Category Archives: Outings and Shows

Q1 on Brewery Pit

Brewery Pit at the National Festival of Railway Modelling 2018, Peterborough

I took Brewery Pit on a road trip from Swindon to Peterborough to exhibit the layout at the National Festival of Railway Modelling in Peterborough.

Over the weekend of the 8th-9th of December I exhibited Brewery Pit at the National Festival of Railway Modelling which was held in the East of England Arena in Peterborough.

I have been very busy preparing Brewery Pit for this exhibition in recent months and have made many changes to the layout including building a new back-scene, making a lighting rig, motorising the points and creating a control panel, all of which I plan to discuss in future blog posts.

Setting up Brewery Pit

I travelled over to Peterborough with my car packed full of model railway on the Friday night before the show while suffering from a bad cold and set up the bulk of the railway in the arena that night. This gave me chance to check that the new point motor system was operating. I then retired back to a hotel to do some last minute work on some other items including the lights on my rig and some of the models I planned to run at the show.

Me and my brother (who kindly acted as my second operator) got up bright and early and got into the arena to make sure everything was working on the model. I got myself a bit confused while connecting up the various lights and I also had a spot of last-minute soldering and wiring to do. Everything was working just fine as people started to come into the show for the advanced ticket bookings.

Days 1 and 2

The first day went by quite quickly as I spent much of the day behind the layout trying to get my Christmas-themed Coca-Cola train to run across the rear line of the layout without crashing into tunnels and buildings. I built the Coca-cola train over the Thursday and Friday nights before the show and although it was a little bit stubborn on that first day of the show, people really loved seeing it and hearing the theme-song playing from inside the containers.

Coca-Cola Train on Brewery pit

Coca-Cola Train on Brewery pit

Brewery Pit in Peterborough

Brewery Pit in Peterborough

I decided to make the Coca-cola train a static display for the Sunday, which gave me more time to operate the layout and talk to visitors. Me and my brother had a fairly consistent stream of discussion about Bulleid’s Leader that was coupled up to the Coca-cola train with many people asking what it was or asking for more information about the kit. A nine-year-old boy eagerly told his Dad about Leader (much to his Dad’s confusion).

Santa driving Bulleid's Leader

Santa driving Bulleid’s Leader

Leader Pulling the Coca-Cola Train

Leader Pulling the Coca-Cola Train

Having left my brother in charge of Brewery Pit, I went off to look at some of the other layouts and there really were some amazing ones on display.

Habbaniya, Iraq 1941

My favourite model of the show was Habbaniya, Iraq 1941. This is a fixed perspective model where the buildings and other items gradually get smaller to the rear of the model giving the impression that the landscape travels much further into the distance than it actually does (I have discussed my love of these models before). This model is a particularly clever one in that it includes various planes, trucks and trees that all scale down gently enough to appear as if you are seeing a whole desert runway scene. It must have taken a lot of planning to achieve.

Habbaniya, Iraq 1941

Habbaniya, Iraq 1941

The Bridge of Remagen

Another model that was amazing was The Bridge of Remagen, which is a fascinating large-scale N gauge layout set in Germany in World War II and focusses on the Ludendorff Bridge. There are lots of fascinating little cameos including bunkers, and flat loaders carrying plane parts and armoured trains. The best feature of the model to me is the river and bridge crossing with very realistic ripply water that seemed to be made from resin and various boats under the long bridge.

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

Bournemouth West

Bournemouth West was just behind my layout and is a really realistic model set in the 60s with onboard sound, steam effects and realistic lighting, and the club operating the layout were a really friendly bunch too.

Byway MPD

Beside Brewery Pit was John Gay’s Byway MPD, which is another very realistic model with automatic lighting and a touch panel control panel and some nice onboard engine effects including flickering fireboxes and sound.

Byway MPD

VIP Engines

John had recently digitised Model Rail Magazine’s soon-to-be-released J70 steam tram and Chris Leigh from the magazine brought along the digitised tram to run on his layout for a bit, and sure enough, I ended up having the wonderful opportunity to give it a run with my kit built steam trams for a while.

Model Rail J70 visits Brewery pit

John also let me run his sound-equipped USA Dock-Tank. He’d also fitted a stay alive capacitor system to the loco (much like my trams), which made it perfect for running on Brewery Pit. Find out more about his projects here.

As the final hours ticked away, I bought myself some LED circuit equipment, some nano LEDs and some lamps for setting up over winter and then I and my brother started the job of packing down Brewery Pit and we made our exit from the arena.

It really was a great show and it was so very nice to have such nice comments about Brewery Pit after all the time I’ve put into improving the layout for the show.

Here is a video I made of the show, I hope you enjoy it and Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Grasslands Out!

Brewery Pit at Swindon Model Rail in 2015

Reawakening Brewery Pit

For those that don’t know, Brewery Pit is my main OO gauge layout that I started constructing in 2008 while I lived in Ilfracombe.

Brewery Pit at Swindon Model Rail 2015

Brewery Pit at Swindon Model Rail 2015

It is based on the atmosphere and surrounds of Burton upon Trent’s extensive brewery operations with tall red bricked buildings towering over the main line and private brewery sidings.

The layout is set in autumn at some point in the late 1940s, but I do on occasion run various other eras too.

The fiddle yards are designed around a cassette system and the layout normally runs in DCC, but operates in analogue mode from time to time.

Brewery Pit in the sunshine

Brewery Pit in the sunshine

I’ve tried to ensure that handling of rolling stock is kept to a minimum while the layout is in operation, so most of the wagons have automatic sprat and winkle couplings fitted and are suitably weighed down for this purpose.

Brewery Pit is the first layout that I designed to be displayed at model railway exhibitions, so a fair amount of thought was given to ease of transportation, set-up and how entertaining the model is to watch.

So far I have exhibited Brewery Pit at four shows, including the Swindon Model Railway Club’s Modrail shows in 2015 and 2016, The Chasewater Railway Burton Brewery Locomotives Day in 2015 and the Loddon Vale Model Railway Exhibition in 2016.

Brewery Pit at Loddon Vale Model Railway Show 2016

Brewery Pit at Loddon Vale Model Railway Show 2016

This year I have two shows booked, which include Model Railex 2018 at the National Brewery Centre, Burton upon Trent on 4th November and the National Festival of Railway Modelling 2018, Peterborough on the 8th – 9th December.

The layout isn’t quite finished in my eyes, as there are a few more things I want to do to it, which include adding balconies to the malting warehouses and reworking the roofs. I also want to add drain pipes and an overheard water channelling system (which I may regret when I try to operate it at shows this year). I would like to explore motorising some points too, but this would be a risky job as many of the points are now buried beneath many layers of tiling grout.

Brewery Pit at Chasewater Burton Brewery Day in 2015

Brewery Pit at Chasewater Burton Brewery Day in 2015

Hopefully, all these little additions will be complete before the autumn shows begin, but I may then put Brewery Pit up for sale, as I would like to see Brewery Pit go off on its own adventures and to help fund my plans for my next model project, but we shall see how things go.

Brewery Pit under development before its show debut in 2014

Brewery Pit under development before its show debut in 2014

Watch this space for further updates.

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland Visit (Pt1 – USA Scene)

While travelling in Germany for work, I noticed that I would be giving a presentation in a city fairly close to Hamburg. Hamburg is the home of the largest model railway in the world, Miniatur Wunderland, and I have wanted to visit it for years, so this was my chance.

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

I ventured from Bremen to Hamburg on an hour-long train journey on a double decker train. As I watched the arable fields and forests flash by the window I started to get more excited about finally visiting this place that I have watched YouTube videos about for a long time.

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

I stayed in a hostel on Reeperbahn the night before and managed to navigate there on Hamburg’s Metro system (but I did accidently get off the metro at the wrong place a few times). In the morning I got up early and caught the bus over to the docks and located the big dockside warehouses that houses Miniatur Wunderland.

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

I spent some time looking at the various models of the location of the warehouse through different time periods, which was quite fascinating. It was like a merging of my ecology day job and my model interests. Each model had an identical size and aspect and the earliest model dated from the 1300s (I think). It was amazing to look at the years pass by and see how this small area of Hamburg has changed including the building of a fort and the gradual construction of the bridge and the railway line.

I then ventured upstairs to the top floor of Miniatur Wunderland and entered the model next to a model of Germany. At the time the lights had dimmed down to a night time seen and I was faced with the largest model I have ever seen, which was lit up with a range of LEDs. The first thing that caught my attention was the sparkly lights of a funfair on the model and all I could mutter to myself was ‘oh my God’. It was such an amazing sight.

The warehouses are home to large model scenes of Germany, Hamburg (complete with yet another model of the Miniatur Wunderland warehouse), Scandinavia, America, Austria and Switzerland (Switzerland is so big that the mountains begin on the floor below). Italy has opened since I visited (my visit was in 2016).  I’ll discuss these models more in other blogs entries.

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

It is safe to say that I took many photos and videos, but I wasn’t too sure how best to edit everything together, so I have settled on grouping the videos in the specific scenes, so I have started with the USA, and trust me, it only gets better from there!


There is some really cool stuff on the USA scene. The standout being Las Vegas and its illuminations. I also thought the canyon scene was great and the Area 51 styled scene, which shows the good sense of humour the makers of this model. Speaking of a sense of humour, you’ll notice that my video follows the adventures of a train painted like a sandy beach. If you find that difficult to imagine, it might be worth watching the video.

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Miniatur Wunderland USA Scene

Here is a video of the USA scene, I hope you enjoy it. More to come soon (I hope you like my new logo on the video).

Visit to: Swindon Railway Festival , September 2016

Today I am going to take you on a retrospective adventure to the Swindon Railway Festival, which I visited on the 11th September at Swindon’s STEAM – Museum of The Great Western Railway.


I had just returned from a trip to somewhere or other (as I often do) and I was not sure I had the energy to go to the event, but in the end I’m really glad I made the effort.

With Swindon’s ongoing celebrations as part of Swindon 175 there was a strong emphasis on GWR heritage across the full breadth of the GWRs history, including South Wales coal lines, Cornish branch lines and, of course, the surrounds of Swindon itself.

Stand out layouts at the show included Porth St John; a beautiful depiction of Cornwall in the 1930s. I loved the representation of the mudflats beneath the elaborate blue bridge and the fishing nets.



Photo by Sumita Majumdar

Ynysbwl Fach was also fun to watch and a rarely modelled example of a private coal yard. I think it is maybe the first exhibition layout I have seen that is based on a South Wales colliery. I was even treated to a pronunciation demonstration of the layout’s name (I was close with my first attempt, but didn’t quite get it).

Swindon Model Railway Club’s Fisherbridge was also in attendance with its new collection of 1980s N Gauge rolling stock.

Here is a video from the day:

Visit to: The National Festival of Railway Modelling, Peterborough

Last weekend I visited a model exhibition I have been wanting to go to for years: The National Festival of Railway Modelling in Peterborough.

Finding myself with a weekend with ‘no plans’ I thought I would take the long drive from Swindon (not actually as long as I thought) and take a look.

The first layout I looked at was the N-Gauge ‘Grange-Over-Sands’, with its well represented saltmarsh habitat spanning the front of the layout. I spend a lot of time in my day job studying saltmarsh habitat, so I paid special attention to the little creeks and different patches of vegetation.


I think ‘Oulton TMD’ (OO-Gauge) was one of my favourite models at the exhibition. It was such a large model and I liked how it was a busy layout, but didn’t look cluttered. I could have spent much longer looking at that one.


‘Ludlow’ was probably my favourite layout of the show. An N-gauge layout with plenty of sprawling landscape and an assortment of traffic running through the valley on the main line. I really liked the track plan of this layout and it has given me some ideas for a future N-gauge project.

‘Up The Line’ was a very interesting WWI layout built in 16mm narrow gauge. The sound of the distant thump of bombs added to the ambience of this model. I particularly liked the ambulance train (ambience and an ambulance in so many words).


Another N-gauge model I really liked was ‘Barton Road’ set around London somewhere in the late 60s and included plenty of west country stock (my favourite). It is built in a fascinating ‘T’ shaped arrangement with the off scene fiddle yard placed in the centre of the ‘T’. This allows trains to run off scene at two ends of the ‘T’ and then stock cassettes are swapped to each off-scene area. I really like the arrangement, but, for me, it might need a bit too much concentration to control at a show.


I also have to mention the BRM Magazine project layout Ruston Quays, what a lovely little model. It shows how much you can do with limited space.


I got the chance to see a couple of DJM models that had passed me by in my months away from modelling. I saw the Class 71 and would like to keep telling myself I don’t need one in my life, but it looked and sounded great. I also saw the new J94 Austerity which also looks like a brilliant model. There is a nice yellow NCB one that was previously an RMweb exclusive and is now being sold by Kernow (it would look great with a bit of weathering).

So all in all, an enjoyable show. It seemed that every time I filmed a train it cast a curse on the tracks and things would crash or stall, but with a bit of editing I managed to get a decent film out of my footage. Here it is:

Brewery Pit at the Chasewater Brewery Locomotive Day

Last Sunday (12th July) I had a great time exhibiting my OO Gauge layout: Brewery Pit at the Chasewater Railway in Staffordshire. The exhibit was included as part of the railways Burton Brewery Locomotive Day.

2015-07-12 10.42.54PSLR

Brewery Pit was set up in the Chasewater engine shed where visitors could stop by to photograph the real brewery engines and stock. There is a steam sentinel in the shed, which is of the same design as the one I am building as part of the Five Shunter Challenge. This particular one once worked at the Walsall Gas Works and was apparently the last of its design to be built.


It was raining at the start of the day, but when the sun broke out at lunch time the crowds of visitors soon followed and enjoyed cab rides and vintage truck displays and the beer tent.

2015-07-12 13.39.09PSLR

2015-07-12 13.39.13PSLRIt was great to see Brewery Pit pulling a good crowed, particularly at lunch time. Me and my wife foolishly tried to scoff a full English breakfast as the largest group of visitors arrived to watch the trains run along the layout. I attempted to multi-task, but I admit that the breakfast did go cold.

It was nice to see so many children captivated by the little trains shunting on Brewery Pit. One child insisted that the tram engines were moving too slowly. I tried to explain that they are speed-regulated to 40mph, but I don’t think the child in question was that interested in my justification. One 3-year-old visited three times and had to be dragged away by his Mom.

2015-07-12 13.39.37PSLRI also met up with Joe Stamper and his Dad who brought along their vintage Bass truck for the day. Joe also brought along his delightful model of the Neilson, Reid & Co 0-4-0ST Steam Locomotive that operated in the Bass Breweries in Burton. He tells me that he still has some work to do to it (including replacing the dome). I took some photos of it with some brewery wagons and it really looks the business. Joe has done a great job on the paint work. I’m looking forward to seeing the completed version.

2015-07-12 16.29.36PSLR

2015-07-12 16.26.29PSLR

I was really pleased how many people told me that I had captured the ‘feel’ of Burton-upon-Trent. I only ever see the layout as something that needs ‘more work’, so it is great to get some positive feedback. Many people also asked whether the layout was N-gauge, which doesn’t surprise me as the large buildings at the rear of the layout dwarf the little OO-gauge locos.

My favourite comments from the event were:

  • Toby doesn’t have a face – said by a child watching the J70.
  • Where is Toby’s face? – said by another child watching the Y6.
  • That tram best not have a face! – said by an adult while watching the J70.


The best bit of the show was watching the brewery engines fire up in the shed and move out outside while we were test running the layout (we then had to wipe the diesel fumes off the track).

See the video below:

I hope that I get to attend next year.

Upcoming shows: Brewery Pit at Chasewater Railway in Staffordshire (Sunday 12th July)

Brewery Pit will be at the Burton Brewery Locomotives Day on Sunday 12th July 2015 at the Chasewater Railway in Staffordshire. Full details of the event can be found here:

The Chasewater Railway is in Brownhills and you can plan your visit with the details below:

Burton Locomotives Day

The breweries of Burton were an important influence on the architecture of Brewery Pit so it will be nice to see the layout among some of the locos that once worked in the area.

In preparation for the Chasewater Railway event, I set up the layout for the first time since the Swindon Model Railway Exhibition to check everything was running okay. Sadly the glue that keeps the fiddle yard cassettes fixed together corroded away the plastic base and the cassettes have deconstructed themselves. I have already glued one back together, so it shouldn’t cause any issues for the show.

I also added some additional LED lights to the front of the layout. All the lights Make the layout look like it is invaded by giant alien snakes.

I hope I see some of at the Chasewater Railway on Sunday 12 July. Brewery Pit will be in the heritage centre. Please do come over for a chat.

Two Model Railway Show Reviews + Pictures & Videos

February-May is the peak season for model railway shows and I try my best to visit a few each year. This blog entry covers two recent show visits: the Basingstoke Model Railway Show, Berkshire and last weekend’s Trainwest held in Melkham, Wiltshire.

Basingstoke Model Railway Show
The main thing I noticed at both shows was the increasing number of high quality n-gauge/2mm layouts. It is clear that this scale has come into its own in the past few years. The quality of modelling on layouts like Freshwater and Dentdale were stunning. The Class 33 diesel on Freshwater had a wonderful weathered finish.

Here are some photo highlights:

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

It was also nice to see the Heljan/Hattons Beyer Garratt pulling a giant train of coal trucks around the Newbury Clubs Falkland Vale.

It was also great to finally see Fisherton Sarum in person.

I gave into temptation at the Basingstoke show and purchased a new DCC control system for Brewery Pit, in the form of a Power Cab. I was very surprised at how cheap this system actually was.


This was my first visit to Trainwest in Melkham, Wiltshire. Having recently moved to Swindon, this is now one of my local shows. I was very impressed by the high quality of exhibiting layouts. Each layout was exquisite.

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

Picture by Ruth Haynes

It was good to grab Giles attention from his layout (End of The Line) to talk about mini RC Cars and it was also nice to say hello to Golden Arrow Kits in person (and talk Bulleid Leader).

It is difficult for me to pick a favourite layout from Trainwest, but I must admit that I really enjoyed watching the transition era (late 1960s and early 1970s) diesels whizzing around Highbridge Road, a real treat. This is a period that is rarely modelled and one that I also hope to capture in miniature one day.

Also of note was Galatia, KS, which looked very realistic. Most impressive was the transition from the road crossing to the backscene. The telegraph poles and aspect were very effective at fooling the eye into believing there is a long straight road running off into the distance.

I would also like to give honourable mention to the biennial Narrow Gauge South, which I missed this year. I would have liked to have gone, but I had far too much relaxing at home to do.

Here are the two videos of the show:

Basingstoke Model Railway Show 2014

Trainwest 2014

Newbury Model Railway Show 2014

Last weekend I visited my local show… well, now I think about it, the Newbury Model Railway Show is no longer my ‘local’, but it matters little.

Here is my video of the show:

I certainly got 100% value out of my £4 entry ticket.

There was some impressive modelling on show. I think I will have difficulty choosing my favourite from the following layouts.

Red Hook Bay

This is an American HO gauge layout set in the 1940s. This model really captures a busy dock-scene. Something that many layouts try to achieve, but don’t always succeed. The attention to little details is brilliant. The ice-blocks on the quay being one of my favourite elements. The extra realism provided by laser-cut buildings was also quite prominent on this layout.

The Wantage Tramway

The Wantage Tramway is a OO9 gauge layout micro layout and is very attractive. I should have really asked what motors were underneath some of the locos as they had some very impressive running qualities. The small steam tram had some amazing slow gearing. The coaches were well made too. The layout of the buildings was also attractive to the eye. The layout performed faultlessly for the video camera.

Dawes Creek

This is an Australian N gauge layout, representing Victoria State in the 1970s and 1980s. I think the stand-out aspect of this layout is the backscene and how well it integrates into the layout. The backscene is hand painted and easily competes with modern photo backscenes. The low horizon really gives a feeling of plain country. The gradual change from model terrain to backscene beneath the timber bridge is really amazing. With sounds and well spaced structures, I think this layout inches to the top of my favourite list.

Other highlights

I was so pleased to finally see a ‘Maker-Bot 2‘ in person. What an amazing machine. It was much smaller and cleaner than I was expecting and I was surprised at the quality and rigidity of the models printed on the device.

I also had a close look at ‘t gauge’ on the Robin’s Run layout. I didn’t realise that t gauge could be so affordable. I will definitely give this some further thought and join the t gauge forum.

I also enjoyed an introduction to making model trees that will come in very useful on Brewery Pit.

Purchase-wise, I managed to avoid shelling out on more locomotives (I have a mortgage to pay these days), but I did manage to buy some tools missing from my arsenal and a set of high quality modelling books on buildings, scenery and loco building. Unfortunately, the rain was so terrible that it soaked the cover of one of my books when we left the show which caused some anxiousness later in the day, but I am happy to report that although a bit wavy in places, the book is okay.

Thanks Newbury MRC for getting me back in a modelling mood.

Visit to Model Rail Live 2013

On 21st September, I visited Newark Showground in Nottinghamshire for Model Rail Magazines exhibition. The venue was a large metal industrial-type unit, which afforded lots of space for layouts and traders.

There were lots of models on display, with some really impressive large layouts. I must admit that some of my favourites were of the smaller variety. Sparkle, was probably my favourite: which is a HO Gauge, German layout set in winter. The barren trees are very effective, and the subtle use of glitter also adds a lot to the overall winter scene. Plus there were some nice little steam locos on show.

It was also nice to see Deepcar again, which now features some newer motive power in the form of Olivia’s Trains EM1s. One of the highlights of the exhibition was seeing two LMS garratt’s passing each other on Radford Mill; I was lucky enough to film it (does this make me a model-train spotter?).

My second favourite layout was ‘The end of the line’ which featured a standard gauge siding with a narrow gauge system loading up the trucks. There was even a moving flat-loader truck (which inspired my current workbench project: a 4mm radio control car).
Exhibiting at a show like this must be quite a challenge. It is something that I have considered doing, but I’m in no rush to dive-in.

Below is my video of the show.