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Bury St. Edmunds Model Railway Club

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Cobbolds Wharf - Scale 7 Gauge DCC Exhibition Layout

Cobbolds Wharf at Wharley Model Railway Exhibition, November 2022

Bury St. Edmunds Model Railway Club Layout “Wows” the Crowds at Largest Show in the UK.

The clubs layout “Cobbold’s Wharf” was invited to the largest model railways exhibition in the UK at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham in November. The exhibition, run by Warley Model Railway club attracts over 15,000 visitors during the two days it runs and hosts over 80 layouts and 60 trade stands from all the major manufacturers and retailers. The layout was well received by all who viewed it and has been invited to many other exhibitions across the country as well as being invited to appear in several model railway publications.

Cobbold’s Wharf is an S7 scale layout (7mm to the foot) and is based on a part of Ipswich docks as it would have appeared in the 1950’s. Locomotives include both steam and diesel and the rolling stock is mostly goods wagons which reflect the docks industrial feel. The buildings are, in general, models of real structures that once existed on the docks.
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Cobbolds Wharf - Scale 7 Gauge DCC Exhibition Layout - The Build

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With a plan of the ‘Island’, two members of our club suggested we base an O gauge layout on that part of Ipswich Docks that lies between the New Cut, through which the River Orwell was diverted in the 19th century, and the Wet Dock.
A group met, and a simplified track plan was agreed before it was suggested that we adopt Scale 7 instead of O gauge. We had no experience of this, and had little idea of what it was, so we did some research. Although a slightly wider gauge of 33mm and therefore more accurate, it does benefit from much tighter tolerances and we were attracted by the reduced gap between the rails and check rails which as the layout was to be largely a tramway in nature, we felt would appear finer and look better.

Having a challenge is no bad thing, and this has encouraged more club members to join us. Our group members have a wide range of modelling interests, N gauge, OO, German railways and American, but the unifying thread is that none of us has modelled in scale 7 before and we all have much to learn. The project is open to all members of our club whatever their interest and talents, and so far we are making rather good progress.

We are aiming to capture the atmosphere of Ipswich Docks in the 1950’s and 60’s and beside the Maltings you can see one of our Tram Engines that were a common sight at the docks. We have looked for engines shedded at Ipswich, like J65 number 68211, a class 15 diesel and 08 shunter, and have mixed RTR models converted to scale 7 with those kitbuilt. All are built with DCC and sound, and the layout has been wired for full DCC control using the MERG CBUS system. With the first section of the layout complete, and the whole layout test run and working, we are now busy detailing the remaining ground surfaces and constructing the quayside buildings.

Cobbolds Wharf Team

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The Maltings at Cobbolds Wharf

It was at our club exhibition that we spied a stand selling laser cut buildings, and we thought that one of these could form the basis of our maltings, which we were still to build. The kit based upon the maltings in Snape is only a façade, but does include windows, doors, and a staircase.
We bought two kits, and by joining them together, and cutting out more windows we created the façade of our building. Around this an MDF and ply structure was made, and with the addition of two extra laser cut sheets of brickwork we were able to clad the ends.

The roof was added in card and the guttering from shaped plastic strip. The building at Snape has a lucam, and we studied photographs so as to estimate its dimensions before building it in card. To assess whether it looked convincing, both this and the staircase were roughly taped to the shell to give us some idea of what the completed maltings would look like.

The brickwork was painted, the widows added and glazed, and the doors fitted with some partially open; this left the roof to complete. The slates were laser cut from thin card, which had been laminated to a sheet of double-sided film. The strips of slates could then be separated from the cut sheet, the backing peeled off and positioned on the roof, before being pressed down.

After a wash of grey, the three Tamiya acrylic paints were mixed together in different proportions to pick out individual slates. Similarly the brickwork was given a coat of red oxide car primer over a base of gloss white, and individual bricks picked out in differing tones using Humbrol paints.

The completed building sits at the right hand end of our layout. The track passes on the quayside in front of it, with pointwork giving access to sidings leading to a wood yard, and also allowing us to run round incoming trains. As in the docks at Ipswich, a J70 tram slowly goes about shunting wagons.

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Scenes at Cobbolds Wharf

We are modelling a number of scenes on Cobbolds Wharf. Each shows life at the quayside and this sequence of photographs records the progress we have made so far. We aim to attract the viewer’s eye, and lead it from scene to scene along the layout, from one end to the other. We believe a layout needs to be interesting both operationally and visually and we hope this is beginning to show in these images.

To book our layouts for your exhibition, please email our Members Representative