The idea behind our very own time machine began as a search for a potential solution to that age-old problem of needing to store more stock than a railway actually needed. Many owners (and especially their domestic partners) will recognise this phenomenon.
So what to do? We decided that it would be very interesting to run trains prototypically from 1956 to 1975 on the existing layout, thus travelling across two decades of actual time without ever needing to spend more than an afternoon, in theory at least, in achieving the feat. That era spans a railway with 20,000 steam engines, some DMUs and unfitted freight trains through to intercity, BR Blue, HSTs, DMUs and modern freight movements.
We worked out that we would need about 160 trains (rakes of coaches or wagons) and 200 locos to traverse this 20 year period effectively. We started the process by knocking all the remaining rooms on the second floor of McKinley Towers into one layout expansion space. At the same time we began exploring nifty storage solutions for all those theoretical trains.
Running trains from different eras highlights all kinds of little problems. We modellers are very forgiving about running locomotives that are somewhere within a +5/-5 year horizon of the stated running date of a layout. If we were going to set ourselves the target of being relatively realistic, we needed to spend some time ensuring that we had enough stock in the appropriate livery to run in year x.
We found out that we had double-chimney steamers that only ran for six months before being scrapped. If we replaced the chimney, we could run it for about five years. We didn’t have enough blue diesels. We didn’t have enough MKII air-conditioned stock. Coach liveries changed at different times to locomotive liveries. Certain diesels, such as Class 40s and 45s, appeared early on in the time span while others, such as Class 50s, appeared much later. We couldn’t run certain kinds of stock because they never came south of Carlisle, which is north of the geographical area we model.
Two things happened which changed the direction of the plan. Firstly the storage system was hitting technical limitations in terms of finding suitable suppliers and, secondly, the finished room where we planned to install the storage system was too beautiful to waste on just storage.
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