Model Railway Motive Power Depots
The Modeller's Viewpoint . . . Mirroring the PastClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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
Study Plans Before Making Tracks to Decide Your Ideal LayoutClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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!.
A Look Around the Former LNER SystemClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 and grew to be one of the richest railway companies of the age.
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.
London Midland Region sheds in the final throes of steam
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
Paul Bolger: British Railways Steam Motive Power Depots - North Eastern Region
Shed by shed, from York (50A) to Consett (54D) around the North Eastern Region of British Railways, black & white images, shed plans and stages of stock movement (1950, 1959, 1965), some sheds closed in the late 1950s, some - like York - survived with changes and reduction in numbers - to the end of steam in the North East of England in September 1967. The last sheds to close were Sunderland and Hartlepool due to movements of coal from pit to port. Later ex-Midland Region shed re-allocations to BR/NER and shed re-numbering included.
Ian Allan Ltd., ISBN 0-7110-1362-4
Around the Regions . . .Click thumbnail to view full-size
Industry Often Called for Particular Locomotive Classes to Be Allocated . . .
You will be aware that coal and other mineral extraction was widespread around England, Wales and Scotland. North of the Border, for example were two large, thriving railway companies, the North British and the Caledonian Railways, and two smaller networks in the Highland Railway and the Great North of Scotland.
The North British and Great North of Scotland companies were drawn in 1923 into the London & North Eastern (aka 'London & Nearly Everywhere) Railway, the other two into the London, Midland & Scottish Railway(LMSR) network. The North British served the Central Scottish coal mines and industry, the Caledonian and North British shared Clydeside's waxing ship-building and steel industries centred on Glasgow.
A largely agricultural economy was maintained in the West Country, Herefordshire and East Anglia, with seasonal traffic fluctuations. The West Country was served by three companies until Grouping, the London & South Western (LSWR) along the north of Devon and Somerset, and the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR) north-to-south between Bath and Bournemouth, as well as the Great Western that crossed the LSWR route and ran along the south coast of Devon and Cornwall.
The Great Eastern Railway (GER) centred on Stratford, East London, shared its commuter traffic with the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway (owned by the Midland Railway and nicknamed the 'Misery Railway' for its dismal services along the north bank of the Thames. Its biggest customers were the docks at Tilbury and Ford Motors at Dagenham. The Great Eastern's traffic outside the London area was mainly agricultural, although it had high-density holiday traffic to Cromer and Great Yarmouth in the summer months (June-September).
The south coast shared many similarities, with holiday traffic on several distinct networks serving holidaymakers to Bournemouth, Brighton, Hastings and Margate, and ferry links to the Continent for travellers from Dover and Folkestone. Three companies were absorbed into the Southern Railway in 1923, the Kent & East Sussex Railway (K&ESR), London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) and London & South Western Railway (L&SWR).
The manufacturing industry was predominant in the Midlands, with ironstone and coal mining served by the London & North Western from Euston, the Great Northern from Kings Cross and Great Central around the north and south Midlands (Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield with steel-making at Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire and Sheffield). The West Midlands' industries, mining and heavy industry, were served by the London & North Western (LNWR). Around Derby, Leicester and Nottingham the Midland Railway (MR) served those industries closer to its own network. After Grouping the LNWR and MR were absorbed by the LMSR, the Great Central by the LNER, as was the GER and M&GNJR. The LT&SR came under the auspices of the LMS.
Locomotive stabling in these areas was therefore as necessary as it was in the North East. The 'Big Four' of 1923 inherited different locomotive works, different practices, vastly different problems in some cases. With the problems came divers fleets of locomotives that varied greatly, many not surviving the 1930s. When again the 'Big Four' became the 'One and Only' in 1948 more pruning was in store. Standardisation was the order of the day, fleets were added to by British Railways Standard Classes in different wheel arrangements - ranging from the Class 2 2-6-0 and 2-6-2T nicknamed 'Mickey Mouse' and based on the Ivatt designs of the 1940s to the large 9F 2-10-0, the last of which was 'Evening Star' - and power classifications.
The 1956 changes resulted in another shake-up with the former GCR going to Midland Region and the former S&DJR going to the Western Region. Old company loyalties resulted in both networks suffering from disrupted services and subsequent line closures. However the ex-Midland area inherited by British Railways North Eastern Region resulted in a wider distribution of ex-LMS locomotives and brake vans replacing clapped-out ex-NER and LNER veterans.
Services were only threatened by British Transport Commission (government) closures before and after Dr Richard Beeching was let loose on the whole B R network by Transport Minister Ernest 'Ernie' Marples (Conservative) in the mid-1960s. Some sections of the system not earmarked for closure by Dr Beeching were shut down by Barbara Castle of the Wilson (Labour) government that followed MacMillan's (the short-lived Conservative Alec Douglas Hume government had little effect on anything).
Additionally, there is the siting of sheds to be considered. Sometimes they seemed to be after-thoughts, set in or by junctions, sometimes they were squeezed behind stations or between stations and goods depots. Sometimes they were generously equipped with tower coalers, 'cenotaphs', good lighting for safety considerations at sheds in prime locations such as Top Shed at Kings Cross (Great Northern Railway or GNR), Doncaster (also GNR), Nine Elms (near Waterloo Station, (LSWR, Southern Railway) or St Margarets (Edinburgh, NBR). Large, modern 'Northlight' sheds were built after WWI that allowed daylight into the premises without flooding work areas with dark shadow where the sun did not reach directly.
In the 1930s new sheds were constructed on all railways, but then the old crowded city premises still predominated, after WWII often also roofless and open to the elements, inspection pits flooded where fitters often had to work up to their waists in ice cold water during the winter. It was bad enough in the summertime. Maintenance workers often put up with stark conditions, although in the post-war years there was a shortage of manpower and a 'down tools' was always in the air.
Southern and Western Regions
Let's Not Forget the Humble Cleaners, the Fire Lighters, Fitters, Coaling Stage Workers . . .Click thumbnail to view full-size
. . . And Shed a Little Light on the History of Working in MPDs* in General:
After all that's been written about steam locomotives, what of their stabling, upkeep and overall care?
Divers editions of a manual, "Locomotive Management from Cleaning to Driving delivered an overview of the technical side of the locomotive. A further publication, 'The Steam Locomotive in Traffic' by E. A. Phillipson took us through the equipment and shed personnel who kept their charges in running order. The clearest instructions were published in 'The handbook for Steam Locomotive Enginemen', issued in 1957 by the British Transport Commission. Precious little ever came out about the motive power depots*, and those who grafted often in primeval working conditions. Some locomotive men have been mentioned in print, such as 'Blll Hoole, Engineman Extraordinary'; on the LNER, or driver J W Street on the GWR in his own words 'I Drove the Cheltenham Flyer'.
Yet the ordinary men such as the fire lighters, who rose before the birds at around 4 am at all times of the year, or the fitters who kept the fleet running barely get a mention. Behind each footplate crew an army of men - women also, in wartime - fought a never-ending battle with staff shortages, materials shortages, dire working conditions, and latterly always the prospect of redundancy hanging over them like Damocles' sword.
Lighting to work by in many of the dark Victorian era sheds was a bugbear. Usually gas lights provided a gloomy backdrop - dimmed in wartime - or paraffin lamps sometimes extinguished by errant winds in draughty, roofless - from WWII bombing - 'caverns'. High and wide shed doors were often battered by loco crews as their engines crept into the sheds with gales blowing the doors to. Turntable problems were often exacerbated by bad-tempered drivers after a long shift and locomotives were not correctly balanced, leading to all manner of problems further down the 'pecking order;. Often, as you might have guessed, sheds were afterthoughts, crowded into junctions that left limited space for manoeuver. Collisions happened too often, and damage had to be sorted out before the engines were due out again. Outside cylinders suffered regularly in sidelong scrapes. When three cylinders were cast as one unit - known as 'monobloc' - replacement proved worrisome and expensive. There was at least one accident that involved a Gresley LNER Class V2 2-6-2 at York, but at least it was one of the class that had been fitted with three separate cylinder castings that allowed the damaged one to be unbolted before the locomotive was towed 'down the road', north to Darlington North Road works for a replacement fitting.
Ref: K Hoole, 'North Eastern Locomotive Sheds', David & Charles, 1972, ISBN 0-7153-5323-3
Model-U Model Railway Figures
- Modelu – Finescale Figures
Finescale model railway figures can be based on the purchaser in period costume or uniform using up-to-date technology - full stock lists available for railway, military personnel and other incidental trackside or platform figures
Scotland and WalesClick thumbnail to view full-size
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Did you feel this series of 25 parts was of help to you in your hobby, or of general interest?
A Few More Model Scenes, in 2mm and 4mm Scale (OO Gauge)Click thumbnail to view full-size
R M Web
- Redirecting to the RMweb community
A web site you can use to find inspiration, exhibit your own modelling efforts, research specialist subjects, use the forum to ask questions and watch the answers pour in. Everybody's helpful, and everybody needs help sometimes. Join in!
Book List [NER/LNER/BR(NE)] Oriented:
- First in the World, The Stockton & Darlington Railway, John Wall, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-509-2729-1 - Takes you from the planning stages, the initial meeting at the George & Dragon on Yarm High Street in 1823 between the Peases, George Stephenson, Thomas Meynell and all. There was the inaugural run with George Stephenson at the controls of Locomotion on September 25th, 1825 and teething troubles. The S&DR was amalgamated with the North Eastern Railway in 1863, nine years after their own amalgamation;
- 'North Eastern Record' Volume 1*, Copiously illustrated with scale drawings, Features articles on general aspects of the NER and Hull & Barnsley Railway including motive power depots by several contributing members of the North Eastern Railway Association (NERA), published jointly by the Historical Model Railway Society (HMRS) and NERA, ISBN 0-902835-13-0 *;
- A Portrait of the North Eastern Railway*, David & Claire Williamson and Michael Grocock, a well documented general overview of the NER with lots of period photographs (colour-treated and b&w) as well as reproduction lithographs and etchings, drawings and maps. Invaluable as a reference source - publ North Eastern Railway Assoc., ISBN 978-1-873513-58-3
- A History of British Railways North Eastern Region*, Ed. John Teasdale, post-war to 1960s North Eastern Region official and contributors' own colour and b&w photographs, labels, maps and diagrams, tables, articles cover steam era to September, 1967 and dieselisation from the mid-late 1950s - publ John Teasdale, NERA, ISBN 9-780956-186706;
- 'The North Eastern Region' (Volume 6, British Railways In Colour), Alan Earnshaw and Kevin Derrick, Nostalgia Road Publications, ISBN 1-903016-34-7 - A tour around industrial, urban and rural locations in the North East of England in glorious grimy colour, grim, 'warts and all', a 'bible' for weathering enthusiasts;
- North Eastern Locomotive Sheds, Ken Hoole, David & Charles, ISBN 0-7153-5323-3 - A lucky find for me. I'd had a copy of this book signed by the author and loaned it out - never to see it again. Found this copy in a second-hand books box for £7. It's worth more than that. Ken Hoole was an authority on the North Eastern Railway (not to be confused with driver Bill Hoole, no relation) and this book is an overview of sheds south from Alnmouth to Selby with their allocations by class from 1923 to 1954, although not the actual loco numbers (see Paul Bolger's book below and link above for the updated edition. Worthwhile purchase if you can find a copy (published 1972);
- B R Steam Motive Power Depots - N E R, Paul Bolger, published Ian Allan Ltd, ISBN 0-7110-1362-4 - Beginning at York (50A) in 1950, Paul takes you around the sheds in black and while pictures with track diagrams, locomotive classes and numbers with transfer dates and closures.
- Lost Lines - North Eastern, Nigel Welbourn, Ian Allan Ltd, ISBN 0=7110-2522-3 - A tour around branches closed before and after Beeching in black and white photographs and local diagrammatic maps. Station buildings, viaducts, bridges etc then and now. Some stations have fared worse than others, some have been preserved as private dwellings, industrial or commercial buildings
- Rail Centres - York, Ken Hoole, publ Booklaw Publications, ISBN 1-901945-12-X - Another of Ken Hoole's specialist works on the North Eastern Railway, LNER (NE) and North Eastern Region of British Railways that takes you from early days to when the Deltics took charge of express passenger workings at and around York, a look at the steam motive power depot at York North as well as the 'visitors' facilities at York South - furnished with diagrams, maps and black and white images;
- 'British Railways Engine Sheds', No1, Chris Hawkins, John Hooper, George Reeve, publ Irwell Press, ISBN 1-871608-00-7, sub-titled 'An LNER Inheritance', this thin volume looks at motive power sheds around the LNER system built before and after Grouping as well as in BR days, using black and white images with shed track layout diagrams;
- The Last Days of Steam Around Darlington, David Burdon, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-7509-3158-2, a look at the Darlington mpd, locomotive works, stations and environs in the twilight of British Railways steam up to September, 1967 complete with area map and copious atmospheric black and white images never before published;
- Steam Motive Power Centres - 51A Darlington, David Dunn, Book Law Publications, ISBN 9-781899-624966, Covers the same subjects and although one or two images from the above have found their way into this book, by and large the pictorial content is educational with bags of atmosphere.
- ABC British Railway Locomotive Shed Directory Another of the Ian Allan ABC Guides to British Railway locomotives and their 'homes' (see Amazon.co.uk site for this and: BR Steam Locomotives Complete Allocation History, 1948-68).
Note: Asterisks denote books available through the North Eastern Railway Association only, Book Sales address: Mrs Janet Coulthard, 15 Woodside Drive, Darlington, DL3 8ES, County Durham, England. Well worth the purchase for thorough knowledge
Signing Off With a View on the Ex-LMS, Last to Close Its Doors to Steam
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Alan R Lancaster