Gloucestershire’s archives revealed (3)

Model me a railway, Eric

Apart from qualified train drivers, how many of us have, in fact, driven a train? Maybe that question should actually be: how many of us want to drive a train?  I would – for the unique driving experience and the challenge of keeping hundreds of people simultaneously on track (excuse the pun) for their appointments.

The desire to drive trains is normally heightened if the train happens to be pre 1948, the year that saw the nationalisation of Britain’s railways. Regrettably, most of us could only drive one of these vintage vehicles if we visited a heritage railway line or, failing that, pretend. And by ‘pretend’ I mean building a model railway, rather than sitting on a chair making choo-choo and chuff-chuff noises.

There are many train enthusiasts who enjoy a bit of model railway building.  This seemed to be the case for one of our recent visitors whose document order included a booklet from the ‘Ericmodels Planbook’ series, called ‘Railway Buildings and Structures – Book 1: Great Western Railway’ [ref: RA42].


For any model railway enthusiast, especially those creating a layout set in the first half of the 1900s, this booklet is worth looking at. It gives detailed elevated drawings of various trackside buildings and equipment, all based on real structures that were in and around Gloucestershire, on a 4mm: 1 foot scale.

The drawings include a goods shed, a signal box, GWR lineside huts, a water column, various cranes, a bridge and a station. Most of them are drawn from infrastructure that were originally sited at Cheltenham, Andoversford and Leckhampton, with the station element being a marvellous plan of Dunster Station in North Somerset – still in operation today, thanks to the efforts of the West Somerset Railway heritage line.

The plans give the model maker a comprehensive description of each original item, including textures, colours and materials, helping them to make their models as authentic as possible. The lamp hut is “…constructed of corrugated iron on an angle iron frame. The whole hut is painted buff except the roof which is tarred black”. Heaven forbid any modeller to paint their lamp hut’s roof any other colour than black after reading this.  And not just any black.  It needs to be a black that suggests tarring has occurred. Good luck model makers.

Lamp Hut

The real world location of each piece is also jotted down. The signal box, for example, was “at Leckhampton on the now closed Cheltenham-Kingham branch of the G.W.R.” It didn’t continue with a diatribe against a certain Dr. Beeching, the minister who controversially ordered the closure of many branch lines, but perhaps it could have.

Out of interest, I looked up the present world location of the Leckhampton signal box, using the historical/modern map comparison website to see what was currently occupying the old site. There is an office building and warehouse there now, amongst a cluster of other business related buildings. This is not very revelatory or exciting – except for the fact that, unbelievably, the warehouse sitting on the exact site of the old Leckhampton signal box is the place where I did a week’s temping back in 2003. Of course, I didn’t know it then. How strange: I’d been working at the very spot where the signal box once stood; and I’ve ended up blogging about its history. I even parked my car on what would have been the station tracks, now a side access road.

Leckhampton Signal Box

Perhaps I should create a commemorative model of this section of track? I could if I utilised old 25 inch OS maps and the plans in Ericmodels Planbook. But have you seen the cost of modelling equipment? It’s not cheap. A pre-cast and painted lamp hut, similar to the planbook version but possibly without the requisite black roof that resembles tarring, costs £4.80, a garden shed is £4.50, and a telephone box is £6.29. That’s well over fifteen quid for just three little pieces of atmospheric infrastructure.

But with each 168mm track costing £1.80 each, my actual grand plan of recreating the entire 320.3 miles of the Japanese Tōkaidō Shinkansen Bullet Train line in the OO modelling gauge would cost me… hold on… just doing the calculations*… £76,707.27 – and that’s just for the track, never mind any telephone boxes or calming line-side zen gardens.

Thinking about it, it’d probably be cheaper and less time consuming to buy my own full sized loco, sit in it, and then make choo-choo noises.


*Here’s how I worked it out, maths fans.

The OO model gauge is designed in a 1:72 scale.
The full length of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line is 320.3 miles.
There are 1,609,344 millimetres in a mile (thanks Google).
A piece of model railway track is 168mm in length, and costs £1.80 each.

Therefore, 320.3 miles x 1,609,344 mm = 515,472,883.2 mm in the whole line length.

515,472,883.2 mm ÷ 1:72 = 7,159,345.6 mm

7,159,345.6 mm ÷ 168 mm =  42,616 pieces of model track needed.

42,616 pieces of model  track x £1.80 = £76,707.27

Disclaimer: corrections to any errors in this calculation can be sent direct to my calculator, and not to me. Thank you.


by Anthony Phillips, Archives Support Officer

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