Steeple Knook Cement Works Model Railway


Hi there

Just to advise that my project is beginning to take shape. I have devised a suitable track plan (it took me a lot longer than expected!) and this will appear shortly once I have tarted it up and scanned it into the computer for display on the website.

The stock list keeps on growing and I'm tempted to collect some pre-tops Western Region machines for running on the layout, which will help to justify running some diesel hydraulics. I now have a good selection of up to date machines (they are due back from one of my expert loco modellers) and photos will appear shortly.

More updates therefore to follow and thanks for taking the time to read my pages.


Hello. Welcome to Steeple Knook. You won't find much here at the moment, but, as time and priorities allow, I will be adding to this site a variety of written updates, which will be accompanied by photo's and possibly video clips of the progress being made on my new OO Gauge model railway layout. So, enjoy, whatever you manage to find!

"I'd give anything for a Thomas Track Mat"



Steeple Knook is located on an imaginary branchline in Wiltshire. The mainline between Warminster and Salisbury is situated roughly 4 miles from Steeple Knook. The branch was opened in the late 19th century to serve the natives with local transport and to allow the easy passage of goods from the local centres. However, the branch was truncated and terminated at Steeple Knook as part of the infamous Beeching cut backs.  

Prior to the Second World War, Steeple Knook became the focus for a small scale privately owned cement manufacturing installation, which grew significantly in size after the war to cater for the huge upturn in the requirement for construction materials. By 1962, the cement works became something of a monster, which resulted in its purchase by a multinational company in the late 1970's.

The cement works thrives today, as does the local population and their need to travel by rail to Salisbury and beyond.


Ok, so you have now read the background. Sounds convincing? Well, it doesn't have to be! I'm not one of these people who has to find a prototype and stick religiously to it. I am quite happy using the old "modellers licence"! Notwithstanding this, I still think that the general building blocks should be in place for a model railway project to get going and be realised. A project needs a direction and a theme to follow.

So, having cobbled together a background or chronology, I can now progress!

I decided to embark on Steeple Knook (the name coming from two settlements located within the Wylye Valley in Wiltshire) because of my fondness for the following elements in connection with all things railway and train orientated:

1. Glorious countryside

2. Industrial backdrop

3. Rail freight operations

4. Noisy, grimy, superb diesel locomotives 

5. Memories of OO Gauge as a kid

I originally wanted to build a Cornish china clay layout but that was ruled out due to the restricted diversity of the locomotives (ok, I suppose I could have blagged it with a wide range of machines), the poor availabilty of the appropriate wagons and that everything would end up looking like a bathroom floor, covered in white dust! So, having eliminated the different freight themes one-by-one (a quarry did cross my mind), the cement idea seemed the best. Over recent times, some cement works only resulted in small consist/wagonload operations being employed. This would suit my requirements given the restricted space in my spare room! In addition, cement works require the importation of coal to run the show and other vital energy sources such as oil. This clearly adds to the diversity of movements.

As for location, I wanted to retain the Western Region influence due to some of the stock I own and stock that I want to own (never forgetting that modellers licence can still be employed!). In order to ensure that variety could be plausible on the layout (without being anal as to the prototype), Wiltshire was chosen. Linkages to a busy mainline was also a key consideration. The Warmister to Salisbury run saw incredible ranges of locos and rolling stock over the decades and will continue to do so in the future, whatever diversity exists on the railways these days.

So, there we have it. It took me about three days to develop this concept. I just hope that I don't change my mind again!

Layout Details

The baseboards have been constructed but are currently used as a resting place for all sorts of nonsense we have accumulated over the past few months. I need a weekend to have a sort out and find the board tops again. The baseboards are in two sections, both measuring 3.5 ft long x 2 ft deep, both of which when placed together subsequently allow for a 7ft length of layout. This will be the scenic section with a 3ft fiddle yard to be built in due course. The boards rest on fold-up legs to a height of about 3ft, which I think is too low. The legs may get binned in favour of a new, higher structure.

My next job will be to lay cork mat for insulating purposes onto the boards and to install two locating dowels so that the boards can be fixed together after dismantling. I intend the layout to be fully mobile. Not that I necessarily want to exhibit the layout (although I haven't ruled it out - let's see how the finished article ends up shall we!), it allows for flexibility for when we move house, which is very likely in the next year or so. After that, I intend on fixing the back and end scenes to the layout, which have already been cut to size.

I hope to start laying out the track and wiring by the spring. I am going for traditional DC operation as I am not quite skilled at the art of DCC just yet. I will get into that at some point when my finances and brain cells permit.

I will look to start construction on the buildings and plant for the cement works at the earliest opportunity. Buildings are my bag and I will certainly aim to put my Town Planning degree and 10 years of Planning Consultancy experience to good use! More research needed though as I want the buildings to look, or at least, closely resemble something you might see at a cement works instead of something that just dropped from the moon. 

I hope to finish the main elements of the layout by Spring 2008, although a few months worldwide travelling at the end of this and start of next year may push this timescale forward. Keep watching this space!

"Now then, Peco catalogue?...check. Hornby Tug with CDA's?...check. Kronenbourg Guinness Hybrid?...check. Fully working model railway?...oh, b*gger!

Stock and Era(s)

As you may have gathered, I'm not one to be pinned to down to a specific prototype. For me, although I have a location to base the layout upon, I want to be flexible in terms of the running period. I intend to run anything from the late 1970's corporate blue era to the rather limited offerings from the present day.

I have decided that I would like to provide for four running periods on the layout. Whilst the layout is compact, I should be able to accommodate two to three locos on the scenic section at any one time. Which means only one thing...a meeting with my bank manager may be imminent!

Thankfully, I have been buying new stock over the past few months (and selling my ancient Hornby/Lima "toys"). I want my stock to be of exhibition quality (although the layout may not end up doing them justice!) so I will only be investing in pukka Hornby and the normal Bachmann and Heljan examples. No ex-Lima here I'm afraid!

Here's a flavour of what will appear:

1978 to 1986 era

Classes 03 and 08 shunter

Classes 25, 33, 37, 40 and 45 on freight manoeuvres

Plenty of the wonderful Prestflo wagons

Blue or blue and grey DMU on the passenger shuttle.

1986 to 1990

An 08 in a non-blue livery, possibly sub-sector.

Freight trips by 31, 37 and 47 in Railfreight grey or sub-sector liveries and Class 50 in large logo.

NSE Bachmann Class 108!

PCA/VEE tankers, CEA and HEA hoppers for contained powder and coal importation respectively, plus van trips to the covered store for the bagged cement pick up. Oil brought in by rail using TTA's.

1990 to 1996

As above, but the introduction of a Dutch or RES machine to brighten up the Wiltshire countryside, perhaps even a beaten up, old, near withdrawn NSE 50! Sprinterisation will spread to the ol' Knook!

1996 onwards

Pretty much anything in the Red and Gold stuff. No RA restriction on this branch, so it will be shed, fred and dred time. Superb aircraft blue could make a landing in the form of a 37, 58 or even a 73 (when a decent model is made).

Wagons as above, less the Prestflo's!

Photo's of some of the stock to appear shortly





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A big thank you to my friends and family who have assisted in time and effort to help me with this project, especially my fiancee, who would rather have me doing the housework than playing trains! 



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