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West Suffolk Junction

70573 Views 420 Replies 34 Participants Last post by  Greyvoices
I was born in 1950 in Bury St Edmunds. That says it all really. By using the resources available on the web I have discovered that I was born on a Sunday but other than a parent induced few years attendance at the Plymouth Bethren Sunday School the significance of the day of my birth seems to have had no lasting effect. (Goodness me, this is starting out like Lawrence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy).

Let me start again. I have chosen to model a GER location circa 1950 because I was born in West Suffolk in that year. That's better. The catalyst for this was a hopeless case of homesickness following a few years living and working in mainland Europe. (I described this in an earlier thread within the 00 forum, "A return to UK modelling", so I will not bore you with a rehash of all that waffle. David the moderator suggested I move ramblings to this forum). I first thought of modelling Bury St Edmunds but when I dimensioned it for 4mm I soon became aware that to do it justice I would need a room 60 feet long. I can imagine that there may be the odd one or two reading this who will think, "why not N gauge? Such thoughts should be nipped in the bud as 2mm has never appealed to me; it just does not look right. Anyway, there is more chance of Stephen Hawkins threading cotton through the eye of a needle than yours truly usefully employing his 10 thumbs in the pursuit of 2mm modelling excellence. It has to be 4mm because that's what I started out with as a nipper in the fifties, it's a scale still small enough to conceal modelling imperfections, especially if you squint a bit, plus I am just able to place the models on the track within a reasonable timespan. What of 7mm? Too big, too expensive and shoddy modelling skills all too apparent.

So, the lack of 60' to play with and a complete inability to accept compromises that would enable a 4mm version of BSE, complete with 31E and the must have bridge over Fornham Road plus the cannot do without Thetford and Sudbury branch junctions has led me to the conclusion that I must find another location to model. I think it best that the quest to find the right location should be the subject of a separate post so I'll leave that subject for later. My researches have proved to be most enjoyable, the armchair modelling phase being a pure delight not least because you always have one hand free to hold a beer glass.

Even though, for a time, I was unsure what my model would depict I was determined that it would be somewhere in West Suffolk. This knowledge allowed me to make a start on the locomotive and rolling stock fleet. This process commenced whilst I still lived in Germany where I was fully employed and properly remunerated. Being then in my late fifties I could well imagine the not far off time when my income would be severely depleted and my faculties somewhat dimmed. I therefore started to collect the minimum core fleet that would be needed for a true representation of 1950 West Suffolk. This is another "subject for later" as there is much to tell. In the meantime I thought that you might appreciate a glimpse of the pride of the fleet:

GER E4 62783 built for me by John Houlden. An Alan Gibson kit fitted with a DCC chip.

There are so many other elements involved in this tale that I wish to write about. Perhaps that is the intrinsic charm of railway modelling, this multi discipline pastime that can become so important in one's life. I believe that it is this complexity that keeps it fresh in your mind. If you weary of detailing yet another coal wagon you can be revitalised by contemplation of the next trackwork installation or avid study of your bookshelves or the internet to get an accurate composition of the 07:52 all stations stopper to Cambridge. There is also the problem of where can I put my layout? I did a lot of research on this question, bought books on the subject, scoured magazines etc. and the conclusion I came to was that our house in the UK (which we hung onto whilst we were abroad) was just not good enough. I managed to convince my wife that when we returned to the UK we had to move. After much negotiation this has happened, the principal requirements being a decent kitchen and an integral garage that could be converted into a railway room (you can guess which was my wife's stipulation. Sexist? Me?). This has now been acheived, a house found and moved into that we both like, kitchen extended as per without which, "you can forget it buster", garage door removed, replaced with windows and a door punched through into the house plus a radiator plumbed in so that it is nice and snug. Now all that remains is for the detritus of 63 years to be cleared away from the garage and the walls and floor suitably finished off:

That's approximately 20' by 9'. Not quite the 60' that I dreamed of but certainly useful enough. Unfortunately a lot of the clutter is boxes full of models and I am going through a process involving selling what is surplus, donating what I deem still worth something and possible benefit to good causes and taking erstwhile prize possessions that time has deemed worthless to the tip. I will soon be able to start on the shoulder height baseboards upon which West Suffolk Junction will rest. More on this anon.

I think that is enough for the first post. I will appreciate comments, suggestions, criticism if gently put and kindly in intention plus of course, bucketfulls of encouragement.

Best regards ................ Greyvoices (alias John)
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Hi John.

What a brilliant new thread and initial post, I really enjoyed reading the background to where you are now and the stage you currently find yourself in. I am also suitably impressed with the fact you have moved house to accommodate a new train room....give that man a medal

You certainly have an excellent blank canvas to now build from (once said boxes are removed) and I shall follow your progress with great interest.

Thanks again
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Hello again John,

First things first, a belated many happy returns for yesterday; 21 again & again & .............. ! Anyway hope you had a good one.

Good to see you have taken the plunge into the layout thread, sure you will both derive & provide much enjoyment, whilst building your layout. Like the look of the "space" looks like it has lots of capacity, but seriously like what you have already got in place in terms of heating & daylight from the previous garage door to now large area glazing / window; also the internal link to the drinks / food supply, I mean kitchen of course; the main reason for the move eh lol !!!!!!

That loco looks fantastic no wonder its the pride of the fleet, hurry up &unbox the other members of said fleet & get the camera running.

Anyway, look forward to now seeing the layout progress, & of course to the copious tales along the way, a number of future installments of which you have already eluded to in your intro. Great stuff & good luck + keep the updates & pics (* now you have mastered the technology) flowing,


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QUOTE (Greyvoices @ 9 Jan 2013, 15:35) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>...I first thought of modelling Bury St Edmunds but when I dimensioned it for 4mm I soon became aware that to do it justice I would need a room 60 feet long. ... So, the lack of 60' to play with and a complete inability to accept compromises that would enable a 4mm version of BSE, complete with 31E and the must have bridge over Fornham Road plus the cannot do without Thetford and Sudbury branch junctions has led me to the conclusion that I must find another location to model...
The usual problem, even a fairly modest location simply sprawls across the landscape. Sometimes you look at the land area reputedly cash starved promoting companies sparsely installed a very 'strung out' station over, and really wonder about what was going through the minds of those involved. Surely on a modest country branch a single line with a parallel platform and a siding behind it with a combined building for goods and passenger: overall perhaps 50 yards width at maximum, and 200 yards over station limits, would have been enough? Apparently not, from the evidence on the ground.

Nonetheless, I feel you have the space to model the functional parts of BSE if you will compromise on the orientation. Station on one long wall and 'round the bend', and the junctions on the other long wall in essence. Write yourself an alternative history: a promoter other than the actual one that built the line obtained his Act of Parliament for a route on a significantly different orientation, accounting for the curvature; or some other such variant?
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Thank you for your posts Ian, Norm and 34c.

I would like to take up points that were raised by 34c (or should I call you Hatfield?); I did consider the option of wrapping Bury St Edmunds around the room but somehow the idea never quite got my juices running (for those of you so blessed please isolate your graphic memory function immediately). I even considered an exhibition layout that would gradually evolve to tell the whole story but considering it took a whole club of individuals in Ely to create a small country station (Thurston - what a brilliant layout) what chance would I have on my todd. (or should that be with one d). No I had to find another solution.

Inspiration came via that most wonderful of books, East Anglia's First Railways by Hugh Moffat, published in 1987. I had read about all the competing railway proposals in the early 1840's but until I came across this book did not understood the sheer complexity of ideas and schemes that were vying for parliamentary approval and investment funds. It eventually boiled down to who had the most clout, the deepest pockets and the brass neck to ensure that it was their plan that was the eventual winner. I think that many modern politicians and financiers would feel very at home in the speculative swamp of the 1840's. The only unchangeable in a very changeable world is human nature. Within this beautifully put together book are many maps and diagrams and I've made a copy of a couple of them so that you might have a better idea where I am going with this:

I have simplified it somewhat as there were other proposals in the intermediate years that I have excluded

I have a sneaking feeling that my map may upload a bit on the small side. If that's the case I will try again.

The gist of all this is that the geography of West Suffolk railways could oh so easily have been very different, in fact, if the Ipswich faction had not won the day the Norwich - London route would have passed through Bury St Edmunds via either a direct line to Colchester or via Stansted. Both these lines would have made the route between Thetford and Bury St Edmunds into a far more substantial affair and this had a certain attraction for me. I further imagined the Cambridge - Mildenhall route being extended to a point on the Thetford - Bury line around Barnham (as was originally proposed by the GER following flooding on the more northerly route at Lakenheath).

So there we have it, I have decided to model a might have been location, that was half built with the other half only getting as far as the parliamentary approval stage. That's good enough for me. It's located in West Suffolk, it's not a complete figment of my deranged imagination and, (a very important and) it is possible to do it justice in my railway room (nee garage). West Suffolk Junction has gained spouse approval, has a tentative track plan (more on that anon) and just requires the contractors to complete the initial clearance work.
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Hello John and welcome to the forum. Reading through your tales of Bury St Edmunds and deepest Suffolk Bought back some memories when I was stationed at RAF Honnington from 1974 to 1977
(Royal naval sqdn 809). Even though I had no interest in railways during those years I cannot recall seeing any lines in the area. My fondest memory of Bury was 50 odd sailors try to get into the smallest pub in England (at that time) for charity and a free beer of course.
So best of luck with your build and I shall follow your thread with interest.
Regards Mike
Encouraging noises from me too John, as somebody who lives a few miles from East Suffolk Junction I will watch with interest how you get on.
Mike, if you had been based in Honnington in the early fifties you could have strolled from the camp to Severn Hills halt to get to Bury and the Nutshell public house. Unfortunately passenger services ceased in, I think, 1953 so I cannot remember them. what I can recall is that the track stayed in situ for many years and I spent many happy hours playing in the cutting a mile or two north of Bury. It was also a convenient escape route when caught scrumping in an adjacent orchard. Nowadays we would be branded hooligans and placed on ASBO's and the like. In the fifties we were just called boys with high spirits, which in Suffolkese would have made me a hellwhoop. Come to think of it, I've not stolen an apple for over fifty years.

Sorry about that, now where was I. Ah yes, Mike being based at Honnington. Another railway location about 3 miles from the airfield was the WW1 sidings complex that was laid in the grounds of Elvedon Estate. This was the location chosen for the very first Tank Corp training ground, the tank only just having been invented and the first few built in Yorkshire. A group of soldiers were mustered and billeted in tents. Soon the tanks started to arrive, by rail to Barnham and thence by road, along the A11, into the estate grounds where training would commence. The tanks did so much damage to the road and were so visible during the road transit phase that it was decided to lay a line right into the training area, leaving the Thetford - Bury railway somewhere near Severn Hills Halt, a south facing junction. Once both tanks and men were familiarised they would be sent, initially by rail from the new railhead, off to the hell that was the front line. That was the start of the Tank corp. What an incredible sight this must have been, perhaps a March J15 taking over a train of GN or NER Warflats (or whatever they called them back then) and hauling them to Thetford then on to the Bury branch. I imagine this routing because it would then be easy to set the train back into the spur without any reversals. The outward routing I can imagine would have been via Bury yard. I had no idea about any of this before I came across an article in a Great Eastern Railway Society Journal. I bought their compilation DVD containing digitised issues Nos 1 to 140. What a fantastic resource. I have one of those new fangled tablet thingys and it is a real joy to sit in a train, able to swish my fingers and bring up whatever takes my fancy from this fascinating collection of articles, diagrams, maps and photographs. Possibly the best investment of £25 I have ever made, if I exclude the cost of my honeymoon.

I just tried to copy in a google maps page of Honnington and thie southern area of the Breckland. I failed but if you are interested have a search for it yourselves.

Best regards ............. Greyvoices (alias John)
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Ah Gavin, blast me if you hent seen right through my innate but friendly East Suffolk/West Suffolk rivalry.
Whatever the history you decide to embed it into, the choice of Bury St Edmunds station could not in my view be bettered. It is one of the most inventive C19 station compositions architecturally in the UK, you should look it up in Gordon Biddles 'Britain's Historic Railway Buildings'.
Sancton Wood was the architect who also did the fine Heuston station in Dublin - the one you travel from to Tralee and the west.
Bury originally had 4 tracks and platform faces and an overall roof until 1893. It would be good to see your beautiful E4 glide in and out of that in stately fashion.

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QUOTE (Greyvoices @ 10 Jan 2013, 19:24) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>...or should I call you Hatfield...
John, I will definitely answer to that! Happily for me a main line junction station and inner sub service terminus and loco shed that will fit inside my 30 foot space with minimal compression. And it has some GER content too, Swedey Mets, Buckjumper, Little Goods and more can all be seen in BR operation. It is actually a loco fantasists playground, with getting on for 60 classes appearing during the 'end of steam' years. Even a Parker N5...
QUOTE ...until I came across this book did not understood the sheer complexity of ideas and schemes that were vying for parliamentary approval and investment funds. It eventually boiled down to who had the most clout, the deepest pockets and the brass neck to ensure that it was their plan that was the eventual winner...
You left out one final necessary characteristic: greatest physical endurance. The Great Northern got the preamble to its bill 'proved' (that is ready to advance to being read before both Houses of Parliament to be passed into law) after seventy days of continuous committee hearings in undersized and unventilated rooms. The Commons committee clerk responsible was a Mr Mitchell, who said many years later that the smell of that committee room would never be effaced from his memory. (This was the greatest single railway bill ever passed up to that time, and met concerted opposition by the LNWR and Midland interests acting in consort as wishing to retain their monopoly on routes to the north of the UK.)

QUOTE ...a train of GN or NER Warflats (or whatever they called them back then ...
This you should like. A wagon was built for the very purpose, titled 'Rectank', later Rectank 'A' in LNER ownership. The LNER liked the design so well that a variant 'Rectank B' was subsequently constructed. ABS made - and perhaps still offer - a very good whitemetal kit; I have one made up years ago in its bogie bolster form, which was how they did most of their peacetime service.

The first demonstrations of tanks for official approval were conducted conveniently close to London, on the Hatfield estate of the Cecil family. As a boy with many others, we scrambled in and out of the trenches and craters and over parapets in some waste ground adjacent the Commons plantation, near Burnside farm: completely unaware that this had been the proving ground. Hertfordshire clag with poor drainage replicating the awful conditions of the western front extremely competently. Now all obliterated under the Mill Green golf course...
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You are right LF&T, Bury St Edmunds station is an absolute gem. Strangely it seems to be a seldom photographed location with very few pictures available from the earlier years. It is a pity that the overall roof is not better documented because it must have been an interesting place back then. It seems to have been a twin roofed structure sharing common supports between the middle tracks. The centre "through" tracks were used for making up trains and by the 1950's the middle road adjacent to the platform 1 track was used for stabling carriages. A man was employed to wash the carriages with a long handled brush. I remember this very well because in 1957 I was in hospital having my tonsils out and the carriage washer was also a patient on the same ward. I have never forgotten what he wrote in my autograph book:

She stoops to pick a rose
A rose so sweet and tender
She stooped a little further
Then bang went her suspender

How appropriate for a boy of seven. I saw him back washing carriages a few weeks later so the West Suffolk General must have sorted out whatever it was that ailed him. I imagine that there had been a man just like him, scrubbing away at dirty carriage windows for all the preceding 111 years since the opening in 1846. His job must have disappeared around 1959 when 31E closed and all local passenger workings went over to diesel or were covered by Ipswich and Cambridge.

In 2008 I contacted some well known names in the model building world and asked them to quote me for a 4mm version of BSE station. Nobody gave me a price, all stating that they were booked solid for years to come. I know where you are coming from LF&T but if I was to start on a model of BSE then the station buildings would have to be to a professional standard, something my ten thumbs and impatient temperament could never achieve. I will have to leave BSE for somebody else to take on. Pity though as I would have been sorely tempted to put the clock back to 1890 and model that roof.

Once again I must refer anyone who wants to know more about this area, and BSE station in particular, to the Great Eastern Railway Society Journals DVD for the most comprehensive article that I have found. No, wait, how could I have forgotten to mention that very special work, " Great Eastern Engine Sheds", by Hawkins & Reeve. More specifically volume 2. If I were the castaway on Desert Island Discs I would choose Volumes 1 & 2, suitably bound together, to be my chosen book.

Best regards ........... Greyvoices (alias John)
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I enjoyed reading your very interesting comments which sent me straight to my bookshelves to hunt down a RECTANK.

As usual discussing these matters brings to mind some of my own personal experiences which I hope nobody minds me sharing. I know that I waffle but. as Descartes famously said, "I think therefore I waffle". (Would you believe that I studied literature and philosophy at university?)

Many years ago we had a bit of a problem with the loading of loose concrete sleepers on Salmon or Sturgeon wagons. The means of securing the sleepers was changed and it became difficult to stop them moving laterally if the running became, shall we say, lively. An incident occurred between Diss and Norwich with a couple of sleepers being out of gauge and grazing along the side of a contra running train. An enquiry was scheduled but we had to move fast to prevent any repeat of this potentially life threatening problem so I called for the assistance of a regional loads inspector. These inspectors were very senior men, thinly spread across BR, perhaps only half a dozen of them. After a couple of days working with the inspector making sure that the correct procedures for loading these wagons were in place and understood by relevant staff we decided to have a drink before he journeyed back to his own region. We were sat in a pub opposite Liverpool St. chatting about this and that and one of his tales concerned the loading of tanks onto warflats. He recounted how a long train was shunted up to the loading ramp, the tanks having to be driven right along the train to load up. Gradually, the train started to fill up, the loads inspector ensuring that the tanks were centrally placed on each wagon to keep them within gauge. All went well until one cocky tank driver drove recklessly onto the wagons and, ignoring all hand signals placed his tank with tracks overhanging out of gauge on one side. The loads inspector asked him to restart and square up the tank but the driver refused. The inspector had a word with a sergeant standing on the blind side of the train, away from the tank driver. The sergeant, so enraged that an inferior could be so cavalier and insolent scambled over the train accosted the driver and, not getting a reply to his liking promptly gave him a swinging right hook to the jaw. Eventually, when the tank driver was revived, he was only too willing to do as the inspector asked. I can see the loads inspector in my minds eye, shaking his head and lamenting the fact that we could not use a similar form of discipline on recalcitrant railway staff.

I think that's enough for now; my other warflat story can wait for another day. In the meantime here is a photo of my former East German layout, complete with a DR version of a Warflat but this time loaded with Trabants:

This is how they loaded these luxury East German vehicles, side by side. I hope that the chap who loaded that leading green Trabi did not suffer the same fate as the tank driver.

Best regards .......... Greyvoices (alias John)
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Hi again John,

Another number of very enjoyable reads there many thanks. Did like the tank driver one in particular !

It sounds like your plan is moving on, it also sounds like quite a challenge, have to agree the sounds of the old BSE station with the double vaulted spanning arched roof,would make a fantastic centre piece to any modell railway,but also would be a full project in itself. There are some very nice layouts on the forum, with large spanning roofs, including of course the wonderful Hannem Central, by the late Capt Jango. Which is a thread, that if you have not spent a day or two looking through I have a feeling you would enjoy.

Good luck in developing your next stage of the plan / layout & keep the posts flowing, Cheers,


QUOTE I know that I waffle but. as Descartes famously said, "I think therefore I waffle". (Would you believe that I studied literature and philosophy at university?)
Yup! . . .

Like the Layout thinking ....

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At last, something positive to report after all those anecdotes. Over the weekend I was re-acquainted with my East German layout which I parted with nigh on 8 years ago. It was stuffed, unused in the back of a shed so I thought that it would be better if it came home for refurbishment. You saw a glimpse of it a couple of posts ago but now it is a little bit bashed about though some kind soul has upgraded the under baseboard wiring so now it is for DCC operation, which I take to mean that everything is live. The scenic section is 9' long.

I have foolishly promised to have it ready for a show in June with all the overhead wires re-instated (I like doing that) and a possible extension board to turn what is a terminus into a through running station (fiddle yard - station - fiddle yard or through to another layout). I will be doing this whilst finishing off the walls and floor of the workroom (ex-garage) and making a start on West Suffolk Junction. Seems a bit of a tall order but at least I do now have somewhere to test my GER/LNER/BR rolling stock and the various DCC conversions that this entails.

So, on Saturday morning the workroom looked like this:

but by Sunday evening it looked like this:

I still have to level it, join it up, get the electrics plugged in and running etc.. West Suffolk Junction will run a couple or so feet above this and circulate the room. I am feeling a bit pleased with myself because from losing my enthusiasm for all things continental in 2008, the move back to the UK and the search for a house with space enough for my modelling activities has resulted in a realisation that I now have the capability, or should that be the capacity, to have an interest in both H0 and 00. The benefit in a resumption of my East German modelling is that I can keep in touch with my old group of continental modelling chums (or more accurately, group of old chums). Chatting with them on Saturday was delightful.

This week my wife and I are going to the funeral of an ex railway colleague who has left us at far too young an age and it has made me think about the passage of time. We spend so much energy planning the dream layout yet how many of us actually make a start. It is surely for the best to just get cracking, get something built lest it is too late. Even a shunting plank that can only be brought out in the evenings after dinner is much better than wishful thoughts in the armchair and models never leaving a drawer.

Best regards ............... Greyvoices (alias John)
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Just to balance out the H0 bias in the last few posts I thought I'd upload a decidedly 00 photo:

Hornby L1 with an ex GN six wheeler (built by Ian Willetts), a Bachmann Thompson and an ex GER 2nd class corridor coach (built by John Houlden) posing on the kitchen table.

Best regards .......... Greyvoices (alias John)
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Hi John,

QUOTE Even a shunting plank that can only be brought out in the evenings after dinner is much better than wishful thoughts in the armchair and models never leaving a drawer.
couldn't agree more ...

I am making an Inglenook too ..... I can get to that as required and being lightweight can keep it moving as life [ SWMBO ] allows.

There is similar reasoning here, and a very strong, lightweight baseboard too ..

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Hope you don't mind a slight digression, but your mention of tanks and war flats made me remember this from my album (I thought there were more):

Obviously we didn't travel with the machine guns fitted! What staggers me to this day is how the Chieftain tracks were wider than the flats & the mark of a good driver well marshalled was to have the same amount of the side guide horn projecting over either side of the flat.

Of course occasionally it went wrong (image from the Regimental Journal, I wasn't there):

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