Ashwood Dale


The Midland Railway in Derbyshire

Constructed by Rob Lees. Photographed and described by Paul Plowman

Top: Midland Railway 483 Class 4-4-0 No.527 passes through Ashwood Dale with a train consisting of parcels vans, fruit vans, milk vans, meat vans and two brake vans. The locomotive is an Alan Gibson Kit. No.527 was a rebuild of a class 60 locomotive built 1898, with its 1907 number and Deeley simplified livery.

Originally this layout was built as an extension to a test track but its owner, Rob Lees found himself adding detail to create this attractive model of the Midland Railway in the Peak District of Derbyshire.

Ashwood Dale

Ashwood Dale is a small village located between Buxton and Buxton Junction about one and a half miles from Buxton. Ashwood Dale Signal Box controlled access to two small quarries, one on each side of the line. However, visitors will not find a station here. For the model it has been supposed that the village developed sufficiently to need its own station and a small goods yard. The period is between 1919 and 1920.

Baseboard Construction

The layout started out as an extension to a test track using all sorts of material. The test track was constructed from 50mm x 25mm maple framework with a top of 12mm pynboard. Some of the old frame has been retained in the new construction. 9mm five?ply has been used for the new framework with a top surface, where needed of 12mm pynboard. Legs and pelmet framing are 45mm x 19mm radiata pine.

The back scene has been glued to 3mm customwood sheet.

The layout is divided into three sections each of six feet in length by two feet deep. The traversers at each end of the layout are both five feet long.

Ashwood Dale Signal Box is from a modified Ratio kit with point rodding cranks supplied by Model Signal Engineering. The level crossing gates are motor driven.

Midland Railway 1808 Class 4-4-0 No.386 approaches Ashwood Dale with a train for Buxton. The locomotive was built in 1888 and rebuilt in 1909. The model represents the rebuilt form and is a much-modified Alan Gibson kit.


The scenery is constructed using cardboard formers with strips of cereal box card supporting fibreglass fly net. Here in Australia fly netting is readily available from all hardware stores. It is not a wise man who leaves a window open without a fly net! Cornice plaster was then applied to the netting to form a shell.

The rock faces are built up with plaster, which has been scribed to give the desired effect.

The Permanent Way

Rob joined the EM Gauge Society in 1970 and by the late 70's had built an EM Gauge layout in his garage. Also in the late 70's he joined the P4 Society and experimented by building a test track. Studiolith were the only supplier of P4 standard parts and Rob only received part of his order before they went out of business.

In a move of house the layout was badly damaged and subsequently dismantled. All that was left for running locos was an eight foot long EM Gauge test track, which Rob has used to form the foundation for Ashwood Dale.

The track has been constructed using components from both Studiolith and the EM Gauge Society. Sleepers are 1mm thick ply with small rivets to represent the chairs. Timbers under the turnouts are 4mm wide and the sleepers under the plain track are 3.5mm wide. Code 75 BH rail is soldered to the rivets.

Rolling stock

Working in EM gauge rules out the use of ready-to-run rolling stock. All of the models running on the layout are either from kits or scratch built to suit the period.

Of special interest are a model of an 1890's Cowans Sheldon 15 ton crane from a D&S kit and a model of No.2290 0-10-0 "Big Bertha" from a DJH kit. "Big Bertha" also known as "Big Emma" was the resident banker on the Licky Incline. The justification for it appearing at Ashwood Dale is that she was built at Derby in 1919 and the Midland Railway used the line between Derby and Buxton for trials and running in before allocating her to Bromsgrove.


All of the buildings on the layout are scratch built from card except for the signal boxes, which are modified Ratio kits. The Ratio kit is for a 20ft signal box and two have been reduced in size to create Midland Railway 10ft boxes. This involved cutting sections out of the roofs also from the front and rear sections.

The interiors have been detailed with items from the Springside signal box interior kit.

Above and below: No.386 arrives at Ashwood Dale Station with a train for Buxton.

No.386 waits to depart from Ashwood Dale as a goods train arrives from Buxton.

A funeral procession led by a horse-drawn hearse enters the Parish Church.

No.527 passes Ashwood Dale Signal Box and level crossing with a train of vans for Derby.

Ex works, No.2290 0-10-0 "Big Bertha" at Ashwood Dale. Built at Derby in 1919 it is supposed that the Midland Railway used the line between Derby and Buxton for trials and running in before allocating her to Bromsgrove for banking on the Licky Incline.

MR 0-6-0T No.1678 arrives from Derby with an 1890’s Cowans Sheldon 15 ton crane allocated to Buxton Loco Depot.

The Cowans Sheldon 15 ton crane is from a D&S kit. The jib has been raised to show the high level of detail in this model.

Control System

Control is with a conventional ECM Compspeed F and Orbit Supertroller. Turnouts and signals are fully interlocked. Points are worked by Tortoise motors and the signals by modified relays.


All of the signals are scratch built from brass and wire with some parts obtained from Model Signal Engineering.

The point rodding cranks and pulleys are a mixture of Model Signal Engineering and Colin Waite products. The rods are soft florist wire fixed into groves cut in off-cuts of whitemetal sprue.

I would like to thank Rob Lees for allowing me the opportunity to photograph his highly detailed layout and for his kind assistance with the preparation of this article.

Paul Plowman
August 2004

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