March 2010


The old, and very much in decline, silk-weaving neighbourhoods characterised many streets in London’s East End at the time represented on Basilica Fields, such as the Huguenot Weaver’s houses seen here in Florida Street, Bethnal Green c1896. The looms were placed upstairs to catch as much daylight as possible through the large windows, while the family lived below. The Basilica Fields project isn’t just about modelling the pre-Grouping railways of East London; it’s about recreating a part of East London life in the late Victorian/Early Edwardian period, and this photo drips with the kind of atmosphere I’m attempting to capture.

Of course today Florida Street looks very different.

A recent birthday brought in another influx of relevant books, amongst them a trio of Middleton Press titles, seen here with one already in my collection.

Apart from the one on the East London Railway, Liverpool Street to Ilford, Liverpool Street to Chingford and Fenchurch Street to Barking all seem to have little in common with the Extended Circle and Widened Lines to Basilica Fields. However, they are very relevant indeed, as the backdrop to the layout will be the great viaduct carrying the Great Eastern’s Main and Suburban lines out of the Capital.

Liverpool St. to Chingford has some useful photographs of Bishopsgate Goods and Bethnal Green station. Although the line to Chingford branches off at Bethnal Green, there are some very useful photographs of various stations on the line showing the GER 1870s style of buildings and canopies. Completely off topic, but there’s a fantastic photograph of an M15 class 2-4-2T pulling into Clapton with a down train. It’s a very murky image, but packed with bags of atmosphere.

Liverpool Street to Ilford has more immediate relevance, again there’s lots of useful photos of Bishopsgate, Bethnal Green, but more importantly, Coburn Road, which was virtually identical to Basilica Fields. One very useful set shows the 1870s canopies being removed with the skeletal structure still in situ.

Fenchurch Street to Barking seems an odd choice as it’s not even the right line, but Cable Street coal depot was very similar to Seething Friars coal depot which is a couple of segments down the layout (and therefore at least a decade hence).

The East London Railway is obviously very relevant; the raison d’etre of the Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines was to relieve the ELR which was working to capacity, and help introduce further passenger and goods services by the various Companies involved, to and from either side of the Thames.

All are currently £15.99 RRP.

The final class of loco for Stage 1 of Artillery Lane is the Metropolitan Railway’s Beyer, Peacock 4-4-0T. Various design changes over the years resulted in two almost identical types, classes A and B. Forty-four of the former and twenty two of the latter were constructed between June 1864 and October 1885, a further fifty four were built for the Metropolitan & District, and another twenty eight for several main line companies serving the capital. The design was not new, as Beyer, Peacock had supplied similar engines for export prior to the Metropolitan taking delivery. For now, only the sixty six Metropolitan locomotives concern us; they were painted olive green until 1885 when the deep crimson, similar in shade to the Midland was applied, and by the opening period of my timeline, it is assumed all Metropolitan locomotives had been repainted.

This is going to be the most awkward class of the four to deal with, and yet arguably the most important to set the scene. At the time of writing there are no kits on the market for the class, though I am aware one was in development not long ago, but was stymied by the fact that clearances were a problem (in 32mm) which meant it could only travel in a straight line. Back to the drawing board! Perhaps it’s time to measure and photograph No.23 and buy some new piercing saw blades.

The photo shows a Class B loco, number 55 of 1880, emerging from the tunnel at Aldgate on the line from Aldgate East and Whitechapel which ran parallel and south of the line to Basilica Fields. The train is bound for Hammersmith, probebly in the late 1890s/early 1900s as evidenced by the new boiler/central position of the dome, and the decorative style. The loco was withdrawn in 1906.

The Great Northern had invested heavily in the Widened Lines, and in the early years provided perhaps the largest range of classes available for duties on the sub-surface lines of all the companies involved. Both Sturrock and Stirling had built various tank locomotive classes with an 0-4-4 wheel arrangement, but in 1898 Ivatt bucked convention and introduced a handsome 4-4-2T, sixty of which were built down to 1907. Of the class total, ten were normally aspirated, and fifty were fitted with condensing apparatus.

No.1504 of 1899 is at Enfield c.1905. It is fitted with the earlier condensing pipes, and although the tanks have had a cursory wipe with cotton waste, there’s a considerable amount of soot and grot all over the loco. So much for the pristine pre-Grouping livery brigade (which I’ve never subscribed to).

I’ve a Meteor kit of the LNER C12 which looks like very little needs to be done to it to backdate it to the GNR C2, but there are some alterations needed to make it suitable for the Widened Lines.

In the 1890s, the Midland passenger services on the Widened Lines were mostly in the capable hands of Johnson 0-4-4Ts, though several of Kirtley’s fascinating double-framed 0-4-4BTs had avoided being displaced, and were still available for passenger turns. Kirtley’s 780 class were unusual in that they had a ‘Back Tank’, the water being carried in a tank in the bunker. The class of twenty, built in 1870, was the Dübs & Co. version of the Beyer, Peacock 690 Class built the year previously, but due to differences in the type of brake fitted, the 690 class spent its early life on goods duties, whereas the 780 class were used on passenger services. All members of the class received wrap-over roof, and apart from the fitting of the automatic vacuum brake in 1889, and an earlier change from green paint to lined Crimson Lake, the external appearance remained very much unchanged over the years, and into the period covered by Basilica Fields.

The photo shows Number 786 sometime after 1889 and displays the crimson lake livery with elaborate ‘London lining’ – absolutely gorgeous to look at, but a challenge for my Laurie Griffin kit.

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