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THE MELLOR BROTHER'S LAYBY DIORAMA

 
     
  In February 2009 David Mellor retired or, as I like to think of it, made the move to full-time modelling. Realising that friends and relations would be buying him books, DVDs and die cast models to mark the event I decided to pay tribute in a way that would bring the wealth of all these gifts together: a diorama box similar to the ones that have proved so popular with personal and cyber viewers alike. David has kindly allowed me to release the pictures of this diorama taken just after construction had finished and to describe the thinking behind it.  
     
  In February 2009 David Mellor retired or, as I like to think of it, made the move to full-time modelling. Realising that friends and relations would be buying him books, DVDs and die cast models to mark the event I decided to pay tribute in a way that would bring the wealth of all these gifts together: a diorama box similar to the ones that have proved so popular with personal and cyber viewers alike. David has kindly allowed me to release the pictures of this diorama taken just after construction had finished and to describe the thinking behind it.  
     
  Being positive however, the relatively small size of the diorama would enable it to be easily carried to exhibitions in the future and then showcase a smaller, more focussed selection of trucks and buses. Similarly, the lack of internal space might have thwarted plans for something as complex as a motorway service area but did lend itself to a layby - perhaps the simplest of transport infrastructures where vehicles gather. For this reason, too, only one carriageway of the road attached to the layby was modelled. If needs be, the diorama could also be used to present vehicles on the Continent by making them face right to left rather than left to right.  
     
  The first consideration in designing this diorama was that I would have to wrap it and transport - it as a surprise - to David's retirement party.

This meant that it would have to be considerably smaller than the River View Transport Cafe or Brocklecote Bus Station, the two dioramas most strongly associated with The Mellor Brothers. Being positive however, the relatively small size of the diorama would enable it to be easily carried to exhibitions in the future and then showcase a smaller, more focussed selection of trucks and buses. Similarly, the lack of internal space might have thwarted plans for something as complex as a motorway service area but did lend itself to a layby - perhaps the simplest of transport infrastructures where vehicles gather. For this reason, too, only one carriageway of the road attached to the layby was modelled. If needs be, the diorama could also be used to present vehicles on the Continent by making them face right to left rather than left to right.

Happily David's retirement present reached him as intended - even if the only suitable wrapping paper large enough to hide it was, under the lights of Tuffley Community Centre, a rather girly shade of pink.

Rather than a giant Barbie doll however, the diorama box was made from 18mm medium density fibreboard from an environmentally friendly source and measured 920mm long by 300mm deep by 168mm to the top of the side and end walls. As has been further discussed in terms of my own Airfield Embankment and similar dioramas, the Layby also featured an easel lid which could carry descriptive information about the contents when raised.

Once again, the main colour of the box was Dulux First Dawn with a matt black aerosol being used for the tarmac roadways and Dulux Teracotta covering the thin balsa of the reservation and the three sections of picture frame moulding used to make the background. The trees at the ends of the reservation and the backdrops were by Woodland Scenics and the bushes and scatter material by Javis of Stockport. One scenic item that I used for the first time on this project was curved dry stone walling from the Hornby Skaledale range. This gave the layby a homely Gloucestershire Cotswold feel and makes a great alternative to other types of hedging and fencing.

The fourth wall of the box was once again supplied by Haden Browne Plastics of Gloucester in the form of 8mm perspex cut to size by their skilled craftsman Lee. This is the same grade of transparent sheet used to convert my Wagon Diorama to a Dean Forest Railway Museum exhibit and has the advantage of being generally stable enough to stand up without heavy rebating of the side walls.

 
     
  Once again, the main colour of the box was Dulux First Dawn with a matt black aerosol being used for the tarmac roadways and Dulux Teracotta covering the thin balsa of the reservation and the three sections of picture frame moulding used to make the background. The trees at the ends of the reservation and the backdrops were by Woodland Scenics and the bushes and scatter material by Javis of Stockport. One scenic item that I used for the first time on this project was curved dry stone walling from the Hornby Skaledale range. This gave the layby a homely Gloucestershire Cotswold feel and makes a great alternative to other types of hedging and fencing.  
     
  DENNIS DART N 240 KAE BADGERLINE  
     
  To check clearances during the design and construction stage I used my Badgerline liveried Dennis Dart bus with Plaxton Pointer bodywork formerly seen on The Fastest Diorama In The West. As my only modern bus, it also made sense to use N240 KAE - forming the 332 service to Longwell Green - to add scale to the photographs of the finished diorama.  
     
  To check clearances during the design and construction stage I used my Badgerline liveried Dennis Dart bus with Plaxton Pointer bodywork formerly seen on The Fastest Diorama In The West. As my only modern bus, it also made sense to use N 240 KAE - forming the 332 service to Longwell Green - to add scale to the photographs of the finished diorama.

The late 1980’s saw a major change in the bus market. Division of the National Bus Company and Deregulation in 1986 saw a drop in traditional bus orders with many newly privatized operators fighting to establish their market share. Many frequent low cost minibus services had become a victim of their own success by the end of the decade and the Plaxton Pointer midibus body was developed and introduced to offer increased capacity with the same low initial purchase cost, economy of operation and passenger appeal. Designed to fit a new range of chasis from Dennis, Volvo and other manufacturers, the Pointer soon became the UK's best selling bus and also did well in Far Eastern markets.

Production commenced at the former Reeve Burgess factory in Chesterfield in 1990 and nearly 8 000 units had been delivered before work transferred to Scarborough in 2001.

The Alexander Dennis Dart is Europe’s best selling midibus chassis, with more than 11,000 in service in 20 countries. It is ideal where excellent manoeuvrability is important and is designed to provide a strong but lightweight platform for single or two door body construction. It is available in 5 overall lengths from 8.5m to 11.4m and its 2.4m width helps provide a large, low floor area providing more space for seating and wider walkways, allowing greater versatility for alternative layouts.

Alexander Dennis Limited is now Britain's leading manufacturer of single and double deck buses. It also produces coach and fire engine chassis. The business was established in May 2004 following the aquisition of various manufacturing, marketing and after - market operations formerly owned by TransBus International. The new business brings together two powerful brands that between them have nearly 200 years of engineering and bus building experience. Alexander Dennis is the world's leading manufacturer of double deck buses and low floor, easy access, midi and single deck vehicles. Alexander Dennis buses carry almost 10 million passengers per day in London and Hong Kong.

Badgerline originated as the brand, from 1985, of the Bristol country operations of the Bristol Omnibus Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned National Bus Company. The livery featured a friendly Badger cartoon on a green and yellow background. In 1986, the National Bus Company transferred the Badgerline operations to a new company, Badgerline Ltd, which was sold to its management later that year. Badgerline became an expansive group. It acquired several other bus companies, and effectively recreated the Bristol Omnibus Company by buying Midland Red West, which owned Bristol City Line. However, in 1994 Badgerline merged with Grampian Regional Transport to form First Bus, later renamed First Group, based Aberdeen. First adopted a common corporate identity, and the Badgerline brand was dropped.

 
     
  Badgerline originated as the brand, from 1985, of the Bristol country operations of the Bristol Omnibus Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned National Bus Company. The livery featured a friendly Badger cartoon on a green and yellow background. In 1986, the National Bus Company transferred the Badgerline operations to a new company, Badgerline Ltd, which was sold to its management later that year. Badgerline became an expansive group. It acquired several other bus companies, and effectively recreated the Bristol Omnibus Company by buying Midland Red West, which owned Bristol City Line. However, in 1994 Badgerline merged with Grampian Regional Transport to form First Bus, later renamed First Group, based Aberdeen. First adopted a common corporate identity, and the Badgerline brand was dropped.  
     
  DAF XF NX 56 FKR PRESTONS OF POTTO  
     
  I have tried to convince myself that I bought this Oxford Die Cast model because I needed to check that three large modern articulated lorries ( and thus several more smaller vehicles ) would fit into the layby of David Mellor's new diorama. But really - although the Preston's fleet is often seen in Gloucestershire - it also brings back happy memories of the North Yorkshire Moors around the town of Potto, near Northallerton, and some of the people who hailed from there. Including one who later married an electrical engineer.  
     
  I have tried to convince myself that I bought this Oxford Die Cast model because I needed to check that three large modern articulated lorries ( and thus several more smaller vehicles ) would fit into the layby of David Mellor's new diorama. But really - although the Preston's fleet is often seen in Gloucestershire - it also brings back happy memories of the North Yorkshire Moors around the town of Potto, near Northallerton, and some of the people who hailed from there. Including one who later married an electrical engineer.  
     
  Although the prestonsofpotto.co.uk website mentioned on the super space cab of the DAF FT SXF105 6x2 tractor unit seems not to be operational in early March 2009, a Googling of the firm's name reveals that it was founded in 1936 and continues under the third generation of the Preston family. Its services include groupage, food and drink distribution, heavy haulage, warehousing. Prestons of Potto are also members of the Pallex network and can also offer a total logistics solution through its management team. Their fleet of modern vehicles is equipped with in cab communications and with a computerised scheduling system customers know where their goods are at all times.  
     
  Although the prestonsofpotto.co.uk website mentioned on the super space cab of the DAF FT SXF105 6x2 tractor unit - teamed with Boalloy curtainside trailer F1588 - seems not to be operational in early March 2009, a Googling of the firm's name reveals that it was founded in 1936 and continues under the third generation of the Preston family. Its services include groupage, food and drink distribution, heavy haulage, warehousing. Prestons of Potto are also members of the Pallex network and can also offer a total logistics solution through its management team. Their fleet of modern vehicles is equipped with in cab communications and with a computerised scheduling system customers know where their goods are at all times.

In August 2007 Prestons of Potto recreated one of its first-ever deliveries from 1957, using a steam-powered vehicle built in 1913, complete with trailer and canopy, to take packaging from Stockton to Eaglescliffe as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Also in 2007 an order from Prestons of Potto for 80 Boalloy Tautliner curtainsided trailers continued a 40 year old relationship between the two companies. With a heavy-duty specification, these trailers were expected to have a dual life, providing Prestons with the opportunity of optimising the whole life costs over an extended working life.

Although the trailers would operate for an expected seven year working life on general haulage, Prestons anticipated that they will then adapt the trailers to run as flatbed trailers on general steel work operations, thereby lengthening the actual trailer working life even more.

The Boalloy trailers joining the 600 strong trailer fleet were all working on general haulage across the UK. According to Managing Director David Preston, "Without a doubt, Boalloy have always manufactured a strong and durable product that stands the test of time.

“Our drivers and our customers all find the Boalloy product extremely easy to operate and work with. As a company, we find that most importantly they provide us with a proven return on our investment."

The 80 new trailers were all based on the Classic Tautliner bodywork, and were designed to operate with an overall height of 4.4m. They were all fitted with flush rear doors and incorporate a heavy-duty front bulkhead design with external tree branch protectors at the top.

All of the trailers were in the distinctive Prestons of Potto red and yellow livery and the M+G chassis were fitted with Daimler Chrysler disc brake axles for the first time and came complete with a heavy duty side rave, floor and cross bearers closed up to 300 mm spacing for second generation life. Special sockets were built into the new trailers to take side posts, which will be used later when the trailers might be used as flats.

"The agreed specification with Boalloy is certainly top of the range. It provides us with a product that can withstand our intensive distribution operation as well as meet the required safety standards at our customers’ premises. Many of the distribution centres in which we operate run counterbalance trucks within the trailer bodies and the heavy duty specification from Boalloy fully meets our requirements for this type of work," added David Preston

The final 20 of the new Boalloy trailers were working at Prestons depots all over the UK by March 2007.

"Prestons of Potto is one of the UK's most recognised haulage operations and a familiar sight on our roads. The longstanding relationship that they have with Boalloy is clearly shown by the close liaison on this latest trailer order with both companies working in harmony to ensure that the final trailer specification fully met with the company's operational requirements," said Jim Gibb, Managing Director, Boalloy.

 
     
  "Prestons of Potto is one of the UK's most recognised haulage operations and a familiar sight on our roads. The longstanding relationship that they have with Boalloy is clearly shown by the close liaison on this latest trailer order with both companies working in harmony to ensure that the final trailer specification fully met with the company's operational requirements," said Jim Gibb, Managing Director, Boalloy.  
     
  LAYBY DIORAMA IN SERVICE  
     
  The Cheltenham GWR Modeller's Exhibition in April 2009 marked the first public appearance of the Layby Diorama with some of the Mellor Brother's own modifications. The edges of the reservation and the hedgerow had been softened, the bush colours modified and the layby itself weathered with a coat of talcum powder and wheel tracks created by rolling a 4mm scale vehicle up and down! Among the 1980s era trucks on display at St Margaret's Hall were those owned by John Golding, Attwools, The Co-Op and Moreton C. Cullimore.  
     
  The Cheltenham GWR Modeller's Exhibition in April 2009 marked the first public appearance of the Layby Diorama with some of the Mellor Brother's own modifications. The edges of the reservation and the hedgerow had been softened, the bush colours modified and the layby itself weathered with a coat of talcum powder and wheel tracks created by rolling a 4mm scale vehicle up and down!

Among the 1980s era trucks "laid by" at St Margaret's Hall were those owned by Attwoolls, The Co-Op, M.S. Ellis, and John Golding. 

Carrying a green sheeted load at the top right of the picture above is a 17 ton Ford Cargo with platform bodywork in the darker markings of Whitminster based John Attwoolls marquee and tent hire.  The model is a conversion from the MBC milk tanker kit.

Another Ford product - facing in the opposite direction - is the translucent roofed D type 7 ton box van owned by the Gloucester and Severnside Co-Operative Society's furniture and dry goods division.  The model is a converted Motorway kit - with a scratch built body painted real Co-Op blue - and has a special significance for Paul Mellor who spent 25 years in the Co-Op transport department workshops - formerly based at India Road, Gloucester - repairing and painting all known types of vehicle.

Also parked on the soft verge to make room for the long trailer opposite is a 1986 vintage rigid bodied two axle Leyland Roadrunner operated by M.S. Ellis of Cambridge in Stroud District, Gloucestershire. This 4mm scale model started as a white metal kit - now no longer available - from the Model Bus Company.

John Golding of Kingswood, near Wotton Under Edge, meanwhile is making use of the layby to park up his Volvo FH16 6x2 "left hooker"( built from 2 former Lledo promotional models with super detailing ) hauling a scratch built Broshuis four-axle extendable goose neck low loader: made using two Langley kits and featuring a donkey engine to lift the hydraulic coupling. However, a 1986 Seddon-Atkinson 401 6x2 tractor ( customised from a Langley white metal kit ) is positioned nearby, quite possibly to take over from the Volvo if it has failed.

 
     
  Passing the layby meanwhile is Moreton C. Cullimore's "Count Smorltork", an ERF ECK 6x2 tractor with a German built MAN engine under a custom made cab.  This was converted from a European die cast MAN 6x2 R161D with a brass chassis to allow for super detailing.  A similar unit has been built from resin and brass to replicate one of the many ERF tractors owned by Harold Read of Mitcheldean.  
     
  Passing the layby meanwhile is Moreton C. Cullimore's "Count Smorltork", an ERF ECK 6x2 tractor with a German built MAN engine under a custom made cab.  This was converted from a European die cast MAN 6x2 R161D with a brass chassis to allow for super detailing.  A similar unit has been built from resin and brass to replicate one of the many ERF tractors owned by Harold Read of Mitcheldean.

Purely to give Count Smorltork something to do, it is coupled to a much earlier tandem axle twin wheeled Scammell all steel tipper trailer which was later converted to tri axle super single running gear.  However, even in this modified form it would not have survived long enough to meet Count Smorltork in real life.