Sheffield Park

by Roger Marler


In the summer of 2000, my son moved out and I suddenly had an empty, if small, spare room. The 9' x 6' space looked a whole lot bigger empty than when it was occupied; but I wondered for some time what to do with it. Then the notion of fulfilling a latent ambition came to mind: "Let's build a model railway!" The idea was born, and OO Gauge was to be the standard.

First thoughts took me back to my early train spotting days at Brighton Station in my home county of Sussex. I recalled having nearly visited the preserved Bluebell Railway a few years ago, and then I thought wouldn't that be an interesting challenge to model the Bluebell? I did not know where to start and had little idea that there could be any supporting infrastructure in Calgary for modeling something British, and old. But that fear soon proved to be unsubstantiated.

Signalbox The north signal box complete with a herd of Jersey cows behind.
Narrow gauge milk trolley against up platform; milk stage to be built, water crane, Blackmore Vale, and main station building under construction. NG trolley
So, Bluebell it was to be; but which part and in which era? I knew precious little about the line, its history or its structure, so I began what has proven to be very interesting and rewarding research on the line and its Society. For the diorama I have imagined a line preserved to the early 1930s with a certain amount of licence - OK, a lot of licence - and some rolling stock that has long since vanished from the real scene and some that has been lovingly preserved.

Towards the end of 2000, thanks to some knowledgeable contacts within the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society (BRPS), I located the original architect's (Myers) drawings, had them copied and mailed to me. These drawings consisted of plans and elevations to a scale of ¼" to 1'-0" of the up and down platform buildings, the milking stage, and the original north-end covered wooden footbridge. As often proves to be the case, some of these were not built exactly as they were designed; but I decided to build as closely to Myers' drawings as possible.

Box interior Close up of the north signal box, showing interior detail.
Terrier Earlswood with Southern brake van covered by tarpaulin and rear of waiting room building on up platform. Terrier
Having never built anything like this before, and appreciating quickly that I would likely be building most, if not all, from scratch, I set about some early planning. For instance, a room only 9' long does not allow for full length platforms and any operations beyond; so they had to be abbreviated. But I was determined to make something operational and that would look good at close inspection; so, I started to look for supporting efforts to help me develop model building skills. By surfing the web for British modellers in North America, I found and met a local group of enthusiasts who had sympathetic but somewhat different backgrounds and aims from what I was really looking for. I decided to go it alone; but I did make and keep a couple of contacts from that early meeting.
Barrow crossing Station staff barrow crossing and the first attempts at a Metropolitan rake in the rear.
The coaling stage in front of the E2, with the water tower and road bridge beyond. The road bridge will lead to a fiddle yard on other side of wall. Coaling stage
Station A general view of main station building on the down platform, still lots to do!
Detail of narrow gauge milk cart and crossover with standard gauge siding. SECR brake van awaiting modifications. NG crossing
Then my research took on a new angle as I tried to find local suppliers of various scratch building materials. While basic plastic and wood sheet is readily available, such things as Flemish bond brick sheeting or correctly designed windows and doors certainly are not. I quickly discovered that importing whatever is necessary is quite straightforward until Canada Post decides to intercept an occasional package and add what seems to be a disproportionate amount of "administration fee" before one can collect that package from the Post Office.

But I was off and running, keen to build, and eager to see how good I could be.

All photographs are copyright

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This page was last updated 17 March 2006

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