Progress update: Wandle Valley Railway

baseboards shedIt’s all go for my new layout, the shed is sorted; baseboards are down and the layout design complete. The track plan however… That’s another story.

As regular followers of this model railway blog will know I’ve recently started working on a shed to accommodate a new layout.

While I could just have run a worktop for this around the inside walls of the shed I wanted to incorporate a workbench and so opted for a slightly more involved configuration.

Essentially, I’ve run a baseboard down the length of the shed on one side, this then meets a cross section before running up the opposite side to create a U shape (the door being at the open end). Where it gets interesting is that cross section is hinged to fold up revealing a workbench underneath.

When I want to run the trains, I fold the top down so the track can run all the way around. (Track will be joined across the folding boards using this technique).

When to modelling urge gets to me I just unclip the track joints and fold up that section board to reveal a workbench below.

It’s a neat practical and space saving design that maximises the amount of space available.

Baseboard Construction

To build this I used standard 4×4 timber for the legs and support joists with 2×4 cross beams supporting 9mm thick Ply top boards as detailed in the article on baseboard wood. The picture below from my Instagram feed shows this and the shed installation in mid-construction

Using a tip from a previous post, the underside of the boards have been painted white to improve visibility when working on the otherwise darker underside. The top side will be painted another colour which I’ll cover shortly.

The results are a framework strong enough to stand on (yes, I’ve tried) and baseboards that are thin enough for power and accessory leads and arm of point motors to reach through while still being strong enough to support the weight of the layout.

Dreaming Up Layout Designs

I’m a big believer in creating the landscape and design concept of layouts before thinking about track planning (just as real-life track is laid in and around an environment, not the other way around) so with the U-shape baseboards erected I’ve been fleshing out layout features that will fit around the baseboards but are also contextually and geographically appropriate.

I want the railway to be set in the Network Southeast area, with a location somewhere around Wimbledon but borrowing from Guildford and Woking where I now live and commute through.

After a bit of thinking I’ve picked a specific part of Wimbledon (Merton) to model. This is the area between Wimbledon and Tooting.

This is the area between Wimbledon and Tooting. It’s where I grew up and know like the back of my hand.

Summoning childhood memories, I remember a line that ran from Wimbledon Station, behind my house, and off to Croydon with a disused fork leading off to Tooting. Fond memories of walking my dog Max along the abandoned section, exploring the track, station buildings along it and the River Wandle valley come to mind. I’d throw a ball or stick, Max would disappear into the undergrowth and I’d run after him to find he’d uncovered a half buried sleeper or platform and we’d spend the rest of the day digging around further railway debris.

They were great times and my layout will recreate these memories and the landmarks, buildings and scenery which I frequented all those years ago, notably.

  • The River Wandle. A small but historically industrialised river will meander its way around the layout,
  • An old water wheel powered textile mill on the river Wandle,

(Water-mill at Merton Abbey Mills from Miklos Kiss on Vimeo)

  • Wimbledon station, which sits on a bridge over the railway with steps leading down to the platforms,
  • Assorted buildings in Wimbledon including Huges Iron Mongers, Platform 2 model railway shop, printers and the Prince of Wales public house.
  • Merton Abbey station.
    As mentioned, this station and the stretch of the line it was on were disused by the time I was around but it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine this remaining open into the 1980s serviced by Network Southeast.

To this will be added several buildings which I’ve discovered in my research on the area or from nearby in the Network Southeast region, specifically from around Guildford and Woking that I live and commute through, notably:

Tri-ang factory

  • The Tri-ang factory.
    Next, to the mainline track I’m modelling, and even serviced by a siding, was non-other than the Lions Bros Tri-ang model railway and toy factory. As with Merton Abbey station, this was long gone by the time I came to know the area but in my little world model trains rule supreme and it’s continued to operate into the Network Southeast era with freight trains serving it regularly,
  • The signal box from Woking.
    This is very similar to the box at Wimbledon but I have Woking to work from as a reference source, and
  • Eyre Tandem Smelting Works.

Mix this Wandle Valley setting with the design and livery of Network Southeast and it’ll be a fascinating and fun project to build.

New Names

Regular readers will know that I’d tentatively named the layout Windon. – a play on Wimbledon and Wandle. That didn’t last long.

From the above description, it’s obvious that the central theme of the layout is the River Wandle so I’ve changed the name of the project to reflect this.

It’s now called Wandle Valley, So watch out for this in future ModelRailwayEngineer posts.

Pondering Track Plans

With the layout concept and design fleshed out, my attention turned the track plan and I’ve been sketching out ideas.

The line that ran behind my house and the abandoned fork to Tooting that I followed on my childhood travels was part of the Tooting Merton and Wimbledon Railway line. This came from Tooting, running through Merton Abbey, Merton Park and then to Wimbledon where it met the main line from Guildford to Waterloo as seen in this early map.

my model railway wimbledon

Map showing the line I’m loosely modelling, original from a 1912 Railway Clearing House map of lines around Merton Park station, now public domain.

It was a double track line and with sidings for the previously mentioned Tri-ang factory and the smelting works.

I’ll be creating this with EM gauge track that will run from one end of the U baseboard to the other.  Wimbledon station being at one end and Merton Abbey station at the other. The Wimbledon end station will also have the non-operational track passing through it representing the mainline to Waterloo.

As mentioned before, the layout will also feature a narrow gauge (009 gauge) line and sidings. This will most probably be located near the smelting works with a solitary diesel transferring goods to and from between the above-mentioned siding and around the smelting works.

Somewhat frustratingly I’ve yet to find a map of the track around Merton Abbey station (although there’s some great info on the Southern Railway E-mail Group (SREmG) This lack of a reference source and fitting in all the track around Wimbledon station is proving a challenge to the point where none of the track plans I’ve come up with yet work.

More problematic is that none of the track planning applications I have work for EM Gauge! so I’m having to do things the old fashion way and draw them on graph paper. Not my idea of fun and it’s slowed slowed my progress. I was hoping to have a first track plan ready for this post but alas not.

As a result, I’m having to do things the old fashion way and draw them on graph paper. Not my idea of fun and it’s certainly not my idea of fun

I was hoping to have a first track plan ready for this post but all this has slowed my progress.

Maybe for the project update post.

Until then, if you have any pictures or memories of the Tooting, Merton and Wimbledon Railway, the Wandle area, Merton Abbey Station or the Tri-ang factory I’d love to hear from you and swap stories.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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