The action takes place in Testbedford, the county town of Testbedfordshire (Testbeds.) a Rutland-sized county (which disappeared under the 1974 reorganisation) nestled between Cheshire and Derbyshire, equidistant from those hothouses of LMS engineering Crewe and Derby. The year is the fatal one of 1947, the last year of existence for the Big Four.
Testbedford had a small works which was an important adjunct to the company's mechanical engineering operation. Boasting an LMS laboratory engaged in fundamental research, it was an ideal site to shed various prototype engines, diagrammed on trains to and from Crewe or Derby with the dynamometer car in tow, a place at least where they could limp in and be relieved by more standard motive power.
LMS experimental locomotive policy under Stanier and his successors was both innovative and pragmatic. It is an interesting coincidence that both the LMS and LNER gave the number 10000 to an experimental locomotive. The LNER's 10000, Gresley's 4-8-4 "Hush-Hush", was an untested new boiler design that turned out to be impractical and costly. The LMS, by contrast, gave the number to the first Co-Co diesel-electric to run on British rails, a far-sighted decision for a wheel arrangement and traction type that became the mainstay of British railways into the 1970s and 80s. The LMS 10000 specifically was the direct ancestor of the English Electric class 40 and an engine with the same wheel arrangement, the 37, a standard goods loco of which 308 were built under British Rail.
LMS No 10000, bashed from its descendant, a Triang Cl37.
Although Stanier's Turbomotive 6202 was a one-off like "Hush-Hush", she was a practical and working design. Surviving considerably longer, she was sufficiently available to put in 300,000 miles of revenue service as the only steam-turbine locomotive in Britain between 1937 and 1949.
LMS No 6202, bashed from two Triang Princess 7Ps. One in 1976, the other in 2003.
The English Electric 0-6-0 diesel shunter however, first tested on LMS lines under the watchful eye of Stanier in 1935, turned out to be the ancestor of the humble "gronk" or class 08, British Rail's most prolific loco ever with 945 of them running at the peak of their popularity in the 1970s. There is no more eloquent testimony to the ruggedness and versatility of the 37 and 08 than that even in the present decimated state of the railways, there are still many of both classes in active service. Engineering virtues championed by Stanier, then, still survive in the real world.
If only the same could be said of Testbedford! Now there is an Asda where the goods yard used to be, a huge Tesco on the site of the old Works, and the town's high street has been gutted with a shopping centre. The EMUs which take its commuters to Manchester and Derby have no need of shedding there, while the Merit Man on the Phone has been liberated from his red phone box and can be placed anywhere on the layout.
Testbedford town - still a lot to be built.
The 4' by 6' layout is an oval to enable continuous running, but all signs of the oval are hidden by scenery to maintain the trompe l'oeil that the double track main line merely clears the station and swerves right sharply into a tunnel. The centre of the oval is filled with three sets of sidings - bay platforms, goods yard and loco sheds - to provide operational variety. Three locos can be operated concurrently.
Overview of the layout: Look very carefully to spot the Coronation 8P, yet-to-be-reliveried gronk,
L&Y Aspinall Pug and battery-powered pseudo-German monstrosity on the turntable.
Tracks in the scenery are connected to provide for a variety of roads in and out of the station and alternating trains. Control is presently 12v DC relying on points as isolators, although DCC is desirable. Two of the throttles were built from scratch with components on vero board, circuit diagram here. Trackwork is Hornby 3rd Radius (normal 2nd radius points) and Mehano's 2 1/2 radius for the inside curves, and Hornby/Mehano straights, nailed on to mottled grey corrugated cardboard. Scenery and buildings are a mixture of proprietary and home-made. The sheep farm and cottage below were downloaded from the Internet and printed out. The engine shed is self-designed.
Thanks very much to Khun Kittiyudh for these photos. More are available HERE
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