Final track plan

I have spent a long time moving track around using AnyRail trying to create a layout that  had Pennvale Sands as a through station with a branch of the main line to Ellerby. I tried many ways to achieve a layout that would have the following main ideas:

  • A branch connection with a bay platform for a DMU
  • Fish shipping traffic from the branch and then on
  • Express holiday trains that terminate at Pennvale
  • Local trains to Carlisle
  • A Roundy-Roundy
  • A through fiddle yard

I wasn’t able to reconcile these so I went back to a terminus but inside the circuit. I found a way that I could run the branch from the terminus across the circuit. I still couldn’t see how to use the fiddle yard if it was at the back. Then, I realised that if I put the fiddle yard on the front, I could use the big hand from the sky to sort out the next trains with ease. The fiddle yard would need to be lower than the rest of the layout to keep it out of direct vision. This turned out to be a good idea because I was able to cut out the use of Cobalt motors for the fiddle yard as I could now operate them using tube and wire.

I was able to take the original layout for Pennvale Sands terminus and place it in the middle of the large circuit (14′ x 2′) with one change. The original design had one arrival road that didn’t have a release loop so I added an extra crossover to the middle relief road. This is how it has ended up. This plan meets all of the above requirements.

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The length of the board being 14′ 6″ means that the fiddle yard tracks at 44″ which is long enough for my double headed class 25 plus 6 coaches which is roughly 42″. I can be extended once partially laid by checking with an actual train.

The station has room for an express, a local and a DMU in the bay.  The goods yard can accept  up to 10 wagon trains. This should be scope for everything that I wanted to do. I have 2 x Class 25, 1 x 24, 1 x 37, a 2 car 108 DMU and 1 class 08 as a local shunter.I am planning on getting a class 47. I have around 36 goods wagons, of which 16 are Fish vans for the Ellerby/Pennvale/Manchester traffic. I have £200.00 left in my budget so I have some scope for more if I find that I have something wrong or am short of something.



Making the first baseboard

Because of my arthritis, I can’t bend down below baseboard so I have to make other arrangements. My solution is as follows:

  • A line of B&Q kitchen units with a worktop installed.
  • A1 5mm foam core sheets cut to size taped together with duct tape
  • A lot of 3″ strips of foam core
  • A hot glue gun.

First stages

I had to separate the lower level of the board where the fiddle yard is to be.


The underneath has to be carefully supported to avoid warping and to make the board firm enough to pick up and turn over during wiring and point motor mounting.


As can be seen, the copper tape power bus has already been installed and all the required bracing strips added. The curved end is where the track falls down from the base level – 3″ high – down to the fiddle yard at 1″ . The 3″ height is required because of the size of the Cobalt IP motors. The 1″ height is OK for the fiddle yard as the points are going to be operated by wire in tube.

The drop down for 3″ to 1″had to be carefully built. First off, I had to cut a length of foam core 3″ high to support the main end. This had to have vertical cuts 1″ apart the were made part way through the board so that it could be bent around the curve of the upper board. Then I had to cut two strips that would support the surface from the top to the bottom.To make it secure and firm I had to put lots of supporting strips to make sure that it didn’t droop. The final operation look like this.


The final result, ready for track laying meets the requirement of the plan.


Solving the mystery of the track plan

They say that a battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy. Well, my new layout lasted three weeks. I purchased all of the components of the “express” that would travel between Pennvale and Manchester/London. I placed it on the track and it ran the 10 feet into the fiddle yard. My reaction was “Is that it?”

I went away feeling that either I had burned the money on something that was a waste of time or that I should rethink this. I had, previously, turned away from a “roundy-roundy” because my units were 2′ wide and I didn’t want to be committed to tight curves to get round in that space. However, I also didn’t want to expand the depth of the railway in the middle of the room. This is what the room looked like with the existing railway boards.

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The main board is Board 1 and the fiddle yard is on Board 2. I had to have a good think because I didn’t spend £250.00 on a single train to see it move 6 feet and stop again! Discussions with SWMBO came up with the following:

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This gives me a 14′ length with boards at each end that can take 4th Radius curves without making inroads into the room. The branch has been extended and no longer has the fiddle yard attached. This will now be a nice roundy-roundy with quite a long run. The fiddle yard will be along the front (taking up 6″ of the 24″ wide boards and will be lower than the rest of the layout so that it is effectively hidden, even though it is out front.

The fiddle yard will have hand operated points as they are right up front. They will be outside of JMRI routing but that won’t matter as we will just have a “generic” source for each and every train that runs on the main line. This also means that the branch can now be remotely controlled as I have ample Cobalt IP point motors. However, I am having some difficulty in designing the layout which will now comprise of Pennvale Sands as a through station on a fictitious run through from Whitehaven to Workington from the WCLM.

The railway exists but not as I am using it but remember Rule 1*! This gives me an excuse to run express trains through from Manchester/London which terminate at Pennvale as it is a popular seaside resort. It also has local passenger services up to Carlise and a DMU service to Ellerby – the branch terminus. Goods services are as follows:

  • Through pick up goods from Carlise and Whitehaven stopping at Pennvale
  • Mineral trains (coal) from Whitehaven to Pennvale and empties back
  • Local pickup goods to and from Ellerby (including coal)
  • Fish traffic from Ellerby to the Fish Processing factory in Pennvale
  • Fish products from the factory north to Carlise and south to Manchester and beyond.

Journeys will all involve a set number of loops around the track – some more than others with the minimum being for trains to the branch/Ellerby.

I have most of the stock required but I don’t have a track plan so that will be the next post.


  • Rule 1 – it is my railway;
  • Rule 2 – I refer you to rule 1!



The Journey Begins

Having spent most of my life thinking about or building US Outline model railroads, I have taken the brave decision, in my 70s, to convert to British N Gauge. I did this thinking that I would get more railway for the space that I had and that the costs would be lower. Well, the first is true but my bank account is being severely damaged building up track, locos, wagons and coaches.

My first action was to build a small layout – just 4′ x 1′ – to see how it went, whilst keeping my current HO layout. This was intended to be a starter and I was planning to develop it on its own to get the techniques right. Well, that went by the by and I decided that it would become a feeder branch to a bigger terminus and that the HO layout had to go.

The HO layout is no more and most of the stock has been sold on EBay. I am slowly getting some funds back from this effort but it is still requiring that I invest more. Never mind, I am retired and I can afford it so – let’s get on with it.

Pennvale Sands is the chosen name for the terminus. This comes from the beginning of our surname and the first letters of my wife’s name. Sands comes from the area it is supposed to exist in – The top north west of the country up by the Lake District so I used Grange-Over-Sands as a base to the name. The branch terminus will be called Ellerby – after a lady who left some money in a will and I turned out to be a beneficiary.

OK, so what will it look like. I have used a program called Anyrail to design this and have had it discussed on the Model Rail forum to ensure that it is as good as I can get it. There is one final change not shown here.I have taken away the turntable following my move from a late 50’s steam environment to a mid-60’s diesel set up so the turntable area will be changed into a two track diesel depot.

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Right. That’s enough for now. I will get back later with more about the layout and the stock.