Whimsical layouts – Anyone for cheese?

Sarah Palmer looks into the whimsical side of modelling.

Derek Reeve’s Wendsleydale layout was two or three deep in visitors when I came across it at Spalding model show recently.

It may have been the white chocolate mice that he gives to visitors, Derek’s amiable smile, or more likely the myriad tiny details to be found in his unusual cheese-based layout that was attracting people’s attention.

This 8ft x 4ft layout just brings a smile to your face as soon as you see it, for as Derek says: “Layouts at shows are all about putting on an exhibition,” modelling as theatre, if you like.

The mice are created and made to move using simple technologies.

It took him about a year to build the ‘cheese’ quarry and the factory that stands behind it, and it was exhibited for the first time on his home turf, the Sudbury Model Railway Club exhibition, in 2014, from there going on to do a further 10 exhibitions.

It was at the Shenfield exhibition in September 2015 that he received an invitation from David Crossley to exhibit at the Chilton Model Railway Association at St Albans the following January.

“At the time I explained I was building a village extension, and he told me to bring it as well. I had only two buildings made and didn’t even have a baseboard. So next came three-and-a-half months of very intense modelling,” says Derek.

“I put in some very late evenings. One evening I was in the ‘mancave’ at 11.15pm when my son came home and locked up, leaving me locked out! I finally completed the layout the Thursday before the exhibition.”

In total it has taken about two years to get the layout to the stage it is at now because Derek keeps adding new features; the last one being Donald Trump and some Mexican mice building a wall.

Wendsleydale, and not Wensleydale – “I spelt it wrong but kept it as I had made all the signs for it” – was originally conceived as a competition piece for Derek’s own club exhibition in 2010 with the criteria being that it had to be 10 sq ft, with something moveable.

“So I built a figure of eight with a wooden trestle bridge and a couple of sidings at the back and called it a cheese mine and then stuck a couple of mice on for a laugh. I then put it away, dismissing it, and thinking it would never be used again.”

For the full article, see Janaury’s edition of Modelling – available now!

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