4mm Model Railway Layout
Inspiration from the NorthEast England Coal Fields
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The background, concept, design, assembly and modelling story in producing this layout.
Not that its finished yet though! I guess like many probably never will be.

Background
This project was started 5yrs ago when I decided talking about layouts and looking at others good work wasn't enough anymore. So I set about reading and researching different types of layout and I tried to find a prototype theme that is under modelled. Hence the decision to model the coal mining industry.

For the next 18 months to 2 years and read several books on coal mine designs, track layouts of loads of North East England coal mines. This helped develop an understanding of how these massive coal mines produced coal and then how the railway delivered the product to their customers. I have lost count of the design iterations that the layout went through, but finally I came to the design I decided to be 'happy' with! Or so I thought. After talking to more experienced modellers and discussing my ideas with them the design changed again! I soon realised that the more people I talked, each and everyone had their own ideas and suggestions as to want they would like to see. It was at his time I was getting eager to start 'making' something.

My thanks need to go to some very special people who donated some historical mining books, these were issued c1910 and latter c1950 encyclopedia volumes for those taking a degree in Coal Mining engineering courses. The information contained within these was invaluable. Designing and building new 'large' coal mines is a thing of the past, currently the UK has only a very small handful of true active mines and new deep mines will probably never been seen again in the UK. So trying to gather live data was impossible, hence historical colliery information was an extremely slow process.

For those that are interested in this research try your local Council GIS website. I was living in Durham at the time I started this project and Durham County Coucil GIS website allows you to view current geographical plans as well as older maps. Durham CC GIS system will show maps from early 1900's with reasonable quality images. Durham GIS Website.

If you would like to read some of the books that helped in my research have a look for Coal Mining Engineering on the usual secondhand book websites. More details of these books can be found in the Research section.

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Concept
Although I have an interest in railways and it's operation, I want there to be more on display in a layout. So when creating the initial layout design there had to be 'other' things going on, cameo's that were interesting to the viewer and brought more to the layout than just a photograph image with trains run through it. I have always been intrigued with models that interacted with people, provoked others to model and had something 'extra' to offer. With this in mind I set about looking at what could be added to my designs.

For added viewing enjoyment, I looked at empty load coal wagons being loaded real time in front of the viewers, moving mine shaft sheaves (large wheels on top of the mine shafts), automated narrow guage mine tubs feeding the washery and sorting system, but initially I want to get the layout up and running. These will be added at a latered date, but the designs and mechanisms are already being tested on some test bench structures. The loading/unloading of the wagons seemed like a simple idea to start with, but after many different system trialed a good working solution has been found that does not compromise the overall affect.

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Design
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Assembly
There are 4 main front of stage baseboards which are 4ft x 2ft, with 6 backstage boards where the fiddle/storage yards are located.

The coloured area is the staged viewing area, there are another 2 boards to be added in the centre to give more depth and scope. This will allow for more colliery structures, additional colliery infrastructure and more cameos to capture the viewers.

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Modelling
There many different elements to the modelling of this layout, everything from ready-to-run pre-assembled items to completely scratch built. Many of the colliery buildings shown in the gallery have been scratch built, using the designs from the many research books and photographs a 3D image to produce individual part templates. The largest structure to build was the No.1 headstack loading/unloading building and winding house. This part was constructed on a single base for ease of storage and transportation, although this layout was started for my own pleasure only I may decided to exhibit later so decided at an early stage to plan for this possibility.

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