Michael and Rob Doyle have rekindled their youth with this fictitious layout.
What do you do when your loft layout has so many online fans desperate for you to take it to shows? You follow in Michael and Rob Doyle’s footsteps and build something you can exhibit! The brothers’ layout ‘Grimsby Town’ had garnered over 300 likes on Facebook but had been built into a loft and was unable to attend exhibitions. The only option to appease their online fans was to build something new. So ‘Carlton-le-willows’ was born. This ‘OO’ gauge layout is fictional but was inspired by their memories of the Nottinghamshire region. The name is a reference to Carlton, once a station on the Gedling branch, part of the Great Northern Railway’s Derbyshire extension. The line looped around Nottingham, went through Derby and joined the North Staffordshire Railway at Eggington. Closed in 1960, you can still see the beginnings of the branch to the left as you leave Netherfield station and head towards Grantham. “We went to school in Carlton so that area and era was natural for us to model,” explains Michael. “We decided that the
layout should be fictitious because our memories weren’t perfect and the track plan certainly isn’t accurate to the prototype.” The whole layout is 16ft by 10ft and scenic section baseboards are only 2ft 6in deep. 1970s Nottingham is a world away from the vast open countryside and rolling hills of 1930s Vale of White Horse but Pendon Museum’s ‘Vale Scene’ has inspired the brothers’ use of some clever tricks to make the layout look much deeper than it is. “The main line is raised 2in above the baseboard level and the relief lines are lower, so you get a small but subtle perspective. The backscene is from ID Backscenes, as recommended by our friend Neil Mason from the Little Loco Company, and the rolling hills of the countryside also help with that perception of depth. Upon first glance the layout looks quite flat, like the nature of the landscape, so we’ve placed the focal point right in the centre to give a sense of undulation from the sides into the middle of the layout.” The lack of buildings actually heightens the sense of space. There’s no station so it’s left to a single signal box to act as the focal point. “I built the signal box from a Ratio kit,” explains Rob, “and then we placed it right in the centre of the layout to give it the maximum impact possible. We like to go into the finer details with our models so I added the Ratio plastic lever frame to the inside and used the option of leaving one of the windows open, as that is how we remember it being on hot summer days. For the nameboards ‘Carlton-lewillows’ wasn’t an option, of course, so we went to Scale Model Scenery and got them to make them.” Pendon has also inspired Michael and Rob to modify proprietary items to their personal specifications. “All the signals have been heavily kit-bashed to the point that they are almost scratchbuilt,” says Rob. “Using Ratio’s kits as a starting point, I modified them with anything I could find out of the scrap box – other Ratio parts, items from the Model Signal
Engineering range and even bits from various model engineering projects. “The only signal that hasn’t been scratchbuilt is the colour light signal, which we bought from Traintronics. That was around the time that our friend Tom Hunns came on board and did the wiring on the layout, as his electronics skills are far greater than ours.” The bridges and tunnel portals are Wills kits, apart from one tunnel portal on the main line, which was scratchbuilt. It’s based on Manton tunnel in Rutland and Rob built it using South Eastern Finecast and Slater’s Plastikard embossed sheets. The railings were made from wire soldered to dressmaker’s pins. “We’ve also used trees to block the view and to cover the transition between backscene and scenic section. With model railways being such an expensive hobby we’ve been doing everything we can to cut the costs. Rather than use static grass, which can get quite expensive if you’re covering a large area, we elected to use hanging basket lining at a fraction of the price. The trees are copper braid armatures with sea foam depicting the leaves.” Michael and Rob have the advantage of not being tied down to a particular era, which allows them to run whatever they like. As with many modellers, they run what they remember from their youth, predominantly the BR blue era from the 1970s through to the 1980s. “We aren’t the sort of modellers who insist on everything being perfect. If we see a locomotive that we like and we want to run it then we will run it. We don’t mind if it’s a few years out from what would be prototypical.”
Keeping the main lines prototypically close together has caused a few issues when it comes to train set corners. “The [end] curves were easily the most difficult part of the layout because they had to be so close together in order to make the 90º corner,” says Michael. “The problem we have now is that we can’t have two trains passing each other on the curves because the tracks aren’t far enough apart to avoid fouling. This has meant that we had to shorten the length of trains from what we would perhaps like. “Everybody in modelling has to make compromises because it’s simply not viable for
manufacturers to produce every single livery variation. Being able to make the alterations to them means that we don’t have to miss out on a particular model and it also allows us to personalise them further.” It has taken three years for the trio to get ‘Carlton-le-willows’ to the standard that they wanted and their hard work has paid off. It’s clearly proven popular with Michael and Rob’s fans, for it has already gained almost double the number of Facebook followers than ‘Grimsby Town’. And the beauty of ‘Carlton-le-willows’ is that you can see it in action yourself!
Ready-to-run locomotives have been repainted, weathered and detailed.
Class 47 47501 has been finished in Gwr150-style green with Robert J. Edgington nameplates. “It’s named after our late stepfather, without whom we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.ó
So many layouts consist of straight lines, but Michael and Rob have included some sweeping curves for greater realism.