Ris­ing to the chal­lenge

Model Rail (UK) - - Contents - Words: Chris Gadsby Pho­tog­ra­phy: Chris Ne­vard Art­work: An­drew Mack­in­tosh

Barry Morton has recre­ated the fear­some Lickey In­cline with his lay­out in ‘N’.

In­fa­mous for its pun­ish­ing gra­di­ent, the Lickey In­cline was a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge for those work­ing on the foot­plate. Barry Morton wanted to high­light how diesel and steam lo­co­mo­tives tack­led it in the tran­si­tion era.

Dusk is fall­ing on your worn-out LMS ‘Crab’. The long goods train has taken its toll on this old work­horse. Its axle­boxes are worn, the cab shakes with ev­ery rev­o­lu­tion and your fire­man has the blower hard on as he bat­tles with poor coal and blocked tubes. This night’s work is al­ready hard enough but you know that the worst is yet to come – the for­mi­da­ble Lickey In­cline. You clank to Broms­grove and give two crows on the whis­tle. An an­swer­ing whis­tle comes and, as you look back along your train, you see the glow of an ap­proach­ing head­lamp. You smile at the thought of ‘Big Bertha’, the old Lickey banker and now long gone. The ‘9F’, which now has ‘Big Bertha’s’ light, in­di­cates that it’s ready. Your fire­man is as pre­pared as he can be so you ex­change whis­tles with the banker, put the re­verser in full for­ward gear and, with a prayer to the railway gods, open the regulator. For the banker’s crew, it’s just an­other day in the of­fice, and the next train need­ing their help won’t be far away. The Lickey In­cline boasts the steep­est gra­di­ent on Bri­tain’s main line. To­day’s mul­ti­ple units make light work of the two miles of 1-in-37 be­tween Broms­grove at the foot and Black­well at the sum­mit. But DB Cargo still keeps a cou­ple of Class 66s on hand to give freight trains a help­ing hand. Broms­grove South junc­tion was a hive of ac­tiv­ity in steam days, par­tic­u­larly in the early 1960s when ‘9Fs’, ‘Jin­ties’ and WR ‘94XX’ pan­niers were em­ployed as bankers. It’s this that has in­spired Barry Morton

re‑creation in ‘N’. That and the fact that Broms­grove is not far from his house. His 12ft by 8ft lay­out en­com­passes Broms­grove South Junc­tion, Broms­grove sta­tion and the in­cline but, even work­ing in ‘N’, he had to com­pro­mise. “I couldn’t do it jus­tice in ‘OO’. Even in ‘N’, it would need to be 18ft long, and as I only had 12ft avail­able I’ve had to make some sec­tions shorter than they re­ally are. I’ve max­imised the space avail­able by mak­ing the lay­out an ‘L’‑shape to keep the com­pro­mises as small as pos­si­ble, and I’d like to think I’ve pulled it off!”

bank­ing prac­tice

Be­ing lo­cal, Barry was able to get in con­tact with driv­ers and fire­men who worked on the Lickey In­cline to hear about their ex­pe­ri­ences and mem­o­ries. Af­ter gath­er­ing all that in­for­ma­tion, he ob­tained track di­a­grams from the Na­tional Railway Mu­seum to en­sure that his plan was as ac­cu­rate as pos­si­ble. There are four run­ning lines at the junc­tion (Up and Down, with a Fast and Slow for each) but only three lines at the sta­tion, as the Up Slow was used by freight trains await­ing bank­ing. “I didn’t want to rely on pic­tures or mem­o­ries, so I thought if I went and took a look at the ac­tual track plan to work from then I could re­lax, know­ing that I’d got it right,” he says. “Get­ting the track laid down and op­er­a­tional was the pri­or­ity, as the fun for me is in run­ning trains and per­form­ing the op­er­a­tional moves around the in­cline.”

Proof of this is the fact that Barry started work in Jan­uary 2014, but only the junc­tion area has so far re­ceived its scenery. But even get­ting the bal­last to look right is an im­por­tant pri­or­ity. Barry first sprays the track (Peco Code 55) with Rail­match Sleeper Grime. Then he ap­plies Wood­land Scen­ics Fine Dark Brown bal­last, fin­ish­ing it off with Phoenix Pre­ci­sion Track Colour, ap­plied through an air­brush. “As soon as the track was down I could be­gin to think about the backscene,” Barry says. “The land­scape has changed so much around Broms­grove that I couldn’t go and take pic­tures to make my own, so I opted for an ID Backscenes ‘hills and dales’ scene. “All too of­ten the backscene is added as an af­ter­thought, but I’ve found that if you con­sider it

“It is far eas­ier to blend your scenery into the backscene than it is to find one ret­ro­spec­tively”

from the start you cre­ate a much more con­vinc­ing lay­out. It’s far eas­ier to blend your scenery into the backscene than it is to find a backscene that matches your scenery.” Any lay­out based on a busy railway lo­ca­tion such as Broms­grove re­quires a lot of elec­tri­cal gub­bins in or­der to mimic its com­plex op­er­a­tions. ‘Broms­grove’ re­quired over 120 me­tres of wire and 45 Dc­c­concepts Cobalt point mo­tors. These are con­trolled by six CML DAC20 Ac­ces­sory De­coders. The whole lay­out has been sep­a­rated into 40 block sec­tions, cov­ered by three Dig­i­trax Lo­conet oc­cu­pancy de­tec­tors. “Thanks to Rail­road & Co. com­puter soft­ware, I can leave the lay­out in ‘fully au­to­matic’ mode if I want trains to run while I’m work­ing on the scenery,” says Barry. “How­ever, if I want to take con­trol, I have hand-held Dig­i­trax con­trollers that al­low me to be more hands-on.”


One of the strik­ing fea­tures on ’Broms­grove’ is the sig­nal gantry next to New­ton bridge with its 11 sig­nal arms. This was made by Barry’s busi­ness part­ner Mark Se­ward, with whom he runs model ac­ces­sories com­pany MB Model Railway Prod­ucts (www.mb­mod­el­rail­wayprod­ucts.co.uk). All the sig­nals are fully func­tional, op­er­ated by servo mo­tors and, like the trains, can be con­trolled au­to­mat­i­cally should Barry de­sire. Those sig­nals con­trol the trains that a tran­si­tion-era trainspot­ter is likely to have seen on the Lickey. Hap­pily, all the key steam lo­co­mo­tives – ‘Ju­bilees’, ‘Black Fives’, ‘4Fs’, ‘Royal Scots’ and Stan­dard ‘5MTS’ are avail­able ready-to-run in ‘N’. Bank­ing power in the form of ‘9Fs’, ‘Jin­ties’ and ‘94XXS’ is also avail­able RTR,

al­though Barry hopes that some­one will pro­duce the Hawksworth pan­nier to mod­ern stan­dards so that he can re­tire his old Far­ish mod­els. Diesels are com­mon too, with Type 4s, ‘Hymeks’ and ‘Westerns’ avail­able from the main man­u­fac­tur­ers. The Lickey In­cline is still a mag­net for en­thu­si­asts and pho­tog­ra­phers but while the char­ac­ter re­mains the same, track ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion and veg­e­ta­tion growth means that clas­sic scenes from the 1960s are dif­fi­cult to re­peat to­day. That’s where Barry’s lay­out steps in, for he has – de­spite its com­pro­mises – cap­tured the essence of this unique railway lo­ca­tion. The lay­out is still very much a work in progress so we can’t wait to see what the Lickey In­cline and Broms­grove sta­tion will look like when they are com­pleted!

Right: The only ‘94XX’ avail­able in ‘N’ is the old Gra­ham Far­ish ver­sion. This pre-dates DCC, so Barry had to hard­wire de­coders into his model.Be­low: Barry com­mis­sioned the base­boards from Model Railway So­lu­tions (www.mod­el­rail­wayso­lu­tions. co.uk). They’re made from 9mm ply cov­ered with 3/16in cork sheet.

Above: The coal­ing stage was de­signed us­ing a CAD pro­gram and cut from 2mm MDF us­ing a laser‑cut­ter. It was then painted and weath­ered.

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