October 2014

During this advertisement break, Hokey-Pokey may be bought from the gentleman with the handcart at the front.

Victorian ice cream - a.k.a. Hokey-Pokey. Contamination often proved to be a serious health risk. Photograph ©Public Domain.

Victorian ice cream – a.k.a. Hokey-Pokey. Contamination often proved to be a serious health risk. Photograph ©Public Domain.

Consume at your own risk; the management refuses to accept the presence of fleas, torulæ, bacilli, lice, bed bugs, cotton fibres, bugs legs, straw, cocci, human hair or cat and dog hair in the ha’penny ices. Nor will the management be responsible if you contract scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhoid or diarrhoea  from partaking of these treats.


Activity Media‘s ‘Right Track’ DVDs have been helping modellers improve their techniques for almost 10 years. The latest in the series – number 19, believe it or not – takes us right back to the beginning with layout planning and design.

Unless your surname name is Freezer or Rice (oh, OK then, or Dunkley!) then chances are that at some point in the planning of your latest masterpiece you’ve sat with a blank sheet of paper in front of you and a waste basket full of scrunched up paper trailing behind.

Fortunately Paul Lunn’s name can be added to that list of luminaries of layout design, and coupled with Paul Marshall-Potter’s skilled eye for translating a design from paper to stunning model, this team presents a powerful addition to the Right Track series.

Many of us railway modellers are wedded to a scale and gauge, and this is the first sacred cow to be unceremoniously kicked over, and a compelling argument is put forward for choosing scale based on wants and needs from a new layout. Coupling choices are the next element to stand in the dock, and not just on the usual ‘play value versus scale appearance’ card we’re all so used to hearing, but instead based on how train length is affected by one type or the other, and how that impacts on our design. Thought provoking stuff.

With our comfortable world now turned upside down, we’re suddenly find ourselves within the habitat of the modeller; all so often our esoteric little hobby drags us away from family down into the shed at the bottom of the garden on a wet and windy night or up into the sauna-like humidity of a loft space in high summer. Not the always the best for harmonious household relations, and it needn’t be so. Based on a stylised representation of footfall though the house, we’re shown where hitherto unconventional sites for a ‘shelfie’ may in fact prove to be ideal and leave us feeling a little less like Johnny-no-mates.

On to the nitty-gritty; what do we want from a layout? Actually, what do we need might be the better question, and after writing out a checklist we’re building a quick mock-up from card and foam to see if all these elements of desire and necessity actually work together. Our perception of perspective, layout width and the backscene are briefly challenged – a foreshadow of things to come later in the programme.

Another chestnut roasted on the fire is the argument of prototype verses freelance trackplan, and Paul Lunn takes us though developing a layout based on a prototypical plan which ticks most of the boxes on our checklist. This is smartly followed up by the design of a freelance layout based on prototypical practice, but developed specifically to incorporate the choices we’ve made and rounds off the first hour of the DVD.

Moving from a two dimensional plan to a three dimensional layout can be a daunting task, and Paul Marshall-Potter describes how a very workable trackplan he had for a transition-period urban East End layout just simply didn’t ring true once he began the 3D process.

This revelation sets the scene for the next hour’s viewing where Paul Lunn takes the plan and turns it into three completely different but plausible alternatives;

  • A 1950s West country bucolic station which introduces us to the necessity of the overall visual balance of a layout
  • A 1980s aggregate works, in which the often haphazard placement of view-blocks are challenged, where features are moved to de-compact the view, promote sight-lines, and to make their inclusion and placement more logical. In addition, lighting and how to eliminate shadows from the backscene are considered.
  • Wharfdale Road where we revisit some of the earlier choices such as space, couplings, length of sidings and loops and the use of smaller prototypes to suit the layout footprint. Paul Lunn takes the original premise, converts it into a layout design, and then Paul Marshall-Potter adapts it to build the DVD’s project layout.

Again we revisit earlier themes and are shown practical examples of how to force perspective at the ends, the advantages of a natural eye-level viewpoint, how to control sight-lines at the entrance/exit of the scenic section and the effect of curved corners on the backscene.

Photograph ©Activity Media

Rounding this section off we also consider how a viewer’s eye is naturally drawn to the centre of the layout, and how the often-used half-relief gable ends of buildings – which look great head on, but rather silly from the side – can be diffused with tree lines to create a more convincing background.

With the second hour up we move to the inner sanctum where the crown jewels are kept; Paul Marshall-Potter’s two layouts, Bawdsey and Albion Yard. The former was originally built by Chris Matthewman in the early 1990s, and was based on 1930s practice in East Anglia. Paul discusses the changes he has made to bring the timeframe forward to the transitional period of the early 1960s, the weaknesses of the typical early 1990s construction elements such as open fiddle yards, segmented low backscenes with right-angled corners and how he’s overcome them.  Designing layout construction for transport is also touched on. Albion yard, on the other hand, was designed and built solely by Paul and  incorporates modern and some very forward-thinking elements, such as the long and high single piece printed backscene which extends beyond the scenic area into the enclosed fiddleyard for visual purposes.

All in all it’s a valuable addition to the Right Track range, and particularly if you’re at the beginning of a new project, or part way through one and you’re feeling jaded as it’s not working out as you’d hoped.

On being sent my gratis reviewer’s copy, I was told to tell it as it is; good or bad – don’t pull your punches. Despite not receiving my promised reviewer’s fee of a bacon sandwich (you owe me in sauce Mistah PMP), I thoroughly recommend this DVD to newcomers of the hobby and grizzled old hands alike.

When production of the 600 diagram 32 8-plank loco coal wagons ceased in 1902 the total stock of this type stood at 2047. It was a thoroughly modern fleet with the oldest being introduced only eleven years earlier, and all bar one were rated at 10 tons.

At the turn of the century there was widespread interest in high-capacity coal wagons with their significantly lower tare to capacity ratio over the traditional 10 ton wagon, and in 1900 Holden introduced an experimental 15 ton wagon to diagram 33. However the wagon didn’t find favour, and the following year the company hired a 30 ton capacity wagon from Leeds Forge & Co. for £1 10s 0d per week, initially employing it on the Parkston to Bishopsgate service before sending it over other parts of the system. The ‘truck of large carrying capacity’ was rejected by collieries as it couldn’t be fully loaded – and so never realised its full potential – and the single side door proved to be impractical for unloading, so the GER returned it to its makers.

Photograph ©Public Domain.

The first of the line, no.933 built in the spring of 1902. The rest of the batch were numbered 1 to 61 and were the only batch to be fitted with a form of Parker’s either side brakes (note the short brake lever) and the experimental large and very modern ‘squared’ letters and numbers.  A photograph of no.65 taken in early 1903 shows the more familiar large rounded letters. These wagons were fitted with Holden’s split ‘R’ type axleboxes from new. Photograph ©Public Domain.

While the company continued to make use of its 10 ton fleet, Holden designed a new all-steel wagon of 20 tons capacity (perhaps with an eye on the recently introduced N4 and N3 20 ton wagons on the Great Western), consulting with and receiving assurances from enough collieries that they would be accepted for loading to capacity.  Production of the diagram 46 wagons commenced in 1902 and proved to be highly successful – a 400 ton train saving 10% in tare weight and over 30% in train length.

So successful was the design that further batches totalling 901 examples were built each year except 1915 and 1917-1919 down to 1920, and in consequence 650 of the diagram 31 loco coal wagons built during the 1890s were converted to diagram 48 high-sided general merchandise wagons between 1904 and 1911.

Photograph ©Public Domain.

No 587 of the 1910 batch on 1 September of that year. This was the final Order to have the single brake lever acting on all four brake blocks, and from 1911 the Morton brake was fitted to new builds. The more familiar 1903 livery was applied down to, and sometimes beyond(!), Grouping.  Photograph ©Public Domain.

To details; the steel wagons were 21′ 6″ over headstocks, had a 12′ wheelbase and Holden’s split ‘R’ type oil axleboxes were fitted. The first batch were fitted with Parker’s ‘either side’ brake gear which wasn’t particularly fail-safe, and in time was removed. The second batch built in 1903 had a single lever on one side of the wagon acting on all four wheels via yokes – the cross-shaft extending half-way across the wagon where the inboard end was supported by a support post, and this design was continued well beyond the period covered by Basilica Fields, up to and including the 1910 batch ending with wagon number 690. From number 691 of 1911 the either side brake lever issue was resolved with the introduction of the Morton clutch which was applied to all new builds and in time retrospectively fitted to all earlier builds.

Modelling the Diagram 46 wagons

Fortuitously D&S Models include these loco coal wagons in the range, but need to be backdated to cater for the GER period.

Photograph ©2007 Adrian Marks

Here’s a shelf-queen by D&S which I started many years ago and have, shamefully, still not completed.  I do have a rather lame but legitimate excuse that the axleboxes provided in the kit were completely wrong for the GE period, and I only managed to source some of the ‘R’ type a couple of years ago (thanks Mick!). I suppose there’s no excuse not to finish it now, nor the other half dozen in the pile… Photograph ©2007 Adrian Marks


There are various GA drawings at the NRM in York, one for the experimental diagram 33 and three for the 20T wagon dated 1908, 1912 and 1914.

Drawing no. 11290, Loco coal wagon, 15 tons, 8 plank, 18ft. Date: June 1900. Stratford Order E51, diagram 33W

Drawing no. 16285, Loco coal wagon, 20 tons, 21ft 6ins. Date: January 1908. Stratford Order R63, diagram 46W

Drawing no. 18248, Loco coal wagon, 20 tons, 21ft 6ins. Date September 1912. Stratford Order M73, diagram 46W

Drawing no. 19554, Loco coal wagon, 20 tons, 21ft 6ins. Date 28 October 1914. Stratford Order H77, diagram 46W  for batches built 1916-1921.


Two years ago I left the series on GE coal wagons incomplete, not for want of information, but simply an oversight – a silly error as the drafts were already complete. Here then is the penultimate entry, and the final one will go live in a couple of days.

During the 1890s receipts for coal traffic into London via the GN & GE Joint Line were strong, and investment in coal became a priority in the Boardroom at Liverpool Street. In 1892 the Great Eastern Railway became the major financial supporter of the proposed Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway (from which access would be gained via a junction at Pyewipe on the Joint) by sinking a quarter of a million pounds into the building of the new line, for which the Company was given two seats on the Board.

When the new line opened in 1896 the GER insisted that operations be concentrated between Chesterfield and Pyewipe, thus gaining unlimited access to all the collieries on the system. By the end of the century twenty five Great Eastern-bound coal trains came off the LD&ECR each week, and to bolster the company’s loco coal wagons for this traffic, between 1899 and 1902 six hundred 15′ long, 8-plank wagons were built to a new design.

Photograph ©Public Domain

Damping down the coal dust at Stratford a decade and a half after the curtain closes on Basilica Fields. In front of the rotary tippler and 800 ton capacity reinforced concrete coaling bunker (containing about one and a half days’ normal supply) sits a line of loco coal wagons made up of a diagram 32 8-plank, two diagram 31 7-planks, a further diagram 32 8-plank and what looks like a post-War diagram 80 timber-framed 8-plank. The medium-sized post-1903 lettering for wooden-bodied  loco coal wagons makes an interesting comparison with the large 24″ lettering applied to general merchandise opens. A T18 ‘Buck’ fusses in the yard. Photograph ©Public Domain

Rated at 10 tons, the top three planks ran the length of the wagon over the top of the side doors, and as the steel floor precluded a curb rail, a length of timber was attached to the side of the solebar onto which the door hinges were mounted.  The steel underframe was the standard Stratford design with a 9′ 0″ wheelbase, and a single brake lever actuated two brake blocks on one side of the wagon.

Finished in the standard grey livery with white lettering, the 1899 wagons had separate oval maker’s and load plates, but from 1900 a combined rectangular plate was fitted to new builds. The 1902 wagons may have been out-shopped with the medium-sized square lettering (I’ve not yet found a photo to confirm or deny), but over time all were given the post-1903 medium-sized rounded letters.

Photograph ©Public Domain.

The Great Eastern bought vast quantities of coal when prices were cheap, building huge mazes out of the  stacks which waxed and waned in size as supplies increased and dwindled. At March the coal stacks even crossed the sidings at peak capacity. On a dull, dank, and thoroughly dingy 23 October 1911 two diagram 32 loco coal opens are parked nearest the camera on the south side near Norwood Drove. Photograph ©Public Domain.


Sample numbers included 977, 1416, and 1978.

Modelling the wagons

I’ve not yet located the GA for these wagons, but the type is ripe for utilising an etch for the standard GE wagon underframe, and a resin casting to the wagon body.