Harton Gill was awarded the Railway Modeller Shield for the best layout in show at FebEx2015. Steve Flint, editor of Railway Modeller, judged the shows layouts on behalf of Peco Publications.
Although everything on the layout should be prototypical for the southern Tyneside area in the chosen time period of the late 1960s, nonetheless Harton Gill is a fictional location. The builders have always believed that this is the way to do a model railway: every detail looking as though it belongs, but no need to try and copy a real place. Thus we have in the foreground an overhead-electrified private line connecting the colliery to some imaginary staithes off to the left, just like the real-life Harton Electric Railway. At the back of the layout we have a British Railways North East Region branch to a cement works, with engines and traffic appropriate to such a place. In the middle is a short passenger line terminating at a halt with a DMU shuttle service, recently electrified with third-rail, to allow different trains to be run. Wherever possible the buildings, such as the signal box, the footbridge and the signals follow ex-NER prototypes.
The timescale allows the running of a mixture of steam and early diesels, in both green and blue, as well as the dedicated colliery electrics. The latest additions are a Tyneside Bo-Bo electric operating off the third rail and the EPB parcels car which ran on Tyneside for a while (the operators would be pleased to hear from anyone who knows anything about this interesting vehicle).
The layout boards are all made from 6mm birch-faced plywood glued and pinned together. Track is hand-built entirely from C & L components with a few homemade modifications for tiebars and to strengthen crossing units. The buildings are all scratch-built from plasticard (with the exception of the colliery headframe which is a brass Wrightscale kit) to fit their locations amongst the tracks. Space and construction effort have been saved by using cassettes rather fiddle yards. These overhang the edge of the boards while being firmly attached to them. Lots of people comment on the dangers involved but so far, with a table always occupying the space below the cassettes, no disasters have occurred.