Mikes 0 Gauge Micros

Join the Fun! Build a Micro Layout

Definition: “Micro layouts are small model railways, usually less than three or four square feet in area, that nonetheless have a clear purpose and excellent operating capability. “

There are infinite stories a model railway can tell, and micro layouts push the boundaries of the traditional railway themes. Some of the more traditional layout themes, like mainline stations, or modern container terminals would be an impractical. The interesting part of micro layouts is that you can create small portions of large industries and use the micro layout as a small vignette to portray that specific industry.
Scale and gauge isn’t a limiting factor, 00, N, 0 can all be the basis for a micro layout using one of the slightly more unusual gauges such as narrow gauge railways. Examples such as GN15, (1:29 scale using 00 gauge track, which scales to 15″ industrial gauge in G.) or 0N30(O scale on 0O gauge track representing 30″ narrow gauge) or 009(00 scale on N gauge track).

Why do I model micros?
Space, no not the final frontier, but lack of it in a modern home, then storing it ,making it portable, transporting it and exhibiting it. The latter also allows me to indulge another passion, TALKING as it has been said I can talk for England and most probably do.

Primrose Hill.
Primrose Hill occupies a space about that of an ironing board, 55inches x 18 inches, stands 36 inches high and has integral fold-up legs. Its design is a mirror image of my other micro Reely Grate; both of these layouts are set in the Black Country and are part of the Earl of Dudleys Pensnett Railway. Although I have lived in Solihull for the past 30+ years I was born in Stourbridge and began married life in Wordsley then Kingswinford so I have always been fascinated by the area,. I also prefer to model in 0 gauge (7mm) and as such, joking aside, space really is important. I simply couldn’t build that mainline station or for that matter a sleepy backwater branch line station. Primrose hill and Reely Grate have allowed me to create my own little communities; I have a back story for the characters and why buildings are as they are. I have also been able to indulge another of my passions, history, and have created the local history of the area modelled. The other reason for choosing to model this part of the Black Country is the books of the railway by Ned Williams. Another inspiration has been the late Micro Layout compiler and modeller Carl Arendt So what next? Reely Grate and Primrose Hill although standalone models have been designed so that they can be joined together a sort of modular micro approach. However, unless I get permission from my very understanding wife, to take over the utility area or build a bigger shed, I will have to wait for a long period of good weather and play outside.



The Reely Grate Manufacturing Co Ltd

Like all good fairy stories this should really start with “Once upon a time” and like all flights of fancy it blends fact with fiction. However, what follows is I hope a little bit different from most articles and yes there really is such a place as the Bumble Hole.


In the area bounded by the loop of the Netherton Canal, sit both Windmill End, and Darby End. Between the two, at least in 1818, lay the supposedly pristine acres of Withymoor Mill Farm. Described as having rich arable land, complete with attractive Farmhouse and outbuildings, the whole 27 acres was put up for auction, the tenant being one David Walker. What he thought about the agents description is any ones guess, but in reality, it was a somewhat short of truth. For a start, the canal ran through the property, complete with a coal wharf and rail road.. To the north, lay the Collieries of Lord Dudley and Major St Paul, and to the west, the belching smoking stacks of the Attwood Families, furnaces and The Reely Grate Manufacturing Company Ltd. The big attraction though, was the fact that beneath the land lay an 11 yard thick seam of coal. How anyone could have the audacity to say it was rich arable land I can't imagine, having been polluted with many years of sooty deposits. It was said, that David Walkers few Cows gave grey milk, and the Chickens, being so near the furnaces, laid hard boiled eggs, and even the old cock had a cough. The buildings, after the sale, were soon gone, replaced by the enlargement of the Reely Grate Factory Buildings.

The Battle of Bumble Hole.

Now in times long by, there were at least 14 public houses in Bumble Hole. All of them well frequented by Boatmen, Ironworkers and Colliers, and one, well known in the district for arranging that rather cruel sport “Cock Fighting ". The pub in question was “The Bag O Nails ", and it was the base for two men well known for breeding good fighting cocks, the brothers, Theophilus and Thomas Buffey.. The date in question, and the day of the “Battle " was 30th March, 1885, when a challenge from the supports of the sport from Darlaston, turned up to answer a challenge made by another breeder, Joseph Manders. A large crowd from the old "Jaw Bone Works ", ( not the real name of course, more likely The Reely Grate ) where the Buffeys worked, turned out and laid bets on their champion breeders bird, " The Red-un ". The men from Darlaston did the same, and the fight got under way. It didn't last long as Dunns bird soon despatched the grey cock from Darlaston, and in an angry exchange of views concerning a bit of cheating, all hell broke out. Men poured out of the pubs front and back doors, punching kicking and gouging, stopping all traffic in the road, and spreading as far as the Canal. Over 86 men were alleged to have been involved, although after the Rev. Enoch Griffiths called the police to break it up, only a handful could be identified. The two Buffeys, David Hipkiss, Jack Greaves, and William Timmington, all from Netherton, William Edge, from Cradley Heath, and Joseph Manders from Darlaston, were the only ones charged over the battle. At the police Court, a few days later, Chief Superintendent Burton was almost hopping mad with rage, for the witnesses seemed a bit reluctant to repeat what they had said in their original statements. The preacher now said that although he had seen both cocks pulled from bags, he wasn't sure now who had done it. He said he had seen Theophilus Buffey giving a man change, but couldn't swear it was for a bet. Jessie Ward, another upright witness, now said he couldn't be sure that either Edge, or another man called Yardley, actually handle the birds. No amount of questioning changed the witness’s, so the Magistrates, although convinced that Cock Fighting had taken place, were compelled, without evidence, to dismiss the case. Now if you think, at this stage of the story, that someone had been “got at ", ten out of ten for observation. The story goes that before the Court appearance, the Rev Griffiths, the chief witness, had been persuaded by the Buffeys to visit them at the works. With a bit of help from his friends, they had then suspended the pious gentleman over the top of the furnace, and cut off one of his legs, then, threatening to cut off the other one, send him to his doom into the fire. For those who are still concentrating on the facts, it should become clear that the Rev Griffiths had a wooden leg, the original having been carelessly lost in a former life, as a miner. This act, which quickly spread around Bumble Hole, was enough to fade many memories of the cock fight. What is surprising is that despite some broken limbs in the battle, no one was prosecuted for the fighting at the Bag O Nails. Perhaps Superintendent Burton knew when he was beaten, and simply threw in the towel. Close knit community in Netherton.


The Reely Grate Manufacturing Company Limited was formed in 1803 by Jacob Reely and Hezekiah Allbones who was also a director of The Wombourn Gas, Coal and Coke Company. The company started by producing gas mantles and traditional black leaded grates before introducing their Empire range of Gas Cookers and Kitchen Ranges (named after the Old Empire Music Hall building which became part of the factory). The Company continued to flourish and during the First and Second World wars manufactured the world famous Reely Grate Fulminator. During the 1950’s the company developed the Reely Grate self-cleaning Cooker which was years ahead of its time. The Company has stayed in family ownership, the current joint Managing Directors being Frank Reely and Audrey Allbones direct descendants of the founding fathers.

However……..The Reely Grate Manufacturing Company is a 0 gauge micro layout depicting a small yard serving the manufacturing company. It occupies a space of less than a square metre and demonstrates that you don’t need acres of room to enjoy 0 gauge. The layout name came about from a joke between friends and an advertisement was put together showing a gas cooker The Reely Grate.

The location of the factory and yard is Hammer Lane Windmill End near to the

Bag o’ Nails Pub in an area known as the BUMBLE HOLE.

The Model:

The period in which the model is set is the late 1940’s early 1950’s.

The size was decided by taking on Carl Arendt's challenge of a working layout in 4 sq. ft. however that was in H0 and I have built it in 0, in an area of 0.75 sq. metres. The main focus of the layout is the buildings which are an attempt to create a unique Black Country feel.


The baseboard is 1.5 metresx0.5 metres constructed of good quality pine framing and a plywood top.The track work has been made from Peco (00) code 100 flat bottom rail and copper-clad sleepers to give an industrial feel. The point, yes, all one of them is 34 inch radius built from a plan supplied by a good friend and fellow micro layout builder Jim Read. The inlaid track has been constructed by soldering some of the rail on its side into the web of the running rail a sort of tram track arrangement. The traverser which is part of the main board runs on drawer runners, the middle track can line-up to each of the outer tracks which allows wagons to be run-round. The buildings are The Factory Complex, the Bag o’ Nails pub and a row of terraced houses all constructed from 2mm plywood skinned with plain or embossed plastic card.  The Pub although freelance apparently bears a striking resemblance to one of the same name in Bristol and there’s me thinking it was unique. The Pub is the only full depth building on the front of the layout the terrace houses are fronts and roofs only as they conceal the traverser. The Terraced houses are based on those that stood in Birmingham Street Stourbridge until demolished to make way for the ring road.

Social History

Pam & Bob Ruff live at N04, Sam & Myra Buffey at N06 and Adelaide Martin & her brother John Brown at N08. Bob works in the office as a Costing Clerk, Sam is a mould maker (Shift Worker- hence the closed curtains) and John is a Lorry Driver, all work at Reely Grate. The Landlord of the Bag O Nails is Joseph Buffey and his wife Maggie, Joe is the elder brother of Sam at N06. The houses don’t have door knobs as they had latches, hence the saying, latch-key kid. Creating this little community is just attempt in making the scene believable. Why a pub? Well there was a tradition of foundry workers having a beer ration to replace the fluid lost whist working in a hot environment, so Joe would have had a steady income from Reely Grate.



The reason the Bag O Nails has a flat roof was a result of a stray incendiary bomb which missed the factory but set fire to the pub roof. However, due to the prompt action of the Reely fire crew the pub was saved although several of them had sore heads the morning after the fire courtesy of a grateful landlord. The community suffered its only casualty of the war when Adelaides’ husband Edwin was killed during the D Day landings on Sword beach.

The head shunt is concealed by the display board which has the name and details of the layout including some larger versions of the signs outside the pub and on the goods inwards building.

Operation (or lack of it you might say)

Basically it involves just shunting a few wagons about using a waybill card system an operation which can take more than just a few minutes. Although simple it gives a lot of pleasure to operator and viewer alike. Uncoupling is achieved using strategically placed permanent magnets set under the baseboard, all the stock have modified ( I can hear the cries sacrilege) 00 Hornby couplings, simple, effective and easy to operate. The couplings are in NEM pockets and can be replaced with 3 links so all is not lost.


Primrose Hill Netherton another 0 gauge micro layout

Local History

Once located in Netherton, was a firm of chain makers Noah Hingley & Sons, which was famous for making the anchors for the ill-fated Titanic. The works were set up by Noah Hingley in 1837 on the banks of the Dudley No. 2 canal. Anchor manufacture commenced in 1848 and the works were extended in 1852. The main anchor for the Titanic weighed fifteen and a half tons and, on completion, was hauled from the factory to the rail head at Dudley Port by 20 shire horses owned by a local ostler called Edward Newman. Hingleys also produced anchors for the Lusitania and a number of other ocean liners. A replica of the anchor now stands on the old marketplace. Hingleys' success in international markets and their use of the Netherton name for their trademarked wrought iron products (e.g. Netherton Crown Special Best Iron) caused the name of Netherton to be known more widely both in the UK and overseas. A sculpture of an anchor stands at the junction of Castleton Street and Halesowen Road commemorating the local anchor and chain industry and the anchor motif can be found in a number of places around Netherton (e.g. on the metal park benches in Netherton Park). Immediately adjacent to the works of N. Hingley & Sons on the Dudley No. 2 canal was Lloyds Proving House where chain was subjected to a variety of tests to show it was of suitable quality.

The Model

The main focus of the layout is the buildings, caricatures of Lloyds Proving  House , Noah Hingleys including the transhipment shed and a Black Country Pub The Round of Beef. Perhaps the most notable building is a version of the Crossing Keepers/Signal Cabin that was situated on the Holy Bank and Hilton Main Colliery Railway. The was such a unique building I just had to incorporate it the overall scheme. The buildings are constructed from 2mm Lite-ply skinned with embossed plastic-card. The baseboard is built from good quality 3x1 framework with a 6mm ply top all glued and screwed. The traverser slides on ball bearing runners. The trackplan is a mirror image of Reely Grate and whilst the layout has been designed as a standalone it will couple to Reely via the fixed head shunt to give an end to end configuration. The track is again code 100 flat bottom rail soldered on copper-clad sleepers the single point being 34" radius, ferrite permanent magnets are set at suitable locations to operate the auto couplings.