John Sutton's layout "Southwell Central"


    A main-line layout based on somewhere like Quorn & Woodhouse would have been a better setting for my collection of GCR, GNR and LNER locos and the coaches and wagons they haul, but I only have room for nostalgia for my Nottingham childhood to take the form of a branch terminus. As there were no branches off the GCR London Extension, I imagined a Southwell line joining the Great Central and the Great Northern at Bulwell, north of Nottingham, Southwell services reaching Nottingham Victoria by way of the GC main line or the GN ‘Back Line’, while a junction with the Midland north of its (real) station at Southwell would enable the Rolleston Junction to Southwell push-pull train to extend its journey to Southwell Central, goods to be consigned to Newark or Lincoln and holiday excursions to go all over the place by sundry circuitous routes.

     Having a particular geographical and historical setting for a layout makes you exercise some self-discipline, so I have made from scratch engines which might have run to Southwell Central, had it existed, such as J6 and J11 0-6-0s, an L1 2-6-4T, an A5 4-6-2T and (from a Craftsman kit) a Midland 1P 0-4-4T. With them up and running, I turned my attention to childhood favourites such as the Director, the B1, Robinson 2-8-0s and, for the Newark goods, a Midland 2F 0-6-0. In reality only a couple of Colwick-based loco types would have visited Southwell, but I like building engines and am trying to make as many as possible of the ones I liked as a boy.

    These engines have very traditional rigid chassis, but a combination of a Branchlines gearbox and Mashima motor, carefully-adjusted wiper pick-ups and a lot of weight ensure that they all run slowly and smoothly. Mike Sharman gave the hobby one of its greatest ideas when he came up with the floating-bogie tender, which transfers the tender’s weight to the rear of the locomotive, improving adhesion and pick-up. He intended it for Victorian single drivers in 4mm scale, but it is a boon for all 3mm tender engines. Even little motors take up quite a lot of room in a 3mm engine, and as they weigh the best part of nothing at all it is almost impossible to distribute enough weight effectively in a 4-4-0 or a small 0-6-0 unless you borrow the tender’s, counterbalancing it with a fat slug of lead in the boiler. I tried wagons with compensated w-irons, but decided rigid ones worked just as well and were quicker to make. I use the time saved to improve Parkside wagon kits with Worsley Works etched brake levers, which cast shadows nicely. I am sold on compensated bogie vehicles, however: MJT coach compensation units ensure that carriages glide in stately fashion.

     The layout started off as a shelf, 20in wide at its widest, along the wall of my railway room. As my collection of locos and rolling stock expanded it seemed the obvious thing to extend the goods yard more or less at right angles across the end of the room to make the layout a 12ft 6in x 8ft L shape. Like the rest of the layout the extension is screwed to 18in Spur heavy-duty shelf brackets. I have never found half-relief buildings convincing (they look like models…), so have tried to make sure there is room for a backdrop of full-thickness ones nearly all round the layout.

     As Jas Millham remarked years ago of the almost semi-circular sidings on his Holden Market 3mm layout and the tightly-curved S-gauge Yaxbury, when you’re sitting inside the curve, you’re not aware how sharp it is, or of the track gauge. I was pleased to discover that locos built with 3ft curves in mind were happy to run round tighter ones in the new yard.

     For good or ill, I have worked to fairly consistent standards, so buildings, locos and stock built twenty or more years ago don’t look out of place, and things worth keeping have been kept. Today’s Parkside wagon kits are much better than the ones I made myself years ago and B&B couplings are better than anything else I’ve tried. There are more and better motors and gearboxes to choose from now, so building a loco is easier than it used to be, even if not much quicker. I shall be happy if anyone has looked at the photos and – just for a millisecond – been reminded of the way things looked on the Eastern Region in those days which are now so far off and long ago.

Track Plan


62661 stands in Southwell Central station with a two-coach Nottingham train. The leading coach is a Worsley Works Thompson Semi-Corridor Lavatory Composite.

58175 stands in front of Gilfrey’s Maltings. All the buildings on the layout are Plastikard; their lettering is done by hand.

Scratchbuilt GCR C13 4 4 2T 67439 passes Todd & Randall’s No 2 Grain Store on its way in to Southwell Central. The loco runs on the Society’s Markits/Romford 16.5mm-diameter driving wheels.

The Director is scratchbuilt, with a Mashima 1220 flat-can motor and a floating-bogie tender. Here it waits to run round its train.

MR 2F 0 6 0 58175 shunts some 3mm Society Parkside plastic wagon kits, including a BR 12T Palvan. The loco is an adaptation of the Society’s George Norton etched kit, with a scratchbuilt Deeley cab.

GNR J6 0 6 0 64257 leaves from Platform 2 with a Nottingham Victoria train whilst GCR D11/1 4 4 0 62661 Gerard Powys Dewhurst waits to depart with a Summer Saturday excursion to Skegness.

GNR Ivatt J52 0 6 0ST 68829 is scratchbuilt and full of lead. The driver and fireman conceal a DS10 motor.

The new yard is full of Parkside plastic wagon kits, with an SNCF-type 16T Coal Wagon in the centre.

J52 68829 arrives with a goods. The first wagon is a rust-pocked Parkside BR 16T Coal Wagon.

The J52 squeezes past a collection of huts into Gilfrey’s Siding.

This is an overview of Southwell Central, with The Paddy arriving from Rolleston Junction and the Director shunting parcels vans into the bay.

58065 was the last active MR 1P 0 4 4T, operating the Rolleston Junction to Southwell branch until May 1959. In the fictional world of Southwell Central, The Paddy extends its journey from Southwell Midland to Southwell Central. The loco is a Craftsman etched kit and the Motor Brake Second a Worsley Works kit.

69561 enters Southwell with a two-coach local. The coaches are Ian Kirk Gresleys. A Parkside LMS 3-plank wagon stands in the siding.

Gresley N2 0 6 2T 69561 was one of the non-condensing locos shedded at Grantham in the fifties and early sixties. The model was built, not without difficulty, from the Society’s Mignon Models etchings.

A side view of one of my three 2 8 0s, O4/7 63770.

GER J69 0 6 0T 68635 is a slightly-modified Finney & Smith Connoisseur etched kit. It runs on Romford 12.5mm drivers.

MR 1P 0 4 4T 58065 arrives at Platform 2 whilst GCR D11/1 62661 Gerard Powys Dewhurst waits in Platform 1.

This is my favourite photo. Gresley/Robinson O4/7 2 8 0 63770 – the last of the class – shunts a Parkside GER 12T Van.

GNR K2 61771 is a London Road Models etched kit built by Peter White.

The O4/8 was a Thompson rebuild of the Robinson 2-8-0. Scratchbuilt 63674 arrives at Southwell Central with a goods from Colwick.

LMS 4F 0 6 0 44030 is a Mike Raithby etched kit, originally developed for the 2mm-scale Chee Tor layout

GNR Gresley J50/2 0 6 0T 68927 is a modified Esanel white-metal kit.

Colwick-based Thompson L1 2 6 4Ts worked many East Midlands local services in the fifties and early sixties. 67753 is scratchbuilt, with a Plastikard body.

A broadside view of The Paddy arriving at Southwell Central in dramatic low evening light.


GER J69 0 6 0T 68635 was a widely-travelled member of the class: after many years in Scotland it returned south and was shedded at New England, Colwick (1960-1) and Stratford.

GNR J6 0 6 0s were Colwick stalwarts for fifty years. 64257 picks up some vans from Southwell Central goods shed.

The MS&LR 0 6 2Ts were the first British locos with Belpaire fireboxes. They were used for passenger turns on the CLC, but scratchbuilt 69286, seen here watering, was a Langwith Junction pilot.

WD Austerity 2 8 0 90492 enters Southwell with a goods. The model was built in the 1980s by Mike Edge and detailed and repainted by John Sutton.

WD 90492 shunting Southwell coal yard, with Gilfrey’s Maltings in the background.

Filthy, like all Austerities, 90492 runs round its train. Unlike most ER WDs, this one retained its original firebox.

Southwell Central Signal Box is a standard GCR type, built from Plastikard. Midland 1F Half-cab 41712 is a Craftsman etched kit.

LNER B1 4 6 0 61000 Springbok was shedded at Colwick at the end of its days. The model is built from Pro-Scale etchings.

MR1F 0-6-0T 41712 is a craftsman etched k



O4/7 2 8 0 63770 passes Todd & Randall’s on its way into Southwell.









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Last updated: 01-02-2006