BRM regular Tony Wright reveals his five favourite model train layouts.
As Part 1 of a new series of exclusive website articles, I’ve been requested by the team at BRM to choose five famous model train layouts, the selection being entirely up to me. My choice, after some difficulty, is presented below, with my reasons for including them in my list. Over the coming months expect to see the likes of Andy York, Phil Parker and Howard Smith reveal their favourites too.
Having had the privilege of photographing hundreds of many fine model train layouts down the years, some of which went on to achieve great fame, choosing five from that number was very, very difficult. It was not just the fame which dozens of layouts achieved, but it was also a question as to how that fame (with justification) came about. It’s the influence these layouts have had on generations of railway modellers. They’re effectively seminal, in that the seeds they sowed have developed and proved of enormous assistance to modellers everywhere, in some cases down the decades.
So, the decision had to be made as to which five famous model train layouts to choose. With one exception, all are in 4mm scale – personal preference and prejudice. I make no claims that my list is definitive – I could hand over my large library of model railway pictures to others to make a choice, and theirs would probably be different – for perfectly valid reasons. In two cases the builders have died, and one of the layouts was broken up as a consequence. I helped dismantle it – a most-sad time for Andy York, Gilbert Barnatt and me, because we were good friends of the builder. The other three are still under construction, and their fame will no doubt grow as developments take place. One is probably the most influential layout of my lifetime, and, happily it’s still being operated – a testament to its builder.
Anyway, here are my five famous model trains layouts. I’ve presented them in alphabetical order.
- Black Lion Crossing
Currently being built in EM gauge by Geoff Kent, this model train layout is getting immense amounts of praise as it’s seen at shows. It represents part of the ex-LNER ‘withered arm’ in North Wales in the early-‘50s. Though not an actual prototype, all the structures are models of buildings which exist, or existed, in the area. It’s particularly delightful to me because, coming from Chester I remember such scenes so well. Geoff is one of the most ‘complete’ modellers I know, along with the likes of Barry Norman. Black Lion Crossing is set to appear in BRM before long.
The late Peter Denny (a country parson) started building his EM Buckingham Central in 1947, the year after I was born. For the next 60+ years he added to it, staying true to his original concept of depicting a might-have-been terminus on the Great Central prior to WW1. It was all his own work. Thankfully, it’s now in the care of Tony Gee, who, with friends operates it regularly. I think it’s fair to say that this has been one of the most important layout in the hobby’s history since WW2.
Category 3 in my list includes layouts built by highly-skilled teams, often on commission. Carlisle, also built in EM is one such system. It truly is stupendous. Housed in a purpose-built room in the Dordogne in France, it measure nearly 100’ long. It’s the property of David Johnson, and the project manager is Mike Edge, a long-standing professional model-maker. David and his wife Grace work on the project, which includes contributions from the likes of top architectural modellers such as Geoff Taylor and Peter Leyland. It stands to become one of the most famous layouts of this century. Picture by courtesy Railway Modeller.
- Copenhagen Fields
The Model Railway Club’s epic depiction of the approaches to Kings Cross in 2mm Finescale has outlived several of its original creators. The dedicated surviving team, ably led by Tim Watson has produced one of the most well-known, and famous, layouts on the circuit right now. It’s prototype modelling at its very best. In fact, it’s probably the most famous layout on the current circuit.
- Tetleys Mills
The late Dave Shakespeare was a dear friend of mine, and I loved to visit him at his home in Ancaster and take pictures and make DVDs of his Tetleys Mills in OO. With his lovely wife, Julie, the hospitality was second to none. This view shows the second Tetleys Mills, started shortly before Dave knew the true nature of his illness. Thus, it was never finished, and, as mentioned, I helped to break it up. Much was sold and the money donated to charity. I think Dave was one of the greatest impressionist modellers of all time, and was famous for his wonderful renditions of ‘it’s grim up in t’ North’.
There are my choices; I hope you like them. I hope you all agree that they are all influential and famous layouts. As alluded to, they are my personal choices (at the moment). There are some very fine new layouts appearing all the time, many of which will become members of the ‘Hall of Fame’. Just like this five are.
BRM magazine prides itself on showcasing the country’s very best model train layouts in every issue. Tony Wright, author of this article, is also a regular contributor. To download the Digital Edition, click here.