BCB – right away for a new start

We announced recently that the the group was looking for a new owner to take on BCB.  We’re very pleased that Damian Ross has agreed to take on BCB in its entirety, with a plan to extend it to a continuous circuit, which will open up new operational possibilities.

It’s great that a home has been found and even better news that the layout is passing from group ownership to be owned by one of the group who created it.

Much of the existing BCB content on RMweb has been combined into one (very long!) topic on RMweb, start here if you want to read the story so far or here to follow what Damian has planned for the future of the layout.

For Sale – Black Country Blues EM gauge layout

The time has come for the team to consider the future of Black Country Blues and with so many other projects on the go, Staffordshire Finescale Group have reached the difficult decision that the layout really needs to move on to a new home where it can be used more often than we’re able to.

Black Country Blues is an EM gauge layout, overall dimensions are approximately 37′ x 3’6″.  The layout fits in either a long wheelbase van or Luton van.

What is included

Scenic boards with all track intact

Fiddle yard boards with all track intact

Board wiring, point motors and point/signal control panel.

Power supply for point motors, signals and uncouplers.

Trestle legs and beams

Side supports, fascias and pelmet


Lighting supports and light fittings/bulbs


Most of the buildings and all of the scenic features/structures are included, however one building is to be excluded for return to its builder


What is specifically excluded

Locos and rolling stock

Road vehicles

DCC Throttles, base unit and power supply

B&S Lees offices building



If you would like to express an interest in purchasing the layout, please use the contact form below to get in touch:

Spring Time in the Black Country

One of the signature locos of the Black Country Blues (BCB) fleet is 47335.  A TOPS numbered loco in two-tone green with full yellow ends livery sets the time and as a (then) Bescot allocated loco, it sets the place fairly well too.  With the initial rush to get the stock for the layout exhibition ready it entered service with a quick EM conversion (the existing Bachmann wheels pulled out to EM), a renumbering and a bit of weathering.  Unfortunately, it has proved to be a little unreliable, partly due to the wheels fouling on the brake gear and partly due to the known issue with some Bachmann bogies causing them to rock on the centre axle.  For a while now the plan has been to use some Penbits sprung bogies to resolve these issues.  I started to fold and solder the bogie subframes over a year ago and got as far as preparing the bearing carriers that allow the axles to move over any track irregularities.  Like so many of my projects though, it stalled while I did something else.  When I picked it up shortly after BCB’s appearance at Wigan in October, this was where I was up to:


Cautiously following the excellent instructions provided, the next step was to assemble the bolsters which connect the subframes to the chassis (and contain the secondary suspension).

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So far, so good; at this stage nothing irreversible had been done to the loco, but to move it on, the drivetrains from the Bachmann bogies needed some modification, so I had to decide whether to proceed (and in doing so, give myself a deadline to have it ready the layout’s next exhibition appearance).  Here goes nothing…


I’m guessing that invalidates the manufacturer’s warranty!  More modifications followed, and a small task that I found dis-proportionally time consuming, to open up the brass bearing that clip into the plastic bogie housing to allow the axles to travel.


I got there eventually, allowing the bogies to be test assembled.


They stayed like this for a while as I got distracted by some wagons, but next on the to do list was to add the springs.  Each bogie has eight springs, four primary springs that act on the bearing carriers in the subframe and four secondary springs that connect the bolster to the subframe.



I had some difficulties with the primary springs and am planning to replace the two individual springs with one continuous spring on either side of the bogie – just waiting on some suitable wire to arrive.

Just over a month to go before the loco is required in service; no pressure then…

The Mill Motive Power

Jason has been working on some additional locos for The Mill, firstly a Judith Edge 88DS.  As can be seen, it is all but complete now apart from glazing, painting and adding weight.

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Jason continues: “It is actually the third Judith Edge kit I have built, the first being started over five years ago and then put on the back burner when I discovered that they weren’t built until after my modelling period. However, recently I have dug it out and moved forward to the point where the end is in sight and who knows, maybe we can have an early 70’s mad half hour at the end of shows. It’s a Thomas Hill Vanguard and if anyone is in doubt about how long it has been sat on the ‘to complete’ pile, it appears in one of the first posts on my Bacup thread!


And finally, a loco which is unlikely to see much use on The Mill, an L&Y Class 23. I have owned a second hand OO Works one for a number of years now but it ran like a crippled tortoise. At the 2015 Expo EM North, I managed to pick up a George Norton kit of one for £20, only to later discover that the boiler was missing. Now I could have got a new boiler from London Road but chose instead to build up the chassis and mate it with the RTR body. This has involved shortening the chassis, adding compensation (not catered for in the kit) and adapting the High Level method for the brakes so that they are removable. It has turned into a rather enjoyable but sometimes frustrating labour of love but is getting there now.”
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Fryers Lane – ExpoEM North 2016

It had been a year since I exhibited Fryers Lane (as a work in progress) at Scaleforum in 2015 when, in September 2016, I had the opportunity to exhibit the layout in a much more finished form at ExpoEM North.

Here is a brief recap of how the layout came about and a reflection on how various elemnts of it performed.  I’ll start by saying that I’ve had a P4 itch to scratch for a while, I’d also been slowly building up a collection of air braked freight stock and a few locos to suit a late 80s setting.  The Scalefour Society’s Standard Gauge Workbench provided the impetus to put these two things together in a layout that would be easily transported and not require too many operators.

As well as testing out my skills with the finer tolerances of P4, there were a number of things that I wanted to try out for future layouts and this seemed a reasonable place to try:

  • Steel rail
  • Servos driven turnout operation
  • Foam track underlay
  • Hex Frog Juicer to switch crossing polarities
  • Cameo layout design on a single monocoque baseboard
  • LED lighting (integrated into the board design)


I’ve found steel rail challenging at times, but in use, it is (so far) proving to be very reliable and require little cleaning.  Yes, I did find soldering droppers to it to be a bit of a pain and yes, filing vees and switch blades takes a little longer, but on reflection I think I’ll be using it again in the future.  Interesting quirk we noted on Sunday of ExpoEM North was that the nickel silver rail in the fiddle yard was filthy, enough to cause locos to stutter, whereas there were no such problems on the steel.  I wondered if the different properties of the materials was somehow the cause of this?  Easy enough to deal with though.  The Frog Juicer works well but does have a slightly annoying tendency to arc for a split second when a wheel runs onto a vee of opposing polarity.  For this reason, I’ll probably switch (pun intended) back to more conventional methods next time as I feel this visual impact negates any benefits derived from (slightly) simplified wiring.

The servos are great.  Cheap, reasonably easy to set up and no issues.  Definitely on the list to use again.  Can’t say the same for the underlay.  This was the black foam stuff from C&L.  IMHO, it is too soft and has a bit too much give in it.  Back to cork (or maybe thin ply or MDF next time I think).


The “cameo” baseboard has worked well; but the dimensions of this board are approaching the maximum practical size for a board that can be handled without assistance, particularly within the confines of a 200 year old cottage with its low ceilings.  It’s on the heavy side too; although that may partly be down to my use of 12mm ply (because I had a spare sheet left over from another job).  I might use something thinner (9mm ply?) for all but the board ends if I was doing it again.  The lighting probably deserves a separate blog post, as it was quite a journey, but overall it’s working well.

So, what next?  I don’t subscribe to the view that “a layout is never finished”.  I think it’s important to aim to push your standards, but know when a particular project has gone as far as it can go. Fryers isn’t there yet, there is more scenic work to complete, namely to fill up the skyline along the back of the layout and to improve how hidden the exits to the fiddle yards are.


Beyond that there is (always) the tempting prospect of extending the layout.  Another board at the right hand end would allow me to model the level crossing, the signal box and maybe even the goods shed (although that would be likely to be disused).  On reflection, I think if I wanted to do that I’d be better starting again, with new baseboards of a different design as a longer layout would benefit from deeper baseboards.  That would then start to take me away from the original aim

For various reasons, I’d slightly gone off the idea of exhibiting and was thinking my next project would be a home based layout, not intended for the exhibition circuit.  However, exhibiting at ExpoEM North reminded that I do enjoy doing shows and of the advantages of small layouts which can travel in a car and only need one or two additional operators.  One idea I have buzzing around in my head it to build alternative modules (of similar dimensions to Fryers) that utilise one or both of the existing fiddle yards, now I have some that actually work!

Where are they?

You may have noticed that it’s been a bit quiet on here; however, since the blog still gets a steady stream of visitors (thanks for looking by the way), this post will act as signpost pointing to where you can find the group’s current internet postings:


Half an hour at Foundry Lane

A few photos of 20073 shunting the sidings at Foundry Lane, here we see it arriving with a brake van, there being no inbound traffic on this afternoon’s trip working

After dropping the brake van in the sidings, the loco headed off to the steel terminal, propelling a bogie bolster which had arrived on the morning trip and returning with some empty wagons which had been unloaded during the morning

The brake van is collected and added to the back of the wagons.  The loco then ran round, ready for the return working

The trip working then left, heading back towards the mainline

We grab one last photo before she disappears under the bridge and into the gloom beyond

The next exhibition appearance for the layout is Expo EM North on 15th and 16th September at the new venue of George H Carnall Leisure Centre, M41 7FJ.