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Gracetown Bank is a layout that depicts a northern England goods yard. An assortment of steam and diesel locomotives shunt the yard. Goods wagons are brought into the yard from fiddle yards on both sides of the layout. The wagons are positioned at various loading and unloading points on the layout including loading docks and warehouses.

A working rope hauled incline takes wagons to a higher level of the yard to additional factories and warehouses.

Track is all Peco code 100 '00'. Couplers are Kadee, that allow 'hands free' uncoupling.Locomotives and wagons are all Hornby or Bachman.

Baseboard is 3mm Beech ply and 4mm hardwood plywood.

The centre scenic section is 4ft wide,  further 2ft fiddle yards are on both sides the layout.



The motor and gearbox on the top of the incline 
Buffer wagon has Kadee one side and cable connected on the other.
Video of Incline operation



The layout depicts a small northern England railway goods yard.

There is a variety of motive power, with steam and diesel locomotives.

Through freight and shunting moves take place, with fiddle yards on both sides of the layout. A working rope hauled incline is also set on the layout.

The track is Peco code 100, control is analogue and uncoupling is with Kadee couplers.      


Layout details.

Scale.  OO,  4mm .  Era. 1960-70

Layout size.  8ft x 2ft baseboard, total area required 10ft x 7ft

Viewing area, 4ft. from the front. Insurance value. £400.00

Power requirements. One 220v 13amp socket + tea and coffee.

Operators.    Two. + One small table required.

Transport  in own car from South Lincolnshire.




Mobile 07802688821       Feb 2021


More pictures,video and info.

Operation of rope incline.

GRACETOWN BANK.  Text from magazine feature. 2021


‘OO’ gauge.  4mm scale

All photography by Tony Wright.



A combination of looking for inspiration for a lockdown project and a visit to the site of the Middleton Top rope incline on the Cromford and High Peak line, resulted in my producing this small layout. Always looking for a new exhibition layout which is a little different from the norm, a rope worked incline fitted the bill.

My first thought was an incline like Middleton Top, in a rural scene. Realising that the operating potential and interest for viewing at an exhibition would be limited, I decided on an urban industrial site which included the incline. The geographic location is northern England, at a fictitious mill town. As a flat-lander from Lincolnshire, I did not want to be too specific ae to which town the layout represents, so that gives me a little more freedom with the architecture, of those satanic mills.

A small goods yard surrounded by mills with a rope-worked incline which serves a mill and factory on a higher level were chosen. Wagons are brought into the yard for loading or unloading with various cargoes on the lower level, and there’s an occasional working transferring through wagons to industry off site. This is set circa 1960, using steam and diesel shunting locomotives. The yard is situated close to a main line with an interchange siding and yard out of view. 



The baseboard is all made using 4mm birch plywood including the supporting framework, all glued together, no screws or nails. I have found birch plywood to be the strongest and lightest to use, which is a must for exhibition layouts. I have never had any problems with warping or distortion since using it, but it is more expensive than other plywood.

It is supported on standardised trestles 1.24m (4ft) from ground level that can be used with any of my exhibition layouts. There are small fiddle yards on each side, each 0.5m long and the backscene board is 0.3m high.





The mill buildings are all of freelance design with inspiration from photographs and Google Street View! It was always going to be difficult to create an industrial northern town scene that compares with the scale of the real thing. The buildings along the backscene are Walthers factory units that I salvaged from my redundant US model railroad. I think they are a good representation of the brick-built mills I have seen in northwest England. 

The buildings on either side are scratch-built, using foam board base covered with Slater’s embossed stone effect Plastikard. Laser-cut windows and slate tiles for these buildings are from Stoneybridge Structures. The same stone effect embossed Plastkard  was used for the retaining walls. By using different shades of grey paint, and weathering with washes the stone looks different for each building. It may be noted that there is a small scrapheap, it is something all my layouts have.

Two small platforms are used to load and unload wagons and tranship to road transport. One is covered with a simple wooden canopy; the other is open with a crane for heavier loads.


Permanent Way

All track is Peco Code 100 with Peco medium-radius points. My first choice would have been Code 75, but I still had a good stock of Code 100 track and recycled points. Most of the side profile of the trackwork is not visible because it is in a cobbled yard environment so I can get away with large section. The cobble or sets’ effect is created using Slater’s embossed Plastikard.

 Points are controlled simply by a rod mechanism; I have opted to use wood dowel because the runs are short, and dowel does not ‘flex’ and gives a more positive contact.  Locomotive control is with DC handheld controllers. Each section of track or siding is wired to a switch to allow control from either of two controllers. This is indicated on the control panel with LEDs. 

The two fiddle yards each have two tracks running in from the layout, giving four lines running off the layout. All the tracks in the fiddle yards are also switched to allow individual control and indication lights show which tracks are ‘live’ on the panel which is important for the operating procedure.




Rope incline.

The construction of the incline is a simple strip of wood (a recycled slat from wooden window blind) with ballast and track, it is a 1 in10 incline. Power for the rope haulage is provided by a small 3-12volt electric motor and gearbox that drives a shaft at right angles to motor, bought from ‘e-buy-gum’. The shaft has cotton thread attached to simulate the wire rope. A panel-mounted controller is used to control speed and direction of the incline rope. In hindsight I should have wired this motor so that one of the handheld locomotive controllers could be used.

 Because I use Kadee couplers, and I wanted a hands-free operation, I needed to use a ‘buffer wagon’. This is a wagon bogie that has a Kadee coupler on one end, with the rope is permanently attached at the other.


To take a wagon up the incline, a loco will position it at the base, and the buffer wagon runs down on the rope and couples and is then pulled up the incline. To bring a wagon down, it is lowered down to a set point at the base of the incline with the rope where there is an under-track permanent magnet that uncouples the wagon. This allows the buffer car to then be pulled back up the incline. A loco can then couple up and take the wagon off into the yard. 

It took a lot of trial and error to get the correct location of the under-track magnets to allow hands-free operation and mark the magnet position for the operator. The top of the incline is hidden behind the buildings, so the wagon can sit without being seen.



All the track sections on the layout are allocated letters. This allows each siding or part of a siding, and the four exit points to the fiddle yards to be identified. 

Two sets of cards are used, one gives ‘Exit points’, the other has shunting instructions. So, in an operation sequence the first card is draw, e.g. ‘Exit A’ then the next card will indicate the operation, e.g. ‘Add wagon to E’ or, ‘Take wagon from J’. The fiddle yard operator chooses which fiddle yard track to use as an entry point, and which loco and wagons to send into the layout. He then energises the fiddle yard track, and it indicates on the control panel for the loco operator. 

This system allows complete randomisation and interest for the operator and viewer. The freight traffic is general merchandise, coal, timber, cotton or wool bales and iron and steel products from an off-scene engineering works.


Rolling stock.

All the rolling stock is RTR from Hornby, Bachman and Dapol etc. The wagons and locomotives are all weathered to a greater or lesser extent using a light acrylic spray and weathering powders. Kadee couplers are fitted, and hidden under-track magnets set at strategic points facilitate uncoupling. Some extra details are added, like a shunter’s pole, lamps, and crew. Open wagons have loads made from matchsticks, rail sections, copper pipe, and tarpaulin covers.



Overhead lighting is provided by 12volt LED ribbon lights. The strips are attached to an aluminium bar that runs across the full width of the layout. I have found that to get the best lighting effect a mix of bright white and soft white LEDs should be used and need to be as far forward on the layout as possible. 

Despite the layout being DC I do have sound. I have a sound pad from Big Train Sounds, which comes complete with a blue tooth speaker which is hidden inside one of the buildings. 

The basic background sound is a bespoke soundtrack which is played continuously. It features sounds that you would expect in this environment. These include a mill engine running, factory whistle, steam hammer, a passenger train running past in the background and workers shouting. Additionally, there are steam and diesel engine whistles, shunting sounds and other environmental sounds that can be played on demand. The effect is very realistic adding an extra dimension to the layout.


In conclusion.

This layout might be small, but it has given me a great deal of pleasure building and operating it. Ideally it is a two-person operation, but it can just as easily be operated solo. This has been my first venture into building a layout that has themed location outside Lincolnshire, I hope that those who live ‘up North’ will forgive my mistakes, including not adding a pigeon loft.

 The location, factory and industry names are all derived from family and grandchildren’s names. This practice always gets me in the good books, My thanks to Louis, Ben, David, and Tony who have advised and encouraged me with this and my other layouts. 

Railway modelling is a wonderful and fulfilling global hobby that has no borders of friendships and interest. Long may it be so…..

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