LAYOUT: Shell Haven
ROY EMERY’S ‘Shell Haven’ isn’t just a model railway, it’s a tantalising glimpse into the mysterious world of Britain’s oil refineries.
Roy Emery’s ‘Shell Haven’ is a tantalising glimpse into the mysterious world of Britain’s oil refineries.
If you’re lucky enough to visit a working refinery, you’ll soon discover that mobile phones and cameras are strictly prohibited. Unsurprisingly, that makes prototypical photography very hard to come by. Roy Emery has always been fascinated by the mysterious world of the refinery, and always wanted to model one, but the lack of images was always a stumbling block. However, after Shell Haven oil refinery, in the Thames estuary, closed in December 1999, Roy managed to acquire enough photographs to embark on a realistic prototype build in 4mm:1ft. The scenic section is only 9ft by 18in, so it’s a compromise on a big scale. “The prototype is huge,” says Roy. “That’s why I’ve only recreated the rail loading area, which is where all rail operations were concentrated after 1983 - before that date, the railway was spread throughout the refinery.”
MIX AND MATCH
Roy freely admits that ‘Shell Haven’ isn’t entirely accurate. And yet, his ability to identify suitable areas of compromise, while at the same time introducing authentic-looking freelance elements, is an art form in itself. ‘Shell Haven’ is a mishmash of both prototypically-accurate and freelance details.
The layout contains representations of the real Shell Haven’s two-track loading gantry, marshalling yard, BR arrivals and departures siding, locomotive shed, off-loading facility and wagon repair depot. Each detail combines to create a highly authentic working refinery, despite Roy’s use of modeller’s licence. For example, the large corrugated building in the foreground was used to load tank wagons, but it’s only half the size of the prototype. “The rail loading area had two loading gantries, but I had to design it to fit - it’s basically semi-relief,” he says. The inclusion of such details, even if compromised, has afforded Roy plenty of operating potential. True to the prototype, Roy’s train of tank wagons can pass through the loading gantry to simulate the transfer of oil (see panel: ‘Winch by Winch’).
FOCUS ON FUN
Two additions that are not prototypical are the bitumen-loading gantry and unloading crane. Roy explains the significance of running a bitumen train: “Bitumen trains were not loaded at Shell Haven during the time period of my layout (1983 to 1993). They were loaded at the neighbouring refinery (on which Roy’s bitumenloading gantry is based). “But, to make the layout more interesting to operate, I introduced a bitumen train.” Operation is aided by a central line that is recognisable due to its uniquelycoloured ballast. “BR trains of empty wagons were restricted to certain areas,” says Roy. “The terracotta ballast emphasises where the trains can go.”
Stock largely consists of tank wagons and Shell-branded shunters. Roy owns two Hornby Sentinel 4wdhs, which have been finished in Shell colours and professionally weathered. “They’re fairly close to what was there,” says Roy. “Although, on the real ones, the exhausts would go through a water tank to prevent sparks.”
Roy’s Bachmann Class 03s and Heljan Class 14 have been hand-painted and decorated with transfers from Fox Transfers.
‘Shell Haven’ stands out among other industrial layouts because of its distinctive and visually appealing backscene. But it isn’t just a pretty model: it’s a rare insight into an area of the railway we seldom see. The very fact that Roy has had to work with relatively few sources only makes his achievement all the more impressive. He’s managed to faithfully recreate a prototype location, while adding his own freelance twist. Yet, remarkably, the layout retains a deep sense of authenticity throughout. So often we talk of freelance or prototype layouts, but ‘Shell Haven’ really is a combination of the two. So, the next time you pass up modelling a prototype due to limited sources, take a leaf out of Roy’s book. Creativity doesn’t have to limit authenticity.
Left: The walkway either side of the central line of track would allow the maintenance supervisor access to inspect each wagon.
A hand-painted Bachmann Class 03 shunts a TTA tank wagon, carrying SLOPS.
Below: The industrial refinery setting is perfectly conveyed through Roy’s hand-painted backscene.
Right: refinery can be traced back to 1916. Derelict Lathol buildings serve as a reminder of the site’s history prior to Shell.
The line with terracotta coloured ballast indicates where BR trains of empty wagons can operate.
The scratchbuilt Bitumen control room - borrowed from the neighbouring refinery - adds operational interest.