Is Bigger Really Better?

Trials and Tribulations in Gauge 3 – an interview with Mark Pretious of ‘Blackgang’ fame

In this article previously released in the FebEx2012 guide, former AMRG member Mark Pretious discusses Gauge 3 modelling, and his layout ‘Blackgang’ with Group member Roger Joel.

So Mark how did you become a railway modeller?

I got into model railways through my dad exhibiting at shows with some of Alton Model Railway Group’s early layouts such as the long gone Knotworth (N scale) and Welles (OO scale) now retired; subsequently Dad had his own layout of Hayling Island and a superb Thomas the Tank Engine layout. As I got older I leaned more towards actually making models and the finer scale side of the hobby. I now concentrate mostly on the Southern Region of BR on the Isle of Wight, but I still like the other regions as well as some modern image.

My first layout was when I was 4 and was a fold down layout hinged to the wall. It was a simple circle of track with a station and scenery. Here I was able to run Thomas and Percy to my hearts content. My dad being the spoil sport that he is also put resisters in the track so I would not go too fast and burn out the motors. It took me ages to work out why my engines were faster on other layouts.

What led you to move into Gauge 3?

I went to Gauge 3 as I was invited to a ‘Get Together’ and had a go with my friends engines and really liked it. I wanted to model Southern engines and the only kit that GRS produce that I really wanted was the Terrier. I intended it to be my one and only model….. This terrier became W14 Bembridge and is still my favourite of all the engines that I have built for me and other people in this scale.

There is a great social aspect to Gauge 3 because to have a meaningful operating session you need more than one persons baseboards and stock. Also many Gauge 3 modellers have a garden layout which makes for a pleasant day playing trains and drinking tea.

What is different from other scales (apart from size)?

We still have many of the same problems in Gauge 3 that you get in the smaller scales such as buffer lock. The one interesting thing is that when a conventional engine derails it stops as it has lost all power. Ours don’t as the models are radio controlled with on board batteries so you do have to be on the ball when operating. In its largest configuration Blackgang is operated by using a token system because operators cannot see the full extent of the layout.

What about your layout Blackgang?

The Blackgang signal box and yard

Blackgang is now in its third year and since its original size of 28 feet it was increased a year later to 32 feet so I could model the tunnel mouth. Now in its third year some of the regular Gauge 3 Society members have joined forces with their own modules (Brewery, Chale and scenic section). I have also been busy on the curved viaduct so that the layout can be exhibited as an L shape.

The layout has been in the Railway Modeller Magazine (July 2011 issue) but I think its more satisfying to know that the layout is in demand from some big shows. Later this year we will be exhibiting at Warley NEC.

Where do you run a layout as large as Blackgang?

Apart from exhibitions it means hiring a hall large enough to accommodate the layout, which can be expensive.

Is there anything left to be done on Blackgang?

A Terrier on the Blackgang Bridge

I have yet to detail the viaduct which is currently completed to a basic level. In the near future I will be adding working signalling to the layout, which will be operated manually by scale levers.

What have you learnt along the way?

I have learned that Z scale is a more sensible size to work in and does not tire you out as fast. Joking aside though, without the regular help from my team I could not take Blackgang out and make it the success that it is.

Where do you plan to go next?

I will not do another G3 layout but I am slowly building up some stock in the 0-16.5 scale and I already have one engine a Vale of Rheidol 2-6-2T No.9 Prince of Wales in the yellow ochre as carried in the late 1980’s. In the mean time I also have a 00 layout of Bembridge which I can exhibit on my own and yes it is IOW Southern.