Happy Birthday Elvenhome!


A year on from Hub’s guest post about the start of his model rail journey, here is an update from him…..

Hello everyone.  It is Hub here again.  Yes, you are right.  The Lizzie Question was posed again (for those who do not know what that is I suggest you read my last post).  I happened idly to mention to my dear wife that it was nearly a year since my first video on my YouTube channel presented to the world my N gauge model railway layout Elvenhome.  Her little eyes lit up.  A smile crossed her face as she formulated the question.  I knew what was coming.  I could see the words forming in her brain and moving, synapse to synapse, to send the signal to the vocal chords.  “Might you like to write…”.  I capitulated at once.

You see, the last question she had posed to me was whether I might want to make a video blog of the building of the railway.  I eventually gave in and I am so glad that I did.  My YouTube channel now has 335 subscribers.  I have put up 15 videos showing me in the process of building the layout which have been viewed collectively nearly 16,000 times.   It has become a source of creative challenge to find things to discuss, to record the video and then edit it to produce as professional a final product as I can.  It has also become a spur to encourage me to get on with the building (not that I need much of that).  I have a community of fellow travellers who can give me advice, encouragement and support as I journey along. I am passing on my learning in just the way I learned from others.  The world and the humans that live within it can at times be quarrelsome.  We seem to find it difficult just to jolly along with our fellows.  We too have a marvellous capacity to come together over a shared passion or activity. We seem to have a desire to share our knowledge and skills to those who are keen to hear or learn.  I sometimes think that this desire to learn and grow together is one of our most redeeming features.  But I digress.

Building the layout has proved every bit as challenging as I expected it to be.  I have had to master a soldering iron, the arts of tinning and the proper use of flux, the basic principles of electrical wiring and, far more difficult, how to read wiring diagrams (mastering all the scripts of written Chinese is easier).  I have progressed from tentatively building pre-cut card kits to designing and building a bridge, a four-arch viaduct that turns through 90 degrees – for which I had to return to schoolboy geometry to calculate the 90 degree arc of two concentric circles with a radius difference of 2” – and learning to kit-bash some station canopies to create my platform buildings.  I have learned of such things as frog juicers (for changing electrical polarity where lines cross in case you are wondering). I find myself cudgelling my brain in idle moments, seeking a solution to the latest engineering challenge to make Elvenhome a reality.

Elvenhome itself has evolved as I am building it.  I wrote in my last guest blog that I could see Elvenhome, the town of Weathertop and the hill top village of High Elven.  I can see it still but it has changed, dear reader, it has changed.  Partly it is due to the realities of building the layout over planning it on a computer.  Once set on top of the baseboards features that looked fine on the plan were too close to an edge, or too far out of reach to make them sensible.  Two stations were peremptorily closed before they opened on this basis.  A river that was to meander through the scene to its delta has become a canal feeding into a basin that will fit better the industrial scene through which it will pass.  Elvenhome’s history has developed and in doing so has demonstrated to me how much of a creative thing building this layout is.

For example describing the layout to Liz on one occasion I suddenly realised that it had moved north east in location.  It also was probably closer in time to 1948 than 1958.  High Elven has also changed from a chocolate box village of endless cream teas, to a working village to support Farmer Maggot’s farm in which is grown the barley needed by the Brewery in Weathertop.  The need to get the barley to the town is why the line was built, at great expense, up so steep a gradient.

Only a few weeks ago the reason for the name of Sharky’s End station came to me.  The station had originally been intended to be sited in lowland Weathertop but it couldn’t fit where I wanted it.  It was re-sited to the edge of cliff top where a bridge crosses the valley.  The new location immediately suggested its name.  Not all the history of Elvenhome is cheery and this bit is rather sad. It is named after a mid 17th century Farmer’s son Sharky Maggot.  Riven with sorrow at the loss of his true love he threw himself in despair to his doom from the edge.  His ghost is said to walk the land on moonless nights.  There you see. It has happened again.  I had got as far as Sharky plunging to his doom but I hadn’t quite worked out why.  Writing this has explained that to me.  And so the process of development of Elvenhome goes on.

Liz wrote a post a few days ago about being prepared to make changes – to colour outside the lines.  It moved me greatly and I know it did many of those who read her blog.  My darling wife with her devastating question technique has throughout our relationship helped me to colour outside the lines far more than I ever would have done without her encouragement.  The railway, writing this guest blog, and the YouTube channel are but three examples.  I think she may be a keeper.

18 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Elvenhome!

  1. That sounds great and it looks fantastic, I checked it out on the youtube chanel. It is big project to build a town and railway and get everything right. We used to have a model railway for our sons some time ago in the attic, it was great fun, but I was only involved in building the houses and glueing things, out sheep and cows in, I didn’t understand the electrics. We all had our own trains whizzing along and it was great fun. The boys are grown now and all is stored in tea chests unfortunately. Who knows when it comes out again……
    It is lovely to read what you write and Liz writes amazing blog posts. enjoy the journey with completing the set, Looking forward to see it all when it is finished.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ute. It is going to be a while before it is finished but I am looking forward to start building the town and of course High Elven. You are right also that Liz writes very well on a wide range of subjects. Clever girl.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an imagination you have! I never really thought of the creativity behind a model railroad before but you have your own world laid out there! And, by the way, I think it is just as likely that Sharky jumped to his death because of his unfortunate name . . . . 😉 You and Liz are quite the pair!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had discovered that I am not alone among model railway buffs for wanting a back story to layout. It must be connected with the creative process of modelling. And alas for Sharky. Blessed neither with a name likely to entice a maiden to love him or the temperament to accept rejection. Yet it lives on in the people of Weathertop and High Elven who avoid the station named after him when the moon is not in the sky…


  3. What a wonderful example of demonstrating that creativity extends well beyond what we (I) might initially consider. I have always enjoyed looking at model railway layouts with all the little extras that make up the landscape, but I’ve never paused to consider the processes that may lay behind its appearance. Here I see the physical challenges and also the imaginative. A real labour of love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I have been surprised how creative a thing it is building the layout. When you are about to build something you realise you need to understand what function it needs to perform and what form and shape it would have, what it would be likely to look like. It is only that way that I expect get coherence in the finished article . I want it to be believable when its finished.


  4. Great post Steve! Elvenhome is looking pretty impressive. I love the way it is spurring you to design its history and characters just as much as its geography and electrical intricacies ! I’ve forwarded your post to Mike who is most impressed, whether or not he actually tells you so himself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Liz. it is providing me with a great creative outlet. I have been quite astonished and what I find I can do even if I have never done it before. Something of a metaphor for life perhaps. Playing trains is also very good fun too!


  5. What a marvellous project this is! What complicated thought processes are involved, making sure you do the jobs in the right order and adding a back-story too! I am full of admiration 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Clare. It really is a marriage of the severely practical in terms of building things that need a real project management approach, with the entirely fanciful. It means I can be both an
      adult and a child at one and the same time. Something I think we should all be most of the time – as Liz will be able to confirm 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Cynthia. In some ways it’s a good job I didn’t understand how big the task is that I had set myself. I might not have started, and I would have missed out on so much fun.

      Liked by 1 person

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