The North Staffordshire Railway has always held a fascination, since travelling to Alton Towers one glorious Saturday afternoon around 1958. The simple, compact country stations, still with working goods yards, viewed from the non-corridor carriage hauled by a Hughes/Fowler Crab remain a vivid memory.
On seeing an appeal for artefacts to be displayed at a Millennium (2000) celebration to be held in the village, an impulsive telephone call was made to the organiser offering a static model of the village railway station. In just seven months the centre section featuring platforms and station buildings was completed and ready to exhibit, along with a history of the line and an appeal for information to enable the eventual completion of a working model.
The period 1948 was selected to suit available rolling stock, although of late the clock has on occasion been turned-back to the LMS period when both passenger and freight trains comprising ex NSR rolling stock hauled by a "B" class, 2-4-0 tank locomotive pass through. Little changed from the opening of the station until its closure, so earlier grouping and pre-grouping stock could be operated when construction time allowed.
The centre section of Rolleston seemed to have stimulated very little interest whilst on show, but a number of reference items came to light and repeated visits to site, revealed more remnants buried amongst brambles, self-set trees and long grass. As more research bore fruit it was decided to compile the material in a Powerpoint presentation, which could accompany the model at its public viewings.
Between 2007 and 2023, the working model appeared at mainly exhibitions but also various open days, always attracting the greater interest at venues close to Rolleston. Sections of the model have been used as supoport material when presenting talks to organisations and education establishments. In 2023, having not been shown to the public since 2019 due to the Covid pandemic, the working layout made its final public appearance at Bingley Hall as part of an annual exhibition organised by the the Stafford Railway Circle. Two of the three scenic baseboards have been dismantled, three small dioramas now feature the main buildings – booking hall, waiting shelter, signal cabin and road bridge. They will contiue to be displayed at future events.
Baseboards and infrastructure:
The complete layout consists of three scenic boards, the outer two being open-topped (see accompanying diagram showing the bridge section), two at 1 metre length and one at 1.2 metres with two 1.3 metre storage yards, one at each end. The scale is 4mm : 1 foot and track-work is laid to EM Gauge Society standards. Points and crossings are of plywood sleeper and rivet construction and plain track, the now unavailable Ratio plastic sleeper bases, supporting code 75 bullhead rail. Most rails and sleeper bases are re-cycled from an earlier layout.
Originally cassettes produced from 1cm angle mounted on suitable timber were used as off-stage storage. These allowed a maximum train length of locomotive and three carriages or seven goods wagons. Of late baseboards with traversers have replaced the former; giving a much reliable entry-exit situation for trains, the traversers have made life easier for visiting operators.
Point and signal control is kept as simple as possible, electric pencil for the Peco point motors and DPDT switches for the Model Signal Company DC solenoids. There are three track sections: up line (towards Burton), down line and goods loop. Train movements are prototypically basic and infrequent, negating need for isolating sections. Having carried-out fine adjustments to the pointwork confidence has been gained to tackle an increased number of shunting operations; with such an unusual track layout, it has been surprising how many different movements can be achieved, adding much interest for the public to enjoy at exhibitions.
Cross baseboard wiring is minimised by localising the track plan panels, which operate in conjunction with the electric pencil.
The most complex track formation is at the Stretton end where two single slips and one point allow up line/down line crossover and access to the goods loop and dock. Early reference indicated a double slip in one situation, but once built and put to test it was realised that such a slip was not needed. After further research the double slip was rebuilt as a single slip. On completion of this comparatively complex track-work for such a small station it was decided to utilise the baseboard as part of an extension to another layout.
Only three of the four signal units are sited within the boundary of the model. These have been modelled to the earlier North Staffs lower quadrant style from kits produced by Model Signal Engineering Ltd. Each arm is kept at the danger position by a lead weight hanging from the mechanism below the baseboard, which is activated by its solenoid when required.
Plans were generated using Adobe Illustrator software. Suitable reference photographs were inserted into each document to serve as templates, before the detail of each structure was developed on a top layer. Doorways and, where applicable, an imperial brick were considered accurate data for scaling.
The bridge and buildings were modelled from scaled printouts of these plans, using a vast assortment of styrene materials now available. Wills embossed brick sheets were found suitable for the bridge masonry, whilst Slaters materials suited the plate-layer’s hut and signal cabin bases. Evergreen’s range of overlapped and slatted timber proved an asset when constructing the two station buildings.
Roofing for all buildings is by Slaters. The appearance of the paintwork in 1948 would have been one of neglect, it is likely that the buildings were re-painted by the LMS at some time during the 1930’s. Later colour photographs indicate a top-coat of paint pealing to reveal a more complex paint style beneath. Each model building received a general spray coat of cream before brush painting the maroon areas. A light air brush application of Indian ink gave the sooty effect, followed by burnishing with a fibre glass stick to generally flatten the suffice and highlight the detail.
The natural areas, panorama and personnel:
Long grass consists of a base of hanging basket liner, topped with an assortment of the large range of ground cover products now available. Tree trunks and branches range from early plastic parts to gardening wire intertwined, bound with masking tape. All trees are dressed with rubberised horsehair or tree fern and commercial foliage. Hedges have either rubberised horsehair or lichen bases, dressed with foliage and scatter material. Hard surfaces are either, “wet and dry” paper or silver sand painted and weathered.
The layout is generally viewed from the village side of the line, although the structures are detailed on all aspects. A panorama made-up of photographs of the scenery seen when standing on the southbound platform is mounted behind the up line. Photoshop was employed to stitch the images together and to desaturate the colours giving an impression of recession. The view seen by peering through the over- bridge required much retouching to remove many parked cars, road markings and lampposts, hence returning a modern secondary road to a period country lane. Always examining ways to improve the presentation, the panorama which existed as three seperate sections attached to each baseboard has recently been replaced by a printed vinyl stretched on to a lightweight framework, thus alleviating the "gaps in the sky". Rolleston-on-Dove station was not believed to throb with activity, hence closure before Beeching. A small number of humans have been placed as “conversation pieces” on the platforms and surrounding area. Moving figures are always avoided. These people dressed in forties and fifties fashion are Airfix products painted in the trendy colours of the day.
On beginning this layout, existing stock was assessed to calculate the feasibility of the project without necessitating too much new construction. Ex LMS 4F, 3F and ex Midland 2F and 1P classes, were available to handle trains ex North Staffs, but the types of motive power of GN/LNER and LNWR origins needed to be sourced.
All suitable carriage stock was available except an ex LMS auto coach needed to make up the Tutbury Jinny (see bottom photograph). Goods wagons from most of the constituent companies were available, although some grain hoppers and flat wagons, to carry agricultural machinery, would make authentic additions in the future. Recent additions have been constructed; a NSR "B" class, 2-4-0 tank locomotive finished in LMS livery and carrying the number of the first engine to call at the newly opened station is complimented by two NSR bogie carriages of types known to have operated on the Burton/Tutbury service.