Backscene

Model Rail (UK) - - Content -

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.

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