Dear Members.

Its hard to believe we are now in our 10th week of lockdown.We have heard from some of you telling us with pictures what you have been up to but would still like more. Following the request for memories of the club we have received some excellent stories from some members to enjoy in this the 8th and future editions of the newsletter. On the same theme, there are articles on Havil and Middleton found in the model railway press, just click on  the links buttons.
stay safe and well

Phil and Nigel

Please email all submissions to  or



A Bit of Club History
By Malcom Olver


A long time ago, 1999, when you could go to model railway exhibitions, I was looking at Middleton in Teesdale at the St. Albans Arena. I got talking to Phil Bicknell, whom I knew through Green Lanes School in Hatfield. A couple of weeks later I met Phil in the car park outside the De Havilland Sports & Social Club, just off the Birchwood roundabout. At that time you needed to be signed in by a club member.
The clubhouse was an ex RAF wooden hut situated a little South of where the roundabout is now near the Porsche showroom. There was no running water to the hut as I recall, so it had to be brought in a container from the main clubhouse. As Havil was a much wider layout then there was a large table and chairs in the centre of the hut where most of the model making went on. The non-working members spent their evenings in the area near the door, where Denis had his drawing office desk. If any members have photographs of these areas they would be a useful addition to the club’s archive. I don’t think we even have a photo of the outside of the hut.
Middleton had not worked well at the CMRA exhibition, and the members were mostly gathered around discussing what to do with it. There was very little space to assemble it and one of my first jobs was helping construct and then fill some racking suspended from the roof beams in the centre of the hut. Havil had not run much recently – it was my main reason for joining as I had seen it running at an exhibition day and been very impressed.
Over the next months I worked with a couple of other members, including Julian and the late Brian Barber, to get Havil running again. One challenge was simply finding out how to operate some parts of it. There was a lever frame that operate the signals and points, and was interlocked with the controllers, so unless a move could be signaled after setting the points, the train could not move. With point motors that hadn’t worked for a long time and track that hadn’t been cleaned, it was a long job.
Denis Moore, the club founder, used to keep a watchful eye on what we were running, and in particular how fast we were running! There were written times for a complete circuit for un-braked freight, fitted freight and express passenger trains. Remember it was considerably longer than now, and a slow train needed a good two minutes to go round. As the Mineral Line joined the main line in the station, it was necessary to wait for a gap in the traffic to get out on the main line, hence the need for the permissive block.
As now, some members were keen on setting their favourite loco going on the main lines and running it round for hours. As a result the junction section was seldom used as it meant blocking both Up and Down lines to meet signaling regulations and take a train across on to the branch. The same applied to operating the anti-clockwise slow line route from the hidden sidings so two of the hidden sidings were never used as a result.
When it came to rebuilding the layout after its move to the new clubhouse, simplification of the layout by eliminating the junctions made operation much simpler, although I do miss the operating signals. If anyone fancies installing a few, please go ahead and make my day. One feature of the hidden section that was good was the illuminated panel with a single switch operating the points at either end of the siding. The operators were pretty well hidden by various screens and needless to say some rather ripe language resulted when the main panel operators didn’t get quite what they were expecting appearing round the bend into the station section. This feature did make it easy to slip Thomas or James on to a train without being detected before the viewing public cheered their appearance. Denis was prone to frown take a deep breath before realizing that entertainment came before authenticity when the paying public and their children were present. Trying it on a club night was not advisable! He did however manage a broad smile on one occasion when I put together a train comprising a light engine and two brake vans to end an operating session.
We didn’t have as much variety in the trains as now as there were fewer sidings, and they were shorter. There was a small operational goods yard at the station in addition to the warehouse section that has been retained. Neither were operated much, however the MPD probably saw more use. The goods yard was designed for magnetic uncouples and BB couplings. Only a few wagons were fitted with these, and Tony was usually the volunteer to operate it for exhibitions and open days.
There had long been rumours that the aircraft factory would close, even so when the news came in 2001 that we had to move out of the hut, it still came as a blow because there was to be a lengthy delay in building the new clubhouse. Havil was kept running right up the end, its last day of operation being 4th September 2001. It was dismantled and with Middleton put into storage in a former cow shed at a farm on the Salisbury estate. This was the result of a chance meeting by a club member with Lord Salisbury. We knew the dimensions of our new club room so the parts of Havil we could not use were dismantled and some sections were taken by members for their own use. I ended up with some of the hand built track from the hidden sidings that came in handy for the goods yard on my model. The rather rough looking wood sleepers are just right for a goods yard and impossible to match using commercially available track. Unfortunately the rail height is non standard so joining it to SMP track was a challenge.
There were many photos and videos taken of the final operating sessions, some of which were edited together by Mike Hillman and are available on DVD. As with all new technologies, these are almost as inaccessible now as the VHS tapes they came from. And can the icloud be considered any more permanent a medium?
The interim period waiting for the new club room was spent initially in the Bowls Annex, a small Portacabin like building, whilst all around the huts and other buildings were torn down. Even the bowling green was de-turfed, and only a line of conifers was left to give any idea of what the former layout had been. Even the Annex had to go and as Secretary at the time, I arranged with Green Lanes School, where I was a Parent Governor, to use a classroom for our meetings. These were mostly video or slide shows and kept us going through the Winter months. Meanwhile, Havil and Middleton slept uneasily in the Cow Shed.
To be continued…



Andy’s Home Layout


Welcome to Andale Bank – my OO layout.

Situated in one half of a former double garage, the layout has been “in progress” for several years and there is still plenty to do.



Measuring 12ft 6’ by 6ft 6’, (the most the Household Management would permit!) it provides plenty of enjoyment – there’s even an integrated coaster for the wife’s glass of wine.
Although my loyalties lean towards LNER, it is not based on any prototype – just what I like.



Andale Bank station is an old Townstreet kit purchased many years ago when attending Warley and is the focal point of the Station square (above).



The layout is DCC and involves a double track circuit with the station, bays, sidings, and a small engine shed. This is a view of the station across the allotment (above)



The layout is my first proper attempt at a permanent layout and its an opportunity to try various techniques and kit building.



I am currently wiring a number of buildings and structures for illumination which gives an added dimension and certainly has tested my wiring skills.



End of shift – the driver’s van awaits his arrival.



The next “lockdown”project is this corner of the layout which will provide a small yard for a timber merchant (below)



Andy Higham





Hope you and yours are all keeping well?! 
Things here are keeping busy - able to work from home which has been a blessing; but have been called into all manner of things covid response related... busy busy busy! 
In lieu of being able to paint anything Railway related, or make trees... I’ve taken to sketching, watercolours and making face masks and donating them.
(Pictures below - not masterpieces, but keeps me quiet and out of mischief - Matt doesn’t let me paint murals on the walls here...)
In addition; I did find something quite humorous... as I listen to podcasts whilst working; one I listen to called “Real Life Ghost Stories” presented by an English married couple living in Canterbury. They research paranormal events, and discuss them on the podcast. Sometimes people write in. This one in particular is a reader submission... a family are plagued by a poltergeist they call Phil....
This is how the conversation goes
Man “I feel like if you’ve got a demon going on in your house, if you are going to name it, give it a name that makes it sound less powerful”
Woman “Oh Phil is a great name”
Man “or Nigel”   
Am loving the newsletters. I think these are great. Must admit, I am really missing seeing you all! 
Stay safe and take care! 
Rachel x 



Above - Rachel's Face Masks, we could have them with the DHMRS logo.







The Trials of a Heritage Railway Cleaner


Sunday 15th September 2002.

The second day of the Gala weekend – two days in a row, hardly time to go home, clean up and return. Also the second day with Wayne although officially only his first.

We arrived at about 8.10 and found Harry the driver and Duncan on 92 Squadron. Wayne and I helped light up before doing a quick clean. 92 was already relatively clean from Wayne's efforts on Saturday so needed little work. By 10.00 we had finished so had two hours to spare. We made a cup of tea or two and chatted to the other crew in the mess hut – Keith and Andy as well as Harry and Duncan.

Off shed at 12.00 we took over the Mk1’s from D306. Basically it was then a relatively easy day with three round trips passing the other train at either Wansford or Orton Mere. Wayne and I shared duties i.e. coupling and uncoupling, points, head-code discs, taking water etc., swapping to either side of the cab between trips as well as duties to even things out.

I found during the day that Wayne had learnt very well on the Saturday and knew all of the signals and locations, how to couple and uncouple, the working of the ground frames, water columns, tokens etc.

Back on shed at 17.50 after an exhilarating run from Peterborough (don’t mention the speed but we were nine minutes early!), we quickly disposed. Wayne did the smoke box for the first time whilst Duncan racked the fire and I cleaned out the ash pans. 92 Squadron has hopper ash pans which ‘drop’ to empty the ash leaving nothing really to clean out.

We were away at 6.35 but due to heavy traffic on the A1 we didn’t arrive home until 8.00, the end of a fantastic weekend!




Julian's Bits and Bobs


1) Years ago Railway Modeller ran a pictorial series of Prototypes for Everything.
So how about a prototype for low relief buildings? This is one I spotted in Aldburgh, Suffolk.



2) I hope fellow members aren't suffering to badly with Havil homesickness! To alleviate it slightly here are a few views of Havil from recent years, including 
some with exotic visitors.




3) Something a Bit Different, seen at Ongar last year
These pictures show a 1:35 German Big Gun as the focal point of a layout. Trackwork is G (45mm), there's lots of activity with moving ack-ack guns and radar array plus (of course) the big gun is traverses, elevates and fires. Plus the owner got to dress up in German Uniform!





Memories of the Club over 18 years – Part 2
by Keith Stalley


In 2005 the club was informed by the Sports and Social club that the area we were in was going to be leased to the Saracens rugby club and we were therefore to be made homeless again. The best they could offer was a container to store the layouts in. As luck would have it we heard about the room we currently occupy which was favourable for the church, as the room wasn’t used, and it brought them some welcome income, and of course was very favourable for us. The new club room is not as long as the previous one but is wider. It has of course got windows which were welcome after the old room.

Over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend the layouts etc. were moved from the old club room to the church and Havil was re-erected. As I recall I was at the Nene Valley Railway firing that weekend but offered to help on one of the days. On returning home from the NVR I received a phone call from Phil Bicknell to say that everything had been successfully moved and that Havil had been re-erected as well, so there was no need for another days work.

The meeting night moved to a Wednesday as the Brownies met on a Tuesday evening as they still do now. On the first Wednesday meeting there was still much tidying up to do. There were plans for the old Middleton to be re erected along the wall by the doors and made into a ‘U’ shape but for the time being it was stored along that wall. In due course some work was started on the new boards but as we probably all know problems with the electrics led to the construction of the new Middleton.

Where Havil had been altered as in part 1 there were areas that needed scenic work and somehow I became involved in the Havil Castle corner together with a few others. Phil B built the hill out of cereal packet boxes in strips covered with newspaper soaked in wall paper paste. I found parts of the old Havil castellated tunnels in a box and they duly became part of Havil Castle. Ian Bunting built the rear part of the castle and painted the back scene. There were others involved as well but I can’t remember now exactly who so apologies to those I have missed.

After the corner was complete thoughts turned as to what to do next and a new layout was suggested; something fairly small and easy to transport. Not wanting the usual GWR branch line terminus we looked for something different. At the time we had been given two ON30 0-4-2ST Porter loco’s by Steve Hughes, who at that time wasn’t a member. Thus what has become Mosquito Falls came into existence. DCC was decided upon as at that time no one had much experience and starting from scratch is was easy to incorporate. Julian did some research and found the names of Mosquito Falls and Moth Creek actually exist and of course have links to De Havilland.

I put some plans together and these evolved into the first two boards. Brian Thompson from Stevenage and District MRC built the base boards for the whole layout and these were put together in one evening just to see how the whole layout may one day look.

Track laying commenced on the first two boards and at the next Exhibition (was it the first or second at the Church?) the first two boards with only track on them were exhibited together with drawings etc. of how the layout would progress. Surprisingly this generated quite a lot of interest probably helped by the fact that we had by then purchased the DCC sound fitted Shay which we ran back and forth over the front of the layout.

At the exhibition the following year we were able to run the two boards together with one of the fiddle yards. There was some basic scenery not least of which were some trees held in place with Blu Tack. As the day progressed and the temperature rose the Blu Tack softened and the trees did a nice job of falling as if being cut down!

In due course the first two boards were completed, with thanks to Andrew Starr who did much of the scenic work and buildings, and had cassette fiddle yards at each end as today. The layout appeared again at our exhibition and also visited Royston.

Thoughts then turned to the second two boards which became Moth Creek. From the earlier plans these were adapted into what we have today.  Last of all came the trestle bridge which once again Andrew built. I am sure that we all agree that this looks impressive and generates much interest at exhibitions.

Mosquito Falls in either its full layout form or with just the first two boards has now been to several exhibitions, although these have dried up of late. Hopefully we will receive some more invitations in due course, as an exhibition layout needs to be seen otherwise it just gathers dust in the club room.

During the last stage of Mosquito Falls Moth Eaton was started and perhaps I can return to that next week.



Obituary: John Farrow


John Farrow, a leading light in rail tour operation in the UK, died on 19 April aged 70. He had been suffering from cancer since last autumn and died in hospital after contracting the Covid-19 virus.


14 May 2020, Ian Kapur (Hertfordshire Rail Tours 1993 to 2004)


John was Hertfordshire Railtours, a company whose origins began with the Lea Valley Railway Club, running its first tour, the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’, in 1975 from Waterloo to Meldon Quarry and Meeth. Those first tours operated purely within the Southern Region, of which John was so fond. Hertfordshire Railtours started in 1979 and expanded to a point that John left his British Rail job in May 1985 to concentrate on his extremely successful business. During the 1990s he contributed a monthly column to this magazine on the tour market. The Hertfordshire name was acquired by others and John went on to run UK Railtours, a company now in the hands of his daughter, Liz Morris, and still a market leader 41 years on.
Always keen to be at the forefront, few people will remember that John ran the first revenue-earning HST on the East Coast main line in 1977, with a King’s Cross to Edinburgh charter for the Prince’s Trust. Little did we know…
During a conversation in a Birmingham pub, a man from the London Midland Region of British Rail said how few loco-hauled sets he had available for charters. Unaware of the fact he was about to make history, he had another sip of beer and said ‘We’ve got this HST set sitting around on Saturdays, but I don’t suppose that’s any use to you lot’. The rest is history and a defining series of trips, that John instinctively knew would work well, was born.
Indeed, everything John turned his hand to with charter trains was a great success, from humble DMU freight line tours around East Anglia in the 1970s through to adventurous Eurostar trips 30 years later.
1988 was the start of a series of ‘125 Specials’ tours that would become synonymous with John Farrow. Long days, fast running and such delights as Whitby, Cromer, Redmire, Rylstone, Meldon, Pwllheli, Dufftown, Stranraer Harbour and the Central Wales line featured, and all with full dining.
Gauging issues with HST power cars and Mk 3s? There weren’t any! I remember the Western Region Gauging Engineer, Bob Allen, permitting ‘The Welsh Mountain Pioneer’ tour over the Central Wales line to be the gauging train, with 5mph maximum running through various platforms and those of us on the train looking out for scrapes. Of course, there weren’t any. ‘The 225 Specials’ followed in 1994, the most memorable of these being a King’s Cross – Edinburgh – Euston fast run with a Class 91. No gauging or electro-magnetic compatibility issues there either. Grand Central, take note!
We’ll all have too many great tours for which to thank John. Modern Railways is grateful to him for organising a trip in 2012 to commemorate the magazine’s 50th anniversary, from King’s Cross to York behind No 87002Royal Sovereign and back behind No 66745, which had been named Modern Railways – The first 50 years on the day.
Two tours in particular instantly spring to my mind. On the last day of the BR Special Trains in 1995, we took a pair of Class 33s from London to Inverness and back, then in September 2000, the ‘Atlantique Coast Express’ Eurostar excursion from Waterloo International to La Rochelle Ville, for the afternoon. Once SNCF (French Railways) realised we were serious about this trip, it even stabled a ‘spare’ TGV set at La Rochelle in case of any problems. There were none and it remains a true highlight to this day.
Thank you for the great times



Answers next week.



The first person to email Phil the correct total will receive a prize of £5.



Answers to last weeks quiz.



1. Great Western Railway

 2. Dublin
3.  4 feet 8 1⁄2 inches 

4.  York

5.  Mallard

6.  InterCity 125

7.  Glasgow. Buckinghamshire.

8.  TGV

9.  The Beeching Report

10. Penzance

11. St Pancras International

12. Starlight Express

13. Pullman
14. King's Cross. Platfrom 9 3/4.