Taking it to the next level – Corfe Castle Station

After the previous post on Ararat 1972 and Cale’s piece on Brick Model Railroading as such, I think the pieces are now set for the next installment in the series of inspiring layouts: Corfe Castle Station by Carl Greatrix. Lately, Carl has been the guy who has brought you the Caterham Seven and a lot of the visuals in the recent Lego games, but next to this, he is also a real trainhead and a lover of Scale Modelling. With the Corfe Castle Station layout, he had decided to fuse both of these to create an unique layout.

Corfe Castle Station – the eye-catcher and starting point of the layout
The (almost finished) layout at STEAM 2011

The first thing that you notice when looking at Corfe Castle Station is that it follows a typical “British” approach. At least, that’s how it looks like for me after having read so many British Model Railroading Magazines (like Railway Modeller) when I was young. This means that we are looking at two mainline tracks and a siding, with a station as the main visual element. In fact, it’s just a very big diorama. The layout is an oval of which more than half is the fiddle yard and thus not part of the diorama. So, just as with Ararat 1972, there is no large yard where you can show off your trains. However, it does have two continuous loops which are ideal to show of your trains in high speed!

Overview of the layout – Two ovals and a fiddle yard.

What sets this layout apart of most other Lego Railway layouts is the design choices he makes: instead of using studs everywhere, Carl uses Scale Modelling techniques for making roads, gravel and mountains. This means that not everything in this layout is made out of Lego! The effect works surprisingly well. Instead of looking like a layout made of Lego, this is a layout that uses Lego as one of its mediums.

An example of combining Lego with scale modeling techniques

It becomes even more interesting when inserting his trains. This is because Carl, unlike most Lego Train builders, tries to use as little selective compression as possible. The result are models that are so accurate, that they don’t even look out of place in an actual O-scale layout.

Carl’s trains in an O-scale layout. Not part of Corfe Castle, but too nice not to show.

As said, the layout not only uses Lego. Carl was nice enough to keep a diary over at Flickr in which he shows how he designed the whole layout.  This gives us the great possibility to dive a bit deeper into the layout and the way how it’s build.

One of the most interesting things is how he created the hill. It’s in fact nothing more than a lot of PUR-foam, cut down and sprinkled with Scale Modelling grass to create a hill! In a surprise turn in building hills in Lego layouts, no Duplos nor 2×4’s were ever harmed.

Step 1 – applying PUR-foam
Step 2 – Shaving off the rough edges
Step 3 – Refining the shape
Step 4 – Applying the flock
The finished embankment, with train

The surprise of this all is that using these Scale Modelling techniques is that it makes the Lego jump out even more than normal. In ‘regular’ Lego Railway layouts, details can become invisible due to the amount of studs and our build-in need to cover all of them with interesting bits. When you get rid of those bricks all together, you give room to putting even more emphasis on the builds themselves. This can even be done by just using regular tiles to mimic wood, as shown below.

Tiles used as wooden planks. Normally this effect would be very difficult to create.

Thrid, the whole layout can be operated remotely. Instead of using the regular switching system, Corfe Castle Station uses a system of a motor under the running boards and a 1×3 technic beam to turn the switch. The switch itself stays in the same position, it’s just the point blade and the spring (normally used to let trains pass from the other track without trowing the switch) that is being moved around.

Point switch
Point motor – underside

The only problem of this solution: The track now isn’t isolated in the way the switches normally do. This is necessary because the whole layout is operated by DCC. But, Carl came up with a solution:

“It wont however, change the current to the other track, that will be done by electronics as the track power system is going to be on the old 12v style of isolated sections that can be switched on or off, but using 9v.”

Last but not least, Carl has also documented how he build up the ballast. Instead of using Lego plates, he used plywood in the same height as plates. This ensures that you have the feeling everything is still “in system” without having to use all those 48×48 baseplates.

Plywood used to create the right height for the ballast
Ballasted and unballasted next to each other

Overall, this layout is testament to what happens when you think outside of the box, ehm, studs. It shows what creativity can do with people and what happens when you dare to fuse different mediums into one layout. Maybe it’s not fully purist, but who cares when the final result is so full of win?

Finally, as with Ararat 1972, the lesson learned is (almost) the same: Start selling those 48×48’s (and invest in plywood!)

5 thoughts on “Taking it to the next level – Corfe Castle Station”

  1. That is a beautiful layout and a well done article. Years ago I saw something similar on Brickshelf and have contemplated using traditional modeling techniques for scenery on my iPhone wn future layout. There is a lot we can learn from our model railroading counterparts.

    WFB, WI

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