Group Show

Narrow Gauge Midlands
18th August 2018
Words by Angela Baker, Model Reporter
Photographs as Credited

As if to prove summer holidays on a beach are over-rated, West Midlands Area Group presented Narrow Gauge Midlands on an overcast August day at Four Oaks Methodist Church, Sutton Coldfield, where the swish new church hall extension provided an uplifting and amiable ambience. For the church, this was the inaugural event in the enlarged hall rooms where the paint was dry (just) and the architecture a-la-mode. Use of the premises was thanks to the skilled negotiations of Jim Hart, area group ambassador without portfolio.

A very welcome attendance of 183 persons, excluding exhibitors, traders, waifs and strays (another 50 or so) showed that not everyone had gone to the beach. In this resume the cast is in order of appearance as encountered during your reporter’s tour.

John Campbell presented Campbell’s Quarry, a highly innovative layout in 32mm gauge at 16mm to 1ft featuring two fully operative scratch-built Ruston Bucyrus excavators loading sand from two sand-pits into skip wagons shunted by one Lister, two Simplex and two Ruston diesels all built by John. Worth the admission fee alone, watching the excavator buckets scoop sand into the skips by remote control was mesmerising.

Adrian Hall showed one (highly accomplished) board (6ft x 4ft) of Bear Creek Junction, an HO layout inspired by the Denver & Rio Grande (3ft gauge). Limited running on just the one board was compensated for by the exquisite modelling. The complete layout (22ft x 4ft) won The Continental Modeller Trophy at Warley 2017. Nuff said. With three levels of track, one of which is narrow gauge at 10.5mm (3ft), this section of the model features a stylish range of Craftsman building kits in a nicely conceived western township.

Kings Brandell by Peter Hardy is an L-shaped OO9 layout in double-loop-plus-end-to-end format incorporating a slate quarry and an attractively-detailed pig farm featuring rare-breed saddleback pigs of the genus Peco Modelscene. Most of the locos in service have been entirely scratch-built by Peter from the rails up.

Mac Strong brought along his OO9 layout Felldown, a figure-of-eight Heywood-esque estate railway on 2m x 66cm baseboard with 1 in 30 gradients and an imposing castle-style mansion composed from two Czech kits seamlessly merged and suitably Anglicised.

Allen Doherty of Worsley Works brought along a substantial selection of his etched brass kits and scratch aids in a range of scales and gauges on which he demonstrated assembly in between sales.

John Davies presented St Fayre Rhianne, a French metre-gauge layout using 12mm gauge track featuring attractive and evocative scratch-built structures of real buildings and running a fleet of his scratch-built locos on Triang TT chassis.

At TTe scale using 6.5mm gauge track, A Taste of Alber by Blair Hobson is based on a Czech village of that name. Attractive scenery incorporates a masonry viaduct with prototypical water stand-pipe at the mid-point drawn from the river below. Press photography of the layout was seen to take place during the show so an article in a future issue of Continental Modeller may be expected – which will not be the first publication from Blair.

Regular supporters of M5/M50 Area Group, Hereford Model Centre brought a goodly supply of proprietary models by Peco, Roco and the like and reported brisk business. No surprise there then.

Dick Johnson (with 57 years W&L membership on the clock) promoted the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, with intermittent support from your reporter (of similar vintage but a mere five years’ membership). A comprehensive photographic display showed this 2ft 6in gauge heritage line packs a lot into its 8-and-a-bit miles of track. The current offer of three years membership for the price of two, which allows unlimited travel on the line, is arguably the best value of any preserved railway In-The-World. In fact it’s a steal.

Sole demonstrator at the show (apart from trader Allen Doherty), Steve Holland showed a comprehensive assortment of his 1:24 and 16mm to 1ft scratch and kit-built models. And he showed how to do it too – to a steady trickle of interest and much conversation with interested parties. Steve’s table had the strategic advantage of being within 15ft of the kitchen servery.

Mike Wall brought along Wallsend & Brookesbridge Light Railway, his compact OO9 layout with interchangeable scenic inserts, which was running (amongst others) his Paul Windle-built chunky Hunslet-style diesel on Farish Class 33 chassis. On loan from Paul but not running was his similar but even larger diesel on ‘Peak’ 1-Co-Co-1 chassis at 6.25in (six-and-a-quarter inches!) long, which couldn’t cope with Mike’s 9in radius trackwork.

The largest stand of the day? That would be the OO9 Society Sales Stand of course. Largest sales of the day? The same – naturally. Wot a fab facility.

Back to the layouts. Steve Mann presented Goodmannton Works Railway, his OO9 layout featuring a rural station with works sidings. Given that Steve’s stock rivals that of the Sales Stand in quantity, traffic on the day was wide-ranging.

Bluebell Meadow by Leila Powell is an attractive and unashamed OO9 roundey-roundey affair, fully scenic and featuring the largest island platform in the show. The suspicion lingers that Leila had to step in and give her Dad a lot of help to get the modelling right.

Meanwhile Dad, Ben Powell, brought along his OO9 layout Ridge Lane and bravely displayed it right next to Bluebell Meadow. With the greyest, angriest sky this side of Wet Wales, Ben’s quarry tracks look decidedly industrial for a rural setting. This is a Penrhyn-style quarry exchange system with linear exchange sidings hosting rakes of Parkside Snailbeach hopper wagons hauled by Ben’s latest plasticard loco creations.

Ever-present trade support to West Midlands Area Group, John Sutton Books offered his usual individual range of books and sundry modelling items, together with his convivial demeanour.

Tim Williams delighted with Bryn Tegid, a modern-era OO9 layout set adjacent to a slate quarry featuring Bryn Tegid Isaf (lower) and Bryn Tegid Uchaf (upper) stations on a double circuit with a 1 in 28 branch line to the upper level terminus at which a two-road working incline is interchangeable with either two level sidings or a slate-cutting mill. Lurking beneath the high level is a four-road traverser fiddle yard. The circuit features automated running with two level crossings both spookily synchronised to train movements.

A compact two-level quarry layout in OO9, Chwarel Hebog-Dyn-Tir (aka ‘Hawkmanland’) is the combined work of Bob Hawks, Malcolm Hoffman and Tony Land. There’s a clue in the title if you’re a Welsh speaker, apparently.

Lambury Towers Estate Yard by Mike Bartlet is a 1:24 scale estate railway on 16.5mm (15-inch) gauge track on a 6ft x 1ft 6in baseboard, featuring much shunting of nicely-modelled estate goods and cleverly-placed backscene boards for off-scene fettling of wagon loads.

With the shallowest scenic area in the show, Castle Works by Andi Nethercoat is a compact 1:24 scale estate layout proving that ‘less is more’. Imposing castle-style masonry facades add to the sense of limited yard space, giving focus to nicely-modelled cameos of goods ‘clutter’.

Built as an extension to ‘Bowleggett Manor’ (the former West Midland Area Group layout) Farr End by Peter Cullen is equally appealing in stand-alone form. A terminus station in OO9, an attractive high street facade of resin, kit and scratch-built town structures gives an effective backdrop to individual stock with a light railway flavour.

Shropshire Minerals Light Railways is an O-16.5 modular layout presented by members of the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association West Midlands Area Group. Four interchangeable scenic baseboards each approximately 1200 x 400mm plus two curved corner sections formed a U-shaped end-to-end line with four-road turntable fiddle yards at each end. Stock was extremely varied – well, it’s their layout etc . . .

Meanwhile in the church scullery, beverages plus sustenance with a haute-cuisine-rating of at least 9.9 were diligently dispensed by Catering Corps Café, a not-for-profit outfit run by Jane Webb, Janet Hill and Pauline Webb, whose home-made wares were selling, er, like hot cakes. Pasties too. Easily the most popular stand in the show – testament to the legendary fuel consumption of narrow-gauge modellers. Cashier Paul Webb had his fingers in the till all day, so to speak, but somebody had to manage the takings. Ultimately, the hard work of the Catering Corps before and during the event raised proceeds of £546.01 as a donation to Four Oaks Methodist Church – the Catering Corps largest event total to date.

All in all, t’was a family affair as Julien Webb organised the whole shebang (you could tell he’s done it before) and ruled the show with a wooden rod, or perhaps that was his walking stick. Family credit where it’s due then, y’all. And it’s due alright. To this crew must be added a squad of stewards drawn from West Midlands Area Group plus colleagues from Sutton Coldfield Railway Society. They know who they are.

So that’s 22 stands, the best café in town and collective clamouring in the cloisters. Better than a day on the beach if you ask me.

Angela Baker
Model Reporter
Click here for photos from the show.