Of the standard-gauge light railways of Kent, one of the most successful was the Sheppey Light Railway, conceived by the islanders in the 1890s and engineered by the well-known Holman F. Stephens. After being absorbed into the South Eastern & Chatham Railway the line was improved, enlarged and partly standardized. With ownership passing to the Southern Railway and then British Railways (SR), closure took place in 1950 with the last train on Saturday 2nd December.
Leysdown, the terminus, was the largest station on the line and served the embryonic seaside resort offering very limited facilities including cattle pens along with a horse and carriage dock.
In looking at Brian Hart's book of the line, Leysdown was an ideal choice for a first layout to P4 standards (4mm/ft scale 18.83mm gauge) enabling a scale model of the prototype to be constructed, without compression, in a scenic area of only 12ft by 2ft. Also, apart from the station building, a typical Colonel Stephens' item, there was only one other structure namely the S.E. & C.R. water tower of which plans were available.
The layout comprises four 4ft x 2ft plywood baseboards with integral legs. Trackwork has been built using ply and rivet construction on foam underlay. Turnouts and signals are operated by slow action Tortoise motors. A simple three road sector plate is used in the fiddle yard.
A NCE Powercab Digital Command Control (DCC) system has been installed allowing remote operation of the locomotives, turnouts and signals. This has allowed the fitting of sound chips to the majority of locomotives enhancing operators and viewers overall enjoyment.
The buildings are scratch-built using a variety of materials, principally card & plasticard. Use has been made of car carpet underlay for the undergrowth with additional products from the 'Woodland Scenics' range much to the fore. Trees are a selection from those available from the architectural model making industry.
Rolling stock is varied at the present time and may not be truly typical of that which ran on the light railway. However featured are models of ex. S.E.& C.R. 'R1' Class 0-4-4T locomotive No A697, ex S.E. & C.R. 'B1' Class 4-4-0 locomotive No 1021 and S.R. articulated coach set No 514, all of which were photographed on the line in the early 1930s.
Much thought has been put into the presentation of the layout with proscenium arch, lighting, and a continuous full height backscene. The layout can be operated from the front or rear depending on the operators or exhibition manager's preferences.
The layout was originally constructed back in 1996/97 by the current owner and other members of the Uckfield Model Railway Club as the Club's first essay into P4 modelling.
The team are always happy to answer any questions about the layout, stock or railway modelling in general; you never know you may be offered some Leysdown seaside rock!