Roweham 2018

GWR Logo on Roweham

Once again this year, my friend Brian Dickey exhibited his 7mm (British O scale / 1:43) layout “Roweham” at a train show hosted by the Burlington (Ontario) Model Railway Club. And it’s a measure of the man that for a four-turnout layout, he had four friends come out to help.

John, Brian, Me ready for the punters
(John, Brian and me looking splendid in our white shirts and waistcoats. I normally don’t wear train-boy apparel – but I make an exception for the always stylish Brian. Note the clip-on ‘safety ties’: John has obviously lost his in an incident but he seems okay with that…)

John Mellow, Pierre Oliver, Ross Oddi and I spent a most enjoyable day running several month’s worth of passenger and goods traffic to this branch line terminal. As always, the three-link couplings were a special treat that slowed operations and forced us to think about what we were doing in ways that semi-automatic couplers such as Kadees do not. Brian is constantly adding details and equipment to the layout, and it was nice to see his progress over the past year, too.

Here’s a sampling of photos from the day…

Brian - auto train
(Brian has an auto train in hand)

John and Pierre at Roweham
(John shunts cattle wagons while Pierre looks on)

Me working Roweham
(I’m working a goods train at Roweham, while Brian prepares the next train up line)

Auto train

Auto train

Auto train
(Three views of the passenger train – a 14xx 0-4-2T sandwiched between two auto trailers. This is the first time we’ve run the passenger train in this configuration)

2-6-2T and goods train
(A 2-6-2 tank engine arrives with a short goods train)

Cattle wagon
(A cattle wagon heads up a string of goods stock)

GWR Toad
(A GWR Toad – brake van)

(The crane in the goods yard, as seen from the rear. This shot was taken after we removed the backdrop while packing up)

Fire buckets
(The fire buckets are a recent addition to the platform. This shot was taken as we were striking the layout at the end of the day – looking through the space normally occupied by the station)

It was great to see so many friends at the show, too. Some had made a trek that would’ve been more than an hour in nice weather – and I hate to think how long in the snow that fell all day. Thanks for coming out, guys – very much appreciated! I was thinking of you as I cleared snow off my truck for the trip home…

FJ Cruiser in the snow

Brian’s next show is Copetown, in just a couple of weeks. I can’t make that one, but I will join the team again in April for the Great British Train Show in Brampton. Maybe I’ll see you there!

8 thoughts on “Roweham 2018

    • Hey – we’re learning! But you raise an interesting point…

      I’ve actually found it really difficult to find information about prototype operating practices in the UK. It seems there’s no easy equivalent of the many North American articles and books on realistic operation. Even learning things like when to use a whistle (or a gong on the auto trailers) is elusive.

      By contrast, almost everyone I know who is a prototype modeller can tell me that two whistles means moving forward, three means backing up, and one means the locomotive has stopped and it’s safe for ground crews to interact with the train – for instance, to couple up air hoses.

      Brian does insist that Roweham is a one-train-at-a-time branch – with a token or staff system. Does that make it any better?

      • When to whistle is easy in this case, as this is (former) Great Western territory, so no new movement will take place without a quick peep. For most if not everything on such a small terminus, that might well be all that happens as everything is fairly straightforward. In busier locations, they might have whistle codes for various routes, but at somewhere like Roweham, the guard/shunter/goods porter (not all one person, although two of the roles might be covered by one person) might well be standing close enough to the signal cabin to provide simple hand signals to indicate whence the points should be set, so no fancy whistle codes. That said, never underestimate the power of local practice for undermining what was supposed to have happened…

        As for the catch points, well, that’s what they are there for: to catch any stock rolling out of the loop onto the main line. They would operate in unison with the points for access from the main to the loop, so that returning the points to their “normal” position would automatically protect the main. This is required even when shunting. A fundamental paranoia on British railways was of loose stock running onto main running lines, especially where passenger trains run. As with North American operating practices, once you understand the fundamental mindset, the rules become more understandable. There should be some form of trap on the goods siding, but this might be as simple as “scotch block”, a piece of wood – say part of an old sleeper – hinged so that it can be taken out of the way when access is required, and which would be locked (padlock) when not required, with the key held by the signaller. Unusual but not unknown, but particularly rare on the GWR.

        In the U.K., all trains have a classification code, beginning with a class or train running from 1 to 0 (for ten) which are used to identify the train, but also to help signallers in their signal boxes to regulate trains. The precise meaning has changed over the years, but the lower the number, the greater the importance of the train – a stopping passenger train (2) would not be allowed to delay an express passenger train (1), for example. A breakdown train going to assist a train in trouble would be classed as a 1, for example. In terms of Roweham, there would probably only be two classes of train: 2, for Branch passenger, and 9, for the daily pickup goods (wayfreight). On most railways (but not the Southern and some urban districts) the headlamps were used to indicate the class. A single lamp on the smokebox/bunker top for class 2, a single lamp over the left hand (looking forward) buffer for the goods train.

        The other thing to remember is that absolute block rules, at least on passenger-carrying lines, and for some branchlines this meant “one engine (or engines coupled together) in steam”. I.e. once a train is on the branch, nothing else can can enter. Outside of the single track branchlines, trains will be driven according to the dictates of the signaller. The class, direction etc of the train is not used by the train crew to determine if they have the “right” to enter a section: that’s not their job. Their job is to drive according to the signals – and if the signals indicate the wrong route has been set, then the signal is telling them that they cannot proceed on their route, so they should stop and contact the “bobby in the box” (railway signallers took over from the early railway policemen who regulated trains on a time interval system).

        Obviously, it gets more complicated than this, but essentially you can have as many trains/engines as you can physically cope with under the control of a signaller (or more than one in busy places) within “station limits”, but the sections between signal boxes are absolute and to be occupied by a single train at a time. The interlocking between signals, points, crossing gates, point locks and indeed the block instruments between signal boxes also means that once a route has been set and the train accepted by the destination box, and the signals cleared, the main/signalled route is locked in an no movements can take place that would foul that route. Sometimes – and more often on branchlines – the first stop signal for the station limits might remain at danger until the train was near, or in the case of goods trains, brought to a complete stop. The lack of driver-controlled continuous brakes meant that when approaching terminals, the signaller needed to be convinced that the driver had the train fully under control before allowing it to continue. In practice, knowing how potentially dangerous it can be to stop and then start a loose coupled goods train, many signallers would “drop the board” as the engine approached it, if the train was under control.

        As an aside, this is an example of where “working to rule” was effective industrial action. Train drivers and firemen had their own union, different to the bobbies, and if the latter was working to rule, he would not drop the signal on approach, engaging the engine crew in more work, and requiring more time.

        Hope that helps, and whets your appetite!40

  1. Looks amazing – very inspiring. I meant to make it to Burlington but had just made a hair-raising trip to Hamilton the night before and couldn’t face it again! Will be out of town for Copetown but will definitely be at the British show, always good!

  2. What GREAT modeling! Very neat and clean looking.(your dapper looks adds to it). I’ve always had a liking for British railroading. Is the track hand laid or flex track?
    Thanks for posting, cheers, Gord

  3. Hello Trevor,
    Great post sir and I’m really enjoying Brian’s modules, tidy and clean is how I’d describe his set-up. Trevor, I met you once at the New England RPM meet in Connecticut a few years back and I took and still admire many photos of your trains. Perhaps you could help me out as I’m looking for a backdrop in similar style to Brian’s. His is very muted and in my opinion what one should be… subtle, not bold or distracting as most are. Almost like there is a filter over it. I’m modeling Maine in On30 (sort of simulating 2 footers) and I’ll need to take that region’s landscape into account too. I’ve not been able to find your email or Brian’s email to ask him directly where I might find a similar backdrop and additionally any build blog if one exists. Any help would be appreciated.
    Kindest regards,

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