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Like Capital Works, Universal Works features 00 gauge track and can thus be used with either 00 ( 4mm scale ) or H0 ( 3.5mm scale ) rolling stock.  Also, being 1 700mm as opposed to 560mm long, Universal Works can handle longer - or more - wagons and locomotives.  As can be seen from the picture above, British mainline diesels can now be accommodated although not all classes can access all areas.  More importantly however, its redbrick architecture allows it to represent just about anywhere in the World that was industrialised in the 19th century: hence the title "Universal Works"




Universal Works was built during the summer of 2009 as a third layout to complement the existing Capital Works and Terminal 1  that have been a feature of the Gloucestershire  model engineering show circuit since 2007.  As such, it was designed to fit both my car and a specific shelf at home.

Like Capital Works, Universal Works features 00 gauge track and can thus be used with either 00 ( 4mm scale ) or H0 ( 3.5mm scale ) rolling stock.  Also, being 1 700mm as opposed to 560mm long, Universal Works can handle longer - or more - wagons and locomotives.

As can be seen from the picture above, British mainline diesels can now be accommodated although not all classes can access all areas.  More importantly however, its redbrick architecture allows it to
represent just about anywhere in the World that was industrialised in the 19th century: hence the title "Universal Works"

Inspired by the"Bookshelf" layouts of the late Cyril J. Freezer, Universal Works also cuts down on the less useful track and mechanical portions of Capital Works - making it both simpler to operate and more appealing to view.  With just one Peco ST-241 insulfrog point and no sector plate, rolling stock is always on view except when hidden in the two road "water tank" shed on the right hand side or within the shed covering the point in the middle.  Behind the headshunt, too, is a length of non-electrified track which can display static vehicles.

Like Capital Works, Universal Works represents a wagon repair / mechanical engineering organisation with relatively small locomotives shunting rolling stock from one place to another. With the British tank engines and private owner coal wagons already being used on Capital Works, the isolating section headshunt on Universal Works can offer a similar rapid changeover of wagons coming and going from the repair shops.  

With longer American and Continental trains meanwhile, one locomotive can be used to haul a wagon ( up to 34 feet long in H0 scale ) out of one road of the repair shop to the headshunt before propelling it back to the other road and "out into the World ". 

A third option can be to use the headshunt as common ground when two locomotives - one of which is too long to negotiate the covered point - are both giving brake van rides, as in the Works Open Day scenario pictured above. In a tribute to English Electric - which was premiered at the Cheltenham GWR Modeller's Exhibition in April 2010 - both  50 008 "Thunderer" and Class 20 D8195 were keep out of each other's way and used the headshunt alternately.



The picture above shows the grass field from the older static diorama joining the railway and third - tarmac - module.  The tarmac effect was created by dusting black spray-painted plywood with talcum powder - a technique also used by the Mellor Brothers on their Layby Diorama.


Like my N gauge Terminal 1 layout, Universal Works comprises in three parts - one containing the railway element and two more providing scenery.  Although 1 700mm long, the railway module is only 180mm wide - just a little more than the width of a two road engine shed and only slightly taller at 140mm.

The railway module of Universal Works can be displayed on its own but is more interesting ( and less likely to be touched by toddlers ) if the two other modules are placed in front of it.  One of these modules can be the grass or concrete disperal section from the existing  Airfield Embankment diorama while a third module currently has a tarmac effect base and at the moment is supporting a hangar type building made from wood left over from constructing the railway module.

The picture above shows the grass field from the older static diorama joining the railway and third - tarmac - module.  The tarmac effect was created by dusting black spray-painted plywood with talcum powder - a technique also used by the Mellor Brothers on their Layby Diorama.


To disguise its "wooden box" origins, the hangar building also has a lean-to structure made from the  "wooden hut" side, back and roof components ( parts 17 -22 ) not used when assemblng the six Dapol Engine Shed (C007) kits used to form the buildings on the railway module.  Since this picture was taken, two Ratio Trackside Skylights (Ref 512 ) have been added to the roof of the hangar.

As an extra scenic option, four of the six rear sections ( part 10 ) of the Dapol Engine Shed kits were assembled, painted and mounted together in a straight line to represent a wall of a partly demolished brick shed.  Like the hangar, this is not permanently attached to the third module and could easy be used in other modelling contexts.

The picture above also shows some of the key elements in the construction of the railway module.  Once fitted with the necessary insulating joints to form isolating sections, the Peco Code 100 track was glued directly to the baseboard, which itself was made from two overlapping layers of click-together sectional floorboard that were about to be discarded by my neighbours.  

As such, Universal Works had excellent environmental credentials although just two outings proved that there was no substitute for 18mm MDF as a truly sturdy building material.  This, along with damaged sustained in transport back from Cheltenham in April 2010, prompted the rebuilding of the layout as Universal 2.0.

The lengths of rail visible outside the buildings were then separated by hardstanding, just as  in the yard of Capital Works.  On Universal Works however, 1/16" balsa sheeting was used to bring the areas between one track and another - and between tracks and back and front layout edges - up to the level of the top of the sleepers.  15/1000" plastic card was then overlaid on this to provide a smooth deck between the tops of the rails both inside and outside the "four foot way" - leaving enough room for the flanged vehicle wheels to pass through of course!



As mentioned previously, the full depth buildings and low-relief red brick walls of Universal Works were made from just six Dapol Engine Shed kits, which also defined the length - and narrow width  - of the railway module.  Any extra scenery on either side of the tracks would have shortened the length of the module that could be successfully carried diagonally in the back of my car and so compromised the length of trains that could be run.


As mentioned previously, the full depth buildings and low-relief red brick walls of Universal Works were made from just six Dapol Engine Shed kits, which also defined the length - and narrow width  - of the railway module.  Any extra scenery on either side of the tracks would have shortened the length of the module that could be successfully carried diagonally in the back of my car and so compromised the length of trains that could be run.  

I also decided to use the Dapol Engine Shed kit as I had built one before for the Wagon Repairs Diorama that now resides in the Museum of the Dean Forest Railway and knew that it would not be too tall for the allocated shelf space once stuck to the baseboards .  Indeed, combined with track glued directly on the boards and not mounted on foam ballast inlay ( as had been anticipated when the former Airfix kit was first moulded in the 1950s ) extra height from rail top to door lintel was available for running American boxcars.  Some modellers might like to scratchbuild their own hinged doors to reach all the way down to the hardstanding ( I used a single piece of plastic card on the Wagon Repairs Diorama ) but as  under-door ventilation is sometimes used to help keep moisture ( and therefore rust ) away from stored vehicles I decided to use the doors supplied with the kits.

The Dapol Engine Shed also features parts to allow extension so that two kits can become a either a double  length single road or single length two road shed.   Finally, I chose this Dapol product because I thought it would be very easy to obtain.

As it turned out, after a number of visits to familiar local model shops and phone calls to some unfamiliar ones, I had to order my kits direct from Dapol on 01691 774455.  These cost 6.50 apiece plus 2.99 for postage and packing via Royal Mail.



Apart from the maxima that were imposed by car and shelf, the length of Universal Works was also defined by the need to cover the single point.  As can be seen from the picture above, this required three rather than two twin-window wall sections for the vehicles to approach the point in a straight line from the yard in the centre of the layout.  With hindsight, I would have moved the point 10mm or so from the nearest shed portal so that longer vehicles exit the shed to the headshunt in more of a straight line off the curved approach from the rear track but despite this Universal Works still does everything that I set out to achieve with it.


Apart from the maxima that were imposed by car and shelf, the length of Universal Works was also defined by the need to cover the single point.  As can be seen from the picture above, this required three rather than two twin-window wall sections ( parts 6 and 7 ) for the vehicles to approach the point in a straight line from the yard in the centre of the layout.  With hindsight, I would have moved the point 10mm or so from the nearest shed portal so that longer vehicles exit the shed to the headshunt in more of a straight line off the curved approach from the rear track but despite this Universal Works still does everything that I set out to achieve with it.

Having said that however, vehicles with long overhangs coming off the curve would still encounter the obstacle of the stiffening wall of the outside of the shed.  As the two-ply floorboard baseboard had to be made as thin as possible to fit the available shelf headroom, the diorama-type back and side walls were designed to add overall stiffness to the structure. The end and outer side walls by the headshunt flattened out any localised longitudinal and latitudinal warping, as did the two layers forming the railtop height deck and the back wall of the middle yard.  

However, where rear access was needed to the point and hidden sidings, small sections of modular floorboard were added to the outer walls.  As well as adding stiffness to the structure as a whole, these wooden sections - like the back walls - helped the assemby of the wall sections which could still be prone to warping despite Dapol's advice of straightening them out in hot water.

Where the outer wall stiffeners came into contact with the glazed windows of the plastic wall sections they were sprayed black to give a reflective finish as it was not feasible or desirable to weaken the stiffener by cutting holes to allow a view inside the sheds.  When assembling the plastic wall sections too, care had to be taken to sand off any chamfered edges - used to locate the parts of a single kit - that might have prevented the tight butt-joints needed to form long walls.  

As can be seen from the photographs above, drain pipes from the Dapol kit were used to disguise section joins and "wooden" notice boards also used as per instructions to fill the holes moulded for them.  Similarly, redundant large and small doors - some left over in my scrap box from other models - were also used to disguise unforseen gaps between brick and concrete and also the under-door gaps mentioned above where light seepage from the rear was found to be a problem.  Indeed, the sheds were later fitted with short sections of black-sprayed balsa to give a more realistic dark interior.

When initially planning Universal Works, thought had been given to operating the point with a Capital Works style tubed push rod, but this would still have left the point "naked" among the straight lengths of track and - more importantly - the curved: which would have required much more effort and accuracy to fill in up to rail top level.

More importantly from the point of younger exhibition viewers though, the two-shed arrangement retains the peek-a-boo allure of Capital Works and with six entrances required anyway, the wall sections of six kits provided an elegant covering for point, hidden sidings long enough to take a small American Bo-Bo "switcher" and boxcar - and rear walls.



The roofs on the two over-rail buildings however represented a greater challenge as the Dapol Engine Shed Kit was not designed for more than two units to be joined together.


As can be seen from preceding images, the top line of the twin-window wall sections was further defined by lengths of black sprayed dowel rod which can be seen as representing either the curved edge of a flat bitumen roof or a pipe carrying some sort of gas or liquid around the works.

The roofs on the two over-rail buildings however represented a greater challenge as the Dapol Engine Shed Kit was not designed for more than two units to be joined together.

In the case of the structure covering the hidden sidings I decided to encase the gable ends of the portals (part 3) in balsa sheeting to allow as full an access height as possible for changing over rolling stock. As can be seen from the second photograph in this feature, balsa strip was added to the outside of this sheeting partly to keep it from warping and partly as a nod to the old Pattern Stores at the Swindon Works of the Great Western Railway, as pictured below behind Western, Warship and Hymek diesel hydraulic locomotives.  A thin flat roof of black sprayed plywood was then added to give further strength along with some black sprayed balsa panels at floor level to minimise seeping light when viewed from the front.

Also visible in the picture above are a number of thick plastic card strips used to both bind the portals in side-by-side pairs and to strengthen them in supporting the balsa and plywood roof.



In the case of the structure covering the hidden sidings I decided to encase the gable ends of the portals (part 3) in balsa sheeting to allow as full an access height as possible for changing over rolling stock. As can be seen from the second photograph in this feature, balsa strip was added to the outside of this sheeting partly to keep it from warping and partly as a nod to the old Pattern Stores at the Swindon Works of the Great Western Railway, as pictured below behind Western, Warship and Hymek diesel hydraulic locomotives.  A thin flat roof of black sprayed plywood was then added to give further strength along with some black sprayed balsa panels at floor level to minimise seeping light when viewed from the front.


Perhaps the trickiest part of Universal Works to build however was cetainly the more traditional ridged roof over the point.  Initial plans to replace the kit roof sections ( parts 13 and 14 ) with continuous lengths of tile embossed cardboard or plastic card were dashed when these were discovered only to be available in A4 size.  As a result, the kit components were used, joined with four examples of part 35 - supplied to hold a double length single road shed roof together.

Proceeding section by - sometimes - warped section the outer thirds of the roof fitted the portals and the walls but not the clerestory sections in the middle - hence the scratchbuilt rectangular front structure bearing the name "UNIVERSAL" and the custom made pitched roof behind which also allows better operator access for point changing and resolving any derailments.  The silver "UNIVERSAL" lettering on the black painted balsa background - an homage to English Electric's Vulcan Works and seen here with a Warton built BAC 167 Strikemaster -  was obtained from a cake decoration shop, a useful alternative to model railway suppliers for many scenic bits and pieces.


Proceeding section by - sometimes - warped section the outer thirds of the roof fitted the portals and the walls but not the clerestory sections in the middle - hence the scratchbuilt rectangular front structure bearing the name "UNIVERSAL" and the custom made pitched roof behind which also allows better operator access for point changing and resolving any derailments.  

The silver "UNIVERSAL" lettering on the black painted balsa background - an homage to English Electric's Vulcan Works and seen here with a Warton built BAC 167 Strikemaster -  was obtained from a cake decoration shop, a useful alternative to model railway suppliers for many scenic bits and pieces.

The "UNIVERSAL" name was further enhanced by a little light weathering using a mixture of Humbrol's Brick Red and Bronze paints.


The "UNIVERSAL" name was further enhanced by a little light weathering using a mixture of Humbrol's Brick Red and Bronze paints.

Unlike Terminal 1, Universal Works only required very small numbers of scale people, even for the English Electric Open Day which involved some extra Noch and Preiser photographer figures and a bus queue of leftover Airfix civilians.  As such, I felt it worth spending a little extra money on these figures to get the best results possible  The Noch workers pictured above, for example, were chosen as they could represent engineering workers from Victorian times up until at least the 1960s.  These few permanent workers are mainly positioned against the walls ( out of the way of the moving trains ) or in the case of the man with dungarees and a metal rod marking the start of the headshunt isolating section.


Unlike Terminal 1, Universal Works only required very small numbers of scale people, even for the English Electric Open Day which involved some extra Noch and Preiser ( set 15571 ) photographer figures and a bus queue of leftover Airfix civilians.  As such, I felt it worth spending a little extra money on these figures to get the best results possible  The Noch mechanics ( set 15105) pictured above, for example, were chosen as they could represent engineering workers from Victorian times up until at least the 1960s.  These few permanent workers are mainly positioned against the walls ( out of the way of the moving trains ) or in the case of the man with dungarees and a metal rod marking the start of the headshunt isolating section.  

Also of interest are the extractor fans in the windows.  As supplied by Dapol, some instances of parts 4,5 7 and 8 were partly covered in flash but rather than cut this off and file into the delicate frames I left them "boarded up" to take small extractor fans made from the end of plastic kit sprues.


Although, as discussed above, Universal Works was designed to require a minimum of scale people, even a sparsely attended Open Day will still need some form of crowd control for health and safety reasons.  With no metal crush barriers seemingly available in 1/76 scale I opted to use Peco traffic cones to mark out the spectator and operational areas.  One of the smaller of the two cone sizes supplied is seen just to the left of Eurofighter Typhoon  ZJ913 and both are very easy to construct - bases, centres and tips being moulded in the correct shades of red and white on sprues which double as assembly jigs.


Although, as discussed above, Universal Works was designed to require a minimum of scale people, even a sparsely attended Open Day will still need some form of crowd control for health and safety reasons.  With no metal crush barriers seemingly available in 1/76 scale I opted to use Peco traffic cones to mark out the spectator and operational areas.  One of the smaller of the two cone sizes supplied is seen just to the left of Eurofighter Typhoon  ZJ913 and both are very easy to construct - bases, centres and tips being moulded in the correct shades of red and white on sprues which double as assembly jigs.


Finally, Universal Works provides a backdrop for the photography of trains, aircraft and other vehicles, as witnessed here by this Grumman Wildcat fighter posed in front of some typical American boxcars.


Finally, Universal Works provides a backdrop for the photography of trains, aircraft and other vehicles, as witnessed here by this Grumman Wildcat fighter posed in front of some typical American boxcars.