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Blast from the Past - Willshaw from the First Issue of BRM from April 1993

16 November 2011

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We go back to the very first issue of British Railway Modelling, Vol 1 No.1 from April 1993 and 'Willshaw'...

April 1993 British Railway ModellingWillshaw - April 1993 British Railway Modelling


The Willshaw branch of the Midland Railway is the 7mm project of the St. Neots Model Railway Club. John Kneeshaw sifts the facts from the fiction. Photographs by Allan Mott.

Blast from the Past - Willshaw from the First Issue of BRM from April 1993
Midland Compound 4-4-0 No. 1046 awaits departure time 
at Willshaw with a train comprising three non-corridor 48’ bogie coaches.

You will find it difficult to discover the name Wilshaw in your railway atlas, for this is the name given to the finescale 7mm scale layout by St Neots Model Railway Club. Fact and fiction have been combined to form the legend behind this East Midlands branch line.

The story is based on the real line which connected the Nottingham-Lincoln route with Mansfield via Southwell. Southwell, a small cathedral city well known with the horse racing community, was connected to Rolleston Junction on the Lincoln line from 1847 and shuttle services worked the two-and-a-half mile branch until April 1871, when the line was extended to Mansfield. While the extension was successful in opening-up the coalfield to the south east of Mansfield, the line was to close beyond Southwell once more for regular passenger services as early as August 12 1929. Race-day specials and summer excursions (mainly to and from seaside resorts such as Skegness) continued to use the otherwise freight only Southwell-Mansfield section.
The Rolleston Junction push-pull, usually an ancient Johnson 0-4-4T with a single coach and christened ‘The Southwell Paddy', continued until June 15 1959, while freight lasted until 1964. Today the site of Southwell station is beneath a housing estate, while the Southwell-Farnfield trackbed became the 'Southwell Trail' footpath.

On to this history has been welded a fictional branch running west from Southwell to Willshaw. The story - according to St Neots MRC -is that in 1872 permission was granted for a line to Nottingham from Southwell via Wilshaw. This was mainly at the instigation of a successful businessman and landowner, George Woods. In common with other new industries his mills were steam-powered using coal from the recently developed local coalfields. Two years later the line was built as far as Willshaw, but the Nottinghamshire extension was never completed.
The line carried coal and cotton to Woods' Willshaw Mills, and transported fished products out plus a variety of local produce. In 1928 the single road engine shed was built as was the unusually shaped water tower constructed to fit the limited space next to the mills.

Blast from the Past - Willshaw from the First Issue of BRM from April 1993
Fowler 'Jinty' 0-6-OT No. 7278 takes a well-earned rest
between duties at Willshaw's single road engine shed.

Despite its importance, the Wishaw branch remained single track throughout its history. The long, thin nature of the station and its approach is as a result of the restricted site available limited by Blidwith Road to the north east, Pappleshaw Road to the west and the mill to the north. The Midland Railway built a brick bridge to take Blidwith Road over the line. The original layout had used two wagon turntables to facilitate goods wagon movements, but following the Great War this had been replaced by another MR answer to space limitations -a double slip and closely interlaced pointwork.
After the 1923 Grouping the line became part of the LMS and it is in this company's ownership that the model is based, in the late 1930s. Local goods traffic still appears brisk and a regular passenger service brings in a variety of LMS motive power. Local sceptics foresee a modernisation plan in 1955 that will close the line to passengers and fear that even the goods trains will disappear in the 1960s!

The layout was commenced during the summer of 1987 by a small group of modellers in St Neots, only one of whom had any previous experience of 0 gauge. Club members currently involved with the Wishaw layout include Club Chairman, John Kneeshaw, John Williams, 18year-old Gwyn Williams and David Morris (14).
The layout was designed to be exhibited and is still incomplete. Future plans include more buildings, development of the area opposite the signal box, plus a more permanent backscene. Additional railway staff and passengers are also planned.

Blast from the Past - Willshaw from the First Issue of BRM from April 1993
The end of the line, as compound No. 1046 runs round its train.

The foundations of Willshaw are fairly standard units of 4' x 2’, built of 12mm plywood on a ply frame. There are six such boards which bolt together face to face in three pairs for storage transport. With the exception of the station platforms, all structures are detachable to reduce the storage space taken by each pair of boards.

All the track on the layout is hand-built. The construction method used for almost all of the layout is nickel silver rail layed in plastic preformed chairs. The preformed chairs are glued to individually cut and laid plywood sleepers. This was done for both plain track and for turnouts, the minimum permitted turnout radius is 7’and the construction method allowed for turnout construction in situ so that each junction is custom built to fit track location and geometry (several of the turnouts are on gentle curves). Exceptions to this type of construction are the double-slip at the yard entrance and the threeway plus single turnout complex in the fiddle yard. These are nickel silver rail soldered to copper clad paxolin. The plain rail and short sector plate in the fiddle yard are also copper clad. The ballast is a rather dirty scale granite overlaid with ash and coal in appropriate areas and overgrown with weed in the less well used areas.

Blast from the Past - Willshaw from the First Issue of BRM from April 1993
LNWR Webb 2-4-2T No. 6695 arrives with a local from
Southwell as Sentinel 0-4-0T No. 7161 shunts the goods yard. Two
six wheelers of Midland origin make up the branch local stock.

Traction control:
The layout is wired for simple cab control with control panels, each of which is capable of running any part or all of the layout depending on the number of operators available and the intensity of the service required.
Signal and point control:
The pointwork is all operated mechanically. There is a purpose-built lever frame of our own design which controls all the points on the viewed part of the layout. The lever frame is built of aluminium with brass levers operating rodding beneath the baseboards. The rodding is connected to the turnouts with plastic bellcranks (model aircraft type) and thence through brass piston and spring compensators to the point tie bars. The lower end of the levers in the frame carry small cams which operate microswitches built into the frame. These microswitches change the polarity of the turnout vee as the levers are operated. The visible point rodding which issues from the signal box is purely cosmetic. The points on the fiddle yard are operated by simple levers operating through omega loops. The two operating Midland lower quadrant signals are operated very simply by solenoids under the baseboards. The shunt and ground signals are all non-operating.

 Blast from the Past - Willshaw from the First Issue of BRM from April 1993

All of the structures on the layout are plywood frames laminated with moulded plasticard, card or some other appropriate texture. The plywood frames which underlie all the buildings and structures have made them quite resilient to injury during transport to and from exhibitions.
Each individual building is a modified version of one which stood close to part of the post-Grouping Midland Railway somewhere in England. In particular the station building is a fairly accurate copy of the standard Midland mainline station as found at Leagrave, Harlington, Flitwick or Ampthill. Construction of George Wood’s Mill proved just how tedious making endless window frames and glazing bars from plastic card can be!
John Kneeshaw
British Railway Modelling, Vol 1, No. 1, April 1993


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