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Plumpton Green
September and October 2014. Things have slowed up a bit, so nothing major done - just lots of little things. I’ve finished the up waiting room, and almost finished the signal box (just the finial and guttering to finish), as well as roofing the main station building, and adding the canopy valence to both the down buildings. I plan to make a small allotment next to the signal cabin, so have started work on that. It’s autumn so I think most of the allotment needs to be clear, being dug over, with a few cabbages, leeks, and Brussels sprouts (could be a challenge). All I’ve done so far is add a wheelbarrow.......

I’ve spent a while tidying up presentation ready for the Uckfield show, including finishing the display boards at the front, adding clear acrylic sheet to protect the photos and text, and adding better labels to the subsidiary control panel at the back of the layout.

The next show is Epsom and Ewell (April 2015), so I need to make a list of things to do - finish the station buildings (add windows and doors), replace the original (1840’s) signal cabin with a more accurate representation (the one on the layout at present is a model of the Ardingly box which originally featured on West Chiltington, then Brighton Road). There are four fields at the back of the layout which are currently bare earth, whilst I decide what to do with them. One of them is going to be a ploughed field, so perhaps I’ll have a go at that. Prior to the First World War, oxen were still to be found in Sussex as draft animals, pulling ploughs and carts and suchlike, so that might make an interesting scene (if I can find somebody who makes oxen!).

November 2014 to March 2015
With the layout now ‘complete’ and exhibitable (but far from ‘finished’) the rate of progress has been a little less driven, and I have been able to reflect on what things to do next - including tidying up and finishing a few bits and pieces that may look reasonably complete but are definitely not finished, and other areas which need improvement.

I’ve spent a couple of weeks working on the backscene (which was plain white at the Uckfield exhibition). I’m not an artist by any means, but I’m hopeful that what I have done has improved the layout - it now looks a lot wider than its actual two feet. There is a brief description and a few photos here of how I have done it.

Poor communication between operators can often result in confusion and mistakes being made, which I think can rather spoil the (hoped-for) theatrical effect of a good exhibition layout. Block bells mimicking real railway practice seems to be a good way forward, and there is a description of progress here.

I’ve also been checking the layout for electrical faults, and have found a few badly soldered joints, which need fixing - not sure whether this was poor workmanship, or wear and tear from the last show, or simply a feature of storing the layout in a rather cold garage.

April to October 2015
With three exhibitions attended so far this year and one more to go, a little progress has been made for each. The main additions to the layout for the Epsom and Ewell show in April were the painting of the back-scene, and the addition of the block bells.

Much of my time between April and the Bluebell show at the end of June was spent mending a few bits of broken and damaged stock (fairly inevitable for an exhibition layout), and sorting out a few bits and pieces on locos.

Quite a lot of work was done for Scaleforum on various bits of scenery, but the main addition was the block instruments, described here (with a revised description of the block bells on the previous pages). I haven’t delved into the world of electronics before, but the use of servos to drive the signal arms on the block instruments seemed an obvious choice. I joined MERG (Model Electronics Railway Group) and purchased the necessary items. I was surprised at how relatively easily the kits went together, with their very comprehensive instructions.

This has given me a taste for more experimentation, and I am currently working on mechanising the crossing gates using servos. I’ve got far enough to know that it can be done - I just need a few more components. In the future I might also replace my signal mechanisms with servos, as being a bit more straightforward and controllable than my current use of Tortoises.

In the run-up to our final show for the year  - the South Hants show in Portsmouth (21st November) - I have been tidying up a few things. I’ve finished the detail on the main station building, and the lock up goods shed - windows, guttering, canopy, steps etc - which hasn’t been especially noticeable from the front of the layout, but has nevertheless been on the list of ‘must do’ things for far too long.

We have also at last finished (apart from some final painting and weathering) the D&S kit of a ‘Brighton’ Cowan Sheldon crane, complete with scratchbuilt match-truck and departmental wagon, which will be given a trial run at Portsmouth.

My next two priorities are to build the creamery which will fill a large gap in the scenery, and to complete the mechanisation of the crossing gates.

I’m aware of only one photo of the creamery from around 1900 (left), but now converted into homes, it still exists, largely unchanged externally. Google earth is useful for gauging overall dimensions, and a few recent photos have enabled me to build a scale mock up of the building (right). In reality it is located south of the railway, next to the signal cabin. Unfortunately this is outside the extent of my base-boards, so I will relocate it north of the railway line - it’s too good a building to leave out.
Diary of a Railway Layout
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