HELLIFIELD- A Yorkshire junction station in 4mm scale

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Layout plan as originally drawn for the article in Railway Modeller.

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Layout plan showing recent changes to track plan that make shunting at the north end more in line with what actually happened in steam days.

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Plan by Steve Flint courtesy of Railway Modeller

This article appeared in the April 2004 Railway Modeller

By Stephen Rabone

It was in the summer of 1957 that my father took me, as a five year old, to watch trains at Hellifield. It was the beginning of my interest Ė some would say obsession with this junction in, what was then, the West Riding of Yorkshire. Over forty-five years later I still remember that day vividly. The noise of steam locos, the continuous procession of Summer Saturday passenger trains and, above all, being invited into a level crossing keeperís hut just south of the station to shelter from the sudden rain shower.

We returned the following year, but this time midweek, and walked by the railway towards Settle Junction. This time freight trains were more frequent than passenger trains but the memory of "Royal Scots" on the "Waverley" and "Thames-Clyde Express" remains embedded in my memory.

Early in 1964 my father took me north from Hellifield to Dent, travelling on the "Black Five" hauled Hellifield to Carlisle local. Later that day we walked by the Settle to Carlisle line over the fells to Ais Gill summit seeing numerous steam hauled freights. The following year we moved from Manchester to Keighley and my real interest in Hellifield and its railway began. By 1966 I was a regular visitor to the platforms of Hellifield station, being particularly interested in the freight trains which called here for crew changes, allowing me to ask the staff what each freight train was. My favourites were, inevitably, the 9F hauled limestone trains from Long Meg quarries near Appleby to the chemical works at Widnes.

Sadly, by this stage in its life, Hellifield station was sinking into dereliction but something of its past glory as a major railway junction still remained and as I grew into adulthood I decided that one day I would build a model of the station. Little did I realise that it would take me so long. Meanwhile, I devoured everything I could find out about Hellifield, the Settle to Carlisle line and its associated branches to Morecambe, Carnforth and Blackburn. I built static card models of Midland Railway carriages and locos in O Scale and later similar models in 4mm. But like so many modellers I never really had the space, or the skill, to model what I wanted. So plans for Hellifield were laid aside and I pursued other modelling subjects; German, Austrian and Irish layouts appeared in various scales, several of which have appeared in "Railway Modeller" or "Continental Modeller"

Time and time again I found myself wanting to model Hellifield, inspired particularly by the writings of David Jenkinson. Finally in the late 1990s all the things I needed to successfully model Hellifield eventually came together. I had the necessary room, my skills for building locomotives that ran well had been honed and, finally, I had cracked the problem of how to fit the basic track layout of Hellifield into the available space. Let me explain.

Hellifield should, ideally, be modelled looking from the west, as there is a convenient hillside to the east of the station which can help to give an impression of the Craven district countryside in which Hellifield is situated. Unfortunately when viewing the station from the west, the real Hellifield station curves towards one. This has the effect of making the necessary baseboard space far too wide, particularly at the north end where the locomotive depot was located. It was only when I realised that it would fit if I decided to build the station as a mirror image and as if looking from the east. I agonised for a long time over this concept. If the station platform curved in the wrong direction could I still call the layout Hellifield? In the end I decided that I could, and time has, I feel, proved me right. The layout still has the feel of the real station and, above all, when operating the layout, this visual deception becomes irrelevant. Better a mirror image Hellifield than none at all!

The Layout

The layout is built in a loft with a usable baseboard area of 22 feet by 10 feet. It uses a simple flat-top baseboard surfaced in chipboard, with cupboard space underneath for all those bits and pieces we modellers collect. The track plan is based as closely as possible on that of the real station as it was at the end of the steam era. Inevitably, some simplification has had to be made, but almost all the features of the station are represented. The main Leeds to Carlisle line forms the main circuit running either side of the large island platform. At each end of the station are the two bay platforms used for stopping trains to Blackburn or for the Hellifield to Carlisle locals.

The Blackburn line trails in past the impressive Hellifield South Junction signal box. On the west side of the station are the High Level Exchange sidings, so called because it was here that the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway handed over wagons from its Blackburn line to the Midland Railway. The Down Goods Loop on this side of the station was linked directly only to the L & Y line. Midland route freights had to reverse into them from the North Junction as facing crossovers were anathema to the Midland Railway. It was only in late British Railways days that a facing crossover allowed freights from the Leeds direction to run directly into the Down Goods Loop.

On the east side of the line can be found the four track locomotive depot with its turntable and large coaling stage. The Up Goods Loop did have direct access from the north and was also used to reach the extensive carriage sidings. In model form Iíve had to seriously truncate these sidings, but the two sidings are actually sufficient to handle the stock in use on the layout.

The storage loops are obviously the key to the successful operation of a large layout, and considerable thought went into this part of the track design. Despite this the storage area has undergone several re-designs as my rolling stock collection has increased, or operation has suggested amendments. Presently there are fifteen through loops, some of which are capable of holding two train sets. Four of these can be accessed from either direction and are used principally for reversing trains such as the Settle to Carlisle line locals and the main express trains. The Blackburn line trains are handled in two dead end sidings and are fitted with Kadee magnetic uncoupling ramps, which allow hands-off uncoupling of locomotives. In addition there are eight short sidings, which allow individual locomotives to be held between locomotive changes in the storage area.

I have used Peco Finescale track and point work for the scenic section of the layout and Code 100 Streamline track in the storage loop area. Pecoís foam ballast strip has been used with the high ballast shoulders hidden by laying eighth inch cork between the ballast strips. This was then covered in Woodland Scenics N Scale ballast and the whole lot lightly weathered to blend the foam and stone ballast together. Points are operated by drilling a 12mm hole under the point tie bar and screwing the Peco solenoid, fitted with an extension pin, under the baseboard.

The turntable is a heavily modified Arnold N Scale item, which I obtained very cheaply. A new extended deck was built of balsa and plastic sheet on top of the turntable bridge. A circular hole was cut into a piece of chipboard to accept the N scale turntable pit. Next another hole about 260mm in diameter was cut in the baseboard and the modified turntable was fitted inside this hole from underneath. Amazingly it works well and doesnít look too bad.


The layout uses switched feedback controllers by Kent Panel Controls. Normally the feedback is switched off but a few locomotives run better with it in use. Two main panel controllers are used, as well as a hand-held one for shunting in the High Level Exchange sidings. The entire layout is broken up into over sixty track sections, which are switched through centre off double throw switches. However, running two trains simultaneously on a complex layout like this is a demanding task and I often run only one train at a time. To improve performance of the layout I use both a capacitor discharge unit for point control and a Relco track-cleaning device.


In order to represent Hellifield as accurately as possible I felt it essential that the structures should be close copies of the original. A visit to the present day Hellifield, now, thankfully, restored to something of its former appearance after years of dereliction, resulted in a collection of detailed photos of the main station building and the South Junction signal box. Numerous photos were studied in various publications and revealed details of the shed, coaling stage and North Junction signal box. From these I drew up drawings which, whilst not strictly to scale, at least captured the feel of the originals.

Four heavily modified Ratio Midland signal box kits were used to produce these two large and distinctive buildings. Both signal boxes are different, the South Junction being much higher than usual for Midland boxes. The rest of the structures were built out of plastic sheet and embossed stonework by Slaterís. Building the station itself was a fascinating challenge with much multi-layering of the plastic necessary to achieve the distinctive stone panel work.

The most difficult item to build was, inevitably, the station canopy, which is the one scenic item, that really defines the layout as Hellifield. This magnificent structure, still almost complete in real life, required a great deal of determination to complete! The ironwork was soldered in situ from a mixture of brass section for the support columns and code 65 and 100 nickel silver rail for the glazing supports. The metalwork was cleaned and then painted before the glazing was added. This was made from thick clear plastic, which was rubbed with fine emery paper on the underside to frost the sheet, an idea suggested many years ago in "Railway Modeller" by Peter Denny. The narrow glazing bars were then drawn on the sheet using a fine black overhead projector pen before being glued to the metal framework with small amounts of two-part epoxy resin.

I debated for some time whether to make the signals work, but in the end decided that there would be enough to do on the layout when operating without remembering to change the signals. I also find it very difficult, physically, to work under the baseboards and the thought of the amount of fiddling required to produce working signals made this a non-starter. In the end I built the required models from the Ratio LMS signal kits using, in some cases, brass angle for gantries. The signals were set at clear for the main line; the rest of the time, Iím afraid, my drivers pass signals at danger.

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

The layout houses a large collection of stock, which represents what would have been seen at Hellifield in the years 1960 to 1965. There are a few slight anachronisms but nothing too serious. Locomotives are a mixture of standard ready to run, kit built and "kit-bashed" items. These latter include, for example, several Bachmann locomotives fitted with Airfix tender drive units to improve traction as well as a batch of the old Hornby LMS Class Fives rebuilt to scale length and mounted on a re-wheeled Airfix "Royal Scot" chassis.

The full range of ex LMS and BR Standard locomotives that ran through Hellifield are present on the roster, most with several examples:

Stanier and Ivatt 2-6-2Ts

LMS 2P and 4P 4-4-0s

Ivatt 4MT 2-6-0

Fowler 4F 0-6-0 in various guises

Stanier and BR Standard Class Five 4-6-0s

Jubilee, Patriot and Royal Scots 4-6-0s

Stanier and WD 2-8-0s

BR Britannia 4-6-2s

9F 2-10-0s

In addition there are also some diesel locomotives and multiple units, which are run when I want to represent the later part of the period I model.

Sulzer type 2 (latter class 24 and 25)

Peak type 4 (class 45)

English Electric type 4 (class 40)

Brush Type 4 (class 47)

Dmus of the Cravens, Derby lightweight and Metro-Cammell versions

Most passenger rolling stock is based around the Airfix/Dapol standard LMS corridor and non-corridor coaches. Many examples having replacement Comet coach sides to represent specific vehicle types. BR Mk 1 coaches make up the principal expresses to Scotland, being a mixture of Comet coach sides on Mainline models or the Bachmann models.

Freight stock is largely kit-built, principally from the Parkside range, with some ready-to-run models. In addition there are two complete rakes of scratch built wagons: the Anhydrite wagons used on the limestone trains referred to earlier and a set of LMS and BR high sided coke wagons used for trains to the steel works in the Furness area. Most freight stock is fitted with Kadee couplings within the train, but with adaptor wagons to allow tension-lock coupling to the locomotives.

Readers will, of course, notice that much of the stock on the layout is, as yet, unweathered. A start has been made on this but it is a long and slow task. In any case, as one friend said to me recently, "Do you really want to see the disgustingly dirty railway that the London Midland Region was in the early 1960s?" Nevertheless this task will have to be undertaken soon if I really wish to capture the atmosphere of the time.


Building a layout is, for me, a means to an end: I want to operate the layout in order to recreate those days of my youth when traffic through Hellifield was more than Sprinters, Pacers and Class 66s on coal and gypsum trains. I drew up a sequence of operations based upon the summer 1961 timetable. Finding freight timetable details has proved more difficult. I found some information about freight trains in the Aire-Valley between Leeds and Skipton for 1959. I then drew up what I think is a likely freight working timetable for these trains through Hellifield. Sadly I havenít found any information about the Blackburn line freight trains so I have to rely on a few notes that I made myself as a teenager. If any reader has any detailed information about the freight services through Hellifield in the late 1950s or early 1960s Iíd love to receive it via the Editor.

Having drawn up the sequence timetable and run it through to check for any problems in actually operating it, the details were entered on a spreadsheet. After various buttons on the computer were pressed I printed out the individual train details on to card index files. A two-part wooden rack was attached to the front of the layout to hold these cards and can be seen in one of the photos.

A few points about operation may be of interest. The first is the sheer variety of types of trains operated and the high proportion of freight trains compared to passenger. Freight trains include container traffic (principally from Northern Ireland via the docks at Heysham); long distance overnight freights from the Midlands and Yorkshire to Scotland; an enormous number of coal and coke trains and their associated empty wagons workings; specialised traffic such as oil and chemical trains between Yorkshire, Teesside and the refineries at Heysham as well as the mail and parcels traffic in separate parcels trains.

Recently I have started to operate the local freight services, which were still sorted at Hellifield at this time. Kadee couplings allow this to be done without resorting to manual uncoupling. I use the short uncoupling ramps that donít allow pre-uncoupling in preference to the standard length, as the short length of British four-wheel wagons can sometimes result in wagons uncoupling at both ends of the same vehicle. Slightly unprototypically I occasionally use my Bachmann 350hp (class 08) to do this, as its slow running is so impeccable; I think Hellifield shed has borrowed it when it was being delivered from Derby works to Scotland! At other times one of Hellifieldís 4Fs performs the duty.

Passenger traffic interest revolves around three basic types of service. The express trains over the Settle to Carlisle line usually load, in model form, to seven or eight Mk 1 coaches and are hauled by exotic "named" motive power usually with headboards fitted. Iíve built sleeping cars for the overnight services but as yet Iíve not installed any lighting to allow this to be done realistically, so they stay in their boxes. The second passenger flow is for the Leeds and Bradford to Morecambe and Carnforth services. These are all operated by six car LMS corridor coach sets, which are arranged with the correct formation of vehicles to permit the splitting of the Morecambe and Carnforth portions at Wennington. Motive power for these are usually the various 4-6-0s.

Finally, the humble local services all utilise three car sets of suburban or corridor coaches. The ones on the Blackburn line are fitted with Kadee couplings, as are three of the tank engines. Strategically placed ramps are in place in various places around the station and storage loops to allow uncoupling. The Bradford or Hellifield to Carlisle locals all use one three-car set and can be headed by anything that Carlisle Kingmoor shed chooses to allocate to the service. This was, in real life, often surprisingly grand; I remember seeing "Royal Scots", "Britannias", "Clans" and even a V2. More common of course was the inevitable Black Five, although frequently they came from unusual sheds north of the Border. I well remember coming across a Grangemouth Class Five one day.

The captions to the photos of this article will give more details of what each working is intended to be. If your layout is feeling a little stale and interest is waning I recommend that you do what I did and construct an operating scenario for your layout. Iím sure youíll find it as fascinating as I did.

In the next part of this article Iíll be looking at how I could bring my steam-age Hellifield into the diesel age. Iíll show how without destroying the layout it can be made to look substantially different and how a completely new operating concept can be developed. Iíll be presenting ideas based on what actually did happen in the diesel-era and some might-have-been concepts.