Townscape with freight train

Hazeltown-OO gauge


Hazeltown is a small portable layout built by Society members for children to operate and learn about railways. Based loosely on a combination of features on ‘Underground Ernie’TM and ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’TM , along with a standard mixture of OO scale and ‘supersize’ figures from the ‘Lego’TM range, this layout has a mixture to get children interested.

The layout made its debut in 2015 and at our annual exhibition we allowed children to drive trains free of charge and it certainly proved popular. However, we had a problem with storage and transporting the layout and this resulted in remedial work having to be done from time to time.

The track plan is a simple oval with a passing loop at the front by the station and this enables a choice of passenger or goods train to be run. One train goes round clockwise while the other anti-clockwise. Children operate the trains using a hand-held controller at the front of the layout.

Image of child operating the layout. Parental permission given for use of image.
A young train driver. Parental permission given for use of image.

Many of the buildings are modified kits, while the scenics are totally scratch-built to fit the approximately 8ft long by 2ft wide space. At the right-hand end of the layout we have Windy Miller Hill, complete with a windmill, where the train passes through in a tunnel before coming into the station area. From there the train, going clockwise, passes ‘Fireman Sam’s’TM fire station before continuing through ‘Hazel Wood’, then under the bridge to pass behind the houses and shops where ‘Bertie the Bus’™ and ‘Postman Pat’s’™ van stand outside the shops and post office. The train then re-enters the tunnel at the other end, thus completing the run back to the station area.

"Smokey Joe" steam engine leaves the tunnel with a brake van in tow.
“Smokey Joe” steam engine leaves the tunnel with a brake van in tow.

About six weeks before our 2016 annual exhibition, the layout manager was suddenly taken ill and the project was handed over to another member who is now the present layout manager. Plans had already been made to make a small charge per driving session, with all money raised being donated to a children’s charity. At the exhibition we raised £45.00 for the BBC’s ‘Children in Need’ project. Initially, after the exhibition, it was intended that a nominal charge would be made for driving sessions each time the layout went out on tour, with all monies raised being donated to a children’s charity, but this idea was soon withdrawn and a request for donations made instead.

Toy dragon on bogie truck
Dragons do travel by train!

After the 2016 exhibition, a list of work required and features needed to improve the layout was drawn up and most have been completed. These included a new trolley for easier storage thus eliminating unnecessary damage, a new centre legs unit to support the middle part of the layout when it is set up and remedial work to the track layout at the front to eliminate a slight kink in the freight line. This work also resulted in a minor adjustment to the station platform line after the point for the two tracks was re-positioned. This point was quite close to the tunnel entrance but has been moved further away to enable the freight line to be straighter. It was also decided to completely refurbish the station and split it into two separate sections for easy storage, so as to prevent unnecessary damage.

A train waiting at the Station
A train waiting at the Station

Other plans to improve the layout mainly affected the scenic features. A pillar box for outside the post office, and a few additional road vehicles are planned, but the most notable feature was to make the sails on the windmill rotate, this being achieved in time for the layout’s visit to the Manchester Model Railway Society’s exhibition in December 2017. During 2017 we raised in excess of £230.00 towards the cost of a special minibus designed to transport disabled children.


The Hazeltown bus in front of "Brown's Bakery"
The Hazeltown bus is on time!