A Station Building for Litlington

The Baseboards have been on the back burner since the last update, because the weather has not tended to be at the best when I have had the time (and it isn’t late enough to annoy the neighbours) . It’s not a problem – I’m in no mood to rush things for the sake of it, and anyway, I have been reconsidering my reasons for going with the jigsaw method.

Originally, I wanted to do this because I felt it would be an easy way of making the layout portable – which still applies. However, three 4′ long boards of variable width take up the same space as one 4′ long board of a fixed width. Obviously. Am I just making trouble for myself? Was I told this when I originally mooted the idea? Yes (to the latter, the former is something I’ve been pondering).

To avoid falling into the spiral of ‘problem, wonder how to resolve it, get bored and do something else’, I’ve instead been concentrating on some of the other aspects of the layout.

Firstly rolling stock – Kevin Walsh of the Uckfield Club kindly offered me four Ratio Van kits, which he had started to convert into Poultry Vans. These used to be used on the Cuckoo Line, with Heathfield in particular being a centre for Chicken Fattening. To quote from www.heathfield.net;

In the Victorian age occupations increased in variety and in addition to farming, timber and building work, there was now a widespread industry in chicken-fattening.  Trains would bring in chickens for fattening from all over and take them away when they were ready.  Lots of people did a bit of fattening in their back gardens, putting up lews (shelters made from faggots) to keep out the wind.  Chickens would be put on a cramming machine to fatten them up with a mixture of sour milk, ground oats and rendered down fat.  Men would do the plucking and the women did the stubbing (pinching out the beginnings of new feathers).  As this activity expanded, it spawned a range of related activities such as corn and seed merchants, carriers and suppliers of equipment and machinery, as well as the increase in the production of cereals and hops.  This industry started in the 1860s and finished around 1960 when broilers were introduced.

‘PC’ it ain’t, but a useful rural industry for the layout it is, especially as I’m told it is unlikely that a small rural brewery would send goods out by train, instead focusing on a tightly defined local area – so whilst the brewery will still receive coal and anthracite for the brewing process, I needed another ‘export’ industry, and have now found one. LBSCR/SR Insulated Van suppliers, anyone?. I’ve so far built two of the Ratio vans that Kev supplied, and am in the (slow, it’s been years since I last used transfers) process of lettering them. I have another two more to do, couplings to install, and then they will be ready for the photo plank.

I also mentioned earlier that I have started work on the Station Building. This is based on and inspired by Hailsham station on the Cuckoo Line, but is not an exact copy as it has been flipped (the toilet block moved from one side to the other) to better fit in with the plan. Loads still to do, but a couple of photos are below;


Platform Side


Road Side

This is made from Wills parts and the roof (and windows, for that matter) are just held in place temporarily with Blu Tac – but it is getting there, with nearly all of the major constituent parts cut (apart from the roof). 

How does it look compared with the original? – well, not too bad if you ignore the (thankfully part built!) roof.

Nick Catford has supplied a photo from 1965 to the excellent ‘Disused Stations‘ site which shows the front elevation well – http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/h/hailsham/index7.shtml (And also shows that I have the angle of the roof all wrong. I wondered why it was a pain in the arse to fit… – that’ll be a trip out for some more Wills roof tiles then!)

This is the first time I’ve scratchbuilt to a plan (The A.C Elliott book ‘The Cuckoo Line’ published by Wild Swan has the relevant scale drawings, which I’ve enlarged from 2mm to 4mm on a photocopier), and I have found it a most enjoyable process. Hopefully this will continue! 



Starting the Jigsaw

Over the last week I’ve been mostly working on some rolling stock, but today have been able to put together the first of the baseboards.

As has been explained previously, I intend to use the ‘Jigsaw’ method of construction. This has been giving me headaches over the past few days, but today I bit the bullet and got on with it.

The first board is below;


Click image to enlarge

The result? – Not half bad, especially the slabs underneath (photo taken in the garden for natural light) aren’t the most level.

Framing is blocks of 2″ x 1″, pinned to the ply ‘top’. Another thing to consider is that this was just placed together for the photo – there will be catches holding the boards together. You can see the lines of each ‘piece’ a little more than I would like, because the jigsaw (power tool, not baseboard design – confusing stuff) made the edges a little rough. I intend to cover the boards in cork to make it a little neater (and hide the pins).

I am though pleased with it so far – I am by no means a master craftsman – but the three sections ‘mesh’ nicely together already, before adding the catches. For this photo, in order to expose the joints to scrutiny, I took the full-scale plan off, but a quick glimpse of the layout plan below shows that these three boards are numbers 1, 2 and 5.


Comments and questions are, as always, welcome and appreciated.

Boot Sale Bargains


The usual Sunday morning trip round one of the local Car Boot Sales revealed some interesting bits. Firstly – an old Hornby Sheep Wagon. I believe this is nothing like the prototype, but at a solitary pound, with no broken bits (I have a spare wheelset!) , it will do as a placeholder and something in the right livery to shunt around whilst I am building kits.

The books both caught my eye on the same stall (£2 the pair). The H.P White ‘Regional History of the Railways’ book has already thrown up some interesting snippets on a very quick first glance through earlier, and this edition was published in 1964. As well as plenty of text, there are a few interesting pictures, and a lovely pullout Map (in perfect condition, despite the somewhat tatty dust jacket) of the area.

Finally, and with a nod to the always thought-provoking Neil Rushby, I picked up ‘Sussex’ by John Burke (1974). This is immaculate, and will hopefully prove enlightening reading whether or not it throws up anything which can be incorporated into the layout. Neil mentioned on his Rushby’s Railways blog, a few weeks ago , that modellers sometimes struggle to get what is outside the railway boundary as correct as they do inside, and suggested the Country Life volumes from the 50’s as a useful resource. A quick squint on Amazon shows up some interesting potential books for a matter of pence (one on Alfriston and one on Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley), which may well follow these two onto the shelves.

Moving to the layout, it has been a quiet weekend with the wonderful weather allowing plenty of time to get the garden looking good – although I have waved the jigsaw at some plywood. The first of the boards is now cut into three sections, awaiting the cutting of side panels – then we’ll see if the jigsaw idea works…


Tonight has seen the first real tangible progress on the layout – although there isn’t a lot to show for it.

What I have done is to print out the XtrkCad plan in 1.1 scale, and tape it on the board. Now that I’ve worked out that the gap in the middle was down to the printer rather than any fault of mine, I’m pretty pleased with it – the layout flows nicely, with something that I had previously only seen on screen now taking physical shape.

This though is the easy part – what comes next is something I’m a little apprehensive about. For the Baseboards, I’m planning something completely new to me. I mentioned way back at the start that I am a big fan of Iain Rice’s writings, and in his 1990 book ‘An Approach to Model Railway Layout Design – Finescale in Small Spaces’ he introduced the concept of Jigsaw Baseboards. 

“As you may have gathered by now, baseboard joints are a ‘bete noire’ of mine, and I have long sought ways of making them far less obvious than the usual regular interval ruler-straight geological faults. The ‘jigsaw’ baseboard design is the most radical way I have yet come up with of achieving this, although the notion at present exists in three basic variations”

Iain Rice, Model Railway Layout Design Finescale in Small Spaces, Pg 20

Iain then goes on to discuss the first two – but it was the third that caught my eye – that of splitting the whole baseboard into ‘chunks’, which connect, jigsaw-like, to form the whole layout.

Putting that in the concept of Litlington…


Apologies for the ugly red lines, but it is the best way of demonstrating. The layout will be physically divided (and I mean completely divided, the individual parts will be held together with dowels (as in flat pack furniture) and over-centre catches when in use, but otherwise totally separate) into 6 sections as shown above. 

Looking at each one in turn, you can see that Sections 1, 3, 5 and 6 are purely scenic. Sections 2 and 4 carry the track – with the wiring run along the front of the battens (I’m planning on using the glued ply method of ply-softwood block-ply. Dowels will locate into the softwood block, with the catches on the ends of each section to join it to its neighbour). The main reason for going with this method is to try to avoid obvious joins, but also to enable the layout to be split easily for transport (Sections 2 and 4 joined together electronically by plugs and sockets) – as I’ll be using DCC, there will be a main bus, with droppers to each individual piece of track. 

You’ll also see that those big red lines run straight through two of the buildings – they will be demountable, for safety’s sake (I’m going to be scratchbuilding both, so this would have been a sensible option anyway).

As for the other joints, the lineside fence should take care of the one along the back, whilst the one running through the goods yard should be taken care of with the usual gunk and ash that forms the ‘ballast’ in this area. The only one that is a slight concern is the (unavoidable, whatever method of baseboard) join in the track in the middle (sections 2-4) – hopefully I’ll be able to hide this from normal viewing angles with some careful placement of greenery – as the layout is intended to be viewed at close to eye level, hopefully it won’t be too obvious in any case. 



Litlington – The Layout

What follows is an amalgamation of several posts. If you would like to see the various versions of the trackplan, have a look at the RMWeb Version of the Blog here 

Now that I’ve written the history and dreamt up the rationale, it’s now time to think about the layout.

It is pretty much as per the ‘Route Guide’ published recently, except I’ve decided that the brewery entrance would be better ‘offstage’ – it just seems to suit the open feel of the place a little more. There is room for a few changes – I’d quite like to fit a flint-built cottage on there somewhere – but I’m quite happy with what I’ve come up with so far.

‘Fits’, of course, is a bit subjective – there is ‘no room at the inn’ for an 8′ long lump – and of late I’ve been erring towards the smaller, portable (who said exhibitable, quiet there, the Mrs is watching!) layout as my ‘weapon of choice’. On that note – I have been reading of the ‘Jigsaw’ design principle, which sounds ideal, particularly as I’ve always had an aversion to the (often unavoidable!) ‘baseboard join chasm’ often seen, and the plan has been designed with this in mind.

After many revisions of trackplans, and the growing realisation that drawing pretty pen and ink plans isn’t for me, the final (final!) plan is below;



One thing I want to do is have a definite ‘LBSCR Flavour’ – so instead of using kit built buildings, I plan to build four of the five structures shown in the plan above from scratch (The odd one out being the coaling stage). I may live to regret this!

One of my biggest sources of inspiration for the project has been the Wild Swan book ‘The Cuckoo Line’ by A.C Elliott. At the back are drawings (to 2mm/foot scale) of various buildings along the line.

Starting with the Station Building, I think that of Hailsham (pg 142) suits it well. A quick Google reveals this photo from John Law on Flickr;http://www.flickr.co…cat/5631935654/

The Engine Shed will also be that from Hailsham (Page 144)- the real thing was demolished in the 1880’s, but as I’ve moved it to another location, I felt it only fair to give the old thing an extended lease of life!

The Water Tower will be that of Heathfield ( http://www.flickr.co…N03/6466195117/ from ‘heffle-senior’ on Flickr), but without the hoist (described as unusual on the excellent http://www.lbscr.org website – http://www.lbscr.org…htm#Water_Tower ) . (Page 152)

Finally, the Goods Shed – this is the Goods Warehouse from Rotherfield (First picture on http://www.disused-s…oss/index.shtml)


A Journey Down The Line….


The Cuckmere Valley Line began at Isfield, with services departing from Platform 3. Facilities at Isfield were shared with the Wealden (Lewes-Uckfield) Line Station, with A.E Lavender the local coal merchant, also involved with sand, granite and the shingle extracted from Cuckmere Haven. Whilst most passenger trains terminated at Isfield, a few ran onto the Wealden Line, pausing at Platform 1 before continuing towards Uckfield, Eridge (for connections to Hailsham and Polegate via the Cuckoo Line) and Tunbridge Wells West (for connections to London). Leaving Isfield, the line turned quite sharply away from the course of the section of the Wealden line which continued towards Lewes, skirting the ancient Plashett Wood. Crossing farmland, the line then curved gently round before running close to Shortgate Lane to enter Laughton.


After entering the village, the line crossed Laughton Road before entering the station, just off the present day Church Road. At Laughton a single platform was provided with a loop, small goods shed (similar to that at Horam on the Cuckoo Line), small livestock holding pen, and a seperate siding to serve the various brickworks.


Leaving Laughton, the line passed close behind the village school and All Saints Church, built in the 13th Century and containing the remains of two 18th Century Prime Ministers, both members of the important Pelham family, continuing on the gentle curve to head for Ripe.


A short time after leaving Laughton, the line ran into the western side of the small hamlet of Ripe. Here, a basic halt was provided with a single siding for coal and ‘smalls’ traffic, dealt with by a small ‘booking in’ office staffed by a part-time Clerk.



Leaving Ripe, the line crossed the main Lewes-Eastbourne ‘East Coastway’ line by means of a simple overbridge, passing the outskirts of the village of Selmeston, with the station opposite the Church (St Michaels & All Angels). At Berwick, another loop was provided, with a single siding for freight for the village (larger facilities being provided off the East Coastway line at the station which, upon opening of the Cuckmere Valley line, had been renamed Berwick & Selmeston. A headshunt from this siding ran to a loading dock, adjacent to which was the 2-Foot Narrow Gauge siding of the Ludlay Brick and Tile Company.



Shortly after leaving Berwick the line changed direction, curving over the Alfriston Road before running alongside the River Cuckmere, from which it would take it’s name. Alfriston Station occupied a pretty location, built on a gentle curve just off North Street, close to the centre of the village, and boasted a goods store as well as livestock pens.



Leaving Alfriston, the line curved to cross the Cuckmere, before running into Litlington, the terminus of passenger operation on the line. Here a loop is provided, as well as basic goods facilities and a siding running to the Long Man Brewery. Litlington, as with Isfield, is also the location of a coaling stage with water tower (fed from the river), to enable locomotives to be refueled prior to the journey either down to the coast, or back northwards.


Following Litlington, the line takes a reasonably straight path alongside the river, crossing again at Exceat, before terminating close to the shore – a loop is also provided. The East Sussex Transport & Trading Company also maintains a small siding for stabling a shunting locomotive, which although plated to work over LBSC metals as far as Litlington Station, is primarily used to shunt loaded wagons into the opposite track of the loop, to enable empties to be delivered straight to the loading platform.

Sources; All information on Narrow Gauge Lines from http://cambrianmodel…k/eastsxng.html .

1948 to Beeching and Beyond

British Railways was formed from the Big Four in 1948, with, again, little except signage and numbers on rolling stock changing for the Cuckmere Valley Railway. During the 1950’s, the tourists began to drift away – tempted by other parts of the network, with the era of the Holiday Camp in full swing.

Still the little railway soldiered on – but in 1963 came a double whammy which the railway would not recover from – firstly the famous and feared report of Dr Richard Beeching recommended the line for closure to passenger traffic – declining receipts blamed despite a local campaign to save the line, with some of the descendants of the original backers involved in an at-times bitter campaign. Freight too was on the decline, but the appetite of the construction industry for ballast – ironically to increase the road-building programme to replace railways all over the country – kept the gravel and shingle extraction going, which would have been enough to preserve the branch as a freight only line.

It was not to be. A year after the withdrawal of passenger service, the East Sussex Transport And Trading Company ceased trading (1), cutting the need for the line dramatically. This time it was the end, and full closure was complete by January 1965. Perhaps as a result of their main transportation method ending, the Ludlay Brick and Tile Company at Berwick closed in 1965 (2). Of the Stations, Litlington, Alfriston, Laughton and Berwick passed quickly into private ownership, following demolition and removal of track, whilst the halt at Ripe, a wooden structure, quickly became derelict and was dismantled in early 1970. The trackbed, too, was sold off piecemeal, mostly to local farmers who re-incorporated it into the same fields that their ancestors had seen severed a hundred years previously, whilst new housing at Alfriston, Berwick and Laughton removed all but the faintest traces of the line in those villages. The freight-only section from Litlington to the coast also reverted to its natural state – with the Cuckmere Haven becoming a popular tourist attraction in its own right.

Isfield, however, after initially facing a similar fate, had a far happier ending – the Wealden Line had been closed in 1969 after another, more drawn out battle between local residents and what had now become British Rail (3). The station was purchased at auction by Dave and Gwen Millham (4), and restoration to former glory began immediately afterwards, with track relaid along the route of the line towards Uckfield. What had now became known as the Lavender Line passed into the ownership of the Lavender Line Preservation Society in 1991, with remaining artifacts, including original Station nameboards, of several Cuckmere Valley Line stations displayed in a small museum in the restored Signal Box. Things would come full circle in November 2011, when ‘Rileys Railway’ opened to the public alongside Platform 3 at Isfield (5) – meaning that once again, and although much smaller, trains run along a tiny part of the route of the Cuckmere Valley Railway.



(‘Rileys Railway’ at the Lavender Line, Isfield – my photo, taken April 2013)


1 – http://en.wikipedia….e_Haven#History
2 – http://en.wikipedia….erwick_industry
3 – http://en.wikipedia….#Public_enquiry
4 – http://en.wikipedia….ine#Restoration
5 – http://www.lavender-…ive/news-20.htm