Townscape with freight train

Hazeltown

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 ™’ and ‘Thomas the Tank Engine ™’, along with a mixture of standard OO scale and ‘supersize’ figures from the Lego ™ range, this layout has a mixture to get children interested.

At our 2016 annual exhibition we decided to make a small charge per driving session with all the money raised being donated to a children’s charity. We raised £45.00 for the BBC’s ‘Children in Need’ project. It is planned to make a nominal charge each time the layout is out on tour and all monies raised will be donated to a children’s charity.

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

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 trains 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.

"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.

Many of the buildings are modified kits, while the scenics are totally scratchbuilt to fit the approximately 8ft long by 2ft wide space. At one end we have Windy Miller Hill, complete with a windmill, where the train passes through in a tunnel before coming into the station. From there the train passes ‘Fireman Sam’s’ 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.

Toy dragon on bogie truck
Dragons do travel by train!

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.

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

Since the 2016 exhibition, a list of work required and features needed to improve the layout has been drawn up and some have already been completed. These included a new centre legs unit to support the middle of the layout and remedial work to the track layout at the front to eliminate a slight kink in the freight line at the front. 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 has also been decided to completely refurbish the station and permanently fix it in place so as to prevent unnecessary damage while the layout is in transit. Work on this project is in hand at the time of writing.

Other plans to improve the layout mainly affect the scenic features. A few additional road vehicles are planned, a pillar box for outside the post office, but the most noteable feature will be to make the sails on the windmill rotate, but this will involve considerable planning.

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