Sidmouth - Richard Harper
First words about the birth of a new layout. Pictures etc will follow.
We at the L&WMRS are so lucky to have access to such an excellent Model Railway club and facilities. I wish I still lived close enough to make greater use of both. The opportunities to learn both new skills and refine the skills already present are manifold. I was lucky enough to be in at the start of Walford, a layout which broke new ground at the time and went on to enjoy some success on the exhibition circuit. Clarendon has been a worthy successor and has provided new challenges, not least as it is to P4 standards and set in North London in 1908.
Some might say that all model railway enthusiasts have at least one layout in them and so it is that a number of the team members, involved with the layouts mentioned above, has decided to build layouts of their own. For example, Steve Ridgway is building a layout based on Rose Grove loco shed, Ian Spalding has started Richmond, and mine, the least ambitious, is based on Sidmouth.
For those who do not know, Sidmouth was served by an 8 mile long branch, which was opened in 18—by the London and South Western Railway and closed in 1967 by Dr Beeching. Trains started at Sidmouth Junction on the West of England main line and consisted of branch stock, through coaches from Waterloo and in the summer, excursions, including some from Cleethorpes. Freight was limited to one pick up per day plus occasional deliveries of Volkswagen Campervans in Southern 4 wheel CCTs for fitting out by J.P.White. This company had its premises on the site of the former Sidmouth Gas works and as such, had their own sidings. The motive power provided was for years the preserve of the 0-4-4 tank, T1 in the early days, the 02 and finally the M7. Around 1960, the M7s gave way to Ivatt 2-6-2Ts and Standard 82xxx 2-6-2Ts. At the end of steam on the branch, the Standard 80xxx 2-6-4Ts were used. Excursion traffic would call for the occasional appearance of a Bulleid Light Pacific in original form. Weight restrictions on the branch precluded the use of rebuilt Bulleids.
When the decision was taken to start my own layout, my interest in the LSWR and its successor, the Southern, helped to narrow the field in my choice of subject. I wanted a project, which would not be so ambitious, that it could not be completed by one person within a reasonable length of time and at a reasonable cost. The subject needed to attract me both architecturally and operationally. It would need to be of a size that could be exhibited. My researches resulted in Sidmouth. I was also pleased to discover that a large part of the station, the goods shed, a small section of the former loco shed and a number of outbuildings are still standing. The first of a number of site visits was made to take photos and important dimensions. To avoid any potential misunderstandings as to my motives, permission was obtained from the current owners of the various buildings before activities started. Since those initial visits, the South Western Circle has been an invaluable source of help. Membership of the Circle and associated email group is a must for any serious devotee of the LSWR and its successors. Other sources include Sidmouth Museum, where I arranged to look through copies of local newspapers from the period. A lot of useful background information can be found such as names of coal and other merchants, films that were running at the local cinema, telephone numbers, operating bus companies etc are all there. There is of course an enormous amount of printed material around these days, both Oakwood and Middleton publications providing a good basis . Copies of photos from collections such as Lens of Sutton are on sale at railway exhibitions. Tracking down a particular view can be very frustrating but rewarding when finally found. There are a number of contributors to the SemG Southern email group, who have a wealth of information. I used the Internet extensively, which not only helped me track down the Devon General Society (for details of local buses) but also came up with details of photographic societies and local history societies. Through the latter I was introduced to a retired railwayman, Cyril Deem, who had worked in Sidmouth goods shed. Cyril provided a great deal of useful information and explanations of things that otherwise would have been lost to me.
My chosen period for the layout is summer 1959 for no other reasons than I want the maximum variety of motive power types that I remember seeing as a lad and to have an excuse to include one of the ex SECR 10 compartment coaches, that ran as part of the two coach branch train for a couple of years. Incidentally, we are fortunate in that the Bluebell Railway has one of these attractive coaches.
Construction started in a small way with the weighbridge hut, engine shed and goods shed using drawings purchased from the SWC. As the engine and goods sheds share the same window type, I decided that etching would be a solution to having a consistent standard and approached Bill Bedford, who agreed to produce these items. I also asked him to etch the platform canopy valancing as well as the cast iron filigree work at the top of the canopy support posts, using dimensioned drawings and photographs supplied by me. The results are absolutely excellent. The 23 lever signal box was scaled from photos, by counting brick courses and numbers of bricks in a course. Had I known at the time, I would of course have visited Instow, near Bideford, to see the preserved Type 1 box. The method of construction for all my buildings is roughly the same. For rigidity, the walls are made up from a sandwich of .040” plain plastic card on either side of a 2mm thick ply inner wall. I then apply the embossed brick layer on the face and into the window and door reveals. Embossed brick sheets are obtainable from South Eastern Finecast or from Plastikard in English, Flemish or Stretcher bonds. I prefer SEF, as the courses a re better defined. However, the sheet might need some rubbing down, as the brick faces can have a bulbous quality. Window frame etches will be slipped into this sandwich at a depth from the wall face that most nearly represents the prototype. If etches are not to be used then window framing is constructed using Evergreen or Plastikard plastic strip. Roofing uses .040” and is braced to prevent sagging. To this I glue a sheet of paper, which is lined horizontally at 3mm pitch .I apply each slate individually and use these lines to maintain good horizontal alignment. The slates are paper chads, which are punched out on a machine we use at work when we need to bind proposals and other documents. The next building, which is currently under construction, is the Miller & Lilley building, which stood in the goods yard and was rail served. M&L were a fairly substantial coal and general merchanting operation in this part of Devon, with branches in Honiton, Ottery St Mary and Exeter and indeed had their own modest fleet of coal wagons built by the Gloucester RC & W Company. I am not sure when these wagons were disposed of but presumably they were absorbed into general stock in 1939, at the same time as other Private Owner Wagons. They would undoubtedly have been a distant memory in 1959, but nevertheless two will make an occasional appearance on my railway.
So, what of the baseboards? Well, deep concern over my own carpentry skills made me put this subject off regularly, until last year, that is. It was either give up or get on with it. The latter course was adopted. I purchased an Ordnance Survey map, and expanded the area covering the station and station throat to the equivalent of 4mm to 1ft. This determined the area of baseboard that would be needed. Following consultation with Steve Ridgway, I adopted his recommendations but I am reluctant to steal his thunder, so hopefully he will be able to pen to paper and describe his methods. Working height is around 1220mm, which is comfortable for working at. So, that is the extent of the progress to date. The next job is to get down and lay some track. I have made up a couple of P4 Track Company turnouts and some straights but more of that anon.
Photos to follow
Photos to follow
Photos to follow
                  The Leamington & Warwick Model Railway Society