Monday, March 19, 2012

Leighton Buzzard

Leighton Buzzard entranceI was on my way out of the Nottingham show on Saturday when I spotted a side room. Had I not been so stingy and purchased an exhibition guide my discovery might have happened earlier. Or not as I probably wouldn't have bothered reading it properly.

Anyway, in the room were some demos from members of the EM Gauge Society. Nice, but I had a bus to catch back into a town where I hoped to buy a Mothers Day present. Then I realised what I was standing next to.

Leighton Buzzard. Built by Rev Peter Denny. Of Buckingham fame.

I have the books. Even the old ones, but I've never seen the real model. This model is truly a legend. Built in the days when everyone thought Hornby Dublo to be a bit whizzy, it's a tribute to the work of one man who had to do it all the hard way. Apart from some basic parts such as wheels, rail and ERG brickpaper, the modeller was on his or her own.

What he or she did have was the real world to look at. My favorite feature on that layout is the gas works. When Denny built his, every town had one so he could go and have a look. In fact it probably wouldn't have occurred to many people to not build a gas works in the same way a modern image modeller would leave out a big aluminium shed-based industrial or retail park.

Leighton Buzzard Gasworks

There was a very comprehensive series of articles in the Railway Modeller on this corner of the model. I'm sure I have them saved in a box file somewhere.

You might look and say that the workmanship isn't that great compared to the best on show now but then you would be forgetting that this was pretty much the only model being built like this at the time. Beal and Ahern were at the same sort of thing but with no interweb you had to rely on magazines to share information. They weren't the full colour productions of today - a contemporary Nevard would be snapping away with a bellows camera and roll film. No shooting until your finger hurt and picking the best from a few hundred pictures. Film wasn't cheap and so you spent a lot of time on each shot. You had to, if it was wrong, unless your darkroom technique was good, there was nothing you could do about it.

Leighton Buzzard ControlsDenny didn't just build a model, he wanted to operate it like a real railway too and so despite being next to each other over the baseboard, the operator and fiddle yard man communicate with bell codes and some boxes with lights on to indicate the status of the the lines. While I was there, these were supplemented by speaking but I can see how you could stay silent and operate the timetable.

One myth I was happy to see scotched was that the locos didn't run that well. Given a modern Gaugemaster controller (on the main board, the fiddle yard is still H&M), they run a sweetly as my stuff. Mind you, they are all well run in by now !

OK, so if I produced a model like this now it wouldn't grace MRJ but I was ever so pleased to finally see a model I've read so much about. I want more than ever to try some of the techniques used too. I bet when my glue isn't made of boiled cow and the cardboard isn't straw-based, there is still lots of life in them !

You can see my other pictures from Nottingham on Flickr


neil whitehead said...

Leighton Buzzard! In colour! Thanks Phil. think you are wrong about MRJ as they feature some excellent layouts that are all about atmosphere such as North Shields and Yaxbury. They also featured Iain Robinson's Finnie's garage and this month have given space to Iain Rice. On the other hand a layout of the excellence of Pempoul has been given space on several occasions. A large number of articles are by professional modellers to what I call museum standards which I will never match. But they are also using RTR from Hornby and Bachman to show what the "average" modeller can achieve quickly and simply. They are right to aim for the highets standards in the hobby; there is no point in publishing another Railway Modeller or British Railway Modelling.

Phil Parker said...

I agree that there is no need for another RM or BRM but I think if you look at the "readers layouts" section in either you'll see stuff that isn't that far removed from Denny's work albeit mostly based on modern materials.

I can't see MRJ picking up on those in a hurry. Yaxbury and North Shields have an extra layer of sharpness not seen here. That's not a ciritism, this model is half a century old and many modellers with all the added benefits are only just matching it. Even then they miss the bit Denny had, they don't understand or observe the prototype in the same way - mostly becasue it's all been knocekd down !