Buckingham Central

As we had to travel to Nottingham today to return my son to uni, we took the opportunity of accepting a fairly long standing offer to see Peter Denny’s Buckingham branch which now resides with Tony Gee.

Most of you will, I suspect, be aware that Buckingham was about the first EM gauge layout ever constructed (apparently, there was one other at about the same time) and can thus be said to be pretty much the daddy of the finescale model railway.

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The layout has origins that go back as far as 1947, so is approaching 70 years old.  There are a number of elements that go back to this era still on the layout, including the tank loco shown above which was built from the very earliest of plastics; I hope I look as good as that when I hit 70!

Whilst there have been several generations of layout, the core has always been an imaginary line to Buckingham from the Great Central mainline to London.  Buckingham is, of course, a much bigger town in this imaginary world and justifies a fairly significant service of commuter, local, parcels and goods trains.  In the view below, we see a “businessman’s express” for London readying for departure from Buckingham and then below that the peace and quiet of the station once it has gone.

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As befits an important station, there is a complicated station throat, controlled by quite complex signalling and a fine box over the line.

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The other principal station was Grandborough Junction (the third station, Leighton Buzzard Linslade, was dismantled at the time of our visit).  This was a busy junction and had a pair of branches going off it and crossing countryside.

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I particularly remember an article on “filling corners of your railway” – where he showed a gas works at one point and then an engine sheed – well here is that engine shed!  Mindful of my turntable sagas (see November posts), I was half disappointed that this one worked so well – although it did have a very fierce growl when it operated!

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Peter Denny was also a prolific writer so the layout adorned the pages of most of the british magazines – and even apparently a Japanese one!  Certainly, it was a layout that I regularly read about in my father’s collection of back issues so it was a happy chance to see something that had a formative impact on the early days of my hobby.  I still have a big book entitled Miniature and Model Railways – signed Happy Christmas Mark – from Gordon 1977! – that has a section on Buckingham which I perused before leaving to remind myself of the layout!

A lot of his articles were on building things for the layout – remember, this was built in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s and the alternative (when available which was rare) were tinplate.  Here are some examples of the quality of Peter’s modelling.

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The story as to why Peter Denny selected the Great Central Railway as his prototype is worthy of retelling too – as they made me chuckle. Apparently, he originally wished to model the Great Western and took his first completed model – a siphon (which is still on the layout) – to the Model Railway Club proudly one evening.  There it was met with both admiration but also the sucking of teeth as various prototype details were pointed out as being incorrect.  Now, woe betide me to say anything critical of Great Western followers but on the back of this, Peter decided he needed to find a prototype that less people knew about so that he would not get pulled up on technical details again!  He rather liked the brown and cream coaches, so he did a search and found that the Great Central had them too – so a swap of allegiances was promptly implemented!

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Resources were clearly a lot more challenged when Peter was modelling, most of the models make plentiful use of timber and card – it puts some of my efforts with much more sophisticated techniques!!  Peter even used CSBs (see wagon below – well, nearly CSBs any; what do you think of that Will/Russ?).

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But above all else, Buckingham is a layout for operating and is both very complex and quite simple at the same time.  There is a substantial amount of electrical logic such that lines only become electrically active when they are correctly signalled.  Even attempting to run a train in the opposite direction to that which is signalled is prohibited.  All this uses hand built switches, many of which are mechanically linked to the single or turnout.  As you would imagine, this creates a somewhat complex warren both above and below board!

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DCC anyone…………..

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Even now, Tony is not fully aware of what the layout can do and there are plenty of teasers that need to be overcome to get it to operate properly – “aghh yes, this lever needs to be pulled over really hard to make the contact” but the next time “don’t pull that one over fully, or it doesn’t quite work“.  It essentially needed to be caressed and humoured to operate –  but operate it did even for ham fisted Tatlow!

We spent a happy couple of hours playing with the trains; dealing with arrivals, sorting out loco’s for the return work and shunting the platforms and yard.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself – so thank you Tony and I’ll definitely come again!

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I have now added a trackplan in an addition post here.

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About highlandmiscellany

Just playing trains; my weekday life is a bit more serious though!

Posted on January 10, 2016, in Buckingham Central and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I remember in the early 80s working my way through bound volumes of Railway Modeller from 1958 up to the (then) present. Peter Denny’s articles were some of the most inspiring, and I’ve ten card based outside framed vans on my workbench waiting for a shellacking. (Mind you, mine were drawn in CAD and printed by laser printer, but the principle is the same.)

    I think I remember the article about the turntable – mechanised by Meccano if I recall correctly. And then there was the computer, the Automatic Crispin, for when Rev Denny’s son was no longer around to dispatch the trains.

    The hinged overall roof on the station is marvellous.

    I love the car free streets and the busy, busy Edwardian air of the place. It has real atmosphere. Well done to Tony Gee for restoring it.

    Thanks too for posting the photos: I’ve only seen it in black and white before. It’s a magnificent layout.

    Alan

  2. Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    A great model glad it went to a good home

  3. Wonderful layout and glad to see it all being restored. Would love to see it in person one day. Do you have any idea of how large the layout is or if there is a track plan anywhere? I’ve seen lots of photo’s of it but nothing that shows it as a whole.

  4. Do you have any more Buckingham photos. i really would like to study the layout in more detail. It’s enthralling and inspiring.

  5. I too had the pleasure of operating Buckingham Great Central this afternoon. What a wonderful layout and so manyh thanks to my good friend Tony Gee for ensuring its preservation in this RTR, DCC age.

  1. Pingback: Buckingham Central – Plan | highland miscellany

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