BLOG: All in the name of research

Photo: Colas Rail's 70808/70812 await their next turn of duty at Eastleigh on March 31 2018.


Over the past few weeks I’ve been reminiscing on various rail visits when I was younger. Growing up near the South Coast, I usually headed for railway ‘hotspots’ nearby – perhaps Fratton, Eastleigh and Bournemouth – sometimes even Clapham Junction…


For me, Eastleigh was a favourite (and still is) as it had a really eclectic mix of locomotive and multiple unit activity (and still does) with passenger, freight and departmental services passing through as well as ‘visitors’ to and from the British Rail Engineering Works. In the late 1970s/80s, a few hours spent on the station would see processions of 4-CIG/4-VEP/4-REP/4-TC Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) formations pass through together with an occasional 2-HAP or even a departmental stores EMU plus 3-H Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMUs) too . I can also remember the excitement of seeing the special Class 73/33/4-TC Research Division train (on Eurostar bogie trials) on one occasion.

Class 47s were usually the main fare on Inter-Regional passenger trains, although it wasn’t unknown for other classes to mix things up a little… But, the mainstay were Class 33 diesels and Class 73 electro-diesels, often trundling back and forth to the nearby depot, located along Campbell Road in the town.

Class 20s, 20205/20189 stable alongside the station with GB Railfreight’s 66777 for company on March 31 2018.

Sometimes, a venture towards the Works and the depot would also reveal a locomotive or unit class I’d not seen before – a real adventure!
Eastleigh depot itself, is a mix of large maintenance buildings, stabling lines and a series of storage lines close to the end of Southampton Airport runway. Whilst always remaining on the correct side of the fence, I once had the fortune of visiting the depot in an official capacity at the launch of Network SouthEast’s rail scrubbing train in the late 1980s – an eye-opening opportunity to see what went on the other side!

With Heljan’s release of the Class 33 and Dapol’s more recent introduction of the Class 73 for ‘OO’, thoughts have recently turned to how I might be able to display my collection effectively – and it has to be said, I do have quite a collection of them… Factor in a few Hornby 4-VEPs, a kitbuilt 4-BEP, Bachmann 4-TCs, 4-CEPs and 2-EPBs, plus a couple of 2-H DEMUs and suddenly there is a plenty of potential for a busy layout scenario!

To this end, I started thinking about perhaps developing a layout project based on Eastleigh Traction Maintenance Depot (TMD). As my research started, I soon realised that I might be biting off more than I could chew… However, undeterred, I’ve continued and am currently focusing on the southern section of the depot, an area I was previously unfamiliar with. A chance auction purchase netted me a track diagram of the approaches to the southern end, where the depot access line diverges from the Eastleigh to Botley line. Further research on the internet led me to Google Earth – where I could zoom in on the depot and create a 3-D image for a better idea of what the area looked like. This even unearthed abandoned carriage cleaning equipment in the undergrowth and a signal box I’d been unaware of!

This has led me to start drawing a track plan based on the area – albeit not to scale, as I’d probably need a barn to house it – and I am still debating how best to tackle the overall plan. I could very easily fill the area with locomotives and multiple units, plus add plenty of terrace housing parallel to the depot. A recent purchase from Tim Horn’s website ( has provided me with the first building – a 4mm scale laser-cut mess hut based on the real thing at Eastleigh Depot! My biggest concern is the maintenance depot buildings – but that, as they say is for another day…

Tim Horn’s 4mm scale laser-cut Eastleigh Depot Mess Hut

My aim is to develop a scene that looks the part, rather than being an exact replica… at the moment the plan is sitting at 16ft x 12ft and I haven’t really started in earnest – so there will need to be a few compromises further down the line… However, it will be great to finally have somewhere to house and display my BR (SR) locomotive and multiple unit fleet – plus it has been great fun to research!

Watch this space…

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