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Test track

Test Track

St Neots Model Railway Club
St Neots Town Council Grant Aid Funding (2014) of £250 for a Test Track
Report of the building process and benefits March 2014 - March 2016


St Neots Model Railway Club (MRC) has been in existence for over 30 years. We now hold our weekly meetings in Buckden Community Millennium Centre. We aim to promote the

hobby of railway modelling for all ages from 8 years (with parental supervision) to those who are over 80 years.

Not all of our members can purchase track or kits themselves so our aim through the bid was to take forward a project called 'All Ages and All Gauges - Have A Go'

We envisaged that this bid would enable all members to get involved in building a multi-gauge, club based, test track layout for running their trains on, whatever the gauge. The bid also included funding to purchase various kits to enable all members to have a go at building wagons or buildings in a variety of gauges.

Our bid was for £916.63. Funding received was £250

Total spend to date has been £319.03 with the difference being made up by St Neots MRC.

that the test track is now up and running but we have not been able to buy the rolling stock

kits originally outlined in the bid .


1. Having received the grant in March 2014, the first six months were spent planning

the size and shape of the test track layout. It was also necessary to make sure that whatever

was built would fit into the storage cupboards available. The experienced members of the

club made sure that when they met to discuss the design and draft drawings, they included

more novice and junior members of the club to keep them informed and so that they could

learn about the importance of the planning phase.

2. Having agreed a design the wood was purchased and delivered and building

commenced in October 2014. The first two sections were made by experienced members so

that they could check that they fitted together okay.

3. Once the small group of experienced members were satisfied that their diagrams and

plans could be put into practice as planned, other members began to get involved and were

either taught how to build and construct more baseboard sections or were taught how to

build the legs which would support the structure. Many novice and junior members learned wood working skills for the first time and were taught about the importance of measure, the priority was buying the building materials and track to construct the layout. This means measure and measure again before cutting.

4. By February 2015 all the sections were complete and the test track layout could be assembled in approximately 20 minutes by two of the young members under supervision. The surfaces were then painted and varnished so, again, several members including the younger members were able to participate.

5. Following a pause in March 2015 when the Club organises a major model railway exhibition, it was time to start laying track on the surface of the base boards. Diagrams of O gauge track were printed from a computer programme and laid on the surface so that all members could learn about plotting out a track circuit to ensure the curves are correct. O gauge track, being the largest is put on the outer part of the circuit and once laid the OO track follows the same curves but is laid approximately 4 inches inside the O gauge and then the N gauge is laid last, again - it follows the same circle but a few inches inside. It is necessary to ensure that the tracks join where the baseboards join and again, several members, junior, novice and experienced, all worked together to share the track laying jobs.

6. By October 2015 the three gauges of track had been laid by a variety of members working together with and without supervision.

7. The next step is the wiring which requires coordination and junior and novice members learned how the electrical wiring system works, what colours of wire were being used where, and how to solder.

8. By February 2016 the wiring is complete and individual tracks are tested and working and a few members are starting to bring their locomotives and rolling stock from home to test out and show each other. The OO track is already proving the most popular gauge

9. Following the annual exhibition in March 2016, various members are starting to get the test track out on a regular basis and practice putting it up and taking it down without causing any damage to the track ends at the baseboard joints. It is fully working and depending on the controller, can be used for running digitally controlled trains (DCC) or analogue (DC) trains. This enables all members to benefit from using the test track layout and teaches members the pros and cons of both systems.

10. It has been agreed that the test track layout will be put up every other Wednesday so that members can bring stock from home to run on it. A diary has been devised so that if someone has a lot of trains to test or run for pleasure, they can book the session which pre-informs other members who is using the layout, for what and when.                   

Benefits to our members

Some 26 members have been actively involved in the test track layout design and / or construction over the last two years. Activity only took place on Wednesday evenings

between 7pm and 10pm during the club meetings to ensure as many people as possible could participate.

Our Club has an excellent reputation nationally and is well known for its high standards of modelling. We are well organised, friendly and we are one of the few Clubs in East Anglia who encourage young members and female members.

We have attracted more members over the past two years because they have come and seen how active the club is.

During this project, young and novice members expanded their interest in the hobby by learning valuable new skills in layout design, woodworking, painting and varnishing, track laying, electrical wiring, and soldering. The project promoted team working with all ages working together on each stage of the design and construction. Our more senior members and experienced members, brushed up their existing skills and shared their knowledge and

expertise. Some of the more senior experienced members also learned new skills.

The aim of our 'All Ages, All Gauges - Have a Go Project' was to encourage any member to contribute to building a multi-gauge, Club based, test track layout so that they all got a

chance to do woodworking, track laying, ballasting, wiring and soldering. Track in the most popular gauges - O, OO and N have been laid on the same board providing continuous

running. By providing all gauges, members can bring trains from home and run them any evening they want and can test how wagon kits or locomotives kits run during their

construction. In summary, we have met our aim and we have all enjoyed doing so.

Future plans

In the future, we still hope to purchase wagon kits so that junior and novice members can learn to build these and run them on the test track. We also intend to buy some building kits so that again, the more experienced can teach the junior / novice members and pass on their skills. Finally, we intend to add another circuit of OO track because this is the most popular and often two people want to use it at the same time. One thing is certain though. In the future this test track layout will be used by all members on a frequent basis.

Please see below, photos taking during the building of the test track

We hope this information is useful and interesting, it maybe that such grants are available in your area!

The Construction Progress
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