by Mikkel Kjartan
There is a belief among some that modelling the pre-grouping scene is somehow reserved for elite modellers only, or for people who can afford to have it all built professionally. However, with a handful of modellers license, a little extra work and some careful selection of prototype (whether fictional or real), modelling the Edwardian period is not beyond the average OO modeller. And it is well worth the effort, too, because the years from around 1900 to World War I has much to commend it for the GWR modeller.
Liveries of the time were magnificent and well-kept. They also varied considerably over this relatively short period, allowing a diversity in colour which is rarely seen on GWR layouts. Coaching stock in particular changed from fully lined chocolate and cream, via a simpler all-over chocolate, to a crimson lake livery that was unlike any other colour schemes seen on the GWR before or since.
The period saw an interesting mix of old and new stock. The graceful Victorian designs from the hands of Armstrong and Dean were still widespread, running alongside the revoloutionary new designs from Churchward. Trains on secondary lines and branches were often a bizarre mixture of various types and lenghts, and it was not unusual to find a train consisting of both bogie coaches, 6-wheel coaches and a 4-wheeled brake or two.
Trains were also shorter during this time, a great gift to space-starved modellers. Branch platforms would typically be occupied by just a short rake of 4- or 6-wheel coaches, and even mainline trains were shorter. Likewise, station layouts were in many cases simpler and less extensive, giving an opportunity for stations to be modelled that would be too large in their later, more developed form.
How good, then, is the trade support for Edwardian modellers? In terms of etched brass and whitemetal kits, a very large range of stock is available for the 4mm and 7mm scales – see GWR Listings for loco and coach kits from this period. 2mm modellers are unfortunately less well catered for, and this is perhaps the one scale where this period can provide substantial problems.
If you are an OO modeller without much kit-building experience, have no fear. There is plenty of scope for Edwardian modelling in this scale. As is evident from the GWR Listings section, there is a small handful of RTR locos available for the period. These can in a few cases be used off-the-shelf, but most require a repaint and perhaps one or two minor modifications to be appropriate for Edwardian running. And if you're ready for a bit more extensive hacking about, there are various modifications and conversions of RTR locos that can be done without much modelling skill. See the GWR Projects section for examples involving a 517 class, an early 38xx class and a Star class – all modified from readily available RTR models.
In terms of coaches, OO modellers will either need to use kits, undertake RTR conversions or accept the shortcomings of the Triang/Hornby clerestory coaches. The latter are made up of two basic types: The early and rather short Triang types, which had no real prototype, but looked the part well enough. And the current longer Hornby ones, which are really quite good but have imitated rather than truly moulded panelling. If you don't mind such compromises, these two types provide decent enough rolling stock for an Edwardian setting. Alternatively, consider the RTR conversion projects desscribed in the GWR Projects section.
As for coach kits, the excellent and easy-to-build plastic kits from Ratio (or the slightly more advanced bogie coaches once produced by Slaters) provide for a good start, as do the Shirescenes conversion kits for the Ratio 4-wheelers. The latter are etched brass, but prepared for glue assembly. Again, see the GWR Projects section for examples of how to build these kits. Goods stock is also well catered for by the plastic kit ranges, and with a little license you could easily "back-date" the more modern GWR wagons provided by the RTR ranges.
As one example of what can be done in OO, consider an Edwardian cross-country line. There is the Hornby Dean Goods for the pick-up freight, while the Bachmann 43xx can handle the passenger side of things. Passenger stock could be the bogie clerestories, making up a short 2- or 3-coach rake. If you can find the excuse and the space, a heavier goods train hauled by a Hornby 28xx can be fitted in, or even a 38xx County Class on a fast through train. The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line had operations of this nature.
For the less ambitious, there is good potential to do the classical branchline with a period difference. Using re-liveried 45xx, 2721 and Dean Goods locos from Bachmann and Hornby, you could locate yourself in the 1907-1914 years. This does involve certain compromises. The Bachmann 45xx actually represents a series of this class built in the 1920s (as evidenced by the enlarged bunker) but could be modified to an earlier condition. The 2721 and Dean Goods are not the crème-de-la-crème of the RTR ranges, but for a first layout they are not that bad, and performance can be considerably enhanced with good running-in and servicing. Coaches for such a layout would be the Ratio 4-wheelers, perhaps supplemented by the non-Holden Shirescenes conversions.