Scotland business

How to build the perfect model railway

Alloa Image copyright Equiscot
Image caption The model rail club set about recreating Alloa Station as it would have looked 60 years ago

The passenger train pulls away from the station, picking up speed as it passes a busy bowling green and people relaxing on deckchairs.

A short distance away, a man stands on a bridge watching a soot-covered locomotive pulling wagons laden with coal.

But it's not a scene you will come across anywhere on your travels - because none of it is real.

This is a miniature world set in central Scotland 60 years ago.

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Media caption'Alloa' was recreated in painstaking detail from photographs and plans

A small team of model rail experts took five years to recreate Alloa Station and its surroundings circa 1960 in the finest detail.

Since making its debut at a model rail exhibition in 2008, 'Alloa' has picked up numerous awards around the country.

The 34ft-long 1:76 finescale layout was built from scratch by members of the Glasgow-based Scottish Region Study Group (SRSG).

Using old photographs and plans, they painstakingly recreated everything from the time - including the signals, points, track, platforms, buildings and scenery.

Even the trains are in keeping with the era.

Alloa Image copyright Equiscot
Image caption The trains are weathered and real coal is used to give the layout as authentic a look as possible

SRSG member Davy Scott points at one engine and reveals it is carrying real coal in its tender.

He says: "It's one of the few things that you can scale down by putting it in a bag, hitting it with a hammer and crushing it until it's the right size.

"We also repainted and weathered the locomotive to make it look much more realistic - railway engines only had a shiny finish when they came out of the works on day one."

Alloa station model layout Image copyright Equiscot
Image caption 'Alloa' residents are seen relaxing in their back garden

The quest for perfection stretches to the tiny human figures seen dotted around the layout.

Although they were shop bought, many were modified and repainted to fit in with their surroundings.

Alloa station model layout Image copyright Equiscot
Image caption The layout includes period vehicles and adverts on a bridge over the track
Alloa station bowling green Image copyright Equiscot
Image caption The set has a bowling green, complete with players
Man on bicycle in Alloa layout
Image caption Fine details include a figure cycling near the track
Alloa station model layout Image copyright Equiscot
Image caption The 'Alloa' layout includes people standing at a newsagent next to the platform
Washing hanging on the line with laundry
Image caption There's even a washing line with laundry on the set

Fellow member David Franks says the high end of the hobby, which involves building finescale bespoke layouts from scratch rather than putting together a ready-to-run set, requires a wide range of skills.

"It's the only hobby I know where you learn joinery, electronics, electrics, engineering, architectural skills, research - you name it," he says.

"It can be a labour of love but then any hobby can be like that - restoring classic cars, building aircraft and so on."

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Media captionJourney through Alloa model in 40 seconds

So why do these enthusiasts like to recreate real places from times past?

Davy Scott, 68, says: "I think for older people there's nostalgia - wanting to go back to a world when things were slower.

"In 1960, you could go into Central Station in Glasgow and find it was fairly modern - it had electric trains - but some suburban stations were still gas lit in those days - it was like going back to Victorian times."

Interactive Alloa Station, circa 1960

Alloa, finescale model

Alloa fine scale model

Real

Model

SRSG is one of 31 clubs in the Association of Model Railway Societies in Scotland, which is set to hold its annual Model Rail Scotland exhibition at Glasgow's SEC.

Model Rail Scotland publicity manager Colin Rae says each club has its own approach to the hobby.

He says: "Model rail is whatever you want it to be - whether it is a train set you wish to just take out of the box and run it for a few weeks, or you are into building a much more sophisticated layout.

"It might be totally fictitious, or something like Alloa which is based on an actual place."

Man holding railway model
Image caption This picture gives an idea of the scale of the Alloa layout

Colin adds: "I think the reason people get so passionate and involved in model railway is that it is a great escapism - you are taking yourself into that little world or diorama that you have created.

"It takes you away from the hustles and bustles of the quite hectic lives we tend to lead."

Alloa layout from a distance
Image caption 'Alloa' took five years to build

Model Rail Scotland organisers are expecting 15,000 people to attend the three-day event, which starts on Friday.

'Alloa' won't be there this year, but more than 50 layouts will be on display, including one from Aberdeen Model Rail Club which won The Great Model Railway Challenge on Channel 5 last year.

Some of the layouts - including 'Great Endon' - have never been shown in Scotland before, while 'New Bryford' by Mick Bryan and 'Wansbeck Road 'by Mick Simpson are making their last ever appearance at a UK model railway show.

New Bryford layout Image copyright Andy York/British Railway Modelling Magazine
Image caption 'New Bryford' will be making its last appearance at a UK model railway show this weekend in Glasgow
Great Endon layout
Image caption 'Great Endon' will be exhibiting in Scotland for the first time at the Model Rail Scotland event

Meanwhile, the Scottish Region Study Group has started on its latest big project - recreating a 40ft-long finescale version of Larbert station in central Scotland in the 1960s.

It has taken 18 months so far and members expect it to take several more years before it is ready.

In the meantime, they continue to tweak the Alloa layout, adding fine details as more information about the station and its surroundings become available.

Davy Scott says: "Alloa was first exhibited in 2008 but it is never really finished. It may look complete, but there's always something needing done or something you think you can do better."

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