After all those years of ideas without a place to build them in, the move last year finally made some material action possible. One of the selling points of the new place was a fully equipped loft which met my needs perfectly.
The next stage was to assess the available space, weighing that against my technical abilities. I felt it sensible to keep the idea relatively simple, given I have not built anything resembling a layout in forty years. I already had two 4′ boards supplied by Ian (wingman and project manager 😉) about eight years ago! With this determining the basic size of the layout, a concept started to come together.
I’ve always enjoyed shunting and my preference has always been for freight and parcels train operation, so I felt that a goods yard offered the best potential for interesting operations. The starting point was similar to the Broomloan Yards scenario I hatched back in early 2014.
The premise in this case is that the scenic area on the layout is part of a busier yard and dock complex offstage where the bulk of the action is suggested offstage at either end where trains will run in and out of scene to a network of hidden sidings. After a bit of thought I thought I would make a nod to North East Scotland where I now live. I remember the first time I visited Aberdeen back in October 1986; on the 18th, a Saturday, ScotRail decided to offer a one off “anywhere in Scotland” ticket for £5. Demand far exceeded what had been anticipated and led to a few hastily prepared trains of stock which in many cases had probably been lying in sidings not doing much. In those days before the universality of ‘just in time’ (bare minimum and sod the public when it all goes to ****) philosophy contaminated all aspects of Western life, BR had a reserve of useful spare capacity which could put to use if necessary. I had planned going directly to Aberdeen from Glasgow Queen St that day, but having met an old friend on the way to Glasgow, my itinerary changed and we went to Edinburgh first. From here we could go up the East coast to Aberdeen which gave me the opportunity to cross both the Forth and Tay by rail. The journey took me along a then timeless stretch of railway through Arbroath where the old 1950s blue signage was still visible all over the station, through Montrose, where the station still had vast and busy goods yards and the air was pretty much of a station almost unchanged since the 1960s. The route itself was largely still signalled by semaphore and electric block systems, necessitating lots of wires elevated on poles. The train itself was notable for being a rake of BR MK1 corridor stock in corporate blue and grey. Up front was a newly outshopped 37011 in large logo blue livery (sadly, early the following year it would be written off following a fatal collision at Dalmuir. On the day however, 011 gave a fairly spirited performance on the way up the coast to Aberdeen and I’m glad I had that experience. Late in the afternoon we Arrived in Aberdeen and whilst I awaited a return service, I thought I’d go and explore the adjacent Guild St goods depot. I was impressed with what I saw; a vast spread of sidings, dotted with wagons and a few lines occupied by stabled locomotives. Again there was an air of an older, busier time in railway terms. That impression never left me and this layout project triggered the memories of that day and what I had seen. Ironically, the redevelopment of the yard in the late 2000s saw part of the site, repurposed as the city’s bus terminal; a place I regularly operate in and out of in my current profession!
Having chosen a venue, a more detailed concept emerged of a fictitious yard inspired, not just by Guild Street but also by the Great North’s Waterloo goods and a hint of the dock railway complex and adjoining industries. It’s quite remarkable how much activity once went on in the area. I felt that creating a fictitious location allowed me to combine the various aspects in a way that would give a good general suggestion that the watcher of the layout was looking at somewhere in Aberdeen.
The old local parish of St Clements provided a place name. The parish itself long ago vanished under industrial development and the growing docks complex of the 19th and 20th century. Although the track plan of St Clements has not been formally drawn and is still fluid in detail, essentially the right hand end comes in under a bridge from what represents a larger yard area which is a bit of an amalgam of Guild Street and Craiginches, across the Dee. This allows the entry into that end of the layout of larger main line engines, detaching from their recently arrived trains then reversing back off scene to Ferryhill for servicing. The scenic section is inspired by the big goods shed at Guild St with a large covered transit shed, a covered loading bay and an open area with inlaid track, allowing access for road vehicles. Finally a running line passes the side of this shed and exits to another group of hidden sidings, serving the docks and city gasworks, possibly a coalyard too. In this way, trains can actually transit the layout from one end to the other, complimenting the shunting and light engine movements.
The fact that much of Guild St remained intact into this century allows that the entire era of my historical interest from circa 1955-90 can be encompassed without too much compromise and alteration beyond lineside fittings and vehicles. It can also be imagined that rail transport played a more significant role in servicing the post -1970 development of the offshore oil and gas industry than it did in reality.
It should make for an interesting layout to operate and I’ll update you with more detailed plans as they develop. Meantime I present some photos that suggest the nature of things to come in this project.