09 April 2020
Brought up on Southern Region territory in the BR blue era, Jamie Mathlin wanted to relive a little part of his youth and build an exhibition layout with some novel features.
‘Oakley Green’ was conceived as a mainly Southern Region layout based in the mid-1970s, taking ideas from Basingstoke, Micheldever station and Eastleigh Works. The layout would have a small parcels depot and a busy oil depot, as well as a locomotive servicing point. The latter would increase opportunities to run my collection of locomotives, adding more interest and operational complexity, while at the same time allowing the indulgence of running locomotives from other regions.
Originally, the layout design was based on a six-month timeframe for construction to a high standard, but portable for travel to exhibitions. The design was based around the available space in my estate car, however, the only way this would be possible was with the help of my long-time friend Richard Slate of Mudmagnet Models, a master model builder. He was given the task of completing the track, scenics and buildings on a commission in what seemed to be a tight timeframe. The layout uses Digital Command Control (DCC) with sound, including full automation of the points and signals.
The baseboards are 12mm ply with a 50mm by 25mm frame glued and screwed on the underside and detachable legs which fold away under each board. There are two scenic boards and one fiddleyard, with the two scenic boards folding towards each other to allow for safe transit. Total baseboard size when erected is 4.5m by 0.8m (15ft by 2ft 6in).
My original trackplan was transferred to the baseboards using Peco point templates to check whether left- or right-hand points fitted best. A little adjustment to the plan at this stage was also made to ensure that the track flowed well, fitted clear of the baseboard joints and, most importantly, looked good from all viewing positions.
Following the tracklaying, each feed wire was soldered to a set of common power bus wires running under the board, divided into three zones and powered through a current limiting board, giving around 2.5Amp per board/zone.
SEEP point motors were used, but their internal switches are not used for switching the polarity of the point frog. Instead, each of the decoder boards used to control the points has a relay for frog switching - this provides much more reliable operation for the continuous switches required at exhibition. Points are controlled by DCCconcepts ADS-8fx accessory decoders supplied by Coastal DCC and fitted to the underside of the baseboards.
Track was airbrushed using Lifecolor sleeper and track grime colours, then ballasted (Green Scene). Further weathering was also added as the rest of the build continued, including lots of oil stains.
The main method of control on ‘Oakley Green’ is a single NCE PowerCab DCC system, connected via an NCE USB interface to a ‘Raspberry Pi Model B’ (a single board computer drive) running JMRI software on the Linux platform, which allows routes and rosters to be set via extended macros, and for all locomotives to be pre-programmed in the consist showing all of their sound functions. This is invaluable as some sound-fitted models have as many as 31 sound functions!
In addition, the ‘Raspberry Pi’ connects via a Wi-Fi router to an Android Engine Driver App interface to run the system from our smartphones and tablets.
All buildings were scratch-built using plastikard sections. The main servicing depot is complete with I-beam and H-beam girder sections and clad with corrugated sheets. The interior of the depot is fully detailed with an overhead crane, tools and workbenches as well as tools such as a lathe and milling machines. It is lit using tiny 3mm bay lights supplied by Layouts4you.
Wills brickwork flexible sheets were used. All buildings were painted and weathered using acrylics, mostly from the Warhammer (Games Workshop) paint range. The last to be constructed was the parcels depot. Some time was spent trying to decide how this should look, looking through various photographs in books and on the internet. Eventually, inspiration came from an Underground station in London. The building was not copied, but elements were used to form the basis of the style for my parcels building. Corrugated sheets from South Eastern Finescale were used for the canopy, which was built into Plastruct sections to make the shed look like something that might have been seen on the Southern Region in the 1970s.
Locomotive refuelling facilities alongside the depot office use a modified Knightwing kit with pipes running around the end of the depot building to Knightwing storage tanks, allowing two sets of fuel tanks to be shunted into separate unloading areas.
Security fencing is from Ratio, with the posts glued into holes drilled into the baseboard and glued with superglue. The mesh is cut using a sharp scalpel and glued using liquid solvent glue, one post at a time to keep it taut. The ‘barbed wire’ is silver cotton fed through the holes and ends glued with superglue. In my opinion, it is one of the more realistic features of ‘Oakley Green’.
Expanded polystyrene is the main basis for the hills and slopes. It was roughly cut to shape and glued in place with PVA and then further shaped before being covered with Polyfilla. As it was drying, a dampened 1in paintbrush was used to smooth the surface. When fully dried, it was painted and a base covering of summer static grass was applied with a Green Scene Flockit applicator tool onto a layer of PVA glue. When dry, the excess was vacuumed off, with a thin cotton cloth over the nozzle to collect any loose fibres.
Additional static grass was added with lighter shades being glued using cheap hairspray, to build up varying lengths and shades of grass. The direction of the blades can be altered by gently wafting the vacuum nozzle over the grass before drying.
Further scenic treatment was then added in the form of postiche (a woven hair product) very thinly stretched in patches over grass and scenic scatters - using hairspray to fix them in place. Further colour was added to represent the various wild flowers frequently seen on railway embankments in the summer.
All the way through the build, the concept remained that ‘Oakley Green’ would be primarily an exhibition layout. The design and dimensions of the baseboards is based on their ability to fit into my car. When you include stock boxes, two light boxes and additional accessories, we have about an inch of space remaining!
In travel configuration, no part of the layout is exposed to weather or possible mechanical damage during transport - essential for a layout that travels. Having now attended a number of exhibitions, we have found that it takes around 40 minutes to set-up and 25 minutes to take down, which often means we are one of the first exhibitors to leave!