I've been working on two grand layouts. One is my brother's railway layout, the other my own, featuring no trace of a railway at all. I don't mind railways, but that's not where my interest lies. I like the creation of landscapes, building houses and bringing it all to life with occasionally insane detail. And with layouts, you never actually reach an end point. My own layout is set up exactly with that in mind; it'll be a pastime I can dip in and out of for as long as I draw breath (and have reasonable eyesight!). I can change my mind about things, rebuild, add more detail, repair... it's all good.

Let's introduce my brother's layout first. Here's a rough-and-ready composite picture made from the few old shots I could find, of the layout when I first saw it, ten years or so ago. (click on any of these images to see them bigger)

This is a good place to start because this was where the revival of my model making and craft work took off, when I began to contribute to this creation. In fact this is already only half of it, as you may suspect from that wonderful Hornby suspension bridge bottom right; and later on it became only one third, when he added a third table on which the line was extended to serve 'Manston Airport'. The stated primary aim was to give something fun to the kids (realistically, my nephew more than my niece), but it had a lot to do with his fascination with the railways in East Kent whose history he's quite an expert on. Certain lines served the Kent coalfields, so that's what lived on the centre table, a gritty colliery backed by a magnificent expanse of terrace housing. Much amusement was had about the consequence of this arrangement, ie. a classic illustration of the British class divide, with the river (Medway?) separating the working class area from the well-heeled 'posh town' you see above. As for bringing a quasi-Manston into the mix, this came from the notional date of the setting. Understandably, he went for the peak of the post-war steam era (for which much of the model railway industry in the UK makes stuff), which neatly places the scene at the time of the Berlin Airlift.

But I'll sadly leave tables 2 and 3 aside for now, because he moved house more recently and had to face the fact that the only space for a layout was in the lad's bedroom, and only one table at that. Also, the kids are now teenagers, and aren't quite so excited by all this(!).

Anyway, to get back to those early days: I admit I did push my desire to do some work on this. Not on the railway itself, I obviously have no ownership of that. No, what provoked me into action was this, as seen in these three pictures. You see the problem? They're only frontages, designed to be put against walls. The way I've taken these pictures makes it glaring, but do look back up top at the overall scene for a moment. It doesn't seem too much of an issue does it, when you're taking in the whole layout? And it's not as if you could get round the back and view the constructional cardboard. I can see why he used those kits, they make for a nice looking town. But I just couldn't rest easy with it, when I reckoned I could remedy the problem with some nifty design and building work.

And that's what I've done. Over the course of the last few years, at what my brother considers (quite fairly!) glacial pace, during one or two visits a year, I've made those buildings three dimensional, filled in around that tunnel, and created a whole odd little world up there on that hill. I just couldn't resist an absurd level of detail at times, in nooks and crannies right at the back, so that I've been told, so many, many times, "But no one can see it!"

I'll be showing off various things I've done in occasional blog posts, as well as any progress with my own layout.