Author Archives: Steve Hales

Forthcoming Exhibitions

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

In the new, phase 3, form, Mauch Chunk also has bookings for exhibitions in 2018, 2019 and 2020. More are expected and welcomed.

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

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

Perth – 27th/28th June 2020 – The Dewars Centre, Glover Street, Perth PH2 0TH

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.

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!

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 (cosmetice 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 soldered up and added to the appropriate leg (unusually on this prototype).

Currently (not shown) the signals and operating mechanism themselves are being scrathcbuilt. 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.


…taking a break…

The work on Mauch Chunk has come to a halt for a month or so while we prepare the two other Barrowmore layouts for exhibition. The club has three layouts now and there is only room for one layout to be put up at a time while the others are stacked.

Mauch Chunk should be put up again in mid October so we can get it ready for Chiltern MRA’s exhibition in January 2018. The photos show some of the trees being temporarily planted on the new hillsides for storage, the stack of layout trolleys and miscellaneous pieces and finally the two temporary hillsides that we used at Chatham on their way to the dump.

Meanwhile some work is continuing on sieving coal (for hoppers and ballast), building rolling stock kits and weathering.

Back in October!