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Tates Railway  'OO' and 'OO9'

Exhibition Layout.

This Layout is no longer owned by me, but is still avaliable for EXHIBITION BOOKING. Details on info 

section on this page.

This, my latest project layout was inspired by the book ‘The Lincolnshire PotatoRailways' by Stewart E. Squires, living in south Lincolnshire all my life I had heard of these railways but am too young to have seen them working. In south Lincolnshire potatoes are called 'tates', hence the name for this layout. After looking through this comprehensive book with some very interestingphotographs, it brought back a very distant memory of riding on a small railway truck in a greenhouse on the farm in Pinchbeck where my grandfather was the gardener. Further questions to my family confirmed that indeed seed potatoes where ‘chitted’, or started to grow in the greenhouses before transfered to the fields, then the greenhouses where used to grow tomatoes or flowers.

The potato railways came about after the First World War when there was a surplus of track and rolling stock that was used for transport of equipment and men to the ‘front line’. Farmers spotted the potential for a cheap efficient system to transport their crops around the estates. Initially horses where used for the ‘motive power’ as they were already used for ploughing and haulage, but with a railway and flat land farms the horse could haul a far greater payload than with a cart.

In total it is estimated that at the high point in the 1920s, there were 128 miles in operation at least in 35 locations. The outbreak of World War II, created a radical change in British agriculture, with the need for much greater productivity of home grown food. The result of this was mechanisation, and the use of tractors. Some railways survived, most had gone by 1960, with one remaining until 1969. by this time, small petrol locomotives where being used instead of horses.

The layout consists of a standard gauge, ex Great Northern branch which terminated with an interchange dock with the narrow gauge (2ft) farm railway. The branch line brings in coal, seed potatoes, fertilizer and timber for the farm use. Potatoes and other crops where loaded onto the standard gauge via the wooden loading dock.

The coal is used in the Pumping Station, which has a Butterly Beam Engine that drives a paddle wheel to raise water 8ft to drain the low lying land. The Pumping Station was built in 1833, and it still survives as a Museum at Pinchbeck near Spalding. Originally the coal was shipped in by barge, but as the dykes and rivers became silted up, the railway was used.

The narrow gauge railway is used to transport seed potatoes to the fields, then at the end of the growing season brought back for immediate shipment to markets in sacks, or stored in ‘Graves’ ( or Clamps) for use throughout the winter. Peas are also grown on the farm, and these are brought from the fields on the vines, for threshing at the farm yard. The process of freezing for preservation had not been invented at this time. Fertilizer in the form of manure from the farm animals or phosphates, and clay to stabilize the friable soil is transported around the farm.

Track and points are all Peco, code 100 for std. gauge and 009 for narrow gauge.  As this layout is designed for exhibitions, passed experience has proved to me that this track is durable enough to withstand the rigors of transportation etc., although it may not look correct to some.
Control is DC, using two separate Gaugemaster hand held units on separate circuits, and hand operated points via brass rods. Keeping everything as simple and basic as possible does help reduce the nightmare of things ‘going wrong’ when you are ‘under the spotlight’ at exhibitions.

Bachman, with weathering. Narrow gauge loco’s have chassis from N gauge 03 and 08 loco’s, and Kato and Bachman. The bodies are brass kits from A1 Models. Wagons are a mix of second hand, maker unknown or Parkside kits.
All buildings are scratch built using card and printed paper from various The standard gauge loco’s and rolling stock are all out of the box Hornby or sources. The pumping station is scale model of the building as it is now at Pinchbeck. The brick barn is roughly based on a barn near my house and is a common design for this area. Corrugated iron was a cheap and readily available material between the wars and there are numerous examples like the straw barn in the farmyard.

Potato loads are made from Millet, Quinoa or mustard seeds on a wood and plaster base, pea vine loads are plaster covered in ground foam with a sprinkle of real soil. Sacks of potatoes are simply made with Das modelling clay, rollout a rope and cut into sections with blunt knife, flatten slightly, then paint. All loads have a steel washer placed just under the surface which allows them to be removed quick and easily with a magnet.

In the future the layout may be joined up with ‘Billingborough’, my Lincolnshire branch line exhibition layout space permitting.

The Tates layout will be at the Spalding Model Railway Exhibition. 15th & 16th November 2014 .

Exibition Manager Information

The layout.

SCALE 'OO' and 'OO9'


SIZE. Baseboard 8ft x 2ft.

Viewing from front only (8ft)

Space for operation inc baseboard 10ft x 6ft 6in.


POWER REQUIREMENT 1x220v 13 amp socket      ( plus bacon sandwiches)

TRANSPORT. In owners car.

Layout is located at Alfreton (East Midlands)


2 chairs plus 1 small table.

For booking enquires e-mail : 

Modification to the narrow gauge to allow continuous running' and storage.


Advert in January 2015 Railway Modeller.

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