n.e.r. - newood east railway

N.E.R. Genesis

In 1947, at the age of 15, I was heavily into building and flying model aircraft. I belonged to the local model flying club, I was a member of the S.M.A.E.(Society of Model Aeronautical Engineers) and a devout reader of Aeromodeller magazine each month.
During a visit to the local library (Pinner in Middlesex) and whilst looking for a book on aero modeling I found a copy of "Railway Modelling in Miniature" by Edward Beal. Here is my personal copy and as you can see it's been well used!
What a revelation!! Since most of my childhood was spent during W.W.2   I had not been lucky enough to have an "electric railway". The best my father could do was a clockwork Hornby Set. My great friend Stewart Harley had an "O" gauge Electric Hornby set which I was occasionally allowed to see. His older brother guarded it jealously!

The Reverend Edward Beal's book was like a flash of lightening, "you could actually build your own model railway ! Wow!". There were places where you could buy "all the bits and pieces". I even found one in Watford which was fairly close to Pinner and certainly within cycling distance (my only form of transportation at age 15)
A visit to this emporium resulted in a few lengths of grossly oversized N/S bullhead "OO" rail, some precut brass sleepers and a track gauge made of wood (beech I believe). A trip to the local ironmongers provided an electric soldering iron, some solder and a small tin of flux. Our G.P., one Doctor Thompson, taught me how to solder, although in retrospect I'm not sure just what needs to be taught about such a simple process!.
Phyl, my young stepmother, provided my first baseboard, her old wooden ironing board!. The first yard or so of track was kind of so so! As I didn't have a locomotive to run on it there wasn't really much stress placed on my accuracy. I soon realized that this was not the way to go and a visit to Hamblings in Cecil Court soon resolved a lot of my problems. The Hamblings advertisement is actually from another of Ed. Beal's books, "Scale Railway Modelling Today". "Today" was in 1939 so the prices were slightly out of date by 1947, the time of my first visit. I doubt if they had changed that dramatically however. Note the N/S track at 2/3d. per yard (That's 11.5p) Hatton's price in May 2014 is  £2.56 over 22 times the price!
From somewhere I obtained a brass kit for a 57XX pannier, I don't remember the maker (it might have been Jamieson) it had a copper tank piece and lead/brass fittings. Somehow I assembled and painted it, made my own mechanism using brass strip, Romford wheels and axles and a Zenith motor. Boy what a beautiful motor that was. It had a 5 pole armature and a ball thrust bearing at each end. The brushes were carbon and had an equalizing spring to hold them in place. Of course at this time I was working in outside 3rd rail mode. 2 rail seemed to be far too complicated. Eventually the 57XX was converted to 2 rail, but more of that later.
In 1948 my father has despaired of my permanently "scruffy" appearance and said "What you need is a girlfriend my boy!" He was quite right, I did!
I set about setting up a liaison with a young (13 year old) girl who lived just up the road. But I digress, the point is that now I had both a Model Railway and a girlfriend to support and on my 5/- (25p) a week pocket money this was a virtual impossibility.
I left school and got a job in November 1948. I was paid the princely sum of £2 -10 - 0d (£2.50) per week. This enabled me to pay my weekly season ticket to work, buy my lunches, give my mum a donation, take my girlfriend to the pictures at the weekend and spend the rest on the N.E.R.
My job was located in the City (London business area) and there were several Model Railway shops within walking distance for a quick lunch time visit, as well as the possibility of going to Hamblings on the tube (London Underground) during the 1 hour lunch break that we got. This meant missing lunch but it was well worth it. Some shops that I recall were
City Models in Liverpool Street station arcade. Allan Brett Cannon (ABC) in the forecourt of London Bridge station and another one on the corner of Broad Street near Liverpool Street whose name escapes me. Of course there was also the one with the memorable but unpronounceable name, Walkers and Holtzapfel. At this time they were on Baker Street in London. They also
 owned Romford Model Ltd who made the then famous locomotive drivers and the special screwdriver with a slot in it. The ads are from another of Ed Beal's books, New Developments in Railway modelling, published in 1947 the same year as I got "hooked" on model railways.

In April 1950 I was "called up" for National Service in the RAF. This effectively put a temporary hold on my railway modeling activities for the next 2 years. I did some planning while I was stationed in the Middle East including some rather grandiose electrical schemes for automatic signals and train control. I was in the electronics section of the RAF so had access to some excellent "brains" amongst my fellow servicemen. None of these electrical wonders was ever implemented but it kept me busy in my spare time. I still have some of the diagrams but find it difficult to make "head or tail" of them now.

Upon my demob in 1952 I got down to some serious modelling and the pictures above show the N.E.R. circa 1954. By now it had been converted to 2 rail and some scenery was in place. I never did get around to finishing the backdrop as you can see. The concrete block walls of the garage are clearly visible at the left.

The turntable in the foreground was automatic and used a system I designed using a Post Office relay and a very slow motor. The table was locked in position resulting in perfect alignment and could be moved to any road by the press of a button. One day I might draw up the system and publish it but you know how it is, "so much to do - so little time".

The picture at the right shows the terminal station (Newood) In the foreground is a Rivarossi pacific which I fell in love with at ABC and just had to have ! I believe it was £6.00 and ran like a dream. This was the reason for my conversion to 2 rail. The station building was scratch built from card from a set of plans from Hamblings.

In 1955 the "girlfriend" became my wife and my employers saw fit to transfer me to Liverpool, about 200 miles north. The parental garage N.E.R. had to be dismantled, actually demolished is more appropriate. I salvaged most of the track and this was eventually used on a new layout. It consisted of "K's" fibre sleeper bases and the point work was all home made using their brass rivets and soldered N/S rail. The track itself was built using Fleetwood Shaw's method. This consisted of "K's" fibre sleeper strip, countersunk on the back at every 6th rivet hole using a 1/4" drill. A jig was built that held F/B N/S rail upside down at the correct gauge. The sleeper strip was laid on top (actually the bottom) and solder was "dropped" into the countersunk holes creating a sort of "rivet" In order to achieve a good joint a drop of Baker's Soldering Fluid was dropped into each hole before applying the solder. This flux was highly corrosive and if not cleaned off completely eventually resulted in the fibre strip being eaten away. The track was not in any way flexible and required a jig for each radius as well as for straight. Fleetwood Shaw had a huge layout in his loft in Hampstead which used this method and all the track was laid loosely on top of 1/8" foam rubber. This resulted in a very smooth running and quiet layout. I recall that he used Post Office surplus "Uniselectors" to give him a sort of automated Cab Control. I only visited him once in the early 50's but the memory has stayed with me ever since.

We started our married life in the upstairs half of a house in Hoylake on the Wirral Peninsular near Liverpool. The flat had a "spare" bedroom in the front over looking the sea. I built an 8' x 6' sectional layout comprising the usual 2" x 1" PAR softwood frames. Each was "L" shaped 4' long by 3' wide, which when bolted together left a small operating "well" 3' x 5' in the middle.

A small section of the Hoylake layout showing the joint at the 6' end
I have only this small snapshot of this layout but it survived for several years and included a 4 track automatic traverser which worked on a similar principal to the turntable. Eventually my oldest daughter was born and took over the spare bedroom, the layout was transferred to the "back end" of the garage which proved to be extremely cold and damp.
We moved to a brand new bungalow in 1958 but as it only had two bedrooms there was no room for a layout. I eventually negotiated the purchase of a used portable wooden shed that was actually a "chicken house". I lined it with insulation board, but never succeeded in getting rid of the smell of "chicken s**t". Efforts were made to build a new layout in this new home but it never really got off the ground. There were many other calls on my time what with a large brand new garden, a new daughter and a job that required a great deal of travelling.

Now we are in 1962 and we moved back to the Greater London area, back to Pinner, actually. We bought another 2 bed roomed bungalow and a brand new garden shed. My efforts at insulating and heating the shed were never very successful and I turned my attention to the loft. By sheer luck I obtained a large quantity of foil faced insulation board and had enough to line the entire loft. I put down a floor of T & G pine and bought a loft ladder. I ended up with a space about 20' x 12' with a space for reversing loops outside the main room. The layout was a "looped eight" with passing sidings in the reverse loops. A large through station ran diagonally down the centre of the room. Track was again all scratch built as previously. Rolling stock comprised a selection of Kitmaster mainline coaches with a rake of Exley Midland suburbans. I built a Deltic diesel from a Kitmaster plastic kit and motorized it with a Romford flywheel motor bogie. It had a second motor in the body which ran in series with the bogie and would give a degree of "throttle" control. This second motor also made a rather satisfying diesel noise while the loco was stationary. I believe there was some rudimentary circuitry involved but I don't remember what exactly.

The loft at 18 Norman Crescent. (Yes it is me, looking an incredibly young at 32 - Circa 1964)

I learned a serious lesson from this layout, namely that the maintenance and cost of such a large layout is very difficult. Furthermore, despite the insulation, the loft still got extremely hot in the summer and was pretty cold in the winter. Expansion and contraction of the track was a real problem. I did finally get the mainline all laid and running but then came another move. This time to a small townhouse in Carpenders Park. By now my second daughter Carol, had arrived and we needed all three bedrooms for us and the girls. I resorted to the shed again, it moved with us! Again the same old problems of heat and cold. For a time I ran a small mail order business making P/C board sleepers. This proved to be too labour intensive and not very profitable after I'd paid for advertising in the RM. In addition to these distractions I'd now discovered "Am Drams" and was getting very involved with The Rickmansworth Players.

The next several years included a divorce, another move; this time to Radlett in Herts (1970), a second marriage (1975) and finally emigration to Canada, in 1976, where this is being written. During these years there was little or no railway modelling at all !at all !