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Author Topic: Ashburton and Totnes  (Read 2127 times)

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Offline JohnBS

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Ashburton and Totnes
« on: July 02, 2018, 08:49:23 pm »
ASHBURTON AND TOTNES

Introduction


Many years ago, while living in London, I began construction of a large fixed layout of Totnes station, the River Dart and estuary, Dainton tunnel, Staverton and the Ashburton branch. The whole thing was an L-shape, about 4m by 4.5m and 1m deep. It was approaching completion when we moved down to Somerset some thirty years ago. Despite its massive size, the layout survived the move, minus the Ashburton terminus, which had to be removed to fit into the new railway room (the loft). Therefore, the ultimate outcome was two separate layouts, a remodelled Ashburton and a reconstructed Totnes.

The two models share common themes each is set in South Devon in the heyday of steam on the Great Western Railway. Both, though to 2mm scale, use N-gauge track and share a collection of locomotives and rolling stock. Ashburton is a small working diorama of the well-known branch line terminus while Totnes is a larger continuous circuit.

Ashburton on its supporting base unit, which acts as a storage box for transporting the ancillary equipment

The construction of each layout differs slightly. The older, Ashburton, is in two separate boards, 1.3m and 1.1m long and 0.45m wide, with radiused corners. It has a perimeter framework of 22mm thick softwood with cross braces at about 0.4m centres.

The newer, Totnes, has six main track boards, providing an oval about 3.0m by 1.7m, with two infill scenic boards and one small board for the Quay Branch. These have a structural frame of 4mm birch ply, with cross braces at about 0.4m centres, diagonal bracing and a continuous spline beam under the centreline of the tracks. The latter was very carefully aligned vertically to avoid undulation which are difficult to detect until too late! The track bed is 9mm MDF and the rail is Peco code 55, carefully ballasted with fine sand. Turnouts are again Peco, with Seep motors with polarity switches. All vulnerable edges of the framework are reinforced with 8mm square strip-wood and ply joints with 12mm triangular fillets.


Totnes at an exhibition, on the extended base unit.

The layouts have a common setting-out height with the tracks at 1.2m above floor level - indeed they share the same support structure. Joining faces were reinforced with an additional layer of 9mm MDF and were aligned with loose-pin butts (hinges) and connected with M10 bolts, washers and wing nuts. The exposed front edges were faced with 3mm MDF, cut to the scenery profile. A similar MDF strip was fixed to the rear, curving round the ends, as a panoramic back-scene, cut to the distant ground and tree profile. The sky boards were separate, spaced about 5mm away from the back of the ground profile. Both layouts have lift-off sections to give access to hidden tracks or where buildings cross baseboard joints.

Scenic surfaces were constructed out of 10mm insulation board (Sundeala), cut and edge-glued to each other to form a three-dimensional monocoque. This gave an homogenous surface, capable of taking fixings (trees, signals, etc) and of being shaped. (It also enabled me to use up loads of off-cuts from the earlier version of Totnes!)

Ashburton has five storage sidings which are somewhat unconventional; they sit under the rising ground at the back of the layout and are accessed via a sector plate which forms the track in the rock cutting at the right hand end of the layout. Totnes has a conventional fiddle yard behind the back-scene, with four roads in each direction, a central exchange road and head/tail shunts at the left hand end. These fiddle yard boards are protected by a 20mm up-stand, in 3mm MDF. For transport, pairs of boards bolt together face-to-face, through end protection boards.

Both layouts are supported on a base unit - a fold-out box construction which provides a firm base and storage for many of the ancillary items power supply, tools, etc. Lighting is by a concentrated array of tungsten halogen lamps on a high single pole. For Totnes, the base unit is extended by adding a further four sections, again joined with hinges.

A typical slice through the Totnes layout. Ashburton construction is similar but narrower

Scenic areas were shaped by carving and sanding the Sundeala, priming with dilute PVA and covering with Polyfilla mixed with brown emulsion paint and PVA. When set, areas such as roads were sanded smooth. Grassed areas were formed by gluing on surgical lint, fluffy side down, with contact adhesive, then, when set,  removing the backing. Colouring was then done with dilute enamel paint (mid green, yellow and white) and the grass teased up with an old suede brush.

Roads and other surfaced areas were textured with a variety of materials - talcum powder, scouring powder, fine sand, crushed stone and ash etc - stuck with dilute PVA and tinted with dilute enamel paints to avoid softening the adhesive.

Devon banks (hedges) were constructed on roughly-carved cores of Sundeala, covered with filler, painted and flocked. Reeds and specimen plants were made from various materials - plumbers' hemp, filter fabric, crushed tissue paper and commercial scenic products.

For me, the good news is that almost all the buildings and many civil engineering structures, trees and details were salvaged from the earlier layout. Trees were produced in various ways. Specimen trees at the front of the were either carefully made with foliage material (Woodland Scenics and Heka) on wire armatures or were high quality purchases. Trees in the middle distance were simpler, a basic wire support and simple foliage clumps or teased-out air conditioner filter fabric, sprayed with adhesive and then flocked. Mass planting at the back of the layout was even simpler; a structure of rabbit wire (1/2 in square mesh) with clumps of flocked filter fabric.

Buildings were scratch-built, made of mounting board with the late lamented BuilderPlus stone and brick papers or textured plastic card. Windows were made from acetate sheet, scribed for glazing bars with the grooves filled with paint, wiped off before fully dry. Roofs of foreground buildings were slated with paper, ruled in one direction with a biro to give a texture to the vertical joints between slates and cut into overlapping strips for the horizontal joints. I use 1mm square graph paper for this as it saves measuring!

The rolling stock was also largely already available from the earlier layouts. The stable of over 30 locomotives were mainly scratch-built or heavily modified proprietary models (see separate thread "Tales from my Stock Box".) Coaching stock is a combination of proprietary models and kits and wagons are proprietary, all weathered.

More to follow,

John
« Last Edit: July 03, 2018, 05:26:15 pm by JohnBS, Reason: Correction »
For more information see my blog: http://ashburton-and-totnes.blogspot.co.uk

Offline bellringer

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2018, 11:07:35 pm »
John, it is great to see that you have started a thread here. I have admired Totnes as a model ever since I first saw it in the modelling press and it has been a pleasure to be able to see it in the flesh too. I haven't yet been able to see Ashburton in real life but understand that you will be exhibiting it at Wells in August. Nonetheless, both models are inspirational examples of modelling in N/2mm and I look forward to seeing more of your contributions in due course.

Neil

Online weave

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2018, 08:24:11 am »
Hi John,

Have seen Totnes too. I'd just started out in my attempts so thought I'd go to an exhibition and I kept going back to the layout in awe and wonder.

Looking forward to more about both.

Thanks for sharing. Great stuff.

Cheers weave  :beers:

Offline MinZaPint

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2018, 04:42:09 pm »
Having seen and admired Ashburton on a couple of occasions I hope to see Totnes one day. I will be looking forward to your future posts.
Cogito Sumere potum alterum

Offline JohnBS

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2018, 08:38:47 pm »
ASHBURTON


Plan of the layout

Yet another Ashburton layout! As noted above, this one began life in the late 1970s as the branch line section of a larger fixed layout focussed on Totnes main line station. However, when we moved to Somerset in 1987, the branch line section had to be separated from the main layout as the intended railway room - the loft - was too small. There it stayed, with the vague idea that one day it may come in useful. Perhaps it would form the basis of a small portable - even exhibit-able - independent layout.


A general view of Ashburton station and its setting. The Western National bus is waiting for the arrival of the branch auto-train. Beyond is the Railway Hotel and the entrance to the livestock market. The gas works with gas holder and retort chimney is behind the station. In the distance, rain clouds are gathering over Dartmoor.

And thus it was reborn. Of course, little of the original baseboard remains but at least the need to construct buildings and rolling stock was minimised and I had learnt a little in the meanwhile.


The branch auto-train with No. 4820 has arrived and picked up a second trailer coach for the strengthened morning school run to Buckfastleigh and Totnes. The second trailer was stabled at Ashburton overnight. The school run was strictly segregated - boys in one coach and girls in the other!

The layout is set in the late 1920s and takes the form of a simple diorama. From the familiar Ashburton track plan the single line runs across a small stream and enters a (mythical) steep rock cutting. This hides a sector plate which connects to five storage roads and a head shunt buried under the rolling hills of south Devon. I chose this approach because I didn't want a metre of dead "box" on the end of the layout.


A general view of Ashburton yard with the rope-worked coal siding in the right foreground, the engine shed and coaling and watering facilities in the centre and the old quarry beyond.

The layout is controlled by an ECM controller and 'probe and stud' panel for point and signal operation, set into the back of the layout. The operating programme for Ashburton is based on the working timetables of the 1920s and 1930s. For normal operations, stock includes a 517 with a rake of four-wheeled coaches, a 14xx and autocoach, a small prairie, a pannier, a Dean goods and a saddle tank with passenger, milk, cattle and goods rakes.



Pannier No. 8731 and a livestock train waiting at the home signal. Ashburton's weekly livestock market  was a busy time for the branch and the annual livestock fair was exceedingly so, requiring special trains and the use of the refuge siding at Staverton to accommodate additional trucks.



Weighing and bagging house-coal in the yard and using the sack loader to load Robertson's new Ford lorry.  517 class No. 1435 arrives with a train of four-wheelers and beyond are the water tank and crane.



A quiet time in the yard. Seed sales operated from a grounded clerestory coach body, the labourer refills sacks that have split from the heap of seed on the tarpaulin. His boss is in deep negotiation with a local farmer, or are they just passing the time of day?



Higher Soar farm house and barn beyond, above the steep-sided rock cutting which takes the branch line towards Buckfastleigh, Totnes and the rest of the world.

Ashburton was first exhibited as a work in progress, at Bletchley way back in 1997 and appeared in Model Railway Journal issue 94 in the same year and more recently in the Railway Modeller of January 2011 and British Railway Modelling of July 2012. In 2010, Ashburton was awarded the Visitors' Cup for the best layout by the Manchester Model Railway Society.
Its next outings will be at Wells, 11-12 August 2018.

More Ashburton photos to follow.

John
For more information see my blog: http://ashburton-and-totnes.blogspot.co.uk

Offline Graham63

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2018, 08:45:52 pm »
Absolutely stunning, I never get tired of seeing pictures of your work. Thanks for showing us.

Online Train Waiting

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2018, 10:04:52 pm »
Many thanks for these super photographs, John.  I can't explain any reason why, but the one with No. 8731 at the Home signal particularly appeals to me.  It just looks so ... right.  An ordinary activity (of the time) recreated to perfection!

All the very best.

John
'Why does the Disney Castle work so well?  Because it borrows from reality without ever slipping into it.'

(Acknowledgement: John Goodall Esq, Architectural Editor, 'Country Life'.)


The Table-Top Railway is a train set trying and failing to be a model railway.

I believe that train sets and model railways are fun.

Offline rogerdB

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2018, 10:22:12 pm »
It was seeing the BRM video of this layout that inspired me to try modelling in N gauge and launched me on a nearly five year journey building Wrenton. So many thanks, John.

Offline Newportnobby

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2018, 10:30:51 pm »
The colours of everything sets off the layout perfectly. What a great set of photographs.

Offline JohnBS

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2018, 10:42:10 pm »
Roger,
Thank you for your kind comments. I've been following your excellent Wrenton posts with great interest - superb modelling and marvellous photos. I wish I had the patience/skills/equipment to take stacked focus photos - perhaps I should dig out my old analogue Pentax SLR with its f22 lens and some builders' tungsten-halogen floods but who can now develop film stock? (This is a rhetorical question!)
Very best wishes,
John
For more information see my blog: http://ashburton-and-totnes.blogspot.co.uk

Offline tutenkhamunsleeping

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2018, 08:21:41 am »
Excellent,  thanks for sharing :thumbsup:

Offline Bealman

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2018, 08:35:23 am »
Hi John

Your layout is legendary in my mind.

Thanks for posting, and looking forward to more!  :thumbsup:
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

Offline rogerdB

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2018, 02:30:37 pm »
Roger,
Thank you for your kind comments. I've been following your excellent Wrenton posts with great interest - superb modelling and marvellous photos. I wish I had the patience/skills/equipment to take stacked focus photos - perhaps I should dig out my old analogue Pentax SLR with its f22 lens and some builders' tungsten-halogen floods but who can now develop film stock? (This is a rhetorical question!)
Very best wishes,
John

Thanks John. Perhaps I should dig out my Olympus OM-1, then! No, thinking about it I'll stick with it's descendant, an OM-D EM10. If only I had the current version which I think has focus stacking built in. And thanks again for the inspiration. If I build another layout it will have to be Ashburton size, so I'll be referring to that 2011 issue of RM for ideas.

Offline sp1

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2018, 02:30:53 pm »
Thanks for posting this - have been following your other (equally brilliant) thread on here. Im still undecided about an N gauge layout (I have loads of stock) - now that a castle is available (plus a King in the offing) I am severely tempted. The various pictures and the odd video, not to mention magazine articles, and now this, are inspirational- I think I need to start cutting up baseboard wood...

Offline Caz

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Re: Ashburton and Totnes
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2018, 05:36:47 pm »
Brilliant layout, we do get some cracking layout on here, makes my proud to be a member.

 

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