from another small town nearby called West Malling. Overall, I think the layout was probably the most visually well balanced of the dozen or so projects I've built, so am hoping to repeat the process, with an Irish flavour. With a couple of trips planned to come over the water this year [including Cultra in November], there should be no excuse for not getting the flavour right. Am intending to get started on the baseboards soon, so watch this space, as they say...










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Glad you like it, Eoin. Loose End was built in the mid '90s. It was three approx 1 metre scenic boards (10ft in old money), with a similar length fiddle yard which used cassettes.

Track was code 100 fb with points from Marcway, same as Arigna. Locos were a mix of kit and scratch built, focussing on prototypes that fitted the roadside tramway theme. Included a Connoisseur GE tram engine, painted to represent Toby of Rev Awdrey fame, complete with smiley face. A couple of Manning Wardles, GE coffee pot (full tramway skirts); also a double cab Sentinel. Wisbech tramway coaches were ideal and also modelled a Wantage tram loco and tramcar. Pride of the line was Jane, the Wantage George England well tank that MRJ articles took you on a scratchbuilding journey. Taught me a lot, that little loco.

Jane is pretty much all that survives in my possession, the layout was sold on in about 2005. Since then, it has moved again and last I heard now lives in the same barn in France as Gordon Gravett's Ditchling Green - esteemed company indeed.

Operationally, it worked on the principal of a terminus junction, with a 'twig' trailing into the branch terminus. Fintonagh will use the same principal, with a siding going off scene, via the linen mill, to a broad gauge exchange yard. This can be a good way of creating extra traffic, on what is after all, a very small layout.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I get the impression that most of the layouts in this section are home based, while mine are intended for exhibitions, which puts a very different perspective on your planning. This will be my sixth layout to go on the road and, truth be told, I have yet to get it right in terms of transport - and probably never will. Everything is a bit of a compromise.

One key factor is weight & another is manageability. With just two scenic boards [100cm x 45cm], neither should be a problem, though I do want to be able to pair them up for transport and to give a bit of added protection. A couple of recent shows have involved loading up in the rain - not recommended!

Another factor is the number of trips you need to make to and from the car. Arigna needs at least 12, so not surprisingly, I want to reduce that. Equally, I want to make as much use as possible of Ariana's superstructure, i.e. the trestles and support beams, because I have no room to store any new ones. Fintonagh, will sit on a 150cm high shelf at home, so I want to try and replicate that at shows, which means 30cm risers. hopefully, I have figured out a plan to do that, one which will enable a set of information boards along the front of the layout.

Other considerations involving internet research at the moment are couplings and point motors. While I would like prototype chopper couplings, I also want hands free uncoupling & from what I have seen do far, those types which look prototypical are handed and only work one way. Not good when i want turntables. Hanging after a seated operating position at the front, means electric points too. Tortoise have always been my favourite, though the new Cobalt models are smaller and cheaper. One thing I have decided is that the layout will be analogue control - DCC seems too much of a liability on an exhibition layout. Others may disagree, but I know plenty who think the same as me

Picked up a nice bargain at the Chatham Show in the form of a Peco N gauge turntable. At 6 inches diameter, it scales out at 22ft in 7mm scale & forms the ideal basis for a CVR model, this time with electric drive - eventually!


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  • 1 month later...

Always promised myself that I would make a start on this new project once I'd got the Chatham Show & our trip to Ireland completed. Trouble is, while some of the materials I need were procured at the Show, others are slow to arrive and/or not available off the shelf at the local DIY store.

A key ingredient for baseboards is 6mm birch plywood. Used extensively on Arigna Town, it has proved to be robust, stable and fairly light - very important with exhibition layouts. However, it has to be specially ordered from a timber merchant, so I'm still waiting at the moment. At least it is not any more expensive than hardwood ply of the same thickness, and being five layers instead of three, cuts cleanly too.

So, for now have only cut four pieces of 12mm ply for the end frames of the two scenic boards. These go outside the baseboard surfaces. It is easier at this stage to fit the baseboard joiners, before any frames are added. I prefer to use the ones from C&L, not cheap, but very robust. The first two photos show the materials I've bought so far [thin ply for fascias, pelmets etc & MDF for the turntable-fiddle yard], plus the mated pair of end boards with the joiners in place.

Unable to do any more woodwork, I've turned my attention to the track. I was fortunate here if finding a quantity of unwanted Peco code 82 flat bottom rail in the club rooms, which is exactly what I need. Normal 7mm NG tends towards code 100 rail, but [like Arigna], I wanted something a bit lighter & code 82 is ideal. I also found I had a fair quantity of 5mm copper clad sleepers left over from the Arigna layout. These are 63mm [9'] long, so some will be fine for point timbers while others will be cut down to the 42mm [6'] used on the CVR. Further supplies are on order from Marcway.

I was tempted to ask Marcway to make the points for me, but finding I had the rail & sleepers to hand, have decided to have a go myself. Track building is not my favourite occupation, but it is time to have another try. Main problem is finding suitable drawings. Salvation came in the form of Templot, which has [among its vast library] basic B5 turnout drawings of approx 1 metre radius. Unfortunately, there was no 21mm narrow gauge drawing and the only alternative was for broad gauge P4. The issue here is much narrower flange ways, not really suitable for this project. However, there were plans for 'Irish EM' at 20.2mm gauge and 1 mm flange ways - ideal for my needs. A few seconds with a calculator showed that by copying them at 104%, this would give a 21mm track plan, to which I have then marked in where the narrow gauge sleepers will go. Total accuracy isn't too important, as I will be using gauges to construct the track and points, with the drawings only as a base to build on.

When you think about it, making track shouldn't be too difficult [or so I tell myself] & there is plenty of help on line. So far, I've made the six crossing 'vees', following the method used by C&L in their pre-made units. Hopefully the close up photo shows how you file the straight on rail first, then file the angled vee to go against it. This way, both routes of the point should line up with the track on the other side of the crossing, in what is sometimes [though incorrectly, I believe] known as the 'frog'.

Again, photos show where I've got to & the next stage will be to lay out the two construction jigs for the points, plus a third for plain track.







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At long last, the 6mm birch ply arrived, so I could start the baseboards. To help, I bought a new 22 inch hand saw, as I prefer one to a circular saw & they certainly cut straighter lines than a jigsaw - in my hands anyway.

Basic dimensions of each of the two scenic boards are 1000 x 450mm, with a back scene 375mm high [including framing]. There is nothing fancy in their construction, though the baseboard top sits inside the framing, including the 12mm ply 'end plates'. These have the C&L baseboard joiners sunk into them & it means the baseboards not only line up accurately, but are flush faced with each other too.

Was hoping to use Arigna Town's trestles, but have decided to make new ones, which will be 48" high, so with the tops, beams and baseboard framing, track height will be around 54"/1.5m. First photo shows one board under construction, while the second shows the pair together on the vacated shelf above Arigna Town in my workshop. The fiddle yard will come later & will only be used at exhibitions. For home use, a short cassette will enable me to do shunting/testing etc.

The other picture shows a couple of items of track that I've made up, in order to enable me to start drawing out the track plan & working out where buildings, scenic features etc will go.




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This is very much intended as an exhibition layout, so it therefore needs something to stand on a shows. In the past, I've used used integral legs [hinged from the baseboards], but for several layouts now I've adopted Iain Rice's 'ulysses' idea. The acronym stands for universal layout support system, or some such, and is made up of a number of trestles, kept apart/together by longitudinal beams, upon which the layout itself sits. The advantage of this system is that [with a little adjustment] it can be used by successive layouts. I'd been hoping to use the same trestles from Arigna Town, but with 30cm risers to get the overall track height to around 1.5 metres. Unfortunately, the risers proved to be be rather unstable, so instead I've made three new trestles.

These are very simple, just 4 pieces of 2x1 timber, some 4mm plywood and a couple of back hinges made up each one. To hold the longitudinal beams [more 2x1, 1.6m long], further piece of plywood slots into the gap at the top of each trestle. M6 bolts project upwards from this ply piece and the main beams slot onto these. This means it only takes 5 minutes to assemble the whole layout at a show - though adding lights, stock, drapes etc expands this somewhat, depending on the size of the layout. Arigna Town is fully up and running inside an hour from arriving at a venue. Being smaller, I am hoping the new project will be done in not much more than half that.





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  • 2 weeks later...

Another factor with portable layouts compared to permanent ones is baseboard joins. There are various tricks to disguise potential earthquake cracks in the scenery, though it is surprising how many exhibition layouts seem to sit on major fault lines. At the building stage, making sure that all mating surfaces are flush is a good start, which is why I always use 'end plates', rather than rely on baseboard tops lining up absolutely square. However, even 12mm ply can bow a little, as was the case between the two scenic boards. Hence pinched a trick showed me by Gordon Gravett. Basically, one covers one end plate with cling film and then smear a good dollop of car body filler on the other before clamping the two together & leaving to set. Crude, but very effective.

The back scenes came next, with a couple of holes needing to be cut out to enable tracks to go into the fiddle yard. After that, the two back scenes were carefully sanded to be as flush as possible, though am not too bothered here as most of the joint will be covered by a [removable] building. Next cut out a hole in the fascia of baseboard one to take the control panel. This is rebated about 30mm, so the toggle switches are not damaged when the layout is moved around. Five switches in all - four to cover the six points and a fifth to switch power from the tracks to the turntable motor. A socket for the handheld controller lead still needs to be drilled out.

Finally, primed the underside of the baseboards, partly to seal the plywood but also to make wiring more visible.


Since then, have completed all six points [no tie bars yet], so could then draw out the track plan & make sure everything would line up. Pictures show where I've got to, including the three items of stock so far to give everything a bit of scale. Remember, the whole scenic section is just two metres long. The rest of my Code 82 rail arrived yesterday, so hopefully track laying can begin soon, but given that it is actually staying summery at the moment, I'm not exactly in a rush to be indoors in the workshop...








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Another factor with portable layouts compared to permanent ones is baseboard joins. There are various tricks to disguise potential earthquake cracks in the scenery, though it is surprising how many exhibition layouts seem to sit on major fault lines.


I will confess to "hunting the cracks" when perusing an exhibition layout - the camouflaging of the joints on some layouts is almost perfect now.


I forget the name, but I do remember one where the joints were only traceable on the front boards - even when you could see where they started, they were not visible.


I am also often (internally) critical of the placement of farm animals - however, yesterday, I saw about eighty sheep in a largish field, scattered randomly, but all facing in exactly the same direction - it would have looked totally 'false' in a model context.


I was on the M40 at the time and, so, was unable to take a picture.....

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Interesting. May also have something to do with the prevailing wind, especially if it is fairly strong. A case of do you want a breeze in your face or up your bum! Having a tail may help the latter maybe...

Have certainly noticed that wildfowl at rest often all face the same way when it is windy.

Just goes to show there really is a prototype for everything.

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Interesting. May also have something to do with the prevailing wind, especially if it is fairly strong. A case of do you want a breeze in your face or up your bum! Having a tail may help the latter maybe...

Have certainly noticed that wildfowl at rest often all face the same way when it is windy.

Just goes to show there really is a prototype for everything.


It was at around 8am on a calm, pleasant morning. Even if they were taking advantage of standing broadside to the early Sun, some of them could easily have been 180 degrees to the others. It really did look quite artificial - I'm now even wondering if they were real, or if it might have been some weird "art installation"..?

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Amazing scientific research into something farmers and people work with animals have know about for aeons. Cattle have a quite rigid social structure that governs an individual animals position in a herd, their position in relation to the matriarch and no doubt who gets to eat the tastiest grass and herbs.


A bit like ourselves they have to follow and keep a respectful distance from their leader or there will be serious trouble

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  • 2 weeks later...

A week in Brittany stopped modelling, but a fine place to visit, not least because of the similarities to Ireland in terms of music & culture. Narrow gauge was nearly the same too! Doubt Cork & Kerry saw 34c though...

Anyway, Fintonagh's baseboards are at last ready for track laying & the pictures show progress so far.

Normally, I would use 3mm cork floor tiles as an 'underlay', but on a small layout, I am not sure if there will be much benefit in sound deadening, while the station site means almost all ground cover will be at rail level or above. So, track is being laid straight onto the baseboard surface. One further bit of preparation was to drill & fit small screws at the baseboard joints. Rails will be soldered to these & it makes for a bit of security at the baseboards ends when the layout is being transported to exhibitions. Also, I sprayed the points matt black in the hope of minimising bits of copper clad shining through the ballast later on.

Once enough half track was made up, actual track laying could begin. I'm going to wire up as I go along, so the first section is also the first wiring section. With copper clad track, there are a lot of insulation gaps to cut, so I am hoping that by completing one wiring section at a time, I can minimise the potential for short circuits. Also, I hate wiring, so doing it a bit at a time may limit the number of rude words!

In the background, you might spot a box of Tortoise point motors. Very much my favourites, though, post Brexit, they are now even more expensive than ever. When I first bought them in the early '90s, they were about ten quid each. My 'bargain box' of six cost me nearly £100 - mainly down to the falling exchange rate - a small, but not insignificant reason why I voted to stay, but there we go. The redoubtable Mr Gravett has showed me how to make a simple bracket, so they can be mounted on their sides [as he did with Pempoul], for they are over 3" deep, which is more than my baseboard frames. You can also see the Peco N gauge turntable. Its 150mm diameter is more than enough for the Sharp Stewart locos and just enough for the railcar when it gets built, though the latter will foul the main track whenever it is turned. However, on a one engine in steam branch, this is hardly an issue methinks.




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  • 4 weeks later...

At 5pm today, my one and only loco moved under its own power around Baseboard 1.

For those of you well versed in electrickery no doubt the comment 'so what' is already on your lips. However, for a numpty like me, whose entire knowledge of wiring can be written on a postage stamp with room to spare, applying power to track and points is always fraught with anxiety.

In fact, with handmade track and fairly shallow baseboard frames to contend with, there is actually quite a lot of work & certainly exponentially more than adding 'two wires'. First off, blew nearly £100 on six Tortoise point motors. However, these are nearly 10cm deep and my baseboard frames are only 75mm. Therefore, very grateful to Gordon Gravett, who showed me how he turned Tortoises on their side, with simple brackets, when Pempoul came to Chatham in June. Made mine from off cuts of hardboard, but any material will do I guess. A piece of copper clad sleeper strip was used as a pivot, with 1mm piano wire soldered on one end [going to the point tie bar] and a slot cut in the other to take the Tortoise actuating rod. The wire supplied is too thin for this scale, so 0.8mm piano wire is substituted.

Lots of head scratching went into the wiring diagram & there is exponentially more wire under the baseboard than on Arigna, despite it being only half the size. A Tortoise needs 5 wires [two for power & three more to switch track power], while DPDT switches need another six. Two pairs of points are wired as cross overs, so that cuts things down a little, while there are only three actual track feeds on Baseboard 1. There will be a single section switch on Baseboard 2 [in the loco shed], otherwise any isolation with be by the points themselves.

The only other thing of any note is that a DPDT switch is being used to switch between track power and that for the turntable motor. Hopefully, once a loco is driven onto the TT, flicking this switch will transfer power to reverse the locos/railcar, while always went cab first on the CVR.

I'd love to say I can now go on & wire the second board and play trains, but a certain amount of adjustment is needed to get the tie bars closing properly. With only one engine at the moment, itself not yet fully tested or run in, there are a fair few variables to be ironed out.




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Testing out a new section of trackwork the most exciting and nerve wracking thing for model and full size railroaders:trains:


When I was in the States I remember a Canadian Pacific section crew asking the Engineer on a local freight if he wouldn't mind running his train back and forth 4-5 time across a newly installed diamond to make sure it was ok.


I like the way you have recessed the switch gear into the layout fascia eliminating the need for a separate control panel and turning the Tortoise point motors on their side.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Surprised myself with how quickly and well this went. Have tried to keep things tidy below the baseboard by threading wires through staples.

The only problem was tracing short and eventually found it where two copperclad sleepers on one of the points were touching and ungapped. Such are the vagaries of this method.

So, have been able to run my loco around, along with a single coach and wagon - all I have at present. In the process, cooked my transformer (two bare wires touching). A bad smell and the fact it was still hot half an hour later a bit of a giveaway!

Was hoping to add photos I took on my phone, which is where I am posting this from, but do not seem able to access these pics. Any ideas why anyone?

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  • 5 weeks later...

Have been battling with the turntable on Fintonagh. Am using a Peco N Gauge version, which at 150mm diameter is just the right size. First added a much wider top to the deck & then longitudinal sleepers for the rails. Unlike the Dapol one on Arigna, have made this one wider to enable the crews to dismount & walk along it - had I holographic technology...

Problems occurred when trying to set the deck on the well. The plunger pick ups used seem to create a rocking movement, while the central 'boss' is not a completely snug fit on my model. Hence it wobbles - not good when it comes to fitting a motor and gears to drive it.

First tried sleeving the boss with some brass tube and then enlarged the central hole a little. Put a piece of plastic tube on the underside for the brass tube to go into, in the hope of reducing the wobble. However, it took some lead sheet at each end of the decking to reduce this to acceptable levels - probably by fully compressing the pick up springs. I also added a ring of plastikard on the base of the well to give the bottom of the deck more support too.

The motor is from Frizinghall Models and as supplied takes about a day and a half for a single revolution [well 4 minutes anyway]. Happily removal of some of the gears speeds things up and also reduces the noise, so it now does a half turn in a more realistic 20 seconds. The issue with the motor though is how to fix it, as the instructions suggest bolting it to the underside of the turntable well. This would mean the bolt heads showing so, as can be seen from the photos I fixed it to some wood strip I had, so that this could then be fixed to the underside of the baseboard instead. It means the gears are further below the baseboard that I would like [wobble factor again], but after drilling multiple fixing holes [easy to see the ones I did earlier!], it now works reasonably well.

The only problem left is that the deck is now about 1mm higher than the tracks either side, so guess I will have to raise these, as it will be a lot easier than lowering the turntable!






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  • 3 weeks later...

When doing a painting, you generally start with the background. A model railway is in three dimensions, so it is more a case of start from the bottom. Being an entirely urban scene, it was important to start any scenics with foundations for the ground works. This has meant the station platforms and loading dock, plus the roads and pavements. Between them, they also effectively outline where the bases for all the buildings will be.

First up though was some basic track colour. I could have painted all the sleepers and rail sides by brush, but decided it would be quicker to spray the whole areas, first with primer & then with dull brown acrylic. This has the added advantage of sealing the top surface of the baseboards, useful because ballasting uses a fair bit of water. Brush painting will be used on exposed rails and sleepers after ballasting.

A fair bit of mounting board has been used for the platforms, with the vertical faces covered in Wills stone sheet. The latter gives rather obvious lines where pieces join, so these have been filled with DAS clay and mortar lines scribed in. Platform edging is done with 80 thou plastic edging stones, while the eventual surfaces will be a mixture of Chinchilla Dust and paving slabs made from adhesive address labels.

Readers of Gordon Gravett will know that he outlines how to do all this in his scenics books & the same goes for road surfaces & pavements. A centreline of microstrip is used to create a camber [mounting board again], while 100 thou strip is used for curbstones. More DAS clay to fill in the gaps & thought it all looks a little messy at the moment, once covered with sand/grit/talc should hopefully look the part. The eagle eyed might spot a couple of areas waiting for some acrylic sheet for puddles. Will cut one or two other sections out too. This is Ireland, after all...

The turntable has also had some work. Lead sheet under the ends of the deck means it now 'sits' better, while track either side has been raised by 1mm so everything lines up. The well edges has been tidied up with coping stones, so it now looks like it belongs in the scene.

Am hoping that, over Christmas, I'll be able to draw out all the buildings on 5mm mounting board enabling a general mock up of everything to be done & thereby a clear impression of what the layout will eventually look like.


DSCN2168 (1).jpg





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Thanks, folks. And you are right, John - market branch and a link to broad gauge exchange sidings. Off scene sidings, as per Arigna, vastly increase the operating potential of what is a small layout. Am planning to build the Atkinson Walker tractor to work it. Had the line existed, this small shunting task might (just), have been within its pathetic capabilities!

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  • 2 weeks later...

After weekends in Cultra & Manchester, now have a chance to get back to the new project & having done the foundations of the groundwork, next I want to block in the buildings. These are very much part of the overall scene, so getting positions/orientations right is really important. The aim is, even with this small project, to provide several different view points & viewing angles, in an effort to make the scene look bigger than it really is.

Therefore have spent a few hours making mockups of the buildings, using foam board. These will form the basis of the finished models.

It has been interesting to work out where & how I want things to go. For example, I had not realised how much empty space there would be on the right hand end's back scene, above the tram shed. It has also been useful to minimise the fact that over 50% of buildings are 'low relief'. What I am aiming for is that they will blend [fairly] seamlessly into the painted, flat, back scene.

Pictures show how far I've got, with just the left hand street scene to be completed. However, it is often a good idea to take a break and go back to the model a few hours/days later, as things came appear very different to what you first perceived. A bit like trying to proof read your own writing - you tend to see what you THINK you have done & not what is really there. A bit more faffing about and you should start to get an idea of what I am trying to create.




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As per my last post, a bit of reflection & reviewing showed a couple of things needed adjusting. Firstly, making the station building/office two storey filled in the large empty space on the right hand end. Secondly, realised that the buildings on the right back scene needed their roof lines to be level, not sloping. in addition, while sketching in the back scene, it soon became clear that the road going off into the middle back scene needed to be slightly oblique to enable the solid buildings to merge with the painted ones.

So, from left to right, what we have is a linen/woollen mill covering the exit to the fiddle yard. The track to this leaves the station yard and exits, along the centre of the main street. The low relief buildings will include various shops and houses, based on photos of the Clogher Valley and ones I took myself of those preserved at Cultra. In the centre of the layout, the road turns sharp left 'into' the back scene, by what will be another Railway Bar [as per Arigna]. To the right of this is the station/tramshed, its overall roof will be similar in style to that at Wantage, because I want it to be as open as possible, so you can look through it to the street behind, with several low relief shops/businesses, as per the left hand end. Between the station and shops are the loco shed and water tank, with the railway separated from the road throughout the station area by a stone wall. A half relief building behind the turntable hides the road running obliquely behind the bar and suggesting the two roads link up. Hopefully, you can just about see where I've started sketching in the back scene too.

This is one of those situations on a layout where things seem to be coming together - then you realise that with 15 structures to build, it will take a while, though as I repeatedly tell myself - it is not a race and meant to be enjoyed!

Hopefully, you can pick out the 'before and after' in the photos.










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