I spent quite a bit of time watching this layout, as Ruspidge/Eastern United is one of the key locations I’d like to include on my scheme. One item I collected at Warley was the latest book from Wild Swan Publishing WildSwan, ‘Authentic Model Railway Operation’ written by Martin Nield ISBN 9781912038008. The book is written as a comprehensive introduction to working a layout prototypically, and also covers design aspects with pointers on elements to look for in the layout design stage.
Having watched Staple Edge and quickly read through the book, retrospectively I realised that I’d been applyinging quite a few of the suggestions included in Martins book. Staple Edge is a well modelled 7mm scale halt and colliery screens/sidings and it is very clearly based on Eastern United in the Forest of Dean. Chapter one deals with analysing traffic requirements. Well my Severn and Dean project is like Staple Edge to be based firmly on the Forest lines, and fortunately there are some excellent reference sources for those routes. Coal was the primary reason for the development of the Forest of Dean lines. The mining industry has a unique history in the Forest with how it developed and how it was managed. There were many collieries within the coal field, small compared to some of the Welsh or Midland and Northern Collieries, but they generated an interesting flow of traffic which lasted into the 1950’s and 60’s, my era of interest. Having done a good deal of prior research I’ve already got a good idea on the Forest traffic and what routes it flowed over.
Martin also deals with track plans and how to adapt them or use company protocols, e.g. the Midlands aversion to facing crossings, in a layout design. Watching Staple Edge I already had an idea of how the line ‘worked’ so it was interesting to see what features they had chosen to include and adapt from the prototype into the layout. The prototype is a north-south alignment with the bulk of traffic for the colliery coming from the south and terminating at the colliery, empties (northerly) inbound and full southbound. For these pictures here assume North is at the opposite end of the layout to the colliery screens. The first thing of note for me was the traffic flow was reversed, so inbound came from the ‘north’. This may be a practical consideration for how the layout is used away from exhibitions and how the layout is physically operated, or it could be the builder prefers it that way. The layout at Warley was operated from the rear or ‘west’ side. For my scheme the layout would be operated from the east side and the operator and viewer will see the orientation as shown in these pictures, working in 4mm scale I’ll have the benefit of more space pro rata, to allow the trains to ‘breathe’ in. The 7mm scale colliery trains were approximately seven wagons plus brake van in length. With the size of layout these trains took a good but not unrealistic proportion of the run round loop. I’ve worked out that my ideal train length will be in the order of ten wagon plus brake in 4mm scale. The linear nature of the site in a valley bottom is a key element I want to capture, so my run round loop will be longer possibly a twenty wagon capacity length. This will allow the trains more visual impact, and retain the overall appearance of the location whilst still allowing selective compression to be used. The book covers signals and interlocking but not in significant detail, understandably considering the many different company variations that existed. It does however give a good feel for the subject to allow further research with the pointers given. The track layout has a few variations from the prototype within the colliery site and sidings. This is one of the areas I’m still working on. The stumbling block at the moment being capturing the appearance of the wagons being loaded via the screens and then gravitating into the storage sidings. Both Mick Simpson and Ian Pope have given me ideas to follow up on this as I want the loading to be discreet, but I feel I may have to adopt a shunter to move full wagons from the screens to storage sidings to retain an authentic track plan.
Martin covers Timetable operation and train formations too. Having done the research for my project this was how I noticed the reversal of the operations, I was expecting a different flow to that which I viewed. I must emphasis this isn’t a criticism of the Staple Edge layout or operators, its their layout and they’ve made those choices for their reasons. For my project the layout is a module, and the traffic flow through the whole scheme reflects the prototype operational flow. With the Severn and Dean scheme the orientation of the stations also assists in keeping the traffic flow logical across the whole route. I did try swapping a few around but the result compromised what I want to achieve in operations. Well, that’s the theory anyway! Train formations are pretty simple too and over the past year or so I’ve been making the ‘trains’ and selecting stock to represent the traffic flow reasonably accurately. Hornby’s announcement of an AA15 GWR/WR Toad Brake ( gwr-aa15 ), for 2017 has already saved me time, I’ll finish the Bachmann conversion I’ve started and Ratio Kit and get on with other stock, and likely a 16XX as that’s the type currently noticeably absent from the roster. Finally the book covers realistic movement and exhibition operating, breaking down subjects such as running round a train and the actions that take place performing the task. Some of those parts may seem obvious to people whom have had the opportunity to see it in real life in teal time, but there will be readers whom haven’t had that experience, and its a logical inclusion in the book. The production values are typical Wild Swan, however some of the model photographs aren’t as good as they might be, some showing pixilation and saturated colors, and a shallow depth of field. Prototype images are good quality and well printed, all images are relevant to the sections of the book they are used in. The book is centred on steam era operations, however many practices and protocols are still extant on todays railway. If there’s an area where the book is weak its perhaps in the lack of coverage of contemporary operations and railways, particularly post British Rail Corporate era.
Overall its a good book and worth the £13.95 price tag, particularly for readers who may be new or returnees to the hobby, and want to learn more about replicating railway practices on their layouts. Reading the book and realising I’d been unconsciously following its ethos whilst watching Staple Edge was quite interesting, particularly when I compare and contrast the different compromises that the layout builders have used, and that I will have to address myself all be it in a different scale and era.