Platform Souls

My summer reading is ‘Platform Souls’. First published in 1995 I got my copy quite by chance during one of my many forays into second-hand bookshops. It tells the story of a trainspotter over three decades.

In 1964 the 11 year old Nicholas Whittaker is drawn to trains, starts trainspotting and travels across the country ‘bunking’ into locomotive sheds to get numbers.

Steam was already vanishing and over the next five years Whittaker goes long distances, often alone, to find the last operating steam locos so he can underline them in his copy of the ‘ABC Combine’. For me his descriptions of the last days of steam are the most evocative and enjoyable parts of the book.

Whittaker was open to the rise of diesels. He hunts Warships, Westerns, Hymeks and Deltics while these are in the assendance and then, in their turn, withdrawn from service.

Finally, the book reflects on the rail scene in the mid 1990s, the increasing use of multiple units, the dwindling numbers of locomotives and the decline of the railway as an attraction for ‘spotting’.

It could easily have been a dry tome listing the classes and numbers that the author collected, but Whittaker avoids this. Instead, he gives insights into what attracted him to trains, the characters (good and bad) associated with the railways and how changes to the network reflected the social changes in Britain. It’s all told with a sympathetic, understanding humour that appreciates what it is to love railways and to be British.

The cover suggests that the trainspotter is a 20th Century hero. I’m not sure Whittaker convinces me of that, but the book is a good read.

I couldn’t help wondering what Whittaker would make of the sad state of rail services today. I see that in 2015 an updated version of ‘Platform Souls’ was published. I may try to get a copy…secondhand of course 🙂

How Could I Resist ?

Track laying has started !

I used the mock up to mark the positions of the buildings and point work on the baseboard.

At the moment, I am double checking all of the positioning, clearances and curves to verify that everything will work. So far it’s looking good.

When I’m 100% happy I will start drilling holes for the point motors and wiring, then I’ll start laying the track.  Exciting times.

Mock Up Meets Baseboard

I couldn’t resist building the mock up of the layout on the baseboard. It is exactly as I’d imagined and I’m pleased with that !

I’ve realised that the central scenic part of the layout will occupy less than half of the baseboard area. The remainder will be traversers (on either side) and the invisible interior of the engineering works (along the back of the layout).

I think it’s rather amusing that I’ve built a baseboard and less than half of it will be visible to the viewer 🙂


New Baseboard, New Layout

The woodworking has progressed to the point where I have a new baseboard. Ta, Da.

The scenic part of the layout, the yard of a small engineering works, will occupy the central part of the layout (on the brown central board in the photo below).

There will be two traversers, one on either side. These will be hidden by the buildings. The left hand traverser will represent the line entering and exiting the yard. On the right hand side will be the inside of the engineering works.

The whole baseboard has been built quite quickly (by my standards).

I didn’t spend too much time choosing the materials or designing it to be lightweight. Most materials are what I had to hand. The frame is 20mm (approx. ¾ inch) thick softwood , the grey panels that hold the traversers are melamine faced chipboard, offcuts from our new kitchen cupboards. The baseboard itself is 12mm (approx. ½ inch) thick ply, that I brought specifically for this job. Overall the baseboard is 114cm long by 46cm wide (roughly 45 x 18 inches). Yes, it’s heavier than I’d expected (!) but I’ve built it quickly and I’m moving forward with the layout idea. I think that’s a good compromise.

I’ve never built a traverser before, so I did spent some time thinking how to do that. The traversers run between the edge of the central (scenic) part of the baseboard and the raised edge at the end of the frame. It seems to work, they stay aligned and slide quite well. The real test will be how well they work when they have track and stock on top of them. That’s something for the future…



Update: This Blog is Ad Free

The free blog service from is great. I’ve used it for nearly four years.

When I started there were very few visitors. Over time the numbers have increased and this blog gets around 2000 visits each month. That’s nothing in internet terms, but I’m pleased so many people visit. Thank you all.

As the number of visitors increased WordPress added more adverts. That’s fair enough, they were giving me something for nothing and I’ve been happy with that arrangement. Recently I’ve found the adverts a little distracting and yesterday I brought a WordPress package to remove them.

From now on this blog will be ad free… oh, except for this quaint British Railways poster from 1949 (courtesy of The National Archives).

More Mock Up Madness


Recently I tried a very simple mock up of an idea for a small industrial layout. I liked it and I ordered more building components from LCUT to flesh out the concept in more detail. The extra components have arrived and here they are in place on the mock up.

The idea is to create the yard of a small engineering works. It seems to work…

The more I look at it the more I like it. I’m very tempted to carry on with this !