Gox Hill Quarries

A 4mm/ft layout - 009 and EM

Gox Hill is a small fictitious town somewhere in Oxfordshire.  It is served by an old GWR branch line that has seen better days but still provides both passenger, usually in the form of an Auto-coach train, and some general goods traffic.  On odd occasions a 2 car ‘B’ set is used on the passenger service.  Some two miles from the town is a stone quarry and to get the stone into its intended market a narrow gauge railway was built from the quarry to Gox Hill where the stone is now trans-shipped onto the standard gauge railway for onward shipment; in previous times the stone was trans-shipped into narrow boats that plied along the canal. The siding that was used is still in existence but only used to park the odd railcar or train when things go a bit wrong on the narrow gauge sector.  At some time in the past the narrow gauge line was extended to serve other villages in the area and infrequent passenger trains still ply between these villages.  The year is 1952 and the economy is just starting to improve and there is a good market for the stone for the rebuilding of roads etc.

In reality the original concept for the layout was based on the book by M H Billington ‘The Cliff Hill Mineral Railway’ and was to represent the exchange sidings at ‘Cliff Hill’.  However my modelling skills were not up to making the small tippers perform effectively so the standard gauge line at the front of the layout was replaced with a canal, which is a novel concept, and the transhipping would be done ‘off stage’ as it were.  This meant that the layout needed to be extended from the original 8ft long to 16ft to allow for the new branch line station and the extra fiddle yard.  This gave a problem as I could no longer get the whole layout up at home so all the building was done in sections two boards at a time.

Each of the main boards was four foot long but the widths vary from 14ins to 20ins, however all the boards were designed to fit into pairs for packing and fit into a Ford Focus Estate car.  When assembled the canal sections, each 4ft long by 6inches wide were fixed to the front of the layout in front of the 14inch wide boards which keeps the main scenic part of the layout a constant 20inches wide.  Construction was straight forward being based on a standard nominal 2 by 1 frame with a plywood surface.  The various heights were formed by either cutting or bending the plywood or by the addition of soft pin board material.  This kept the boards light but still strong enough to survive the rigours of the exhibition circuit; the boards were fitted with ‘Black Dog’ brass dowels at all the joints and fixed together with 5mm bolts.  The layout first appeared at the Hull Model Railway Show as a layout under construction in 2000.  It was at this Show that it was decided that the original ‘Cliff Hill Concept’ would not really work under exhibition conditions and the idea of the extended layout was formed.  The extended version first exhibited at expoEM in 2003, but without the pelmet and lighting.  It at least proved that the new concept would work and could provide almost constant movement of trains for the viewing public.  The layout then appeared at the 25th Hull Model Railway Show later in 2003.  Further invites were received and it soon became clear that the way the narrow gauge tipper trains were being run was not, to put it mildly, very clever.  The tipper trains were five wagons long, really too short, and were ‘flown’ by hand from the fiddle yard at one end of the layout to the fiddle yard at the other end.  Full tippers going one way and empties the other.  Things came to a head when I dropped one of the rakes of tippers and they reverted to a set of Parkside Dundas kits from where they originated!

The operating team spurned me into action as they said they would refuse to accompany me to Shows unless I did something about this. So a ‘race track’ idea was conceived to allow the tippers to run round the layout as a continuous run.  This meant modifying both existing fiddle yards and building a set of tracks to run the 16ft behind the layout out of sight of the viewing public.  This section of the layout was controlled independently from viewing section and the trains were called through by the use of push buttons from dead sections at one end to a dead section on the other. These dead sections were then ‘switched’ to the main control panel when the train is required.  As the tipper trains were then not touched once they were set up they were increased in length to nine wagons each, which made them look more realistic.  Operation of the layout was also made much easier.  The layout first appeared in this new guise at the Preston Show in 2006.

The narrow gauge track was Peco throughout with the points (turnouts) operated by Seep point motors, except in one of the fiddle yards where the points were operated by ‘wire in tube’ via change over switches.  Also the point that controls the access to the ‘race track’ at one end was operated by a Tortoise Point Motor which was wired to allow the point to return to a set position once the spring loaded switch is released when an empty tipper train is called onto the scenic section.  This ensures that the full trains went onto the right track to continue to the other fiddle yard.  This worked most of the time although we did have an override system in the form of an elastic band, for emergencies! All the points were electro frog wired for frog polarity in the normal way. In the scenic section the polarity being changed by the Seep point motor.  The standard gauge was EM using SMP track and hand built points (not built by me I should make clear).  Again the points were operated by Seep point motors.  The entire track was laid on cork and secured with contact adhesive. Ballasting followed conventional ideas being laid dry and brushed into place with a fine paint brush, sprayed with a fine mist of water and then fixed by dripping the mix of PVA and water, plus the required drop of washing up liquid, to fix the track firmly in place. A number of magnets both fixed and electro were mounted beneath the EM track in strategic places to allow shunting without the ‘Hand of God’ syndrome being necessary.  Standard gauge stock was fitted with Sprat & Winkle couplings with the narrow gauge stock being fitted with a mix of B&B, Bemo and Paul Windle units. Although limited shunting was possible on the narrow gauge section it was not normally undertaken at Shows.

The stock grew steadily since the original layout and some 12 steam outline and 8 diesel locomotives were available for the narrow gauge work with four rakes of tippers, two full and two empty, supported by a varied range of coaching and general goods stock.  There were 5 steam locomotives available on the standard gauge with two rakes of stone wagons, one full one empty an Auto-coach and ‘B’ set plus an assortment of wagons.  Most of these actually belong to fellow Hull MRS Member Ken Gibbons.  A recent innovation was the availability of some ‘green’ era diesels to take the operation into the early sixties.  The narrow gauge locos were a mixture from Paul Windle, various kit manufacturers and the odd RTR continental supplier.  The rolling stock was all kit built.  The standard gauge locos and stock were mainly modified RTR.


The scenery was a blend of various flock materials with the buildings being from the likes of Metcalf, Wills and Ratio, most having been modified in some way. Again the vehicles are either kits or modified proprietary items.  As part of the usual whim there was a model of my first car, a Ford 8 deluxe, complete with the correct index mark! (How sad). The canal along the front did boast a narrow boat, Langley Kit, looking the rather worse for wear and the odd swan.  The lock gate, top gate only, is open as the boat has just passed through.  The inevitable bike had been caught by a fisherman.  The water in the canal was a mix of green and brown gloss paint with about 12 coats of varnish to give it some indication of depth.  It had been pointed out that the boat could probably not get around the bend where the canal runs off the baseboard, that was due to me measuring from the wrong point and not noticing it until after the scenery was finished.

The layout required two operators to function; one controled the narrow gauge and the other the standard gauge.  There was no fixed sequence although a general pattern tends to be followed.  On the narrow gauge a train of full tippers would pull into the loop in front of the station and wait until a train of empty tippers arrived up the hill.  The empties waited in the station while the full tippers go off down the hill, once they were off scene, another train of full tippers would pull into the loop, and the train of empties will depart into the fiddle yard.  A passenger train of some sort then pulled into the platform and the train of full tippers will depart. Once off seen the passenger will depart down the hill and go through the tunnel at the front of the layout rather than into the cutting.  A train of empties would then come back up the hill and wait at the platform while a train of full tippers arrives in the loop, the empties then leave the platform and the sequence could begin again but with the passenger train most probably coming back up the hill at some point.  With three potential passenger trains the sequence can be varied and to complicate matters the odd goods train can also be run.  Clever operation did allow there to be 4 narrow gauge trains to be on view in the scenic section at once, but this is not for inexperienced operators!  While the narrow gauge trains are plying up and down the standard gauge line was also working to a very loose sequence.  Usually a passenger train would arrive in the standard gauge station platform and wait until a mixed goods train arrived along side.  The passenger train would then depart and the goods train would be shunted at the whim of the operator to make up a new train to leave Gox Hill.  It would wait in the loop until a passenger train arrived and then depart.  Depending on the operator the next move may have been the passenger train departing and a train of empty stone wagons arriving.  These would be exchanged for the rake of full stone wagons from the transfer shed and the loco run round to the head of the train and backed clear of the points.  A passenger train would then arrive and the full stone train depart.  This sequence usually took between 20 to 30 minutes depending on the operator. Between the two gauges there was usually a train moving somewhere on the layout, unless something has gone wrong!

My thanks must go to Sheila, my wife for putting up with me disappearing off to Shows in her car; the Ford Focus Estate is hers not mine! Also to the teams that helped to operate the layout at Shows and the various members of Hull Miniature Railway Society who helped to finish the layout’s scenic areas.

This layout was sold a number of years ago as it was too big to put up at home, although it did go up in my neighbour's garage when they were away.

Pictures will be added later.

This layout appeared at the following Model Railway Shows:

2003: Expo EM

2003: Hull

2005: Shipley

2005: Caistor

2006: Preston

2006: York

2006: Porthmadog

2006: Darlington

2007: Stafford

2007: Derby

2007: Ipswich

2008:London (Ally Pally)

2008: Jarrow

2008: Manchester

2008: Warley

2009: Stowmarket

2009: Merseyside

2010: Sutton Coldfield

2010: Kyle MRS Dumfries

2010: Wigan

2011: Train West

Page updated 19th June 2017

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