Knights Yard (1:16)


(click on images to enlarge)

Bill Knight must be one of the most creative and resourceful modellers in our group, here in his own words, is  his story and a description of his 1:16 scale shunting layout:

"My father was a skilled engineer and an extremely good amateur carpenter.  He made the most wonderful toys for me from basic materials, the only sort of materials available during and for some years after world war II.

Unfortunately, I did not follow in his footsteps.  As a child and even in my teens, everything I tried to make was a disaster.  Try as I might I could never cut a piece of wood or drill a hole straight.  Glued joints regularly came adrift, nails merely split the wood, and soldering appeared to be an art akin to alchemy.

My mother, herself a perfectionist, was always admonishing me that I would always make a mess of things and that I would never be a patch on my father - prophecies that have continued to echo in my mind down the years.

In the circumstances it would appear that I would make the ideal candidate for the classic "cheque book modeller".  The only problem is that I truly like trying to make things.  Also, I have always been interested in the antiquated and bizarre so far as railways are concerned, and models of such items did not feature in the "ready-to-run" category until just a few years ago.

So my modelling activities over the years have been very much on a trial and error basis.  After much experimentation (ie: repeated failure) I was encouraged by an experienced Club member to try my hand at large scale narrow gauge modelling running on "0" gauge track.  Being rather individualistic (or maybe stubborn and stupid) I decided to model in a scale ratio of 1:16.  I have never been comfortable with the metric system, give me the old imperial measurements anytime.


                                 (above: Locomotive No. 4 - costing under 10p - shunting near the workshop and water tank)

So it is that my original Nuttery Vale Light Railway has emerged once more, albeit in a larger scale.  Growing confidence (I would not dare as yet to call it "skill") has enabled me to build a growing collection of small narrow gauge industrial type wagons using small diameter Cambrian plastic wheels running in converted old type Tri-Ang 00 scale wagon axleboxes, with chassis made entirely of cardboard, and bodies made from a mixture of cardboard and stripwood.

Eventually, after much trepidation on my part, I was encouraged to try my hand at locomotive construction when I was handed a suitable mechanism kindly made for me.  So, after months of experimentation I found myself the proud possessor of my first item of motive power, made with cardboard and stripwood. 

Disaster struck on two occasions in quick succession, mainly involving the electrical "department".  I had laboriously arranged the internal wiring by a combination of phosphor bronze contacts to the batteries and home-made terminal blocks.  To my horror I managed to snap off one of the wires from the motor leaving only a bare sixteenth of an inch protruding from the housing.  My heart was in my mouth, as with shaking hands, I picked up a soldering iron for the first time in over 15 years.  Much to my surprise the task proved much easier than I first feared.  Then, that very same evening, I took my pride and joy to the club to run on the circular test track.  After a couple of circuits I stopped the loco in order to reverse it, when it was rammed by a fellow modellers brass 0 gauge 4-6-0 travelling at high speed.  Although flung a good six feet along the baseboard and colliding with a control panel, the bodywok was completely unscathed.  However, the mangled controls and stripped wiring was a different matter - but at least, this time I felt more confident with the soldering iron!

So, after much sweat and tears, locomotive No.1 finally entered service on the NVLR.  Powered by a second-hand "Walkman" motor, operating on 1.5 volts, it has proved capable of hauling all my thirteen items of rolling stock around a circle of 15" radius plastic track.  It's maximum speed is only a scale 3.5 to 4 mph, but ideal for the small shunting layout I had yet to build, and which, in a moment of madness, I promised to take to a large scale model railway exhibition later that year.

Knights Yard 1:16










                                     (above: Loco No.2, made from the basis of a toy,  in the packing shed siding)

Meanwhile, I gave some modelling demonstrations at a couple of local exhibitions.  These have proved to be and interesting, and at times, amusing experience.  One visitor instantly recognised my locomotive as being a true model of one which he had seen in his youth shunting at a brickworks in the Midlands.  I was tempted to disillusion him by explaining that it was a pure figment of my imagination, so much so that, when I had built the rear end containing the batteries, I still had no idea what the rest of the model would look like!

Another visitor spent a considerable time asking me questions and finished by saying that I had inspired him to build similar models for himself; rather an ironic compliment for someone who had previously been a confirmed "armchair modeller" for more years than I care to remember.  I have subsequently met the gentleman in question who informed me that he was now in the process of building a 16mm scale garden layout.


It goes to show that, if I can do it, then anyone can - and much better too!


"KNIGHTS YARD" is the headquarters of a narrow gauge railway serving a nearby nursery.  Perpetually short of money, the system faces an uncertain future.  The locomotives have had many previous owners and the rolling stock, the bodies of which have been built in the local workshop, run on a collection of second hand skip chassis.

The layout, to which I am still adding details, is an attempt to build a large scale model in an extremely small space.  The main baseboard is just under 3 foot long and the headshunt/fiddle yard is a further 18 inches.   It has been exhibited nearly 40 times.







Despite it's small size, the layout has seven sources of traffic.  The rear siding serves a workshop, water tank and store.  The middle siding serves a packing shed.  The front siding serves a loading platform and locomotive fuelling point and the kickback siding, complete with chain hoist, is used for permanent way materials etc.

The layout is also an example of modelling on the cheap.  The baseboard consists of slats from an Ikea venetian blind kit "rescued" from a skip, together with foamboard and corrugated cardboard boxes obtained free of charge from shops.  The plastic track is second hand and is glued to pieces of cork cut from a pack of floor tiles, which I discovered whilst clearing my late fathers shed.










                                                                  (above: Loco No.1 on the front siding to the hoist)

All the locomotives are battery operated, one is an adapted toy, but the others are completely home made and, like all the rolling stock and buildings, are built from cardboard and small strips of wood.  Rivet detail is blobs of PVA glue applied with a cocktail stick - 3 blobs per rivet!"

Bill has future plans for this layout: another scenic board creating a junction (with a concrete block works, and small platform) leading to a dual exit traverser fiddle yard board.

And, using the same modelling materials, but a different gauge (approx 10.25"), he is also creating a shunting puzzle layout, about 27" long, using six wagons, which will be a model of a garden railway.

Typical of a cash-strapped nursery yard, discarded broken crates,

track weeds and nature are invading.


The packing shed where things are starting to get a little decrepit.

The hoist at the kickback siding.

This is the display of household items that is exhibited alongside the layout itself, showing what materials went into it's build.

A view across the right hand side of the layout showing a range of wagons.

This is loco No.3, which was undergoing re-motoring at the time, along with scratch built oil cans and fruit boxes.

Loco number 5. 

This is another of Bill's wagons, complete with weathered plate and wood, and oily rag.