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Empire Mills – Getting ready for Portsmouth


Duncan Redford


14th October 2015

Reading Time

4 minutes


I haven’t posted for a while – this doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing anything we have – well I haven’t but the team has. However, with an exhibition looming we have had a burst of activity that quite frankly puts our gentle summer progress to shame.

The show – its all about the show after all – is the South Hants MRC’s exhibition in Portsmouth on 21 November 2015

at the Admiral Lord Nelson school. It look like there will be some excellent layouts there – the sage of Fareham’s beautiful ‘Westcliff’ which won the best of the best in show winners at Expo EM 2015 and ‘Plumpton Green’, which was deservedly best in show at Scaleforum a few weeks ago. I think ‘Brighton East’ will also be there – a wonderful piece of modelling by Dave Smith of this parish. Oh yes, and of course that brilliantly designed and executed (certainly someone will be for the chop if we fall flat on our faces) Empire Mills.

Attached File  Portsmouth exhibition flyer.pdf (488.59KB)
downloads: 3

[I’ve just been sent the flyer (above) – Jol Wilkinson’s London Road, AND Chris Lamercraft’s Hemyock too…I must ask if its too late to change our minds about going!]

So when the full horror of the list of things we wanted to get done between our last outing at Ally Pally and our visit to Portsmouth became clear, loud were the lamentations; hair pulled, ashes purchased to rub into sack cloth, etc etc. However, in a burst of camaraderie in adversity Gareth and I did not engage in our default method of dealing with problems – blaming each other and hoping someone else will sort it.

First – well 2 weeks ago – we spent a day making the transport boards that will allow us to easily crate the layout for transport. Please don’t ask how we managed to get the layout to two shows at Ally Pally without them – the whole thing is something we’d prefer to forget, lets just say it involved massive lorries and a lot of brute for and ignorance, as well as some very careful driving.

While I was still basking in the reflected glory of Gareth’s woodworking skills – it seems that any idiot can’t saw timber in a straight line, despite my prognostications on the subject, Gareth then had to spoil the mood by mentioning ‘wiring’.

Now Empire Mill’s wiring was best described as functional (mostly) and it certainly wasn’t pretty, having been done at the rush in order to get the bare boards working for a demo at a show (Ally Pally 2 years ago or more). Yes, there does seem to be a theme here. As a DCC layout we had always intended to include DC operation as several members of the group had not yet seen the DCC light. Clearly, with just over a month to a show, now was the perfect time to do it. Well, actually it was, Gareth (superb chap) works well under pressure, so last Sunday he girded his loins (I hope he washed his hands afterwards), wrapped himself in layout wire and with all sorts of gung ho North Americanisms – lots of ‘yeahs’, ‘hoo rahs’, ‘wooos’ and ‘hut huts’ – charged into the fray, soldering iron in hand.

The results are so far much prettier than what went before, especially as I was doing everything I could to get in the way:
Attached Image

Attached Image

Meanwhile, I wasn’t to be left out. Empire Mills has always been supported on trestles. I’ve always thought they were an accident waiting to happen and several more things to be left behind when heading to a show. So aided by Patrick, I made and fitted integral legs to the boards. The legs, which can be seen shyly peeking out of the corners of the top picture, fold up under the boards for transport, and thanks to an excessive number of captive nuts, should not need any bolts to be removed – I just have to make the new wing nut headed bolts so we don’t need a spanner to collapse the legs… so as one thing gets crossed off the to do list so another gets added.

Patrick also rashly volunteered to string the wire on the boundary fence at the front of the layout over the next few Thursday evenings at the MRC. I was delighted by this as I’d done just one strand and it had reduced me to not so silent fury.

Away from the club, Ivan is producing a number of boxes to transport the large china clay dry, the lighting rig and hold the large amounts of Commonly Required Accessories & Parts (CRAP for short) that are a feature of exhibiting. He is also producing one of these boxes with a dual purpose – one of them will be a ‘step up box’ to make reaching across the fiddle yard much easier, an idea I borrowed, well stole actually, from the sage of Fareham.

So all in all, a busy few weeks and a busy few still to come. I’ll be shortly disappearing behind a pile of locos and stock to make sure they all work as they should – I’ll also be frantically trying to increase the number of steam locos available too, so watch drduncan’s workbench blog for updates (if I get time).

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

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