Layouts We Love – Chawton: after the basic train set

Ian Lamb’s breath is taken away at a model railway exhibition in Grantown-on-Spey when he sees the DAVA Project’s compact, newly completed and lushly scenic ‘Chawton’ layout echoing the spirit of the late-lamented Somerset & Dorset system right at the other end of the country.

It doesn’t take long to become bored with a simple train set and soon one can start dreaming of those great exhibition layouts – not realising that for many they have taken half a lifetime to get that far – and longing to achieve such standards.

Inspiration and ideas are essential, but with some careful thought a realistic model railway can immediately be great fun, especially if the layout is based around a theme rather than simply ‘playing trains’.

Hornby rightly says: “To create a model railway takes much more than just trains and track. Without the railway being situated in an environment or scene, then unfortunately it will remain lifeless. However, with the simple addition of trees, hedges, fields etc. your railway can soon be transformed into a fully functioning and admired model railway.” I couldn’t agree more!

What stationmaster couldn’t take pride in a beautiful rural station like this? Chawton station’s neat and tidy appearance is enhanced by the floral display, and you can imagine the chirruping of birds and the droning of insects as passengers wait for their train in the sunshine.

The ‘Chawton’ project was started around two years ago to show an alternative to the traditional ‘track mat’ as far as developing a layout beyond the basic train set was concerned. Additionally, while the ‘track mat’ is a quick way to extend the layout – especially when complemented by ‘off-the-shelf’ items – this specific model has concentrated on scenic ‘scratch-building’ to keep costs down.

When the completed layout was shown at the Grantown Model Railway Exhibition in the Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown-on-Spey, not long before our last issue went to press, Coun Bill Lobban, convener of the Highland Council, took time to visit the various displays, including the DAVA Project’s ‘Chawton’ layout that was being operated by Matthew Murphie of Grantown.

‘Chawton’ was chosen for no other reason than that it was in the South of England, and to give the layout some credibility – and history – the uniqueness of the Somerset & Dorset Railway system and its motive power have been followed.

The village is perhaps best known for its association with the novelist Jane Austen, who spent most of her final eight years working on such masterpieces as Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. The house she moved into in 1809 is now a museum and remains much as it was when Jane lived there. The garden has been restored to its original condition and just outside the garden wall, on the Winchester road, are two oak trees which she planted in 1809. Jane is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

For the full article, see the June edition of Modelling – available now!

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