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Model Railway Motive Power Depots

Alan has an abiding interest in regional railway-oriented history and model-making, specialising in the North East of England.

Different Regions, Different Approaches

'Stabling, feeding, watering...' expressions used in connection with workhorses. The steam engine took over from the horse in almost all aspects of railway operation, and in many respects the needs of the locomotives reflected those of their four-legged predecessors. They needed shelter - to keep their shiny coats from being grimed, or from the rain, snow and ice - and they needed to be fed and watered. Coal replaced the hay and oats. The common factor was the need for water. Instead of water troughs water cranes were laid on, and much later on there were also water troughs between the rails for express locomotive scoops. Let's look at the facilities that were available around the country, and how they might be represented in model form:

In some aspects all the regions used the same expressions for different shed types. Early on you had the 'roundhouse', engine stabling around a central turntable with one 'road' that led out. A newer development was the 'northlight' shed, long with parallel roads with a factory-type roof that allowed in direct light from the north only, thus avoiding strong light and dark shadows - good for fitters and repair men to work in. There were also straight sheds with apex rooves, end doors to shut out the cold winds in the far north, north-east and east where prevailing winds came in from the North Sea.

After WWII many sheds in the industrial north were roofless shells and needed replacing. One such replacement came in the shape of a roundhouse at Thornaby near Middlesbrough, opened in 1958, (thirteen years after WWII ended, and not before time as Middlesbrough fitters and other repair men almost had to resort to frogmen's outfits to work under the locomotives!)

The images above show the different treatment given to the same theme. Whereas Belmont Road features a turntable, even in this crowded layout, at Ayton Lane we have to assume locomotives turn on a nearby 'triangle'. ('Y' Junctions would be where tender locomotives were brought about for return traffic).

Locomotive coaling at Belmont Road is a labour-intensive affair, with parallel roads for loco coal wagons and locos being coaled. The coaler at Ayton Lane would once have been a roofed NER coaling stage with tubs that unloaded down chutes into tenders and bunkers. We can assume that in their wisdom Darlington's managers decided to make coaling easier after WWII. The shed has suffered bomb damage (see the roof and hole in the front wall where the shed clock would have been inset).

At both there are several roads for standing locomotives and associated rolling stock. At Ayton Lane there is parking for 'cripples', engineers'/breakdown train, sand wagons and a Sentinel shunter to move shed stock. A few wagons, an old 'birdcage' brake van and conversions never seem to move (up on the higher level) beyond the loco coal wagon standage.

As a modeller you put as much into your creation as you see fit, although many of us never seem to see them as completely finished. I have a number of things I want to do, again it's a shortage of 'round to-its' that confounds intentions. Watch out for Belmont Road on the exhibition circuit. Look in on the Double O Gauge Association (DOGA) web-site below.

Shed personnel: cleaners, fitters, inspectors, clerks ... All available from ModelU based on photographic process. And you can arrange to be photo-processed ...

A source of choice to bring your layout to life

A source of choice to bring your layout to life

ModelU is relatively new on the market as a source of accurate figures for layouts

Along with the figures you might buy comes a Facebook page invitation you can't pass up. Take part in commenting on fellow modellers' skill levels, encourage the beginners, exchange ideas on techniques ... but be positive. Submit your own images online, tell your fellow modellers how you reached that stage in your creativity, ask for tips or help. It's your world, help build it.

The products are available online across the globe, wherever railway modellers follow their interests. Realism comes with painting skills, and the scale goes up from 2mm to Garden Railways.

ModelU photo-processed figures and parts

  • Modelu – Finescale Figures
    You could become a feature within your own model railway layout. Cut the figures free from their sprues, paint and display ... And join the ModelU forum on Facebook to exchange ideas and images

For Research Purposes . . .

A study of plans and drawings, architectural and trackwork, pays dividends. if you intend to model a real location. For freelance layouts regional variations are important if you want to recreate the feeling of a particular region. You can find illustrations and diagrams in books and specialist online sources.

Visit model railway exhibitions. Additionally, many dealers have old magazines or books at knockdown prices. You might well strike modeller's gold. A good riffle through their boxes might result in the odd nugget or two. If you see the Wild Swan stand he'll have back issues of the Model Railway Journal or one of the paperback books that gives hints on modelling shed areas etc.

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Hornby Magazine and British Railway Modelling frequently cover the theme, as does the Peco magazine Railway Modeller. Trawl through the small ads and find gems there, such as white metal figures you can paint, detailing such as water cranes, hosepipe terminals, welder's cylinders and trolleys, fitter's barrows.

Remember Poppy's products from the Thoraldby page? There are balsa wood products for coal stages and barrow crossings. Langley Miniature Models do wheelbarrows that the shed workforce would use for emptying the ash pits. Other companies such as Scale Link do etched brass mesh that would cover the ashpits in larger sheds (to stop people falling in, ashpits have been known to flood and night workers have drowned in them, especially in wartime conditions with the 'Blackout')..

Look in on the RMWeb site and see what you can find there for inspiration or background material. Books are a good source of information, if you can find colour images of what you hope to model so much the better, they give a truer picture where black & white images leave you guessing. Find research material for your region through society journals. There is a series of regional information on sheds titled 'B R Steam Motive Power Depots' by different authors. From time to time these are updated, so keep a look-out for new editions.

Keep your eyes peeled, ask around at exhibitions. Often small stalls carry the best stock for detailing, with white metal and lost wax brass castings, brass etches, specialist figures and so forth. Enjoy the hunt!.

Double O Gauge Association (DOGA)

  • The Double O Gauge Association
    The OO Gauge Association seeks to further modelling skills and establish standards within the hobby. We are dedicated to Common Standards within OO Gauge 4mm Railway Modelling

Specialist Interest: North Eastern Region

As you will have gathered by now, my own area of Teesside and North Yorkshire is within the North Eastern Region of British Railways, formerly the London & North Eastern. Before that the North Eastern Railway was established in 1854 with the merging of three railway companies - the York, Newcastle & Berwick, Leeds Northern and York & North Midland - and grew to be one of the richest railway companies of the age until the Depression robbed it of its core gains from industry before and shortly after the 1923 Grouping.

Literature is available through Amazon, E-Bay and specialist groups such as the North Eastern Railway Association (NERA) or the Historical Model Railway Society (HMRS) who sometimes bring out books in conjunction. There are books on North Eastern Railway architecture and locomotives that feature sheds and 'house styles' from early days (1854, amalgamation of the Leeds Northern, York Newcastle & Berwick and York & North Midland Railways, with the addition in 1863 of the Stockton & Darlington railway system that linked the South Durham coalfield and North Yorkshire ironstone mining districts of East Cleveland to Teesside's burgeoning steel industry) to the modern day via intermediate stages.

I'll add a book list below for those interested in the LNER/BR North Eastern. There is no shortage of sources, and a variety of images is available.

North Eastern Railway Association

  • North Eastern Railway Association
    The North Eastern Railway Association [NERA] was formed in 1961 to cater for all enthusiasts interested in the railways of north eastern England, the North Eastern Railway, the Hull & Barnsley Railway, from their successors, and also the smaller