Layout build: Runcorn Salt Union


By Howard Smith

21 November 2019

Follow Howard Smith's build of this OO gauge layout in this series of 'behind the scenes' updates from the BRM office.

Back Story

 

Runcorn Salt Union

The Runcorn area has long been associated with the chemical industry, with products such as caustic soda and chlorine being produced in plants located close to the River Mersey. The products were shipped out of the nearby Runcorn Docks as well as by rail. However, the focus of this article is not on these chemicals but on the production of salt-based products and their transportation by rail. A branch to Folly Lane from the main line at Runcorn was opened in 1868 by the London & North Western Railway. It was this branch that would play a significant role in the transportation of chemicals and salt traffic in the Runcorn area.

By the early 1930s, Western Point salt works was receiving over 1.5 million gallons of brine each week from Northwich. However, just before WW2, the production of sodium hypochlorite ceased after an agreement was reached with ICI.  Salt Union then became part of the ICI Salt Division in 1937. In 1952 a new loading point for bagging salt and loading road and rail vehicles was opened at the salt works.

In the late 1980s, with the decline in rail traffic, ICI withdrew its shunters from service, with a British Rail Class 08 taking over duties at Folly Lane. Traffic to the salt works continued to be reasonably buoyant, although eventually the 08 duty was withdrawn and the train locomotives took over the shunting of wagons in and out of the salt works. Wagons were tripped from the yards at Warrington Arpley, often by a Class 31 or 37, with 4 or 5 wagons being the normal load.

 

A full account of this layout build can be read in BRM, commencing with a Prototype Inspiration piece on the history of the site in the March 2020 issue of BRM, on-sale January 30 in print, or download as a digital edition from pocketmags.com/brm from January 23.

 

Diary

 

December 12, 2019

A sigh of relief as press week is behind, leaving an opportunity to update this thread on progress with the layout. I've built a Portakabin card kit from Scale Model Scenery, one of three that are required on the layout. This one was used to guard the entrance to the site, the other two were double-stacked by the large salt building. Despite first impressions, it's an inticate build and one that'll feature in the Spring 2020 issue of BRM. Photo-realistic textures mean you don't need to be a wizard at detailed painting, though precise cutting and sharp folding of the corners is a must to ensure realism. I can recommend it, but you'll need to set a day or so aside to build it.

Portakabin Scale Model Scenery

A Portakabin from Scale Model Scenery, read my build in the Spring 2020 issue of BRM.

Portakabin Scale Model Scenery

Internal lighting required? Possibly, but that'll require more detail inside first. Office furniture, anyone?

December 3, 2019

With a little help from Ruth Jamieson, Designer of BRM, preparation of the baseboards has begun for painting. We're using the same neutral grey as our previous Christmas-themed model railway. It's not lurid and hides dust, unlike black paint...

 

November 19, 2019

The baseboards from White Rose Model works have been setup in the office. Designed as an 'L' shape, they were to be for a different project, though for this model of Runcorn Salt Union they're ideal, though the board that connects to the other was flipped and attached to the other side to offer a layout which would closely mirror the trackplan.

Runcorn Salt Union layout plan

It all starts with a plan - or two. Top, a part 'photoshopped' image of the boards with track partially laid, and below, Stephen Rabone's original concept plan after his research for the prototype inspiration article for the March 2020 issue of BRM.

Runcorn Salt Union layout

The White Rose Modelworks baseboards are precision-cut, though needed drilling for new bolt holes to suit this re-configured trackplan. Their construction is sturdy, with a cork top and foam inner to reduce resonance.

Runcorn Salt Union layout office

Plenty of room in the office to work - and, it's located between my desk and the teas and coffees! Perfect!