Layout Design

Layout design for realistic operation

by Harry and the late Ivor C. Marshall.

© Harry Marshall 2006

The right of Harry Marshall to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


by Nigel Godsell
Harry practices what he preaches, and anyone who has been fortunate enough to operate his 00 gauge layout “The South Dorset Light Railway” will testify to the enjoyment of being involved in the dynamics of a real railway, albeit in miniature. The operating schedule that Harry has devised to cater for all the passenger and goods traffic, over the branch-line, brings it to life in a very convincing fashion. Indeed, I was totally unprepared to find just how much more absorbing and rewarding it is to be in total charge of one of the stations (of the layout) where every single movement has a specific intent and accompanying procedure to execute in a realistic (prototypical) manner.
His portable layout (pictured below) depicts part of a fictional branch-line, which could have been constructed around the turn of the century under the Light Railways Act. It would have left the never built westward extension of ‘Castleman’s Snake’ from Dorchester towards Exeter at a point somewhere near Winterborne Abbas. Passing under the chalk ridge to the south into the Bride valley, it could have served several small rural communities, ending at the seaside village of Burton Bradstock.

Photo: SR (ex-SDLRly) terminus station of Port Bredy that is adjacent to the harbour. (Photo: Nigel Godsell)

The layout depicts a foreshortened view of that part of the line from the tunnel through the hills to the terminus. Two stations only are modelled, Litton Cheney with its cheese factory and water mill (not to be confused with the real item in the real village) and Burton Bradstock as it might have developed, westwards from the present situation as “Port Bredy”. The period of the layout is set in the mid-thirties, and the Southern Railway has taken the (by then) nearly moribund line in hand. Much-cascaded former LSWR and LBSCR locomotives and stock have appeared; indeed at least one locomotive is on loan from the Isle of Wight!

Close-up of the quayside at Port Bredy with goods vans loaded ready for collection. (Photo: Dave Riches)

The intermediate station of Litton Cheney viewed in the direction of Port Bredy. On the right is the private siding serving the cheese factory, the roof of which is visible (bottom right). (Photo: Dave Riches)

"Down" pick-up goods entering the run-round loop at Litton Cheney to allow the "Up" passenger train to pass. (Photo: Dave Riches)

The article (this is a foreword to) is a development of one written by Harry’s father that appeared in the May 1976 issue of the Model Railway Constructor entitled “Thoughts on starting and developing a Layout”. Harry has embellished and expanded it to be more of an action plan for modellers intent on adding a real touch of authenticity to their railway modelling project. Modellers with an existing layout may well find the issues and aspects discussed of benefit in improving operation and hence enjoyment! As for the modellers that adopt the principles set-out, they’re virtually guaranteed a viable layout that’s enthralling to operate. I have to admit to having a copy of the above MRC and whole-heartedly wish I’d paid more attention to Harry’s father’s article, at the time.

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