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.

Model Rail (UK) - - Content - Words: MIKE HAR­RIS

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.”


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’).


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.

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