The Preston O Gauge Group has been in existence for well over twenty five years, originally being an offshoot of the Preston Model Railway Society, but now a separate entity. Principal attraction is a large layout known as 'Hawksbridge'. Built as a permanent layout in a large room above a car workshop, a change of venue was enforced in 2003 when the original premises were scheduled for demolition. A new, and much better, home was found in palatial surroundings in what is known as ‘The Old Brewery’ because, presumably, that’s what it once was. There is plenty of space for a good gathering of modellers, an all-important toilet, and a café/refreshment area complete with kettle, two pie ovens and a sink.
‘Hawksbridge’ is a four track main line with a large station, complete with bays and island platforms, and a handful of inner loop lines used mainly for storing freight trains. A goods yard is also to be seen. This is served by a self-contained circuit which also connects with the inner 'Down Slow' line. The layout is signalled, many of the signals being interlocked with points. Most of the signals are semaphore but there are a few colour lights in evidence. It is possible to run a train from the outer main line to the inner using a series of diamond crossings, and holding up proceedings on all main lines into the bargain. To watch a train cross the main lines in this manner is very satisfying, if a little hairy at times. Both inner and outer pairs of Fast and Slow lines are connected with facing and trailing crossovers. In recent years, a fifth circuit has been added which runs past the goods yard and through some of the storage sidings.
Control of trains is by Helmsman controllers. Some of these are on long leads so the ‘driver’ can follow his train round the circuit. Points are controlled by push button switches situated on diagrams of the trackwork, thus, in theory at least, it is easy to set a route for your train. (Try telling that to anyone attempting to work out the routes on the inner loop lines !)The inner, or Down lines, have independent controls. The Fast line has but two points, facing and trailing and, much like the outer Fast, can be used to demonstrate a loco’s speed and hauling power. Speed is necessarily restricted with goods trains but a ready-reckoner graph is available to calculate scale speeds. Mallard’s record has been shattered many times, although this does not sit well with the purists.
To reach the inner circuit controllers, it was once necessary to duck under the layout to access the inner area but a lifting flap was installed several years ago. The inner Down Slow is perhaps the ‘thinking man’s’ line. A driver, perhaps with a little help from a signalman, can build up a goods train in the yard, run out on the goods avoiding lines,(choice of two), do a complete circuit then round via tha station platform loop line, and so on.
Scenery has evolved over the years, although there remains quite a lot to do. The first scenery to appear, in the dim and distant past, was the embankment at the far end. A very clever German idea was employed here: bits of green grass-length nylon were shaken vigorously in a pepper-pot type container until a good charge of static had built up. This was then sprinkled onto a sticky PVA coated surface. Lo and behold, the blades of grass all point skywards, eh voila, a well-maintained grassy embankment—no weeds, no trees. Track is ballasted by conventional methods, there are signals and signalboxes, telegraph poles etc…………………….
Running outside the layout, but linked to it, is an end-to-end branchline. One end of this is known as Hawksbridge Marine and features a fine overhead signal box. The other end, which is known as ‘Brewery Lane’, used to be detachable and attended several exhibitions, the most prestigious of which was Guildex 2007. It has now retired from the exhibition circuit.
The Motive Power Depot, which used to be attached to the layout, was a loco shed, complete with coaling tower, turntable and four road covered shed. Known as ‘Grantham’, this part of the layout was built and donated to the group by the late Barry Murphy, a major figure in the history of the group. However, it has recently been sold and Brewery Lane has moved into the space formerly occupied by Grantham. A brand new Motive Power Depot called 'Marsh Lane' has been built in the space vacated by Brewery Lane.
Our monthly Open Days attract visitors from far and wide, even people on holiday in the area have been known to drop in. Any modeller, with or without stock, is welcome to attend any of these Open Days, dates to be found on this website and also in the Guild News section of the O Gauge Guild Gazette. There are always several rakes of coaches and wagons for you to try your prized loco or locos on. And yes, we’ve all had failures so sympathy and respect are available in equal measures. The final and most important ingredient of all is the warm welcome you will receive !
The clubrooms are open to members on most Monday afternoons, Monday evenings and Friday evenings with a working party also 'in residence' on Wednesdays from about 11 o'clock onwards.
Preston is also the home to another model railway club, the Preston and District Model Railway Society, their website can be found at: www.prestonanddistrictmrs.org.uk