The Old Sage, Chris Leigh, offers some more modelling miscellany.
For me, it always seems that as one project approaches its end, the next comes into my mind. I didn’t go actively seeking inspiration as work on my Cornish harbour layout, ‘Polwyddelan’, drew to a close, but I think events have conspired to do just that. First, on a recent visit to Staines, I went walkabout on the common land known as Staines Moor, seeking any remnants of the Staines West branch, which was lifted some 36 years ago. A few weeks later and I was back down in the Home Counties, at Aylesbury, to take a last ride on a Class 121 railcar before the last two were withdrawn from service. The link is that the first Class 121 that I ever saw was at Staines West. Thereafter, I used them frequently whenever I went trainspotting at Iver and on any other occasion when the branch to West Drayton offered a viable alternative to the Southern Region EMU to London or Reading. I’ve always told would-be layout builders to visit their chosen location for inspiration, even if they know that there’s little left to see. What I found at Staines was a completely changed scene from what I remembered. The open landscape that I used to see from the train has largely disappeared. True, the moor is still there, though nibbled away by gravel extraction. To the west, in the direction of what was Yeoveney Farm, is now the M25 motorway and the Datchet reservoir. A little further north, Poyle Halt lies under Junction 14 of the motorway. To the east, the scene is much as it was, but the trees and undergrowth on the trackbed restrict the view. Once, the silence was broken by the passing overhead of a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser or a Vickers Viscount. Now the constant roar of the motorway scarcely gives way to the new ‘quiet’ jets departing from Heathrow every few seconds. For a short distance there’s a trackbed footpath along the embankment that led down to Yeoveney Halt, and it’s easy enough to spot the raised ground where the 1941-built spur linked the branch to the Southern Railway. As this was never officially lifted, there are even bits of rail and the odd sleeper still to be seen in the bushes. But this was once open ground and now there are trees and thick undergrowth which have changed the character completely. It sent me scuttling back to my collection of photographs, and what had begun as the germ of an idea started to evolve into a project. Events took their conspiracy a stage further when my daughter’s house purchase completed and she took her belongings out of my spare room. I guess you can see where this is heading… In May 2016 Backscene, I mentioned the Dapol Class 121 railcar that had tempted me to dabble in ‘N’ gauge once more. I’ve now got a Farish ‘64XX’ and an autocoach. I know it should be a ‘54XX’ for the Staines branch, but it’s close enough. Now I just need the revised GWR railcar with the Dcc-ready chassis, but perhaps I can build the layout before it arrives.
Left: Unusually showing the correct headcode, a Pressed Steel railcar (Class 121) passes the littleused Yeoveney Halt, some time in the early 1960s.
Below: It’s hard to believe that this is the same site, but look closely and the concrete blocks which supported the rear of the platform still lie among the trees.