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.

IMG_0064 compress

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.

IMG_0056 compress


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

IMG_0024 compress

IMG_0059 compress 2

IMG_0057 compress

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.

IMG_0017 compress

IMG_0043 compress

IMG_0046 compress

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!

IMG_0006 compress

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.

IMG_0030 compress

IMG_0029 compress


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!

IMG_0053 compress

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?).

IMG_0012 compress

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!

IMG_0004 compress

IMG_0002 compress

DCC anyone…………..

IMG_0015 compress

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!

IMG_0005 compress

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


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. 12 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.


  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.

  6. I too recall the RM articles and being impressed (overwhelmed?.) by the quality and scope of PD’s modelling.
    My only reservation is that the locos had no scope for “stretching their legs”
    Still stunning modelling, even by today’s (very) high standards

  7. Glad to see the Buckingham Branch is still going. I managed to visit it once, not long before Peter Denny died. He was very modest about it, saying it wasn’t that good by modern standards. His methods may have been old-fashioned, but he had to make the more recent models tone with the older ones, so the standard was uniform throughout. That was part of the secret: nothing stood out like a sore thumb! I concluded that I wished I was as bad a modeller as he was.

  8. Ralph Trehearne Bramley

    I have to say that I came upon this site by accident, I have always been an admirer of Buckingham since first coming across it in 1960’s magazines, some of which I still have! To my mind it is the quintessential of all model rail layouts. As a teenager I lived in the Chilterns with the Metropolitan, still steam from Rickmansworth in those days and the erstwhile Great Central being my local transport. I was fortunate a few years ago to actually see the Leighton Buzzard part of the layout being exhibited at the NEC. I have modelled since the 50’s in Gauge 1, Gauge 0 and 00 and Buckingham has always been a great inspiration to me. I am currently working on a model of a GWR branch in 00 set around 100 years ago.

  9. Many years ago we went on holiday to Peter Dennys house. He used to run a B&B on the side, or rather his wife did. Unfortunately my father died while we were away. I think we made two nights there but I did get to operate Buckingham with the Rev. Denny and it’san experience I treasure to this day. I’d think it was 40+ years ago so a huge vote of thanks to those who preserve this rare layout that we have all borrowed something from. For me it’s the overbridge splitting the station into ywo halves.

  1. Pingback: Buckingham Central – Plan | highland miscellany

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

North Devon Clay

Launceston & District MRC

The Website of Dr. David Turner

Railways, transport and brewing historian


Building models to 7mm/ft (1:43.5 scale)

Big Stacks Little Locomotives

A Lifetime of Model Railroading the 1870s and 1880s.

Roger Farnworth

A great WordPress.com site

Enterprising Limpsfield @ The Bull

a community hub in the heart of Limpsfield

Staffordshire Finescale

railway modelling group

MrDan's Model Musings.

Model railroad, prototype, historical and other random musings.

Edinburgh Princes Street

An interpretation of the passenger facilities of the former Edinburgh Princes St railway station

Dominion & New England Railway

Building an achievable transistion era O scale layout

A Model Meander

[mee-an-der] noun: a circuitous movement or journey.

Yeovil Model Railway Group (YMRG)

Making The Biggest Layouts That Will Fit In Our Huge Clubroom - since 1974

Central Vermont Railway


Chris Nevard Model Railways Blog


A Model Railway - Life in Miniature


Michael's Model Railways


Two Bolt Chair

4mm finescale modelling, slowly

Model Railway Musings by D827 Kelly

Model railway planning, design, building and other things related


Modelling the Canada Atlantic Railway in Pembroke in Proto:87



Liverpool Range

Modelling a small section of the New South Wales Railways between Kankool and Pangela

highland miscellany


Great Western Railway Review

Recording and reporting articles and items of interest relating to the Great Wwestern Railway of Brunel, Goocg, Churchward and Collett et al and to modelling it in 4mm and 7mm scales.

Matt's Railroad Blog

Minnesota themed model railroading

%d bloggers like this: