A G-scale commission – Part 1


Tom Cunnington


29th May 2016

Reading Time

3 minutes


As you can imagine, we get a fairly steady stream of requests to help others make bespoke model railways, from a huge range of people – private individuals, TV and film productions and fixed installations in  commercial premises.

We aren’t in a position to help with most for all sorts of reasons (normally unrealistic budgets and timescales), but from time to time we get asked to help with a project that is both interesting and achievable in the timescale. Although a few years ago now, you can see some of our work in Bernard Butler’s video for “Not Alone” which had specially built O gauge tracks and ran some of the stock from our layout Happisburgh.

Recently we were approached to build a working railway for a pop-up restaurant in Vauxhall. For the uninitiated, a pop-up is a temporary venue, and in this case it’s a lovely old mews area, normally used by a steel fabricator. Except over the summer it’s being turned into an American gold-rush themed restaurant every Friday and Saturday night, with a five course meal and music for about 80 people a night. So the whole restaurant has to be set up on Friday afternoon, and taken down again and put into storage by Monday morning. So a bit like an exhibition every weekend but with better food and drink.


The team behind the restaurant had some great ideas, and I worked with them over about 3 week to refine the various ideas we collectively had, and to ensure the railway could work reliably with minimum management from the staff throughout the evening, as they will have enough to do with service.

The final proposal is a 25m long G-scale railway down one side of the venue, which will have sound to create some atmosphere and hopefully some smoke from the smoke unit (rather than the wiring…). There are some nice G scale locos from both Piko and Bachmann that seem to evoke the image of the era. and our client settled on a Piko Mogul. 

The design has to be rugged, and capable of being assembled and taking down safely by the restaurant staff. The design is a simple box structure, made of 6.5mm birch plywood, with 12mm ply for the ends and cross pieces. Alignment is through dowels supplied by Stationroad baseboards, held together with toggle catches. Because it’s going against a wall, one of the toggle latches is on the top, the other on the front.

Materials were all ordered and all arrived on time including the plywood pre-cut by my local timber merchant – except for Maplin [who not only managed to mess up the original order for electrical connectors, they then managed to mess up the replacement order as well, wasting 3 days of order-time. I should have stuck to Rapid or RS] for us to start work on Friday 27th May. A gang of six MRC members gathered at Keen House and started work assembling the pre-cut plywood to make 15 almost identical baseboards. Like most projects, it took us a while to get the first one built, but after a while we got into a rhythm and we managed to get most of the sub-assembly components together for all 15 boards, and to finish building 9 of the boards in the day. 


We even got some of the PECO Streamline track laid on two of them.


Maplin’s incompetence (you might spot that I’m very angry with them) meant we couldn’t connect up the track to test it, but I have every confidence in Rapid to deliver the correct items this week.

Work will be progressing over the coming week, it needs to as we’ve got a very short deadline – the restaurant opens on 10th June. More updates as we get time…follow us on Twitter @ModelRailClub and Instagram for all the latest news and more pictures


Credits to date:

The team (alphabetically) – David C, Tom C, John J, Hugh S, Stephen S and Tom S

The suppliers – AJ Ferguson of Shepherds Bush (timber); Track-shack (track) Gaugemaster (loco and some advice); Stationroad Baseboard (dowels, latches and leg adjusters),


Leave a Reply

Thursday Track Nights

We are open on Thursday evenings from 7pm to 9pm at our Keen House clubrooms. Visitors are welcome, please come along and introduce yourself.


Keen House, 4 Calshot Street, London, N1 9DA

Become a member  

Get our newsletter

Sign up to receive all the latest updates direct to your inbox