Rowntree Sidings

Roundtrees Sidings is an EM gauge model representing the railway infrastructure in Fawdon during the summer of 1985. It was designed as an exhibition layout that could be enjoyed by a family who want to see trains run and the enthusiast who wants to see accurate scale models in a well modelled environment. We wanted all the elements of the layout to work together to create a realistic representation of the railway serving a factory in this Newcastle suburb.

It has been built by the North East Area Group of Diesel and Electric Modellers United (DEMU.)

The first article outlines how we conceived the layout and used research to create our track plan, determine our railway infrastructure, train movements, scenery and buildings. The track bed has origins in the late 1700s, the factory sidings remained unchanged since 1958, and the main line was almost new in 1985.

The second article demonstrates how we constructed the layout and how we implemented our ideas, principles and research to create our vision.

The third article will show how we brought various elements together to develop and operate the layout. We wanted the layout to look good without trains and to operate realistically with no “hand in the sky” to dispel the illusion of reality.Concept
In the summer of 2002, DEMU organised an Area Group meeting in the Allerdene Community Centre in Gateshead, close to Tyne Yard on the East Coast Mainline. Some of the group were able to spend an enjoyable hour watching real trains and two hours in convivial discussion with like-minded modellers. The meetings became a regular feature, we took along our models to showcase and we started to attend exhibitions with the DEMU Roadshow. 

In an idle moments over a cup of tea it was suggested that we enter the DEMU Showcase Competition - to build an exhibition layout for display at Showcase 2005, the model railway exhibition of DEMU. There were simple rules, the layout was to occupy a space of less than 750 square inches, the prime traction must be electric and there must be at least one point!

 “Nay bother” as they say in the North East!

At the outset we decided on a North East location. With electric traction as a theme, we discussed possible locations;

  • the East Coast Main Line,

  • the Tyne and Wear Metro system,

  • the overhead line system from Harton Staithes to Westoe Colliery,

  • the line from Manors to the Quayside using both third rail and overhead,

  • the suburban third rail system from the 1920s,

  • the ill-fated experiments with main line traction before the First World War.

After countless discussions we eventually focussed on the Newcastle suburb of Fawdon in the summer of 1985. This location had;

  • the Tyneside Metro system, using overhead catenary,

  • sidings serving the Rowntrees’ chocolate factory,

  • gunpowder trains running to the Callerton Explosives Depot

The group members also set their own criteria;

  • the layout should have working signals,

  • the track gauge would be EM,

  • to have “hands off” operation – using Spratt and Winkle couplings,

  • the layout should be portable and suitable for exhibitions.

We felt this location and our own parameters would enable us to develop a unique model railway that is interesting to build, enjoyable to operate and entertains visitors at Model Railway Exhibitions – even when there are no trains running!
Fawdon’s Early History
Like many other locations in the UK, the railway infrastructure in Fawdon has evolved over a long period of time. The line through Fawdon was originally a waggon way, opened in 1785 with horses pulling wooden coal chaldrons. The waggon way was extended in the early 1800s to Coxlodge and Kenton further to the West, operated by a Blenkinsopp “patent steam engine” – a very early design of a six-wheeled steam engine.  In May 1815, these engines “were rendered unserviceable and laid utterly aside” because they interfered with the horses! The waggon way eventually closed as the early coal mining operations ceased, but the route remained as a derelict track bed. 

The waggon way was reopened as a Light Railway to Ponteland on 1st June 1905. The branch linked to the Blyth and Tyne Railway network and the North Shields Railway at South Gosforth on the East Coast Main Line. A south to west junction and a north to west junction with the NER main line at Benton meant trains could access the branch from three directions. 

 Passenger trains were operated by a B. T. P. class 0-4-4 tank loco and two coaches, one with a driving cab for “push - pull” operation. The branch was double track through Fawdon to Coxlodge and single track beyond, with passing loops at Kenton and Callerton. Passenger operation ceased in 1929, but goods trains continued to run, servicing the Callerton, Prestwick, Fawdon, Coxlodge, Jubilee and Regent pits. The legacy in the 1950s was a double track line through Fawdon, a passing loop at Kenton and a passing loop at Callerton.

 In 1985, the original track bed had determined the route of the metro system and the location of Bank Foot station. A compressed version of the area provided the basis for our track plan.    

The Fawdon Factory
Rowntrees was founded in York in 1862. The company was hugely successful producing Kit Kats, Smarties, Aero, Fruit Gums and Fruit Pastilles. They opened a new manufacturing plant in Fawdon in 1958. The raw materials were still prepared in York and delivered to the new factory by rail. The new factory was built with an internal railway system and a small fleet of locomotives to distribute materials around the site. During the 1960s and 70s, two daily return trains from York brought raw materials north and took finished products south. The factory was coal powered and received coal in short trip workings. 

Rowntrees merged with Mackintosh's in 1969 to become Rowntree Mackintosh. (Mackintosh produced RolosMunchiesCaramac and Quality Street) and was eventually absorbed into the Nestle group in 1987

The Fawdon factory was served by trains heading west through a facing point into a run round loop feeding a head shunt at the factory gate. Trains were deposited at the factory gate by British Rail locomotives and then shunted around the factory by industrial shunters. These were two Ruston and Hornsby 0-4-0 diesel-mechanical locomotives, works numbers 421419 and 441934. (441934 has been a long term resident at Shildon and has just been purchased by private individuals and will be stored at the Derwent Valley Light Railway near York.)

 In our chosen time period of 1985, the factory rail system remained unaltered from 1958. The trains ran as trip workings from Tyne Yard, coded 9P11 (when the train contained vacuum braked vehicles,) or as 6P03 when the vehicles were air braked. The air braked vans were VDAs and some had white painted roofs to help keep the chocolate cool inside. 6P03 usually consisted of six VDAs. Coal was delivered in vacuum braked HVAs or air braked HEAs. 

The factory operations were a feature we wanted to model and the daily trip workings from Tyne Yard provided the core of our layout operations. With a mix of both vacuum and air braked stock and a surplus of locos at Tyne Yard in the aftermath of the 1984 miner’s strike, we could offer a wide variety of train formations for visitors. A compressed version of the actual location and the accurate modelling of these trip workings determined our track plan, the length of our fiddle yard, uncoupling method, signal location, track layout, loco rosters and freight vehicles. 

The Callerton Depot
This depot continued to be rail served when the Metro System refurbished the line through Fawdon to the terminus at Kenton Bank Foot. A single line continued through Bank Foot station to the existing run round at Callerton. The depot was owned by ICI and stored explosives for use in pits and quarries throughout the North East of England. In 1985 the depot received explosives from Ardeer in Ayrshire that were stored in underground bunkers. The gunpowder vans were tripped from Tyne Yard using the Benton South to West Junction with the ECML. The dangerous nature of the load required barrier vehicles and a brake van for propelling movements. The barrier vehicles were HTVs and post 1984, after the infamous miner’s strike, surplus air braked HAAs became the norm. Sometimes Fawdon and Callerton trip workings were combined and if the barrier vehicles for the Callerton portion were HTVs then the trip was coded 9P03.

 These workings gave us the opportunity to model some unusual freight vehicles. 

The Tyne & Wear Metro System
In the early 1970s, poor public transport was pinpointed as an issue preventing the North East's economic development. The heavy rail system radiating from Newcastle upon Tyne city centre to the suburbs was originally electrified in 1904 but had become life expired. In 1965 services were operated by DMUs, the opening credits of the classic BBC comedy series “The Likely Lads” shows a typical working. The 1970 Tyne-Wear Transport Plan proposed major investment to convert the North Tyne loop and South Shields branch from heavy rail to modern rapid transit standards. Tunnelling under the centre of Newcastle began in 1974 and the first phase opened in 1980. One of our group was an engineer working for one of the construction companies – he denies all responsibility for the tunnel under Gateshead Depot that severed the water supply to the automatic washing plant, resulting in some very dirty locomotives in the North East in the early 1980s! The old Ponteland Branch as far as Kenton Bank Foot became part of the Metro System. The branch became double track and the stations were rebuilt. At Fawdon, the Rowntrees factory run round loop was re-laid with new concrete sleepered track and linked to the main line at both ends. The western connection to the main line was severed in 1983 and the run round was fed by a new facing point from the South Gosforth direction and a trailing crossover. An original lever ground frame controlling access to the main line from the run round loop was replaced by an electric panel released from Metro Control at South Gosforth in 1983. The electronic panel was operated by the train crew. All the track was new flat bottom rail on concrete sleepers.

 The provision of overhead catenary, four tracks, new ballast and colour light signals made the railway environment here very modern in appearance. The factory and depot workings determined the trains we wished to model and the history of the site has determined the track plan. Our intention was to run the layout at prototypical speeds, representing accurate train formations. The group felt this may be “boring” for some exhibition visitors and a representation of the intensive Metro services would always provide movement to the layout. With four operators, we can run three metro sets and they are held at signals at the very front of the layout. This provides the visitor with an opportunity to get up close and personal and count the rivets!

Roundtrees Sidings Version 1
Using our research, knowledge, modelling experience and June 2005 deadline, we built our first version. It was exhibited at;

  • DEMU Showcase 2005

  • EM Gauge Expo 2006 (The group was proud to accept the invitation to this event, a bit like a village football team playing in the FA Cup final!)

  • Nexus Open Day 2006

  • Blyth and District Model Railway Society Show 2007

The competition demands and short time scale led to many short cuts, compromises and Heath Robinson solution to problems. Without a permanent home and with constant movement of boards, the layout soon showed elements of wear and tear and exposed the poor baseboard construction. However, the layout had been well received and feedback confirmed that the layout concept had worked well. The group worked well together and with a proven concept, the decision was made to rebuild the layout, but with a higher specification. All the research was still relevant, the stock could be re-used and we had the collective experience and lessons learned from RTS1.

 John Allen, an influential model railroader in the USA coined the phrase “givens and druthers” to outline the requirements for layout planning. The givens are the core specifications and the druthers are akin to a wish lists.Our planning and research enabled us to build RTS1 and with the lessons learnt we created our core specification for RTS2 - our “givens.” 

  1. a track plan drawn using Templot to ensure prototypical track alignment through point work.

  2. 4” x 1” timber frames, 9mm marine ply surface, 2” x 1” legs with height adjustable feet, legs bolted to the frame, boards aligned with EM Gauge Society alignment dowels.

  3. EM Gauge


  • Exactorail EM Gauge concrete sleeper bases,

  • Tortoise point motors,

  • code 82 nickel silver rail,

  • live frogs,

  • SMP bullhead rail flexitrack,

  • Exactorail point kits and Proto 87 crossing vs,

  • minimum radius 40”


  1. cork base to roadbed,

  2. cant 

  3. Woodlands Scenics buff fine medium ballast held in place with Johnson’s Klear

  4. remote uncoupling using Spratt and Winkle couplings,

  5. appropriate weathering, 

  6. DCC control with a Gaugemaster Prodigy 2

  7. 2 circuit breakers - a control bus for trains and a control bus for points and signals

  8. 16v AC bus to power Tortoise point motors

  9. handheld controllers with multiple plug in sockets, 

  10. automated turnout control with Tortoise Turnout motors activated with Lenz LS100 and LS110 stationary decoders, 

  11. prototypical signals activated by Lenz LS100 stationary decoders, 

We wanted to replicate a unique feature from RTS Version 1 that had elicited many favourable comments - the large radius curve of the layout itself. To replicate the large radius curve we made our boards a nominal 4' x 2' but trapezoid in shape with a curved edge on the public viewing size.

We initially used A4 graph paper to produce schematic plans of how baseboards, track and scenics would interact. We then used large sheets of sugar paper to make a 2D “model” of the boards we intended to build and sketched out a track plan. The benefit of using an “actual size” plan is that we could use our model locos and vans to check clearances and make a visual assessment of how the various elements came together. We used a large room in a local school to give us the table space to work on all the boards in situ at the same time.

When we were happy with the plan, Alan Weston took the mock-ups home and used Templot to create an accurate track plan. With Templot, we could plan point-work that flowed on our curved main line and have templates that we could use in point-work construction. At our next work session, the A4 printed Templot plans were carefully aligned and taped to our sugar paper “baseboards.” We were then able to check;

  • that points were not situated over baseboard joints,

  • that point motors were not over framework timbers,

  • that all track-work fitted without compromising our minimum radius.

Freight vehicles were moved around the plan to check clearances and to make sure our run-round was long enough. We also marked the position of the uncoupling magnets and location of signals. This enabled us to determine how many stationary decoders we would need and their possible locations. Once we were satisfied with our planning, we could move on to baseboard construction

Through the extensive planning process and our experience of RTS1, we knew the baseboards would need to be solid and strong enough to withstand regular relocations. The frames were constructed from 4" x 1" timber from B and Q. The top surface was best quality 9mm marine ply from Arnold Laver. Our Templot plan indicated where the cuts had to be made in the plywood top surface so that we could create two levels, the main line and the factory area about 1” higher.

Trevor Smith and Dave Anderson built the baseboards in the craft workshop of a local school, allowing us to use large table saws and band saws to cut timbers accurately. The wood was cut in batches to ensure that all baseboards were precisely the same size. All joints were glued and screwed.

The legs were made in the same place using a simple home-made jig. The legs and boards are labelled so that each leg always stays with the same board in the same orientation. Each leg has adjustable feet, purchased from Red Dog Baseboards. The boards are aligned with alignment dowels from the EM Gauge Society. The completed baseboards were varnished with Ronseal varnish.

 The completed boards were erected and levelled in the clubrooms of the Blyth and Tyne Model Railway Society. A cork roadbed was glued to the baseboards with PVA and weighted so that it dried flat. The Templot plan was then glued to the cork. The Templot plans had taken a long time to produce with a steep learning curve. However, it soon became evident that the time taken over this plan was well worth while. One printout of the plan was glued to the cork to aid accurate track-laying. Second and third prints were used by members of the group to help with point-work construction.

The Bank Foot point work was built by Dave Furmage using plastic sleepers from C & L, pandrol clips from Peco, EM Gauge Society filing jigs and code 82 rail from Intercity Models. The Templot plan was glued to a sheet of glass with Pritt Stick glue and sleepers glued in place on the plan again using a Pritt Stick. The pandrol clips were then threaded on to the rail and then glued to the plastic sleepers using a liquid glue, using gauges and rollers to make sure all the rail stayed in gauge with the correct spacing to check rails. Code 82 rail was used rather than our code 83 original choice. It is far easier to slide the pandrol clips on to Code 82 and code 82 is an easier fit to the Exactorail sleepers. The frogs are superbly detailed items from the Proto:87 Stores and the fishplates are cosmetic plastic items. Once the point work was complete, the paper Templot plan was removed and the assembly glued to the cork track bed.

Point work at the Regent Centre end was built by Lee Davies using components from the EM Gauge Society. The sleepers were again glued in place on the plan using a Pritt stick. The rail was soldered to the copper clad sleepers - EM Society gauges and rollers were used to make sure all the rail stayed in gauge with the correct spacing to check rails. The Peco pandrol clips were carefully cut in half and then each half glued to each side of the rail on each sleeper. Once the point work was complete, the paper Templot plan was removed and the assembly glued to the cork track bed.

The factory point work was built by Trevor Smith using components from the EM Gauge Society. A home-made wooden jig for sleeper spacing was purchased on EBay. The bullhead rail was soldered to the copper clad sleepers and cosmetic chairs added with superglue. On reflection, a better method would have been to use plastic sleepers and bullhead chairs so that the rail could be raised by a couple of millimetres from the sleeper, leading to a more accurate representation of bullhead track.

At a club Open Day we experienced a problem that needed a creative solution. With only one operator, it was very difficult to run Metros off the traverser to Bank Foot and stop in the correct position in the station. If the operator worked from the Bank Foot end, no problem with accurate station stops, but the operator then had to walk to the other end of the layout to set the traverser for each metro movement, leaving a layout with time gaps between movements - not an ideal scenario for an exhibition layout. The solution to this problem was a sprung point. This point uses traditional copper clad soldered construction but the point blade tie bar is attached to a spring so that it remains in the "straight ahead" position. The spring is positioned and adjusted so that the weight of the Metro car can push the point blades across when the Metro enters from the diverging route. A single operator can now run an intensive service from the Bank Foot end without having to align the traverser for each movement.

Track in the factory siding is SMP. The concrete sleepered track is constructed from Exactocale FastTrack flexible track bases. We found the sleeper spacing to be inaccurate and so the webbing was cut and the sleepers slid on to code 82 nickel silver rail. Wire droppers were soldered to each rail 2” from the edge of each board and from each frog and routed to the underneath of the board. Sleepers were spaced and glued using a 9mm wedge of plasticard to ensure correct spacing - a very tedious task! The track was glued on to the cork base with a sliver of foam under the outer ends of the sleepers to create about a millimetre of cant on the curved track. We also used a small plastic jig to ensure the correct distance between track centres. Rails were joined with nickel silver fishplates soldered in place to ensure electrical continuity. At baseboard ends, the track was held in place with baseboard track end protectors from C & L Finescale. This enabled us to dispense with copper clad sleepers or screws normally used to protect rail ends on a portable layout. The rails were hand painted with a brown acrylic paint - another task requiring a great deal of patience! The excess paint on the surface of each rail was burnished off with a track cleaning rubber.

A layer of fine sand (play pit white sand from Argos) was carefully spread in the areas to be ballasted, extending about 5 millimetres beyond the edge of the ballast. This was glued in place with Johnsons Klear floor polish. Johnsons Klear can be used without pre-wetting the sand, (the spraying process disturbed the sand and left “puddles.”) Woodlands Scenics Medium Buff Ballast was then carefully spread with a teaspoon between the sleepers, tamped in place with the spoon and then tidied with a flat artists brush. With the ballast in place Johnson's Klear floor polish tinted with Indian Ink was carefully drizzled on with an eye dropper. The Indian Ink darkens the sand and tints the ballast. 

The track was tested with an old H & M Duette. When we were satisfied with the running quality, each baseboard was turned upside down so that we could work on the wiring for DCC. The tortoise point motors were wired in and attached to the point blades using an adapter plate from C & L. All droppers were soldered to a small board that fits inside a junction box. Each baseboard join has a matching set of junction boxes with sockets that can be linked by leads with jack plugs. The red and black pair provide track power, the green and blue pair provide the DCC signal to the accessory decoders, and the yellow and white pair provide 16 volts AC power to the accessory decoders. The points are operated with Lenz LS100 and LS150 accessory decoders. The main line colour light signals are original Roger Murray creations salvaged from RTS1. The shunting signals are Eckon. All the signals are controlled by Lenz stationary decoders. To minimise wiring across baseboard joints each decoder controls only the signals or points on that board.

A successful funding bid to the Blyth and Tyne Model Railway Club enabled the group to purchase a Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2 with an additional handheld. Two NCE Single Output Circuit Breakers were purchased so that two bus circuits could be provided, one for track power and one for the accessory decoders. This equipment is housed in a modified storage box with a programming track and a test track glued to the surface. The control box can be plugged in at either end of the layout. Five Xpressnet adapter plates are placed around the layout so that we can operate from any position. 

With all electrics complete and tested, the layout was reassembled and work started on the catenary.


A significant feature of the Metro system is the overhead catenary. Most of the system comprises traditional H beam masts, with "trolley" pole spans in specific locations and roof supports in the tunnels.  We had retrieved some masts from RTS1 and we were donated some JV catenary masts, sold by Hadley in the mid-1980s. The remainder of the masts were Sommerfeldt. 310mm x 0.5mm Sommerfeldt catenary wires were purchased on EBay, together with a pack of extras that included spare insulators and elements to create wire spans. The JV and Sommerfeldt masts are not scale representations of the Metro System catenary masts, but we felt to scratch build all the catenary was a step too far for RTS2.

The spans were scratch-built for the Bank Foot station area in situ, and the catenary masts for the main line were positioned so that the contact wires remained straight. The masts had to be positioned carefully to allow for the track curvature, the registration arms are either "push off" or "pull off" dependent on the mast being on the inside or outside of the track curvature. The also had a long or short "reach" to accommodate signal sighting or clearance issues. Each catenary wire was carefully measured and a small hook created at the end of each contact wire. On the middle sections of each board, a small amount of solder is used to keep the contact wire and hanger wire in place. Where the wires cross a baseboard joint, the hook and loops are left free so they can be removed for transportation. 

The traverser tracks do not have catenary wires. For the metro cars to exit the traverser and enter the scenic element of the layout, the pantograph needs to be lowered to follow the catenary wire. To achieve this action on the move, a "ski slope" was created from brass rod and brass tube

The catenary wires are not live, but they do need to be tensioned. With all the catenary either soldered or hooked in place, tension was applied to the catenary before the final contact wires were soldered to the ski slope assembly.

The use of 0.5mm contact wire has given the overhead catenary a fine scale appearance.

Scenic construction uses the tried and trusted methods of plaster impregnated cloth, plaster, paint, scenic scatters and autumn shade static grass applied with a Noch Grassmaster, The trees were made by Lee and Simon Harrison from wire, polyfilla, horsehair, hairspray and various scatter materials from a variety of manufacturers. The vehicles are a mixture from various manufacturers; photographs from 1985 were used to make sure models, paint schemes and number plates matched our chosen period.

The Rowntree Factory
The opening of the railway sidings at the Fawdon factory coincided with the change from steam to diesel traction at Rowntree's York factory. A new 88DS class 4-wheel diesel mechanical Ruston & Hornsby shunter (421419) was bought in May 1958 for £5,852 and put on trial at York. Shortly afterwards, it was sent to Fawdon. When it was out of action, the factory was shunted by a Class 03 or 08 diesel hired from BR (- a perfect excuse for the 03 on RTS2)

In 1979, the York factory bought a new Thomas Hill 0-6-0 machine and No.3, another Ruston & Hornsby 88DS shunter (441934 of 1960), was transferred to Fawdon. The locomotives were then used week and week about to aid maintenance.

Prior to 1985, traffic to the factory was two daily trains. The first arrived at approximately 7.15 am for loading with finished stock and departed about I pm. The afternoon train came at 3.10pm bringing raw materials, coal for the power house, empty wagons and transfer freight from the York factory. It returned at 4.30pm.

The factory site was higher than the Ponteland branch. The BR locomotive pulled forward from the branch into the exchange sidings and then backed the train up the 1 in 85 bank, where it was received by the Rowntree's diesel shunter and broken into two or three sections. 18 to 20 Pal-vans (1378XXXX series) were used until replaced by COVAB and latterly by VDA vans. The original rail loading dock was served by a sharp curve, but a later extension to the factory was built over that area, and a new loading dock was provided at the end of the parallel sidings. The shed held one loco­motive with the working locomotive being parked inside the loading dock.

Retired overlooker Harry Elwood remembers the humorous incidents that happened in thirty years of regular service, including the time all BR movements back to Heaton were held up while the BR supervisor was extricated from a particularly embarrassing predicament via a toilet window!

Services came to a halt on 30th January 1987. The warehouses of major customers were not rail served. Joe Longstaff and John Taylor marshalled the last train, appro­priately using the original locomotive Ruston 4214119. ICI had ceased its freight operation to Callerton during 1986, so 6P11 of 30th January 1987 hauled by 31173 became the last BR freight to travel under the Metro wires from Fawdon. The Rowntree locomotives, both in working order, were transferred to the North York Moors Railway.

David Anderson’s model of the factory uses brick pattern embossed plastic sheet laminated to hardboard. Its size was calculated by reviewing available photographs and estimating dimensions. 


Buffer stops
The platform end buffer stop was adapted by Lee Davies from a kit by PH Designs.

The “buffers” are small pads of foam. The traditional buffer stops are also PH Design kits. 

Scenic Details
The two ponds and outfall pipes use traditional construction methods and materials and were created by Lee Davies. The bare earth is represented by beach sand that has been washed and then dried. It is sieved in place and then fixed with Johnson Klear. A light scatter of ground foam and home-made grass tufts are used to create small bushes and scrub.

The Locomotive Shed
This is a scratch built representation of the structure in plasticard by David Anderson with dimensions estimated from photographs.  Unfortunately we have not had access to any photographs of the back of the shed or showing the smaller buildings on either side in sufficient detail to be able to model them.  To suit the location of the shed on the layout these have been omitted from the model.

Security Fencing
For the security fencing we have used Ratio product number 436. Some of the posts needed to be planted into the polystyrene scenery so longer brass posts were used to provide greater strength.  The Ratio mesh was replaced with a product called Bazzill Tulle Ribbon which David Anderson’s wife uses in card making.  This is a finer mesh and comes in easily cut lengths one yard long by three inches wide in a variety of colours – we have used white mesh and coloured it with a grey Copic marker pen.  The three strands of barbed wire are represented using 0.2mm nylon fishing line.


Bank Foot Station
The real station retains the same structure as originally built, only the colour scheme and some details have changed. A site visit and photographs were used to estimate dimensions. 

The model has platforms made from Hornby platform sections purchased second hand. They have been cut down in height to match the Metro door height and then glued together with the joints reinforced with plasticard. The concrete sections have been replicated with plasticard, the sculpted concrete sections have been made from suitable Evergreen textured plastic card, matched by eye from a model shop display stand. The steel tube framing for the name boards is constructed with 2mm plastic rod.

The cream coloured panels are made from glossy photographic paper printed with a photograph of the real panel. This ensures a good colour match. The yellow Bank Foot name panels were also made in the same way. The advertising panels are made from the 2mm rod with the appropriate curved corners, made by holding the rod near a hot soldering iron. The adverts were researched by looking at a collection of 8mm films made in the 1980s and then using the internet to find suitable images. The images were printed on glossy photographic paper and then glued in place. The ticket machines are photographic images printed on to glossy paper and then folded up to create the 3D effect. The Metro maps were produced from photographs, but the eagle eyed will notice that I have blanked out the airport extension, but forgot to blank out the South Hylton extension!

The signature feature of Metro stations are the curved canopies. This canopy is made by creating six roof formers from plasticard and then gluing thin plasticard to the formers in stages to create the distinctive shape. The distinctive corrugations were made by adding plasticard strip of the appropriate width. The model was spray painted with B & Q suedecote paint to represent concrete before all the coloured panels were added.

The distinctive railings are made from Hornby station fencing and 1mm brass rod. The railings themselves are oversized and are only a representation of the real thing. An etching would have created the correct shape, but with limited time and financial resources, a representation is the best compromise.

Derelict Factory
This factory hides the line used as the Callerton explosives depot. The basis for the factory is a Walthers Cornerstone factory acquired second hand. The original square building was dis-assembled and then made up in low relief. The weathering is felt tip pen blended with a soft paintbrush soaked with Isopropyl Alcohol. The broken window effect is created by a wash of grey paint to the rear of the windows and then picking out broken panes with a black fine line pen.

Tyne and Wear Metro Cars
Unusually for the UK, the Tyne and Wear Metro adopted a rolling stock design that was incompatible with national standards. Designed and constructed by Metro-Cammell, each set is formed of articulated six-axle twin vehicles, each 27.8m long, with seats for 68 to 84 passengers and standing room for a further 188. Ninety twin-car sets were built. Power is provided at 1,500V DC through overhead wires. The units were originally designed to be coupled in trains of up to three twin-car sets. Each set is equipped with air brakes and air-operated doors, with electro-magnetic emergency track brakes.

The Metro cars on Roundtrees Sidings are Dave Alexander white metal kits powered by re - gauged 25mm wheelbase Tenshodo motor bogies with 10mm wheels. Paints are by Railmatch and transfers by Fox. The Dave Alexander Metro kit comes in a very sturdy box with all components carefully labelled and packaged. The instructions are very comprehensive and easy to follow. The main body for each car comprises two sides, nose and roof. These items were glued with araldite.

The Tenshodo motor bogies are a simple fix to an aluminium floor that slides onto channels in the body side, simple but very effective. The bogies are wired together to give 8 wheel pickup and one Lenz Gold decoder contols both motor bogies. The BEMF function of the decoder is switched off and both bogies are powered from the single decoder, the wires to one bogie "reversed" so that both bogies operate together in the same direction. Top speed is not high, but using 128 speed steps we can get some very realistic acceleration and braking. The Tenshodo motor bogies need a slight modification to operate with DCC. The bogie has brass wipers on the back of each wheel that connect directly to the motor commutator. For DCC, the connection between wiper and commutator needs cutting so that a decoder can be fitted.

The centre unit articulates around the bogie and around the centre body section. This allows the model to traverse sharp radius curves, although this feature is not required on Roundtrees Sidings.

Our first metro kit had flush glazing made from plasticard, each window cut individually with a craft knife and the corners rounded with wet and dry paper. The second kit had flush glazing designed in a CAD programme linked to a milling machine that produced very accurate shapes. Once the three different sized windows had been drawn, 2mm clear Perspex was placed under the drill head and the computer was politely asked to produce the correct number of metro windows. They are so accurate in shape they are a snug fit in the window aperture and require no glue! Subsequent kits have flush glazing laser cut from 1mm clear acetate by York Model Making, using a whitemetal side casting to provide the accurate measurements.

The passengers are a "multi pack” of unpainted HO figures from Preiser, batch painted using matt enamel paints. The green tinted weathering on the roof was sprayed after an hour standing on a footbridge observing the real thing!

Regent Centre Station
Roundtrees Sidings needed a scenic break at the traverser end of the layout. The original Regent Centre Metro Station was designed as an interchange centre with bus access and a car park built over the station. The station was larger than most on the system with a large canopy covering the station approaches and the bus stands, an ideal structure for a scenic break with the added advantage of “hiding” the traverser from public view.

The first stage in making the model was a site visit with camera to take photographs. The station concourse has distinctive murals made from individual 6” x 6” ceramic tiles printed with life size images of Metro cars with passengers. My intention was to use photo-realistic techniques to represent these murals, relevant station signage, station furniture and surface details. The mural photographs were taken in stages with the camera square on to the image so that they could be merged and scaled using computer software.

The second stage was to measure the area on the baseboard to work out the footprint of the model, with all other measurements proportioned from the footprint to create the model. The real station is large, and the model has to be compressed to match the compression on the model as a whole. The height of the model was limited by the need to match the end board height for transportation

Our baseboards are trapezoid in shape and the track has a radius of about 20 feet at this point. A consequence of this unusual shape is that there are no 90 degree angles in the structure footprint! My O level Maths did include geometry, but I did not have the skills to draw a working plan. A perspective sketch was made of the model with dimensions roughed in.

The next stage was to make the station base from 3mm plywood. All dimensions were taken from the baseboard and cutting was done in stages by guesswork, trial and error and regular checking until the base was the correct size.

Once the base was correct, I made the station platforms from cut down Hornby platform sections. The height of the walls was determined by the clearance needed for the catenary. The walls at the back of the station were made from plywood covered with images of the platform cladding designed in Microsoft Publisher and printed out on glossy photographic paper. A platform mirror was scratch built and three passengers were added. Lighting was added using grain of wheat bulbs connected to a 9 volt battery.

The next step was to make the station concourse and lower canopy from plywood. All measurements were taken from the perspective drawing. PVA glue was used with corners braced by square balsa wood sections. The concourse interior was modelled with photo-realistic cladding and illuminated with grain of wheat bulbs. The ticket machines and ticket barriers were researched using Google Images manipulated in Gimp, (open source and free image manipulation software.) The images were printed on glossy photographic paper and then made into 3D representations.

The concourse exterior has the mural image manipulated in Gimp and then printed on glossy photographic paper glued to the plywood base with PVA. The cladding of the small canopy and the exterior of the car park are images created in Microsoft Publisher.

The large canopy over the bus stand is constructed from plasticard with balsa wood uprights. The canopy girders are made from Scalelink brass etchings. 

The walls were clad with Wills brick plasticard and coping stones made from 1mm thick plasticard scribed to represent individual stones.

When complete, the structure was painted with Precision and Humbrol enamal paint and weathered with artist’s pastels. The yellow paint is the specific Tyne and Wear variety, the brown is GWR chocolate. 

The bus shelter is scratch built in plasticard working from photographs taken of a shelter outside North Shields Metro Station in 2005. The information signs are old Chris Leigh castings with relevant images researched in Google Images.

The bus and vehicles were collected from various sources over a four year period. The figures have added detail where appropriate and painted in muted colours from a palette based on still images ripped from a 1985 video of the Metro system.


Our aim is to create an illusion, we want the viewer to be transported back to the summer of 1985 as though they were trainspotting in this location. Through the planning and construction process, we hope we have created a believable stage, with accurate track, relevant buildings, suitable nature and an atmosphere that reflects our location and chosen time. We want train movements that mimic our real location. This means we do not want the great hand in the sky. With two experienced train drivers in the group, we had the knowledge to make our signalling and operations mimic the real railway. DCC was our choice of control to enable us to drive the trains anywhere on the layout. We use Lenz Gold or Silver Decoders purchased second hand on EBay. These Lenz decoders give excellent control of the model motors and enable accurate response to speed commands, encourage slow and precise shunting have the bonus of improving the running quality of the old Lima pancake motor bogies in our class 31s.

Our stock is fitted with Spratt and Winkle couplings that couple by pushing a small hook over a wire “goalpost” on the loco buffer-beam and uncouple over a magnet under the track. Uncoupling requires a precise stop over the magnet and then a slight reverse to allow the magnet to attract the dropper and free the hook from the “goalpost” on the next vehicle. The good motor control provided by the Lenz decoders is essential. 128 speed steps works well with locomotives. Acceleration and momentum CVs are set to a value of 1 on all our decoders. With two motors in the Metro cars, the BEMF is switched off on the decoder to aid smooth running. The locomotives and Metro cars are very responsive to the knob on the handheld controllers and drivers are encouraged to use scale speeds.

Route Setting
The layout was designed and built to be operated by a DCC system. Our original intention was to link the DCC system to a computer and control points and signals with a mouse and screen

A successful funding bid to the Blyth and Tyne Model Railway Club enabled us to purchase a Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2 DCC system with an additional handheld. Two NCE Single Output Circuit Breakers were purchased so that two bus circuits could be provided, one for track power and one for accessory decoders.

This equipment is housed in a modified storage box with a programming track and a test track on the lid. The red and black leads provide track power, the green and blue leads provide the DCC signal for the accessory decoders. A yellow and white bus provides 16 volts AC to provide power to the accessory decoders.

The points and signals are operated with Tortoise Point motors linked to a mixture of LS100 and LS150 accessory decoders. Each point and signal has its own unique address and when the address is input to the handheld a press of the 1 or 2 button changes the point direction or changes the signal illumination.

To drive a train from the traverser to Bank Foot station and return would potentially require the changing of 8 points and four signals – a total of 60 key strokes on the hand held controller! In addition, the “driver” would have to remember the address of each point and signal. 

This was not a pleasant method of operating the layout and we had many “driver errors” with a lot of short circuits and “wrong road” incidents. As the layout evolved we began to have doubts that computer control would meet our needs.

Issues included 

  • The learning curve needed to link our DCC system to a laptop.

  • The learning curve needed to introduce blocks on the mainline that could be interlocked with the signals.

  •  Expense.

  • Would a computer system bring “added value” for the viewing public?

  • The disadvantage (and cost,) of needing an additional operator to sit in front of the screen at exhibitions.

Our solution was to use the route setting facility of our Gaugemaster Prodigy 2. The route setting facility allows a “driver” to use just three keystrokes on the handheld controller to set a route from the fiddle yard and return to either

  • Bank Foot metro station.

  • Bank Foot engineers sidings

  • Callerton branch.

  • Rowntrees factory arrival siding.

We agreed on this solution after a private visit to the Metro System Control Centre at South Gosforth.

During a very interesting two hour visit we learnt that the drivers of the Metro cars set their own routes from within the cab using code numbers for each route they want to take!

A very helpful metro driver allowed a quick cab visit at Airport station to see the on-train computer touch screen in action. (Route 1 is from the Airport to South Hylton.) As the train progresses, track sensors monitor the train’s position and the relevant points change to set up the route and the signals change to indicate the route is clear to proceed. The Metro cars trigger track circuits and transponders that illuminate LEDS on the South Gosforth control panel. A controller monitors the Metro cars from a large schematic panel. Signals and points change automatically, but if there is an incident that requires intervention, the controller can set individual points and signals and over-ride the automatic system.

The Control Centre has a second panel that provides information about the electrical supply status. A third control panel is used by the passenger information section. Two controllers monitor the extensive CCTV cameras, provide response to passenger help points on stations and on the Metro cars and act as a link to police, ambulance service and fire service. The CCTV system is linked to each Local Authority monitoring centre, providing an additional set of eyes to monitor the system for passenger safety!

These are the route setting instructions from the prodigy handbook;


1. Press SYS and 5 

2. “Route SET” appears in display. Press ENTER. 

3. Enter route number (1-31). Press ENTER 

4. “Add Accy #” will display. Enter an accessory address (1 to 255). If you want an accessory (points) to move in a direction opposite to it’s normally programmed direction (reverse polarity), use DIRECTION to set its direction. Press ENTER 

5. “Add Accy #” will display again, prompting you to add another accessory into the 

route. Repeat the above steps to enter up to 8 accessories into one route 

6. When you have finished setting up your route, press ENTER 


1. Press ROUTE. Enter the route number you wish to run. Press ENTER. 

2. “1 or 2” will display, reminding you to press only 1 or 2 to select the routes.

The aspect we found time consuming rather than difficult was instruction 4, we had to use trial and error to determine a point’s direction or a signal’s colour when creating the route. 

The keystrokes needed for each route and a table of routes has been typed up and laminated. Each controller has access to these laminated instructions.

 The routes are

1 Metro from traverser to Bank Foot.

2 Metro from Bank Foot to traverser.

3 Traverser to factory arrival siding.

4 Factory departure siding to traverser.

5 Traverser to Callerton branch.

6 Callerton branch to traverser

7 Traverser to engineers siding

8 Engineers siding to traverser

The Metro service is operated from Bank Foot station and an intensive service with a train every minute can be operated using two four car units. The traverser has a working sprung point so that a metro car entering the traverser is aligned for the traverser departure track.

The end of the traverser has a sponge pad and a driving technique we use every so often is to run the metro cars against the sponge so that the wheels spin and therefore keep themselves clean. With an intensive metro service, shunting can take place within the factory without needing access to the main line. There are two handheld faceplates on the two middle boards so that two operators can work the layout from behind the backscene. Just as on the real railway, we wanted a failsafe method of working to ensure that the freight trains could be operated without colliding with the metros and to ensure the metros did not access the factory sidings in error.

Our solution is to have a “token.” This is a yellow piece of broom handle. Whoever holds this token has control of the main line.

If the operator at Bank Foot is shuttling Metros from the station to the controller, the trailing crossover and facing point access to the factory run round will always be set for the main line. The Bank Foot operator has the token in his possession. When a freight is ready to run to the factory, to the Callerton branch or to the engineers siding, the metro operator stops one metro train in Bank Foot station and one on the traverser. The operator then passes the token to the operator who needs access to the mainline and will not operate the metros again until the token is returned to his possession.


Our ground signals are Eckon and the main line signals are a mixture of Roger Murray purchases and scratch-built using Roger Murray signal heads. Scratch-building was completed by Alan Weston and Lee Davies with a great deal of cursing, burnt fingers, failures and patience!

They are controlled by Lenz LS100 accessory decoders.

The initial address of each decoder is entered on the Gaugemaster handheld. (53 was the chosen number on the first decoder so as not to conflict with the 4 digit loco numbers or the 2 digit point motor decoders ending at 23.) The appropriate CV values' to make the pulse continuous for the LEDs was programmed using a Lenz LH100 handheld, (mainly because the instructions that come with the LS100s have diagrams showing the screen readout on a Lenz hand-held at each stage. (REG 2, 3, 4, and 5 have a value of 32 for those interested.))

There is an electronic panel that is used to control the points in the exchange sidings. It is released by Gosforth Control Panel. When the sidings opened in 1958 a manual interlocking ground frame was used and this remained in use during the first years of Metro operation when the run round could be accessed from both the east and west directions. An electronic panel was introduced in the mid 1980s. The model was made from a plastic block mounted on a plastic pole with a Knightwing Models white-metal telephone box. The panel front is a photograph researched in Goole images and then printed on glossy photographic paper.

Our original main line locomotives were purchased in the mid 2000s. Photographic evidence provided us with our fleet requirements and Lima locos were purchased second-hand over a period of time. Lee stripped each loco down, gave them a thorough clean, added Ultrascale wheels, extra pickups, additional weight and then rebuilt the locomotives. Alan Weston added the “goalposts” for the Spratt and Winkle couplings and Trevor Smith added weathering using Phoenix paints and chalk pastels.

Recent locos are from Hornby and Bachmann modified to EM. Newer locos include sound.  

Factory Shunter           

Dave Thornton constructed this freelance locomotive - we know it is not an accurate representation of the prototype and we do not know the origin of the kit. It runs on a Tenshodo motor bogie - originally OO gauge, 26 mm wheelbase with 10mm diameter wheels. The Tenshodo motor bogie was stripped and then re-gauged to EM using new 2mm axles and a replacement gear set purchased from DC kits. (This can only be done with the newer bogies with the small moulding on the base plate that keeps the gear centred on the worm. Earlier versions of the Tenshodo bogie have a flat base plate and proved most unsuitable for re-gauging.)

On the original version of RTS, the control system was analogue. The layout is now DCC and so the loco had to have a decoder. With no space available in the bodyshell because of the weight required for traction, it was decided to use a runner vehicle. We chose a VDA van. The chassis on this vehicle has been upgraded with Bill Bedford sprung W irons.

Pick ups were added to each wheel and the Lenz silver decoder attached to the underframe with double sided tape.

The Tenshodo motor bogie has the direct connection between the wheel back wiper pickups snipped and wires soldered to the pickup assembley to take the current back to the decoder. The grey and orange wires from the decoder to the Tenshodo motor are soldered to the small tabs on top of the Tenshodo. The little industrial has address 1111 and the four wheel pickup has made it a reliable runner.



VDA Vans

Any normal railway modelling group would have used the Hornby VDA as the base model to represent the classic air braked vans used on the Fawdon workings. Cutting off the circular vent on the roof, renumbering and maybe changing the wheels would suffice for most people. However, our group has two wagon fanatics who wanted to make the definitive model. EBay was trawled for the Appleby Model Engineering VDA chassis kit – no luck. Colin Peake’s old fotopic website had a blow by blow account of how to scratchbuild the chassis – but six vehicles to do with a time limit, no way!

Solution one – make the underframes as resin castings from a master.

Solution two – use Bill Bedford chassis components to provide axle boxes spaced for EM and to provide some compensation for these long wheelbase vehicles.

Solution three – work in partnership with Colin Craig to provide accurate and detailed etchings for both the long and short handbrake levers. Lee Davies provided the detail photographs of a van stabled in Tyne Yard for Colin to use as source material. Alan provided the measurements, Colin made the drawing and sent it back to the group for approval and when satisfied with the result had brass etchings made for us. Alan put all the elements together to produce some very accurate models with liveries and running numbers that matched the originals in our chosen time period.

The barrier vehicles are pure Hornby with a suitable coat of weathering, and the brake vans are a mix of Hornby and Bachmann.

Additional vehicles for exhibition purposes are provided by Dave Furmage.