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Blast from the Past - Orford Quay from the November 1993 Issue of BRM

16 November 2011

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We go back to the November 1993 issue of British Railway Modelling and 'Orford Quay'...

november 1993 British Railway ModellingOrford Quay - november 1993 British Railway Modelling

Orford Quay

A mid-1920s East Coast narrow gauge line built and described by Brian Bassington of the Chelmsford & District Model Railway Club. (Photographs by the author.)

Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 - Ore Shunts the quay side
Ore shunts the quay-side.

This layout came into being  for three reasons:
1)            I have been a follower of narrow gauge since childhood holidays in mid-Wales.
2)            I have a deep affinity with the Great Eastern Railway and think that the deep blue of its locomotives is the best colour ever used.
3)            I was offered a baseboard by our club Chairman which had some 009 track laid upon it.

To plan and build a layout with some credibility I spent many an engrossing hour studying Ordnance Survey maps, visiting Orford and the area toward Wickham Market and researching books on the area and the railways which served it; all of which I hope has enabled me to capture the flavour of this attractive part of Suffolk.

This fictitious railway supposes that the Great Eastern Railway opened a narrow gauge line in 1885 from Wickham Market station on the East Suffolk line, to the quay at Orford, in direct competition with the Southwold Railway, just a short distance up the coast. The line had an uneventful life apart from a flurry of activity during the 1914-18 war, and was closed in 1933 having provided its owners with a modest return on their investment.
The stock came from various contractors and from the GER works at Stratford (the Great Eastern were not adverse to raising income in any way this end even serviced engines from the Southwold Railway at Stratford).

Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 - Stour waits to leave while Ore simmers in the factory siding Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 - 'Crouch' takes on coal
'Stour' waits to leave while 'Ore' simmers in the factory siding 'Crouch' takes on coal

The main baseboard is anything but traditional as its its previous incarnation was as a Wardrobe door, and is made of block board to which was added a 2"x1" frame, let’s just see tha ttry to warp.
The second baseboard is more traditional in having a chipboard top with the two being bolted together to form an L shape, all held on sturdy 2”x 2” legs at a height of 3' 8", which allows me to operate it at exhibitions comfortably and the public to view it without bending down. I extend my apologies to parents who have to lift their Thomas' followers up to see the trains (Yes, I also have a model of that ubiquitous loco to run whenever the audience is of the right persuasion - the look on their faces is worth the heckling received from more serious modellers).

Nothing fancy here, simple section feeds and solenoid motors for point control all operated from a panel with the track diagram drawn on and switches in the right places for the feeds and points. The switches are of the good solid robust type recovered from a long dead telephone switch board and look as though they will live forever. A Gaugemaster hand-held controller makes it all move, and allows me to move around the layout and talk to the public while still controlling the trains (there is no truth in the rumour that I prefer to be a moving target).

Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 - Colne awaits her next duty while Stour prepares to leave the station.
Colne awaits her next duty while Stour prepares to leave the station.

Apart from running trains, I gain the greatest pleasure from creating the scenery, as I feel that this is what makes a layout believable. I have tried to capture the atmosphere of that part of Suffolk and from the comments I have received at exhibitions around East Anglia, I feel that I have succeeded. No part of the layout is copied from any part of Orford, but is how the quay may have developed had the Great Eastern Railway built the line.

One person at an exhibition was overheard to say "I've lived in Orford for many years, but I have never seen any sign of a railway" -to which their partner replied: Well you wouldn't as it says here that it closed in 1933" - this taught me to ensure that the word fictitious features prominently in the layout description. Creating scenery like this is not difficult provided that you observe the world around you, have the opportunity to discuss modelling through a club and organisations like the 009 Society with their excellent monthly '009 News', and have at your side a copy of 'Landscape Modelling' by Barry Norman (Wild Swan), which is an essential part of the scenic modeller's tool kit. All of the details such as people, street furniture and quay-side cranes are available from the trade and I thank John Dutfield of Chelmsford's model shop for supplying such a diverse range of goodies that all add to make the layout look right.

Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 - A card game is in progress while waiting for the next tide Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 -The tram engine, 'Orwell', shunts the quay-side.
A card game is in progress while waiting for the next tide.  The tram engine is visible in the background. The tram engine, 'Orwell', shunts the quay-side.

I am just a beginner when it comes to making buildings and I can take no credit for the buildings on Orford Quay. The low relief buildings that create a believable backscene without painted-on clouds are the excellent products by Townstreet, which accept paint easily and with a steady hand form a quick and attractive backing to the activity seen on the railway. The two warehouses were purchased at the Brentwood exhibition three years ago. They are scratchbuilt with each brick and tile individually glued on.  Underneath one of the buildings are the initials of the builder with the year 1980. I was told at the Stowmarket exhibition by two fellow exhibitors who recognised them, that they had been on two other layouts prior to mine (like most modellers I believe in recycling).

The station is of the most basic of Great Eastern types, consisting of a grounded four- wheel coach body, a bench seat, two gas lamps and some fire buckets, based on a photograph of Cutlers Green station on the Elsenham and Thaxted Railway in North West Essex. A gentleman at one exhibition told me that the warehouse on the quay-side is a good model of a goods warehouse at Wickham Market, which he could see from his bedroom when he was a child. Sadly, I had to explain that I did not know the origin of the building. His observation has spurred me on to research the area further for the addition of another baseboard containing the station and goods interchange with the Great Eastern at Wickham Market, forming the other terminus to my railway. I must start on this shortly as I have promised that it will be ready for the 1994 Colchester exhibition.

All of the stock is kit-built from various manufacturers, or in the case of the steam tram loco a considerably modified kit, with locos painted in the lovely deep blue of the GER and named after rivers within that railway's area. Coaching and goods stock is in a plain wood finish, as I feel that time spent in producing a varnished teak finish on such small models would be better utilised on some other aspect of modelling.

Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 - Crouch prepares to Ieave Orford Quay station with a mixed train.
Crouch prepares to Ieave Orford Quay station with a mixed train.

The traverser is simplicity itself with the tracks pinned to a square of white melamine faced chipboard sliding on hardboard, shiny side up, with square section brass formed into bolts to provide both alignment and electrical connection. The traverser slides freely between two further pieces of the faced chipboard, provided it is dusted before each exhibition.

Orford Quay - BRM November 1993 - Layout plan, and (inset) the allotments.
Layout plan, and (inset) the allotments.

I must take this opportunity to thank my wife Jean and daughter Jennifer for their support, patience and encouragement throughout the construction of the layout. My thanks go also to my fellow members of the Chelmsford  & District Model Railway Club who have provided a fertile ground for ideas and assistance at exhibitions, in particular Paul Bentall for his help in operating and supplying additional stock. I want to end this article the same way that I end the layout description at exhibitions as it sets the scene for the photographs: "It is a warm August day, the tide is out so relax and enjoy the view."

Brian Bassington
British Railway Modelling, Vol 1, No. 8, November 1993


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