Saturday, 14 November 2009

GEC Day Out Part 2: Pete Waterman's "Leamington Spa"...

...Welcome back! Following our visit to the "LNWR" Locomotive Works at Crewe (see previous post), we reboarded the coach and set off for Pete Waterman's house. He had to lead the way of course as we hadn't a clue where we were going! On arrival, as heavy rain fell, we were led into Pete's converted barn where, once the lights came on, the layout could be clearly seen on the upper floor. As I made my way up the stairs the true extent of the layout unfolded before my very eyes: it was absolutely massive! Built in 'O' Gauge, the layout is a model of "Leamington Spa" and the surrounding area as it was in the BR era. The overall dimensions, according to Pete, are around 160ft x 85ft!! (Massive!!). Controlled by DCC, each locomotive can be worked independantly from the electric current which is, of course, continuously fed to the track (as is DCC practise). The centrepiece of this massive layout is "Leamington Spa" station itself which is modelled with many platforms. The main tracks which run through the station are from the Great Western Mainline between Birmingham and London. This line runs around the room completely and is always visible. Leaving "Leamington" northbound, trains run around the far end of the room and climb Hatton Bank which includes an 'Up' and a 'Down' line as well as a lengthy loop in which freight trains would be overtaken...
Once Hatton is topped, the trains run through a tunnel into the main fiddle yards which are, as with everything else on the layout, massive! The fiddle yards then continue through into a seperate storage room where extremely lengthy trains can be easily stored. Leaving the fiddle yards on another 'circuit', trains run back through the town centre and across the girder bridges back into the station. Below, an express, heading by a typical 'Western' 4-6-0, storms through the station bound, most likely, for London Paddington via Oxford, Didcot & Reading...
"Leamington Spa" also provides access to the Midland line through Brinklow (we'll mention Brinklow later!). Leaving "Leamington" southbound, the Midland trains cross the girder bridges in the town centre (still under construction) before curving off to the left, whereas the Western line continues straight towards Oxford. In the image below, looking southbound, the 'fork' of tracks can be easily seen. The heavy 40-wagon coal train, most likely bound for industrial Birmingham(!), plods towards the station behind a 2-8-0 'ROD' on the Western line...
The following view looks from the bottom of Hatton Bank, across the barn towards the other end of the room. Hatton Bank can be seen on the right with the tracks climbing towards 'Birmingham' (or in this case the fiddle yards!). On the left side of the room can be seen the site of "Leamington Spa" station...
Now, this is rather special(!): The Midland section of the layout! Leaving "Leamington" northbound, the tracks continue alongside the GWR ones for a little while before these head up Hatton Bank. The Midland tracks then enter this section through the tunnel seen in the image below. However, the Hatton Bank section blocks off easy access to this area to the operator or even the viewer. You have to crawl underneath the boards to access it. Therefore, you could almost say that, in a way, its hidden!... Seen from Brinklow, the northbound trains power up through this section away from the tunnel mouths at the end...
Brinklow station is then passed...
...before trains arrive back at the main fiddle yards(!), meeting back up with their Great Western counterparts. Pete said that any of his 'helpers' who don't like Great Western locomotives can sit around there, operating the station and its signalling, and they never have to see a GWR loco, just LMS ones! Fantastic stuff! The Brinklow trains enter (or leave) through the portal behind the Signalbox whilst Westen trains enter (or leave) through the portal in front of the Signalbox. (So much to remember!)...
Are you wondering what enters through the portal opposite the Super D in the above image? Well...(And Pete showed me this!, by trying to catch me out I might add!)...A train ran around the Midland line via Leamington & Brinklow. Then, on the next lap, I could hear it but could not see it. Following my ears, I looked underneath the baseboards and, low and behold, there was the train! It was running on a single line operating underneath the layout, laid on a sort of 'suspended shelf'. It made its way all the way around underneath the layout before emerging again, after climbing a VERY steep bank, in the fiddle yards! It re-entered through the far portal in the above image. On closer inspection, the line ran through another fiddle yard directly opposite the 'hidden' Brinklow station. Fantastic! Great idea! Finally, I'll just give the locomotives a mention. Pete told me that there is, in total, around 275 locomotives (both steam & diesel) on the layout. (These are mostly GWR, LMS or BR designs). They are all fantastic machines and ran impeccably for us! It must be a difficult job to keep them all in such fantastic condition. This layout really is a fantastic achievement. In fact, words can't even properly describe it! It was just fabulous! Well done to you Mr Waterman and all your helpers who continue to construct and improve "Leamington Spa", its a magnificent achievement! What one has to remember is that everything on the layout is built by the makers. This includes the locomotives, coaches, buildings, scenary, signals...everything! That is a massive task! I mean, I think he said there were over 200 signals on it! And they all work and are interlocked with eachother for safe and smooth operations! Amazing! The signals are a big enough job in themselves! Pete told us that it takes 12 operators to run the layout to its full extent due to the amount of signalling, track changing and fiddle yard operating that needs to be done! Fantastic! It really is a fantastic achivement and I feel privilaged to have visited it, and even Crewe Works as well. After saying our thank you's and goodbyes (i.e. shaking Mr Waterman's hand) we reboarded the coach, in ever falling rain(!), for the homeward journey. It had been a fantastic day. My thanks must go to Pete Waterman, the Crewe works lads, the layout builders, the GEC Model Engineering Society and of course to Kevin who gave me a lift home at the end of the day! What a great day! Thanks alot Pete! I hope you have all enjoyed reading this mammoth two-part post and, as I always say, more posts coming soon! Until then, night all!...

3 comments:

The Apprentice said...

Great report which was enjoyable to read and most informative

Sam Brandist said...

Thanks!

Cyborg Badger said...

This layout has its own website now: https://www.petewatermansleamingtonspa.com/ Don't know if its a recent thing or whether its been up for ages.