Work is now well underway on another of our member's layouts, an On30 layout based on mainly Bachmann locomotives and rolling stock, Peco ON30/O16.5 track, Blue Point turnout controls and Gaugemaster DCC. The layout belongs to John Levesley. The S&SG is a modular layout following the basic standards for Fremo On30 modules. The Fremo On30 standards, basic and advanced, are being promoted by Kathy Millatt in the UK. For those of you still unfamiliar with On30 it is American O scale (1:48th) running on  30in (2'6") narrow gauge track. It is also sometimes referred to as On21/2.

The location for the S&SG is in the Virginia, NW. N. Carolina, E. Tennessee region of the USA, home to many narrow gauge lines, and it is set in the early 1930s.

The first step was to design a set of modules that met the standard, were easy to transport, could be set up at Bearwood monthly meetings and could be used as a stand alone layout as well as part of a larger modular setup. The six modules will consist of

The modules were built by Model Railway Solutions in Poole, Dorset who have produced jigs to accurately reproduce the Fremo end plates for these modules. In addition to the Gaugemaster DCC system, the modules will be fitted with a "common" DCC data bus that can be used by Lenz, Digitrax or NCE systems and there will be one or two NCE Universal Throttle Sockets fitted tactically to support this, probably plugging into the bus instead of simple bus connectors at the interface between two modules. Details are in the Fremo standards documents.


Poole model railway show Nov 9th 2014

I was asked to take Sumach Grove to this show, setting up on the Saturday and exhibiting on the Sunday. It confirm my opinion that Sumach Grove can't be a one man show and if I am to exhibit it, albeit infrequently, I will need some additional support. As the only event its booked for in the near future is the next Bearwood Open Day on April 11th 2015 that's not a pressing problem. The layout performed well and attracted a lot of interest. It also revealed a new railroad modelling activity- Shay watching. As my Shays went slowly up and down they invariable had a "follower" intrigued by the mechanism- a activity made easier by the height of the layout tracks to ground 1.3m (51"ish). A frequent comment was how much people liked the height. The only change to the layout since Convention is the addition of a stockade around the stock loading ramp, see below.

NMRA BR Convention weekend 2014

Well Sumach Grove made it to Convention, complete with scenery and buildings and it ran well over the three days and seemed generally to be well received. There is just a little list of fixes and improvements to be made before November 9th when its at Poole Model Railway Exhibition. Photos and legends below show Sumach Grove at the Convention.

Caboose servicing spur on left, wharehouse on right Wharehouse, and mineral loading on left, end loading ramp on right
Coal Drop Stock Ramp (rest of stockade still to be built)
Depot (left) and gas station Gas station and grade crossing
Railbus at its refuelling point Turntable and ash pit location
Loco servicing area Engine house and repair shop (behind)
Mineral mine tipple on left, flag stop and standard gauge interchange on right Standard gauge interchange ramp in front, Standard gauge interchange  bay on left, tipple beyond, repair shop on right
Servicing area: sand on left coal centre, water right (all Mt Albert kits) Ash pit
Engine house and servicing area grade crossing, gas station, depot, with team track front right behind van.
stock ramp and coal drop 2-6-0 takes a local freight out towards Sandford



September 17th "All together now..."

Last weekend at Bearwood all six modules were connected up and were running together after a few minor teething problems. Only minor running problem was my rake of four Bachmann wooden side tipping mineral cars which have Kaydees at each end but Backwoods miniatures in between the cars for prototypical close couplings. These normally work fine but they didn't like the ramp up onto the standard gauge flat car. The combination of being pushed and starting up an incline seemed to cause the inverted U coupling pins to fold and then the cars derailed. They have always been fine on the flat and continue to be so. I do have three more of these cars all with Kaydees on each end so they will be substituted for the recalcitrant rake (or, if you prefer, Troublesome Trucks).

September 9th

The Mt Albert Sand Tower is done, now its just the coaling stage to do.

September 6th

Two more structures more or less done. I'll leave the North Bend Mine tipple for now though it will eventually need some heavy weathering and Grandt Line mining cars and a miner for the top. The Mt Arthur water tower is more or less done, it needs a ladder and Grandt Line NBWs (both are included in the kit) adding to it. Now I just have to build the matching Mt Albert Sand Tower and Coaling stage and then all the buildings are ready for Convention in October and Poole in November.

August 30th

Module 6 almost complete with some scenery and trees now added as well as structures


August 24th

For a backwoods shed and repair facility the engine house looked a bit light on the repair front. I've built another Banta kit to use as a machine shop, lovely kit nearly ruined when I dropped the assembled hydrocal shell and four pieces became fourteen. One plaster jig saw puzzle later the model was back on track. Here it is in place behind the engine house.



August 20th

Here is the Sand Valley Flag stop, complete with rail car. In the foreground the standard gauge interchange platform.



August 19th

Module 6 now has the track laid and Blue Point turnout operators in place. As I write I'm just about to complete thc Sand Valley flagstop in the next hour (the paint is drying). Next is wiring up, building the workshop and completing the tipple when some model pulleys arrive. Its supposed to be a scenic yard but I fear the scenery has rather taken over.

August 10th

Module 6 has it 20 cm extension in place. The engine house is now finished  and a standard gauge/narrow gauge interchange platform has been completed, the latter in one day. The Mineral tipple, also for module 6, is under construction, the shell of the hoppers is complete made out of 1.5mm ply. Once the upright timber supports are installed, then the ply will be planked over and aGrandt Line ore car diorama with track will go on top.

The Banta Modelworks Backwoods Loco and Repair Shed

I need to rework the big side widows, mainly to refit the glazing.

Only deviation from the model was to use Paper Creek roofing for the lean too.

Scratch built freight platform that sits between the standard gauge spur and an On30 spur to permit the interchanging of freight between the S&SG RR and the Virginia and Carolina RR. Loads from the spares box, the rest built and finished in one day with wood from the stash.

July 30th

Module 6 is coming along but will need a 20cms extension. Today was checking the cross board track alignments with module 5, checking the engine house placing and sighting the standard gauge interchange. With good luck and a following wind track laying may be completed this month and running early in August when the extension is done.


July 18th

Have started work on the scenic work in earnest now, initially using the lozenge module to experiment with. Below are some little vignettes I've worked on around the ash pit and the railbus refuelling spur.

Two views of the rail bus refuelling area with an unmade road and parking area in the foreground of the left picture. I was experimenting with Gordon Gravett's techniques, here using gloss paint and chinchilla sand. It looked better after I'd taken these when I also used my finger to wear it away a bit and used a screw driver to produce tyre tracks, again G.G. techniques. the ground cover is Sculptamold made of a water and paint mix so there are no white bits if it gets dented. I'll be using static grass over this.


Two views of the ashpit area now its weathered. I've used ash to produce paths and stained the Scuptamold grey to indicate a lot of sooty grime in the earth. Again there will be static grass.



July 15th

A somewhat frustrating session at Bearwood last weekend. Modules 3,4 & 5 were set up (4 is the lozenge shaped module with the turntable) in order to see what locos could manage the small radius curve around the turntable area. I knew the Climax had problems and was expecting trouble from the 2-6-0, the 2-8-0s and the Forney 2-4-4T. I didn't expect the 2-8-0s to get round and they didn't. The Forney got round but with that wide swinging bunker the couplings were pulled too far over and stock behind it derailed. The 2-6-0 almost made it but the front truck derailed. Examination shows it was caused by the front truck being fouled by the coupling box. I removed the box, no problem with tracking around the curve. I just have to find a way to mount the coupling box further forward. So at the end of the Bearwood session the state of play was that any of my 0-4-0, 0-4-2, Shay, 4-4-0 and 2-6-0 locos will operate OK.

I modified the troublesome curve as seen below, its now right up against the turntable, not strictly good enough as clearances are now compromised, but the radius is reduced as much as possible, yet the Climax still won't go round it. I tested the Climax on some OO set-track with a small radius curve included - and it wouldn't go round that either - so its barred from Sumach Grove for the moment.


July 8th


My On30 modules are coming on, five of six modules have the track laid, turnout operating switches installed and working and the DCC bus wired up. By the end of July I plan to have the whole system of 6 modules up and running and so it is now time to look to the scenics if it is to look pretty at the Convention in October. Long term planning is for some of the 1/48th scale buildings to be scratch built and/or kit bashed by me, and all the core buildings to be built from Stoney Creek, Mt Albert or Banta kits. That’s not all going to happen by October so I’ll also be using a mixture of homebuilt and old second/third/fifthhand (?) 1/48th scale buildings I bought in a job lot about 4 years ago. The photos show the two extremes.

The Depot is one of the old pre-used buildings I bought a few years ago. I’m not sure but it might be one of John Craigie’s old buildings. It has been rebased, renamed, dusted, had a few repairs done to it but basically it will do really well as it is as a temporary Depot. I also have another scratchbuilt-by-me slightly more modern Depot but this one is far nicer.

This model is one of a set of five loco servicing area models designed by model building guru Roger Malinowski and produced by Mt Albert. It’s a multi-media kit; resin, wood, plastic tubing, roofing paper, wire and white metal. Mt Albert have bundled their own items with resin castings by Schomberg Scale Models and white metal parts from Cherry Grove Models and Wiseman Model Service.

Its not big, but the little shed alone has over thirty parts – almost all the planking is added one at a time. The bunker, gas pump and base are resin. The kit included lots of "lived in" detail. I think this qualifies as my first craftsman kit?

Next up will be the Banta Modelworks’ model of a Backwoods Loco and Repair shed.

Modules 3,4 and 5 are now running together though not without hiccups.

The chip I set to up run the turntable was running fine until I changed the address from 03 to 9999. It immediately started to spin the turntable as fast as it could (without any throttle being applied). Working against the resistance of the of the gearbox it overloaded itself and died. Operations continued with an armstrong mechanism but may be converted to DC until after the convention. Also the radius of the track that circumvents the turntable has worked out ok for 0-4-2 locos and I expected it to be fine for geared locos too. It wasn't, my Climax did not like it at all. Before I adjust the trackwork I'll test my other locos to see if its just the Climax or a more widespread problem but I do have some scope to moderate the radius a little bit.

Just visible is the ash pit and the foundations for two associated structures


The road foundation on the grade crossing is now painted with shellac a la Gordon Gravett and awaits a coat of grey paint and texturing. Just beyond off a spur from the turntable is the base for the railcar refuelling bunker (see above). On the right just before the crossing will be gas station on a corner with a road running down the edge of the module to the Depot and a warehouse. On the left a track will run down to the team track area and ramp. Mind you if I can't resolve the tight radius around the turntable the left had track will have to become the main line and the depot will be relocated to suite.



1st May 2014

After an enforced layoff due to non railroading charity peaking, work commenced on integrating the lozenge into the layout.


19th March 2014

Enter the Lozenge

Not all the trains on the Sandford and Sumach Grove RR are hauled by geared locos or little 0-4-0/0-4-2 locos. Some of the trains will be hauled into Sumach Grove depot by 4-4-0, 2-6-0 and 2-8-0 tender locomotives. When my modules are used on their own, Sumach Grove will be the end of the line so I needed a turntable and in 50cm wide modules that is not easy. My solution was a 1.2m long lozenge-shaped module with its middle third widened to 60cms (an alternative might have been a 90 degree corner module with a Wye).

There is to be a second through track to the left of the through track shown. I had to inset the Y turnouts 5" from the module so ensure the Blue Point turnout control linkage didn't foul the module legs.

I bought the turntable for £1 complete with electric motor and gearbox fitted. The plastic gears are very noisy but it works. Time for the silicon grease which may help with both the noise levels and smoothness of operation. Hopefully I’ll be able to put a chip on the turntable motor and drive it from the throttle.

The curves on this module wouldn’t be liked by an HO six axle SD70 and 60/86’ long freight cars at speed but even my two narrow gauge 2-8-0s should go round OK if they take it daintily speed-wise. The 4 axle Railbus, 2-6-0s, 2-4-4, 0-4-0s, 0-4-2s and geared locos should have no problems.


March 14th 2014 four modules up and running with DCC switched in too. Even a short video for demo purposes.



March 6th 2014, saw Modules 1 and 2 tested and running, first separately and then as shown below, together. Next week after the Bearwood Open Day, there will be an opportunity to set up modules 1,2,3 and 5 for the first time to check the running. So far its all been run on analogue so the big set up will use DCC too. If time permits I'll get out the second hand buildings I have and see where they fit best for visual appeal and to support switching operations. After that I have to develop a bit of a split personality, starting scenic work on the four modules but also working on the remaining two modules - No 4 the lozenge shaped modules that will incorporate the turntable and No 6 a sort of  yard with scenery that also has the standard gauge interchange and a little engine house.

module1 in the foreground looking east, team track on the left. warehouse spur on the right


Module 2 in the foreground with half of the run-round loop. see module 3 further down the page for the other half of the loop.



During January and February work concentrated on getting modules 3 and 5 completed. Final track laying was done and all the remaining wiring installed. The two modules, connected together,  ran trains for the first time in mid February with all the track work, turnouts and frog wiring and connections working OK. Remedial work is needed on the grade crossing on No 3 as its a bit too high between the rails.

Modules 5 on the left and 3 on the right looking west. The train is where the Depot will be with a small stock yard next to the grade crossing. The ramp in the foreground is the logging and mineral traffic interchange with the Standard Gauge.


Module 5 in the foreground, looking west. The two spurs to the left are the approaches to the engine house. Despite the clumsy looking track extreme left it is negotiable by 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 and two-truck geared locos the only locos that will fit the engine house. Cinders should hide the irregular tie setting which looks rather worse in the photo than in real life.


Modules 1 and 2 already have the track down (see below), track bus in place, turnouts and frogs wired and they just need some final track droppers installed. Once they are tested together and are running OK, then I hope in March to plug the four together and try an actual operating switching session. If it all goes well, its time to paint the track, add some scenic material adjacent to the track and lay ballast. In parallel with that, track laying and wiring will commence on module 4, the lozenge shaped module that will contain the turntable. Being unduly optimistic all six modules may be running together by Easter 2014. Just as well really as I've been invited to take the modules to the NMRA British Region Convention in October.


North Bend Mining Inspection/Rail Car no 7, originally built by John Craigie, now its Tenshodo motor bogie is fitted for DCC for use on Sumach Grove

A few years ago I bought a job lot of On30 from a fellow member of the Bearwood Group. It was quite a mixture of stuff some of which had been round the houses with several owners over the years. Some of the items were familiar. They had been built by John Craigie who comes along to the D&H Division Poole meetings and had featured on an On30 layout of John's. This little car was scratch built by John and was fitted with a Tenshodo motor bogie. On the Sandford and Sumach Grove we will need a bigger railcar, and the plan is to use the Backwoods Miniatures conversion for the Bachmann combine. That too uses a  Tenshodo motor bogie and it needed a chip fitting, something I hadn't done to a motor bogie before. There are plenty of online descriptions of how to fit a DCC chip to a motor bogie so I decided to use this little car as the test bed. Thankfully it worked and so NBM No  7 joins the roster. The fuel tank is another of John's sratchbuilt items from the job lot.

S&SG No 1, a Bachmann On30 Porter 0-4-0ST fitted with DCC, a BANTA wooden cab kit and second hand (Backwood Miniatures?) tender. First time I've used one of the BANTA kits and they are super. They fit together perfectly, coat of mahogany satin varnish and matt clear acrylic varnish to finish


Nearly half way, three modules have track laid and 75% of the wiring is done.


Modules 1 to 3 set up. The train is on the "main line" opposite where the Sumach Grove depot will be. The train occupies almost the whole length of the module. The 1.3 m height of the modules makes them look even shorter in On30


Looking SE towards Sandford. There is a Team Track with a ramp on the left, a Warehouse Track on the right. This is the extreme west end and the main here is Micro-Engineering code 83 to match other modules. The rest of the track on modules 1-6  will be Peco On30 code 100 track except for the last main line track length at the east end of Module 6 will again be code 83.



Looking west, there will be a grade crossing at this end of the modules with the depot/freight house opposite the train, and maybe a small stock yard close by to take prize pedigree stock for exhibition at fairs throughout Appalachia and Piedmont



Looking west again. Main Track to the left, on the right a second run-round that also leads to the standard gauge interchange with the Virginia and Carolina RR



something to look at other than track -  a job lot £60 buy - just needs a chip.



Work is underway on the first two modules to the point where track laying and wiring is imminent.


The screw holes in the fascias have been filled and sanded flat.

Holes have been drilled for the Blue Point turnout motors and their operating linkage

The area where the legs butt against the inner side walls of the module have been waxed (as have the matching areas on the legs)

The holes in the module sides for the push/pull rods that operate the turnouts have been enlarged to provide recesses for the push rods so that the sides remain flush. (The recesses are filled with 40mm water pipe caps from B&Q.)

The outer sides have been stained ebony and then matt varnished.

The undersides have been varnished with clear satin varnish except where previously waxed.

Brass hookeyes have been fitted inside the ends to act as terminals for the DCC track bus and the black caps have been drilled for the push rods and fixed in place.

On the top the track terminating plates have been glued down and fitted with copper clad sleepers  to produce secure flush railed joins between the modules

The Blue Point motors have been fitted and the operating  linkages installed.


close up of the Blue Point motor and recessed operating linkage


The track terminating plates glued down and fitted with copper clad sleepers  to produce secure flush railed joins between the modules. They still need a bit of cleaning up and the cut made through the copper to isolate the rails from each other


They were set up for the first time at Bearwood on October 13th and the photos below show the modules and a token first train, albeit on a DC not DCC powered length of flexitrack.

The Lozenge/Coffin - ground to top of tracks distance is 1.3m, just over 50" and it is tall. The floor is flat, the module is level, the photographer was tilted.


The full length, 5 modules in total 5.2m long


and from the other end with an ON30 train to give some idea of scale


Quick view of the underside of a 1m x 50cm modules. This one is built to act as an alternative "king" board to the "Coffin"


 The "Coffin" and a single 1m module linked up for the first time
a token gesture but...........first train up and running


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