Fourth bite: The Stables

Work has started on the fourth layout in the Farthing series. This will be named “The stables” and continues our meandering walk through the goods facilities at Farthing in the early 1900s.

The layout is inspired by my interest in GWR stable blocks, including the larger variants of the standard design that began to appear in places like Slough and Park Royal around the turn of the last century, as seen below.

 Slough, 1928. Source: Britain from Above. Embedding permitted. 

Park Royal, 1930. Source: Britain from Above. Embedding permitted. 

Searches on Britain from Above show that stable blocks tended to be located near the entrance to goods yards. This provides an excuse to incorporate another favourite scene of mine, namely the roadside views into Vastern Road yard in Reading – including those lovely trees in the foreground, as seen in the excellent  GWRJ articles on Reading goods by Chris Turner and John Copsey (Nos 81 and 82).

At this point you are probably expecting a large sprawling layout with an intricate trackplan - but, er, this is the trackplan:

The layout will be a micro and follows what I call a “matchstick” design, i.e. a few very short tracks.  Ridiculously small, I know, but I like the challenge of making such a seemingly dull trackplan scenically interesting, and working out a shunting puzzle for it. My goods depot layout (below) followed a similar concept, and  has become my go-to option when I need a quick shunting fix after a long day at work.

So I want another one! With the new layout, the idea is to use roadside trees, fencing and the goods yard entrance as foreground view blocks and “see-through” structures. The stable block will be the main event in the middle distance, while the trackbed behind it will be raised to a higher level. An Inglenook style shunting puzzle will be applied.

That said, it would be nice for the locos to stretch their legs on occasion. So I've allowed for the option of a possible future modular approach, whereby some of the Farthing layouts could be joined up for occasional running sessions in our living room, e.g. as illustrated below. Whether that ever happens remains to be seen. Grand schemes tend to kill off my modelling joy after a while, so I’m taking it step by step.

As usual, the baseboard was made from 10 mm foamboard. This time I used actual Kappaboard, which is clearly a better quality than the imitation product I used before.

The basic baseboard in place, braced inside with more foamboard. Neoprene foam will be used for noise reduction.

I’m now at the mock-up phase, testing the scenic ideas. As some may remember, the stable block has already been built and is a model of the prototype at Park Royal. The one at Slough was almost identical but a little shorter. Incidentally, both of these prototypes had sidings crossing close by at an angle (hard to see in photos of Park Royal).

The layout fits on my workbench but will have to be packed away frequently. The 66,5 x 48,5 cm baseboard is therefore designed to fit in an Ikea “Samla” bedroller, which can be stored under the bed - or stacked with other layouts in the attic. I’m aware that longer boxes exist, but they tend to be quite narrow and I like visual depth. The backscene and major structures will be stored separately.

The Ikea version may not at first seem ideal as it has sloping indents at the ends. However these conveniently hold the baseboard in place whilst allowing room for fingers to be inserted. The bottom does have a slight curve at the middle – not a problem for me as my baseboard has legs at the corners, but it won't work for everyone.

There remains the issue of the fiddle yard. I can’t use the normal one I have, as this will be a two-level layout (part of the fun). So I need a fiddle yard arrangement that allows me to move stock vertically as well as horisontally.  The simplest option would be to move a fiddle stick back and forth by hand, but I'd like to stabilise the movement somehow. One option is a flexible arm of some sort. There’s a whole world of these, including holders for monitors, keyboards, tablets, smartphones, microphones and lighting. The challenge is to find something that is cheap, of reasonable quality and – importantly - does not require too much fiddling with alignment.

Another option would be to do a sliding cassette arrangement with a slope. A few tests showed that, contrary to what I thought, the stock stays put on a light slope.

Sides might help too! :-)