So, the dust has settled on another year of exhibition appearances, following outings for Grosvenor Square, Twelve Trees Junction and West Coast Cement – Hornby Magazine’s ‘OO’ gauge exhibition layouts.
West Coast Cement is our most recent layout build, which you can read all about in the latest Hornby Magazine Yearbook No. 11. It is set in the transition from BR to privatisation in the late 1990s/early 2000s. With the paint just about dry by the time the doors at the NEC in Birmingham opened on the Saturday morning for the annual Warley National Model Railway Exhibition a couple of weeks ago, we were absolutely delighted with the response the layout received from visitors. Its appearance and operation exceeded our expectations, and then some!
Behind-the-scenes in the weeks leading up to its debut appearance, much frantic activity took place preparing motive power and rolling stock for the layout too. With previous exhibition layouts, such as Grosvenor Square and Twelve Trees Junction, there was a fair bit of crossover in terms of the rolling stock and some of the locomotives used – all of which had been weathered and detailed in the intervening months and years. However, with West Coast Cement we had to start from scratch in terms of locomotives and rolling stock, as the layout was to be set in the late 1990s/early 2000s. At the time, this didn’t seem too onerous, although once we started to consider the required locomotives and train formations, reality set in. Not only that, it quickly became apparent that around two-thirds of the stock would need to be sourced from my personal collection – much of which was still in pristine boxed condition!
Obviously, we wanted to make the best impact we could with the layout which meant a certain level of detailing and weathering would be necessary – no mean feat when you are considering around 50 locomotives and upwards of 300 individual items of rolling stock. It’s amazing how two weeks before an exhibition, the mind can quickly focus on the task required. Luckily, some of my rolling stock featured factory-applied weathering, so this reduced the workload a little.
For my part, I selected around 30 diesel/electric locomotives and multiple units that would be suitable for the period we were modelling, together with suitable train formations such as a rake of 12 BP green TTA tank wagons, 20+ Merry-Go-Round (MGR) coal hoppers (to match half-a-dozen or so Mike had already weathered from his collection), a typical Speedlink freight formation, an MOD formation with OCA wagons, ‘Warwells’ and box vans, plus VGA sliding door vans/Cargowaggon bogie vans for the bagged cement service to/from the Cement Works , nuclear flask wagons, plus BR Mk 2e and BR Mk 3 carriages for West Coast/Cross Country locomotive-hauled passenger trains, and more. In fact, a whole box of stock remained packed for the duration of the show, but at least it was there in case of failures.
For a consistent approach, we made sure each locomotive on the layout would feature a detailed bufferbeam and, where possible, etched nameplates. Detailing the front end adds that finishing touch for an exhibition appearance, and helps the model appear more life-like.
Lunchtimes in the office turned into naming ceremonies in the run-up to the show, as each of my fleet received its new nameplate. My recently-purchased Hornby ‘OO’ INTERCITY liveried Class 87 also took on a new identity as 87031 Hal O’ The Wynd. Where time and space allowed, I added a few drivers to locomotive cabs and ensured each locomotive took a turn on the wheel cleaner, so it would be in tip-top condition. Digital addresses were also standardised to match Mike’s DCC four-digit addressing protocol utilising the first two and last two digits from the running number. This worked well until we discovered we had West Coast electric Bo-Bos 86605 and 86205 in the storage yard at the same time on the Saturday morning at Warley – a quick re-address to 8205 on the latter soon overcame the issue.
Weathering was carried out each evening in my workshop in what seemed like sub-zero temperatures, with many of the wagons and carriages receiving underframe and roof dirt, plus a light dusting to bodies, where appropriate. This means I can go back over with a more detailed approach on some of my stock through the winter months.
Weathering was applied to the last of my rolling stock (BR MK 1 Travelling Post Office rake) at about 11pm on the Thursday night before the show, desperately hopeful that it would dry OK with the heating left on overnight. 4.45am the next morning I was up with the lark, frantically packing locomotives, coaches and wagons in stock boxes and trays before heading to the show (with a quick diversion for a car MOT thrown-in for good measure) – such is the ‘every second counts’ nature of my world in the lead-up to a show.
That said, with a few exceptions, locomotives ran very well throughout the weekend. I was particularly impressed with Hornby’s Class 92 which ran impeccably on both days as well as the recently converted veteran Hornby Class 90s (see HM140 for all the details on how to improve this model – on sale December 13 2018), one of which shed a traction tyre on Saturday lunchtime, but kept going right through the weekend until the end on Sunday afternoon.
If you stopped by the layout over the weekend at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition, we hope you enjoyed viewing West Coast Cement as much as we enjoyed operating it and we are already looking forward to taking it out again in 2019.
You can read the full story on the development of West Coast Cement in Hornby Magazine’s Yearbook No. 11, on sale now.
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