Author Archives: Steve Hales

Forthcoming Exhibitions

Mauch Chunk has now attended two exhibitions since the move to Barrowmore MRG and construction of a new fiddle yard, lighting and other scenic modifications.

Mauch Chunk is available for two exhibitions a year from the end of 2018 and is now booked up until early 2021:


Model Rail Scotland – 22nd-24th February 2019 – Scottish Events Campus, Glasgow  G3 8YW

Warley National Model Railway Exhibition – 22nd-24th November 2019 – National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham  B40 1NT

The London Festival of Railway Modelling – 28-29th March 2020 – Alexandra Palace, London N22 7AY

Perth & District MRC – 27th-28th June 2020 – The Dewars Centre, Glover Street, Perth PH2 0TH

Spalding MRC – 6th-7th November 2021 – Springfields Event Centre, Camelgate, Spalding Lincolnshire  PE12 6ET

The “Train Show” at the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) National Convention – August 2022 –  Birmingham, UK (details to be confirmed)

Chiltern MRA 2018

Chiltern MRA – 13th/14th January 2018 – Stevenage Arts & Leisure Centre, Lytton Way, Stevenage SG1 1LZ

We prepared the layout for this exhibition right up to the night before and beyond. All the pointwork has been rebuilt on the scenic section and all the track except 14 feet relaid. Much of the scenery has also been reworked and has been extended round the curve at the right hand end, as has the fascia – see the progress pages for more details.

Most notably, Richard finished the signal gantry built from a custom etch and on the Friday night he and Gavin got its 3-position semaphore working. We again used Big Bear and TeamViewer to control the layout from two laptops and introduced a tablet for additional control.

Once a few pointmotor niggles had been sorted in the fiddle yard, the layout ran exceptionally smoothly over the new track. We had a guest operator from the NMRA on the Sunday and he was most impressed. The crowd was good, especially on the Saturday, and reflected the very high quality of the show.

Again, steam power – mainly brass – was to the fore, as were brass double enders and babyfaces. There was particular interest in the camelbacks after the recent article in the January Continental Modeller.

Mauch Chunk showed its potential and was enjoyable to operate. The exhibition team was Steve Hales, Richard Oldfield, Gavin Liddiard, Mike Rapson, Kevin Bays and Philip Sutton. Gareth Evans also helped out.

Claude Doussot took a video which he has kindly allowed us to post on YouTube – please click on the image below:

The photos show us packing the van and putting up the layout, as well as operating it and the fiddle yard – and of course lots of photos of the scenic section!

Final Preperations for Stevenage

In the last week leading up to the Chiltern MRA exhibition at Stevenage it was all hands to the pumps!

Richard carried on carefully finishing the signals for the signal gantry – using etches previously prepared by Steve and scratchbuilding the signal post for operation. The ladders are of the more recent variety as seen on the photos of the gantry at Nesquehoning Junction. He used his considerable ecperience of building working British signals to incorporate an (almost) invisible mechanical mechanism to change the position of the upper semaphore. The lower semaphore is fixed as in the prototype. Mike primed and then painted the completed gantry and signal post. More details of the construction of this gantry and signals will be published in the near future but please contact us if you are interested.

Gavin butchered the original backscene buildings which needed to be changed from 1 inch to 4 inch depth. He then skillfully rebuilt them and finally Steve papered them with new photo-printed sheets and sprayed with matt varnish. A crudish finish but they did the job at the back of the layout – for now.

Other scenic work was continued by Mike (who finished the roadways) and Steve to blend the new into the old and to add some trackside detail. Additional telegraph poles were not added until we re-rerected the layout at Stevenage.

Finally, Gavin constructed end panels and applied finshing touches to the paintwork.

Frankly an astonishing piece of work necessitating some 7-day a week working of over 8 hour days to be ready. Check out the photos on the Chiltern Exhibition page to see if you think we got there!

signal gantry – in progress

Last, but by no means least, Richard has been continuing on with the three-track signal gantry which Steve etched and which he started in July 2016!

Moving on from the basic components of the two uprights and the gantry itself, Richard first put in the bracing struts and added the rivet plates to the uprights – both of which were etched separately. The uprights and the gantry were then soldered together and the supporting struts (cosmetic on the model) were added.

The next major stage involved adding the walkway resting on cross supports, top rivet panels and scratch building the handrails to the photos we have of the prototype. Finally the ladder was scratchbuilt and added to the appropriate leg (unusually on this prototype).

Currently (not shown) the signals and operating mechanism themselves are being scratchbuilt. A seperate article will be prepared for the signal bridge and its construction at a later stage.


Lots of scenic work is being carried out. Leading the charge is Mike who has focused most recently on extending the buildings at the town-end of Susquehanna Street back the four inches now available. He has put in all the windows on the last house and is now painting them all. He is also laying the ‘extended’ platform across the first line of track.

Steve has been adding occasional trees to the RH hill and has painted the new back scene. Gareth has been touching up the ballast and planting a fence. Dave rebuilt a plastic fence in brass.

Although not shown, Gavin has been painting fascias and buiding all additional woodwork – in particular the large LH end panel where we will display posters.


To support the new turnout and trackwork, Steve has added Tortoise point motors and new MERG boards – build by Derek jones of Merseyside MRS – to control them. As well as this, all the ‘droppers’ had to be connected and rather than use the old track buses, new, taught ones were added to match the style of the staging yard as well as the other Barrowmore Layouts. Only the inter-board connectors were not changed at this time.


In the week before Christmas and New Year the turnouts and tracklaying were completed by Richard and Mike. Once down only 14 feet of original track remained!  The ‘dropper’ holes (new and old) were filled with tissue paperby Steve to prevent ballast loss and the whole was airbrushed black by Mike.

Gareth (shown) and Steve then painted the sides of the track a rusty brown – avoiding any switch blades. Finally Steve ballasted the track (with help from Gareth) using real sieved coal from his coal scuttle.

December progress

Running up to Christmas we have carried on at great pace to finish the trackwork and scenic work on Mauch Chunk.

Richard has carried on turnout building and, having finished 12 (?) turnouts – many in groups – is now relaying the track on the front to accomodate them. This has produced a pile of old turnouts which have served us well for many years but are not reliable enough for the new exhibition running. Mike is also lending a hand with tracklaying.

Mike has carried on with the smoothing of the roadways, which currently look very smooth – a bit of weathering will make them more realistic.

Gavin has built the new backscene boards using 3mm ply and braced them with 1inch x 1inch timber (not shown). He has also varnished and primed them for Steve to paint.

Steve has carried on with weathering the walls and rockface and then moved on to ballasting the RH end of the layout and adding the rocks on the river edge. Ground cover has also been added to the hillsides with Woodland Scenics coarse and fine scatter in several colours and blends, prior to re-adding the trees.

The late Chris Bennet’s bridge (the earlier girder bridge) has been extended using the same techniques and and pieces to extend over the extra tracks.

storming ahead!

Since my last post, we’ve been storming ahead with getting Mauch Chunk ready for the CMRA show in Stevenage on January 13/14th.

Mike has been getting stuck in with improving the scenery and has done some work on the statue of the unknown soldier, as well as starting to relay all the roadways and extend them onto the new boards.

Steve has been continuing to work on the walls – painting them – and is modifying the ‘river’ bridge extending it to cross the new, increased track witdth.

Richard has been measuring up and re-templotting much of the pointwork and is now building a full replacement set to ensure flawless running. Some or all of this will be relaid before CMRA depending on time available.

Gavin has started to build new backscenes to fit the new, extended scenic section, ready for Steve to paint in the early new year.

Peter, of Big Bear fame, has reworked the software for us to allow operation on 1024×768 screens which will allow us to use ex-‘Point of Sale’ touchscreens if time allows.

Moving ahead again

Having returned from taking Mostyn to the Great Electric Train Show at Gaydon at the start of October and stacking all the boards away, we have now re-erected (most of) Mauch Chunk.

Gavin has completed the curved fascia and mounted the light sockets and connected the mains supply using Wago 3-way connectors. A single ‘Bennet’ upright is enough to support it with one end braced by the adjacent fascia.

The ‘dry riverside’ on the bend has been filled and Steve has also been applying plaster and clay (DAS modelling) to the wall supports at both ends of the layout. The clay was rolled out using a mini-rolling pin. On the RH curve, the rockface was carved using photos of the prototype taken as stills from YouTube videos.