Despite the Basilica Fields project as an entity having a gestation period thus far of about 10 years (no flash in the pan layout here then, just plenty of procrastination), from time to time new ideas for presenting the different segments suddenly fall out of my head. As with much creative thought, some ideas are instantly attractive but wither and die as impractical, contrived, or the realisation that it was, after all, completely and utterly rubbish. Some ideas are quickly given the bums rush, but later return (sometimes in a new and prettier disguise) and somehow weave themselves into the tapestry almost without me realising it. And [grammar police, shut it] then there are those ideas which are stored away in some box or other in my head with a post-it note reminder to revisit again one day and say hello. Sometimes these hibernating ideas are consigned to the bin, sometimes they are carefully re-wrapped up and packed away again for a better day, and sometimes (and this is where all the foregoing dreary prose has been working towards), sometimes the little lightbulb above my head goes ‘ding!’

Artillery Lane is a relatively new name for a much older part of the overall plan, one which has only in the last year or so coalesced into the present (and final) form, and building commences this summer (honest, guv). Earlier versions existed as part of Sepulchre Street (which is the next segment east of the present Artillery Lane), and I once designed an RMWeb challenge layout/diorama called Sepulchre Street Goods – a multi-level plank showing various internal levels of a Great Eastern depôt/warehouse. The larger Sepulchre Street design eventually ended up with an somewhat unusual plan for presentation which included the subterranean track viewed from inside the cutting walls, between the arches and batters, and this is still how I intend to present Artillery Lane.

However, over the weekend it suddenly it dawned on me; as well as viewing the subterranean lines through the arches and batters, it would be possible to also model the inside of the GW goods depôt at Artillery Lane at the sub-surface level, at least as far as Gun Street. Although the GW depôt itself was quite small, with a compact warehouse at street level, it had a larger underground storage area which could easily be incorporated. In addition, a pair of tracks passed through the depot and served Spitalfields Market directly, where there were several wagon turntables and docks, a traverser, and electric hoists connecting to the market floor above. This development must have stuck in the GER Directors’ collective craw, as in 1884 they’d had their revolutionary Bishopsgate Market, which had brought wagons directly into each trader’s arch, closed following a court action brought against them by the disgruntled market traders at Billingsgate and Spitalfields.

Of late I’ve been particularly impressed with Mikkel Kjartan’s beautifully atmospheric Farthing Layout, and his depôt was certainly the catalyst for turning my thoughts towards modelling the interior at Artillery Lane, but rather than being light and airy as Mikkel’s depot will no doubt be, the Artillery Lane warehouse is going to be claustrophobic with low barrel vaulting, weeping brickwork, peeling distemper, and filled with dark and dingy corners.

Despite the height restriction, there are ways of making it a working model. In reality wagons and vans would have been brought in using rope and a series of hydraulic and dead capstans and this could be replicated, or perhaps (somewhat less keen on this idea) motorising a van or two, or perhaps a ratchet system – all the gubbins would be hidden by the loading platforms. Anyway, I have options, which is always a good thing.

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