Tag Archives: Brewery Pit

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.

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.

Falling Behind: A Leader Story (Pt1)

I tried to think of a good Leader pun, but ‘falling behind’ works as an inverse analogy.

36001 - Leader


The picture above shows one of my favourite locomotives: 36001, Bulleid’s Leader; the monstrous experimental steam engine that looked like a diesel. Leader was constructed in 1948 and ran for a brief 1½ year period (from 1949 to 1950). ‘Ran’, of course, might not be the best word for Leader’s trial runs, as she was prone to failure and was often towed back to Brighton Works.

Leader was fitted with various experimental design features including: a chain drive; a fully enclosed boiler; and a cab at either end. She was also fitted with an off-centre boiler (very strange). The fire box was located near the centre of the loco and must have been a terrible environment for a fireman.

I always found something fascinating about this loco and urged my parents to buy me a book on the subject. When I left home, this book was one of the first things that I ‘acquired’ from my parents house.

The Model

There is a resin kit available of Leader, made by Golden Arrow Productions, which I got for my Birthday in 2008. After purchasing a load of Bulleid Q1 wheels (expensive), I set to work planning out the look of the model. The Golden Arrow Productions mould is good, but I thought it a shame that it missed out some of the more prominent panel lines, so I stencilled the panel lines out onto the moulding and scored these onto the resin with a modelling knife.

I was also not to keen on the shape of the windows, which I felt didn’t quite capture the look of the prototype. Following the guidance of a topic on converting the Golden Arrow Leader on RMweb, I decided to widen the windows and slightly change their shape.

Golden Arrow Productions Resin Model

The resin model as it comes (with windows a bit too narrow for my liking)

Leader with widened windows; much better.

Leader with widened windows; much better.

The white metal chassis blocks are lovely mouldings for this model, and when built they really give you an idea of how big this engine really was (an idea of scale kindly provided by driver Bob in the pictures above and below). It might not be the best engine to build if you have a layout with low tunnel mouths, as it really is a beast. The real thing towered over most water tanks, making it difficult to top it up with water.

Driver Bob poses with Leader

Driver Bob poses with Leader


Livery-wise there are a surprising number of options for an engine that ran for such a short period of time. Leader carried prime grey with a large British Railways ‘cycling lion’ emblem (only on one side) for a very short period. The British Railways emblem was quickly removed and the engine was lined out (along its panels), but remained in grey.

I have never cared much for either livery and I instead opted for the livery (well… not really a livery) present in the only colour picture that exists of Leader. At this stage it was being repainted and appears to be a very silvery grey. This was the first image of Leader that caught my eye, many years ago and this was what I wanted on my model.

More about the build next time….

The Big Freeze of January ’48

The picture above was taken on Salent Street just as the big freeze took hold on 4th January 1948 in Restington, Cambs.

British Railways J70 68217 is pictured on the tramway with a mixed goods train. Cars parked in the streets were an increasing problem for tramway traffic, with frozen doors and engines causing further delays for tramway freight through this long cold January.

Fireman Nick Shire was known for stopping to help stranded motorists with their frozen cars by piling scorching-hot cinders underneath car doors and bonnets to help them thaw.

The cow-catcher fitted steam trams were also used as stand-in snow ploughs, operating across main lines, private sidings and branches within the local area. Little photographic evidence of such operations is yet to come to light.

Brewery Pit: February-April 2008 – Scenery and Buildings

Across these three cold months in Ilfracombe, I seemed to get a lot of modelling done.

The Metcalf buildings were built and placed and Peco back-scenes were installed on the left and right back-boards. At this stage these back-boards were made of plywood and fixed down to the base-board with small pine blocks; these will eventually be changed. The Peco back-scenes were affixed with wallpaper paste, but the right one quickly rippled, which I was not happy about.

Over the years much thinking was applied to the masking of the railway exit points.  At this stage the remaining sections of the Metcalf brewery were butchered to create an implausible wall of buildings to act as an off-scene break on the left side of the layout.

I also started the creation of an extension to the retaining wall which will eventually have a signal box perched on the top (to the right). The most effective area of these early trials with back-scenes and exit point concealment was ironically the simplest: a weathered down section of Will’s brick wall with the Peco back-scene peaking out behind (behind the class 08 shunter). I always found this quite effective in photographs.

This is all academic now, as most of these features were removed for various reasons, which will be discussed some other time.

Brewery Pit: Fiddle yard construction begins

I have wanted to construct a fiddle yard (an off-layout shunting area, allowing you to change locos and wagons etc.) for some time. The main constraining factor has been space, as I live in a one bedroom flat. I had previously concluded that building fiddle yards either side of the layout was just impractical in the flat. Plus I had no clue how to fix them onto the layout; wishing I would have constructed them with the base board at the beginning.

While at a recent model show in Lichfield, I noticed that one of the layouts had strapped their fiddle yard to the under frame of the model, this seemed the solution to fixing them onto Brewery Pit; making the layout support the weight of the fiddle yard.

I then had the revelation that, if designed properly, the fiddle yards could slide up against the main frame when not in use.

So today I have constructed the outside frames for the fiddle yards. The outside frames have holes drilled through at regular intervals allowing large SQ bolts to slip through both the fiddle yard and layout frames. These are then fixed with wing nuts and washers. Two or three bolts per side give strong support to the frame.

The original plan was for the holes to line up in any position, but this has not quite worked (due to my cack-handed drilling), but I think I can sort them out tomorrow, by either widening the holes in the layout frames or setting fixed positions for the fiddle yard.

The pictures below show the left fiddle yard open and closed.

Brewery Pit: January 2008 – Wiring up and track work

Below are some pictures of the first days of Brewery Pit.

The inspiration for the model came from a 2007/2008 article on building a model railway for £100. There was also an O Gauge model railway featured in British Railway Modelling around the same period, which influenced the final track layout.

The aim was always for the layout to be urban or industrial; having visited hundreds of model exhibitions over the years, which felt like they were caked in west-country rural atmosphere, I felt the need to move away from that image.

Once I had decided on the track plan, I stencilled out the pieces of track onto my MDF frame and wired up each track section.

The straight single track on the edge of the base board is now a hidden run-through which is behind the retaining wall and underneath the housing estate. In fact, it is so hidden than no trains have run on the straight track since these pictures were taken!

I used a couple of rolls of ‘Hobby’s Instant Track Bed’ underneath the track (and also much of the MDF surface). This material was gaining positive reviews in the modelling press at the time, and although it has made some things easier to modify on the layout, it is also a bloody pain to work with. It destroys any tools it comes into contact with; caking them in the black tar-like substance, and takes half of the day to remove from your hands. I remember a number of hand strain injuries from my feeble (but ultimately successful) attempts to cut the track bed up with heavy duty kitchen scissors. You most certainly wouldn’t want to cut up a chicken breast with those scissors after I’d finished with them.

I spent many, many hours wrestling that darn tarry stuff onto the layout, and must admit that I have an aversion to going through that again. The track bed also lost some of its tackiness later in life, meaning that I had to pin all the track work down anyway.

There are also some early attempts at ballasting going on in these images (one of the perks of having a tacky track bed), which were all ultimately replaced as time went by.