Down to a Fyne art
David Harrison wanted to build a layout that would be small and easily portable…
VITAL STATS Layout: ‘Invercalley’ Size: 15ft by 2ft Gauge: ‘N’
Have you suffered from this? You build a layout, start exhibiting it, and then you see something that inspires you so much that you want to rip it up and build something else? Inspiration came to David Harrison on a visit to Inveraray, the beautiful little town on the shore of Loch Fyne. The handsome white buildings stand some way away from the water’s edge – it almost looks as though there is enough room there for a small branch line terminus... just like one in Ian Futers’ Scottish Layout Projects book. The desire to give Inveraray a railway drove David to build ‘Invercalley’ while still exhibiting his other layout. “Once I saw the plan for the layout in Ian’s book, that really set me going,” admits David. “I adapted the layout slightly to include a runround loop and sidings, and changed the name so that, even though it was based on Inveraray,
I wouldn’t be tied down to the specific location.” The layout’s name was derived from several sources, including a dog he once owned called Calley, and the fact that he supports Inverness Caledonian Thistle football team. BEST LAID PLANS... Despite the nearest railway to Inveraray being the West Highland Railway, ‘Invercalley’ depicts a fictitious Caledonian branch from the Callendar & Oban line. David envisioned a much smaller layout than he ended up with. He explained: “The plan was to make a layout that wouldn’t need three people to load into a van. The scenic section is 15ft by 2ft, with the fiddleyard branching off at 90º on the right-hand side to make an L-shape. This is about 4ft long, making the whole layout 6ft long on that side.
4 Tight curves and narrow cuttings are typical of Scotland’s railways – which help create a very effective scenic break.
“The original layout was only 9ft long. Then I added another baseboard inspired by the locomotive shed at Kyle of Lochalsh. That brought ‘Invercalley’ up to the length it is now.” DUAL OPERATION ‘Invercalley’ allowed David to dip his toe in the waters of DCC. Trains are controlled by digital, but the point motor wiring uses 12V analogue wiring for ease of familiarity. “I’d never built a DCC layout,” David explains, “but was keen to keep up with technology and wanted to give it a go. One of the best things about it is that I can have two locomotives on the same track and bring them up to one another. I use two Gaugemaster Prodigy controllers, so that one operator can be performing manoeuvres in the sidings while the other is running the main line. “I tried several different DCC controllers and, in the end, decided on the Prodigy because I found it the simplest to use. With it being an end-to-end layout I don’t have the luxury of being able to leave a model running round and round, so having two operators keeps the interest levels up when it’s at exhibitions.” The layout took just over two years to build. Among its most striking features are the waters of Loch Fyne and the large hill on the right-hand side. “The water has a base of 3mm plywood coated with Artex, which is creamier than normal plaster,” says David. “Once I’d pasted it on I used a small paintbrush to stipple it and make the waves. “The good thing with Artex is that it doesn’t sink once its been manipulated, so the waves held. I could then paint it with acrylic paints and apply a coat of varnish every day for a week. The result is effective and the water is quite reflective when the light is on it, adding to the realism. If making the water sounds rather straightforward, the hill proved more problematic. “The main hill is made from corrugated cardboard which I shaped until I had the contours I wanted. This took a few attempts to get right –
“The locomotives are run on DCC but I’ve left the points on analogue to give me two completely different circuits”
I kept making it too large and it dominated the scene. “When I’d got a hill shape that I was happy with, I covered the formers with plaster bandage, which doesn’t take too long to dry. Putting plaster on the top of the bandage adds to the strength of the structure. I then painted it and covered it in scatter material. I don’t have a machine to apply my static grass, so I coated the hillside in PVA glue before sprinkling the grass onto it. “An old toothbrush was used to manipulate and tease up the grass. The rocks in the hills are just scribed into the plaster using a flathead screwdriver.”
FACT MEETS FICTION
The buildings on David’s layout are all based on those found along Front Street (the A83) at Inveraray. They have been scratchbuilt using a cardboard carcass with a printed exterior, with details such as drainpipes added to make it more three-dimensional. David took photographs of the real buildings square-on, and paced them out (much to the bewilderment of tourists!) so that he could convert them into feet and inches and then scale them down to the correct size for ‘Invercalley’. The tiles and chimneypots are Ratio ‘N’ gauge products, and the architecture and stonework of the station is based on that found at Dalmally. It wouldn’t normally fit in with the rest of the architecture at Inveraray, which wouldn’t have stones in that style, but David has blended them into his layout well and they don’t look out of place. He incorporated castellation into the roof of the station to further add to the Scottish ‘feel’ of the layout. Several areas of the layout took several attempts to get right. David laid the track before the platform before deciding that the platform looked too wide, so he took it all up again and relaid the track. David remodelled some of the buildings three times! David admits that he really enjoys all the research that goes into building a layout like this and gets satisfaction from people recognising the location. He even met one person who didn’t realise that the line never actually existed!
“The water has a base of 3mm plywood coated with Artex, which is creamier than normal plaster”
‘Invercalley’s’ buildings are based on those at Inverarary. The track is all Peco Code 55.
The distinctive twin arch road bridge is 3 on the road to Inveraray. David cut the main shapes from card, overlaying them with embossed plastic card. The balustrade was made from individual pieces of thin dowel and the capping is made from more plastic card.