The Uckfield Exhibition always has a good standard of layouts, and this year I was particularly keen to see Crumley and Little Wickhill, the 009 layout of the Hull Miniature Railway Society. I've seen it in print and online, so it was great to see it for real. If you've not come across it before, it depicts a narrow gauge railway in the Pennines as it runs up the side of a valley, then reverses and climbs up the other side. The layout is a huge triangle with viewing from the two short sides, looking down and up the valley.
The layout is a fantastic example of a railway in a landscape, and gives the viewer the impression of looking down the dale from a nearby hill! The scenery is spot-on and instantly recognisable as Northern Britain, with desolate hills and green valley, rocky streams and stone built walls and barns. The layout is worked properly too, in the above picture the train is approaching Crumley (left) from Little Wickhill (just about visible in the far distance). Trains appear to go places, and while there are two stations, and sometimes three trains on the layout, it does not appear crowded or contrived.
Trains reverse at Little Wickhill as the line climbs the valley. Here the train on the left is held at the signal while descending into the station, while that in the distance has left the station and passes the cleared signal on it's way to Crumley. The layout owes as much to theatre as model railways, presented with black surrounds and curtains to shut out the background and control the viewing angles, and effective lighting to present the scene.
Looking down the valley to Crumley - and making use of the telephoto lens on my camera (not often needed for model railways!) trains can be seen passing at Crumley. On the left is the loco shed, one of the small tram locos will take over the down train for the tramway section, while the large tender loco will wait to take over the next train for the steep gradients up the valley.
There were other layouts too! This is Stoating Bank by Oly Turner, a very simple, compact, but unusual 00 layout set on a National Coal Board private line. It features a simple junction of two lines on opposing gradients, with a couple of sidings, various industrial and ex-BR locos appear and disappear with the occasional wagon. However the scenic setting - of a cold winter's day, with a light dusting of snow and frost, and accentuated by cold, dull lighting - really gives it extra character. Why don't we see more winter layouts? And not just Christmas-card deep snow!
Another layout with stunning scenery was Totnes, in 2mm scale, by John Birkett-Smith. This model used the full potential of the scale to model the whole of Totnes station (GWR) and the surrounding town, river, and even the castle. More amazingly it was done to a level of detail that few manage in 4mm scale! It was a shame it was hard to see the details towards the middle and rear of the layout, and there weren't many trains running when I saw it, but it is still one of those layouts that makes you go ... Wow!
So that's just three layouts, I could go on more ... but if you are interested, here's a link to the best of my pictures. Once again a great show with some inspiring scenic layouts!