Eaton Gomery follows in the footsteps of Eaton Barrow and Church Eaton as my third Great Western inspired layout. However Eaton Gomery has much more of a Cambrian Railways flavour than purely G.W.R. The layout is set in Mid-Wales in Edwardian times, during the summer of 1908 and is really a celebration of the pre-grouping era. During this period there was a genuine pride in our railways. Locomotives were resplendent in lined liveries with gleaming polished brasswork. Coaches were things of beauty with elaborate panelling, fully lined and sporting elaborate crests. Railway travel of the time must have been a very pleasurable experience and particularly so, if you travelled First Class.
Eaton Gomery plays host to three pre-grouping companies. The Cambrian and Great Western face each other across adjacent platforms, whilst on the high level, crossing a right angles to the other two, resides the London & North Western Railway.
The main station building is based upon Montgomery in Mid-Wales and is typically Cambrian, whilst on the opposite platform, reminiscent of the arrangement at Dollgelly, is a Great Western ‘chalet’ station. On the high level is a standard Crewe prefabricated L.N.W.R. structure.
Buildings, which are a feature of the layout, are constructed from mounting board with a skin of either brick or stone plasticard or fine glass paper if a rendered finish is required. The former glass kiln, now used by the Ravenhead Laundry is built from bricks made from computer chads due to its peculiar conical shape. All the building are based upon actual prototypes, though not all from the Welsh Borders.
The Cattle Market is modelled from an example in Ulverston and the Phoenix Hotel and the glass kiln are in St. Helens. Many of the other building are based upon old photographs in the Wigan area.
The trackwork is SMP with hand built pointwork using rail on copper clad sleepers. A recent development has been the replacement of the old H & M point motors with slow action Cobalt Motors which have proved to have a much more gentle action and to be a lot more sympathetic to the pointwork.
The landscape is built over expanded polystyrene with an overlay of sugar paper which is then covered in static grass. Further detailing is added using materials from the Woodland Scenics and Green Scene ranges in order to break up the uniformity of the grass. Another new development has been the addition of working signals using an ‘electronic bounce’. These are operated using GF Controls products and add much to the operating experience.
A new control panel has also been constructed to incorporate all these new operating systems and uses a bell system of communication with the fiddlyards at either end of the layout, a necessity on a layout which is 44ft. long.
The layout operates to a timetabled sequence of typical movements and last about ninety minutes before all the stock has returned to its original positions. A feature of the layout is the coaching stock which is a mixture of kits and vehicles using Trevor Charlton’s etched zinc sides. All have been professionally painted by David Studley, Larry Goddard or Frank Ranger. However, there are a coal train from the mine at Ruabon and a train of slate wagons complete with a Gunpowder Van sandwiched in the middle that regularly trundle down the length of the layout. Operationally the layout is really two layouts in one. The mainlines along the rear operate quite independently from the goods operation that takes place along the front. Wagons frequently get shunted along the full length from the cattle dock at one end to the coal sidings at the other as pick-up goods trains are reassembled for dispatch into the sequence. The skill of the Goods Yard Operator is to have them ready on time as it must have been on the real railway.
Motive power for the layout is a mixture of kit-built and scratchbuilt locomotives. Most of the Cambrian locos are scratchbuilt whilst all of the Great Western examples are kit built but in some cases modified to produce earlier examples of the class. The LNWR examples and particularly the coaching stock were built by the late Norman Heaton which has recently been supplemented by a 4-4-0 ‘Jubilee’ built for me by Simon Fenton.
Given Eaton Gomery’s geographical position it sees many excursions to the Cambrian Coast which gives us the justification to run virtually any pre-grouping loco or coach, which is just how we like it