Just over a year ago (is it really that long?!) I posted a couple of rough sketches showing some ideas for the layout. Since then I have managed to get all the track laid, but that's about it. Despite the painfully slow progress, on the positive side it has allowed for my ideas to develop and evolve a little more.
Since I originally came up with the track plan, one of the difficulties was trying to decide on a 'back story' for the layout that would tie things together and define it a little more. (I suppose I should have got that sorted before the track plan but there we go!)
Around the same time I was inspired by some photos of the Melingriffith Tinplate Works but I didn't want to go down the route of modelling a private industrial complex as such. Then I suggested the idea of a branch line that had lost its passenger service, with the sidings at the front perhaps being part of a goods yard with the old station just 'off scene'. However, this was all rather vague and I still felt something wasn't quite right about it.
(You might ask whether its entirely necessary to have a cohesive back story for such a diminutive layout, but its important to me - maybe even more so given the layout's small size, as it helps to set the small part you actually see within a wider imagined setting and context.)
Recently, through reading a number of books, I have been greatly inspired by the railways of the Forest of Dean and this has proved a huge inspiration in thinking about the layout.
I'm now pretty firmly decided that it should be set within the Forest of Dean during the late 1950s/early 60s. The single through-line would be one of the branches (such as the Coleford or Lydbrook branches - although I'm happy for these sort of specifics to remain vague) that ran off the main line through the forest, serving various collieries, stone works and the like. The line diverging from the loop siding at the back will be a secondary branch or long siding leading to one such facility some distance 'off stage', and the sidings at the front (for which I've had most difficulty coming up with a convincing purpose in the past) will serve loading screens for a closer to hand (though still off stage) colliery.
The screens themselves will be of fairly simple, corrugated iron construction and relatively low profile as some at the smaller collieries were (suitably rusty and dilapidated of course for the era and atmosphere I want to portray). The sidings, which currently end a few inches short of the baseboard edge, will be extended up to the very edge, with the screens (in reality built in half relief) covering the last 4 or 5 inches. (A 'proscenium arch' type arrangement will eventually help to hide the front edges at either side and create the impression of the scene continuing to the left and right.)
Running down from the back of the layout (where it will emerge from the trees) and into the top of the screens will be a trestle-supported rope-worked tubway (which could be made operational) to carry the coal from the pithead (off stage through the trees at the rear) to the screens. This, along with the screens themselves, and suitably placed small trees and scrubby undergrowth, will help to hide/disguise the 'holes in the sky' where the tracks exit to the left.
The right hand end of the layout will remain as I have always imagined it, with a bridge carrying a minor forest road across the railway and disguising the exit at that end. At the back the road will bend round and be hidden by trees and at the front the proscenium arch (and more trees) will hide it. The ground will rise up steeply all along the back of the layout with trees and bushes disguising the join with the backscene.
I know a picture would be better, but I haven't got round to it yet, so these words will have to suffice for now!