So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to my blog as I’ve been so busy with work and shows etc. That’s not to say Walsall in P4 isn’t progressing, and although I’m still very much in the planning and baseboard design stage, a vast array of rolling stock is starting to appear presentable. I just haven’t had the spare time to write about it.
For a break away from this, I’ve started a small ‘side project’ based on Chillington Wharf at Wolverhampton Steel Terminal. The era will be set in the early 90’s, as Walsall will share the stock, and that will save me time.
The baseboard, for the scenic section, measures just 60″ x 24″ and the viewing side will be from the 24″ end, as if you’re standing on the canal bridge tow path. This is where most photos seem to be taken from and this leaves the mainline as the ideal back scene.
The main building will be modelled in a dilapidated state to reflect that redundant early 90’s feel, as it was only in light use and the site as a whole was very much unmaintained. The traversing crane, a Babcock & Wilcox Ltd 10-ton overhead crane, was again disused by the 90’s but forms an interesting structure for the layout.
I’d like to thank Dave Foley and Michael Thomas for their kind permission to publish their photos of the area.
As I’ve been busy with commission work over the last few weeks, my spare time has been taken up with researching the Washwood Heath to Bescot, Castle Cement working. It isn’t very well documented on the internet, but trawling youtube did find one video taken in 1990. The train arrives at Bescot with 20 PCA wagons, all built to design code PC009A. There is currently no RTR or kit manufacturer producing this version of the PCA, so I thought I’d have a go at bashing one together using Hornby/Lima/Dapol PCA ‘Vee’ versions as suitable donors.
Looking closely at all three brands, I decided that the Hornby one offers the best chassis in terms of detail. The chassis is also very rigid, so ideal for a P4 conversion with relatively little work.
With the body removed, I then cut the ends from the tank which revealed a lip on the end piece. This was then separated from the remainder of the tank body and measured with digital calipers. The idea was to use some PVC plumbing pipe for the new body centre, and after a trip to B&Q I purchased some suitable white pipe. After cutting the tube to size, and a small amount of work, the end caps fitted snugly and it was starting to look like something!
The only other thing I have done at this point is to cut a rectangular hole in the base of the tank to allow for the chassis weight to locate into the tank.
After a lot of searching the internet and quite a few phone calls, I finally found a map printing company that was capable of printing an OS map to 1:76 scale. The map is printed onto several A0 sheets, which I wanted to join together to give an idea of the overall size, and where any necessary compromises would be. I contacted my local village hall, and for a small fee I was able to piece it all together.
It always amazes me how big the real world is, and to see such a small section of the world in scale on paper feels exciting.
My next step was to consider where the baseboard joins will be, and where the physical boundaries of the layout are. I’ve drawn the baseboard sections onto the map, taking into consideration where the turnouts are and making sure there are no baseboard joins in awkward places. Now, when the wood is cut, it should be clear where the contours of the layout are, and these can be cut to the appropriate shapes.
There are only two small compromises that have arisen. The two turnouts and the single slip in the centre of the layout will have to be moved about 4 inches towards Tasker Street, so that the turnouts are not close to the baseboard edge. The other is that the sidings at Tasker Street will exclude the furthest two sidings as it’s just not feasible to include them within a sensible baseboard size.
Overall, I am really pleased that there will only be two minor compromises and I can now look forward to starting the baseboards.
Having used Templot in the past, I’ve always struggled to complete the simplest of track plans due to its complicated interface. I have since then spent hours ‘messing’, and reading online tutorials from the Templot website. Although I’m still no expert, all of a sudden it just clicked, and I was soon finishing the track plan of Walsall. It helps, I think, to forget everything you learned about computer software and start from scratch.
I used google earth, taking screen shots of the area, then patched them all together in Photoshop. Once I had a JPEG of the entire area of the planned layout, I worked out the scale and imported it into Templot.
I then added the track design on top of the background, including the single slip which was the most difficult to master. Walsall in P4, although a large sized layout, is thankfully simple as far as turnouts go. There are only a few points and one single slip in the 40ft track plan. This was another plus when deciding on where to model, as I didn’t want any overly complex point work to build.
Most of the track work at Walsall station was relayed when the track plan was altered, at the time when the shopping centre was built in the 70’s. The newly laid track was all concrete sleeper, and a visit to the location will be needed to see where the concrete finishes and the wooden sleepers start, but that’s for the future!
This week my thoughts have turned to train formations, and in particular, the 6V70 Cliffe Vale to St. Blazey china clay working. Research has found that after the closure of the Bescot Curve in March 1993, the service was forced to go north via Walsall from Bescot, before heading south via the sutton park line and Washwood Heath. This is perfect for the time period I’m modelling, and I can now make use of a handful of the new Bachmann Polybulks.
The variation of wagons in the rake would often vary, but usually consisted of Polybulks and Clay Tigers. In addition, a VGA van or Cargowaggon would be added where bagged clay needed to be transported.
Power was normally provided by a pair of 37’s, although as many as four have been photographed, or a class 47. I’m planning on using a pair of ViTrains 37/4’s for this project, as I’m new to P4, and they are an easier conversion to start with than the Bachmann variety. Both will be in Railfreight Distribution triple grey livery, and suitably weathered.
Late last year, I decided to take the plunge into P4, and after much researching decided to build a scale model of Walsall Station down to Corporation Street and Tasker Street sidings. Walsall offers an interesting verity of locos and stock for operational and viewing interest, with a large amount of Bescot’s freight traffic passing through. The plan, originally 16ft long, now spans nearly 40ft with the addition of Tasker Street sidings. It’s certainly a long-term project!
The period I’ve always modeled is early 1990’s, but during this period Tasker Street (Walsall Freight Terminal as it was later known) was in an unused state. It wasn’t until EWS re-opened the sidings in the late 90’s, as an overflow for Wolverhampton Steel Terminal, that traffic again entered the terminal. After more thought and research, I decided to stick with the period of 1992/1993, as I would lose some interesting freight on the through line when gaining the later freight terminal.
The planning and basic research has already taken four months, and I’m sure it will be a while before construction of the first baseboards will commence. None the less, an exciting project!