Assistant Officer Major Geoff Ashdown is feeling a bit chuffed about a feature article he wrote that has appeared in a national magazine. The publication in question is the March 2012 edition of British Railway Modelling and it is a description of his own layout, called ‘Tower Pier’.
If at this point you are tempted to think words like ‘geek’ and ‘anorak’, please hold off until you have read his article.
Geoff’s hobby is a million miles from kids’ Hornby train sets. When I was a child I enjoyed watching ‘toy’ trains whizz around a loop and that was it. Geoff’s layout – and his approach to model railways – are on a different plane.
Geoff has been interested in modelling all his life. As a child he started off with a Tri-ang train set. But it has not always been trains: he moved on to building his own models of different things with Airfix kits and graduated to building boats and ships from scratch from drawings and with raw materials.
All details are correct and in his model of the Lindisfarne fisheries protection vessel, you can even see the crew on the bridge and the fine detail of the inflatable boats on the aft deck.
For the last 12 years or so Geoff has been concentrating on building his model railway. Although Tower Pier itself does not exist, the layout is quite feasible considering the track that exists in the east of the City of London and commuters will probably recognise the influence of Farringdon station on the design. Building much of the layout himself, Geoff is an engineer and a craftsman paying meticulous attention to minute detail. And in order to do that (his layout is set in the 1950’s) he has to be an historian as well.
In England, we have something to be proud of historically. Our English forefathers invented railways and those railways had a huge positive impact on the social and economic life of this country. Names such as George Stevenson who built the Rocket locomotive, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a great railway civil engineer, were among the great minds that laid the foundations for the railways in the mid 19th century. Geoff’s not quite in the same league as these, but on a small scale, he is paying a lot of attention to detail as they did.
A Closer Look
In Geoff’s multi-platformed terminus, each platform has its own purpose and the spaghetti of tracks outside the station are authentically laid out and controlled by signals following the protocol of the day.
There is even a tunnel that can be revealed that shows a freight line going off to nearby St Katherine’s Dock. And if you look carefully you can see a District Line Underground train passing between Aldgate and Mark Lane (now Tower Hill).
The trains are definitely not toys. Many were bought as kits or pre-made. However they invariably need altering, if not for historical accuracy to suit the line they are being used on, then for the gauge. Strangely the popular Hornby HO/OO track is out of proportion to the trains that run on it. Geoff uses the more accurate EM gauge and builds the track by hand, including the complex points system. He also makes the buildings and landscape. He won a trophy for the quality of his signal box.
There’s not much to crow about trains nowadays. Technology and the desire for profit seem to have really robbed railways of their glamour. Many people point to Dr. Beeching’s action in 1963 resulting in the axing of railway lines as a pivotal point in this change. Whether that’s true or not, railways before that date were more interesting. Hence Geoff’s selection of the 1950s for his layout. Ah, it takes you back!
Read Geoff’s magazine article (reprinted by kind permission of British Railway Modelling)