A group of railway modellers and friends who are building a Thomas & Friends inspired exhibition layout that is interactive and engaging for children.

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So today's random rolling stock subject is snowploughs. You might have seen Thomas wearing his plough in some episodes as
Every Tuesday you fine Ladies & Gents have the delight of an update from me (Sam). I’m primarily responsible for
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The railway

We don’t just want to build any old exhibition model, we want to make it interactive, original and visually stimulating using DCC operating software, tablets/smart phones and Interactive features such as smoke effects, working water features, working coal and stone loading chutes, operating dockside cranes and windmills. We’re also looking to try an alternative baseboard design using modern materials such as foam board. All the members have different skills and interests such as electronics, track work, joinery, scenery, rolling stock and photography, this will allow everyone involved to use their skills to their full potential.

The idea is not to have a 100% accurate model of Sodor but something that represents well the Island of Sodor and scenes you’ll recognise from the TV series.

As a group we have various experience of modelling. One key thing we agreed on was layouts can quickly become heavy and difficult to transport.
Each branch line is designed to be operated by one person. Despite being four separate boards which would normally require up to four operators.
Three things achieve this:
– The individual boards are light. They are built with two foam insulation boards. These are easy to work with, weather resistant and cost effective. They are surrounded by a light timber frame for protection and rigidity.
– Plug & Play, Every wire has been designed to be connected via serial 25 connectors – like those found on old printers. All wiring is connected to a central hub, with no more than two serial cables going to a board.
– DCC Operation, To allow the layout to be operated by one person, it is aided by DCC computer control. The layout is always in a semi autonomous state, a operator tells the computer what he wants, the computer makes it happen.
This also aids in allowing children to interact with the layout safely.

When conceived the issue of space quickly arose. We discussed hiring premises to store and work on the layout however this wasn’t financially viable or convenient for those located around Derbyshire and South Yorkshire..

As such we concluded the layout must be build in such a way it can be worked on board by board, a board can be individually setup and operated. Meaning any volunteer can work on a section in their own home.

One rainy day in Sheffield, the idea of this layout was conceived. We all agreed it must be children friendly. Too many layouts have barriers stopping kids getting up close, or are set at a height where kids have to be held up my their parents. Families go to exhibitions so the whole family can enjoy the passion and time us modellers have put in, Lets share that experience with the whole family.

As such the layout is set at a height where our own children can be up and close to the railway, they can control the lights in the yard, let of a steam pocket or even send Thomas to the shed all while their parents can admire the build and modelling.

Upon completion of “ducks branch” we will be dramatically increasing the size of the layout. Ducks branch was a test bed for the different build style detailed above. Normally a layout of this size would need a place to store and operate. However due to its modular design it can be stored in a garage and worked on by anyone, anywhere.

If your interested in having our layouts at your exhibition you’ll no doubt want to know some precise information. Below is an outline for the layouts:

Location: In around Sheffield. We are happy to travel if expenses are paid.

Layouts: At the moment we have 1 operational layout, with 2 more in development;

“Ducks Branch” consists of 5 boards requiring an operating space of 15ft * 5t.

As with the rest of our layouts, this is DCC operated and purposely designed to be as interactive for children and adults.

Features of “Ducks Branch” include:

  • Working turntable
  • Working lifting and dispensing coal hopper
  • Working Smoke and Lighting
  • 6 “Arcade Style” buttons for viewers to operate various parts of the layout, this includes routing locos (sending Thomas to the shed) Operating sounds (Train Horn) and smoke units.
  • A tablet showing the dcc operation of the layout with the ability to control every aspect of the layout.
  • A DC loop for the younger guests, allowing them to speed around a loop to their hearts content.

If you are interested in having “Ducks Branch” at your show, please contact us via the form below or via out Facebook page.
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We are always seeking help to further our project, this could be constructing buildings, weathering locomotives or building the frame for the next extension

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