Staff Projects: Reviving Topley Dale

It’s approaching two years since Topley Dale was dismantled and put into storage, but now the layout is being rebuilt in a much bigger, extended form. MIKE WILD explains the first steps and the vision for the future.

When Topley Dale was dismantled in 2022 I really wasn’t sure what would be happening next for the layout. I had ideas for a grand plan which would recycle the track, electronics and as many of the buildings and structures as possible, but with a brand-new trackplan for the whole layout.

After a lot of consideration I decided that my ultimate plan for a home layout wasn’t going to be feasible on the grounds of cost and time, and with that revised my way of thinking to look at recycling as much as possible of the original layout and its baseboards to create a bigger layout but without the need to go completely back to the drawing board.

Above: Topley Dale is being revived by recycling the original baseboards and with an extension to cover 18ft x 13ft. The new river scene at the centre of the original scenic area is taking shape as an LNER HST set crosses through the GCR Birdcage bridge.

In its final form Topley Dale measured 16ft x 10ft and featured a London Midland Region 1960s theme. Rule 1 (its my layout) always applied, but its scenery was Peak District through and through with the tone of the region set by the buildings, structures and colour theme. It had already grown having originally started as an 11ft x 10ft layout back in 2012 while the final version featured a ten-track storage yard, diversion route, through station, two viaducts and a double junction.

The new space for the layout offers a larger working area, but I was also keen to avoid mistakes I had made with the previous version including lack of access to the rear of the storage yard. The total footprint has been increased to 18ft x 13ft with the addition of a 2ft long dropped baseboard at the centre to accommodate a new river scene using a pair of GCR Birdcage bridges and the Larssen steel piling from the Key Model World Shop. There is still room for access to the rear and space in front when entering the building.

Above: When it comes to the baseboards and framework, all of the materials are recycled from the original layout. Even the new extension board is assembled from off-cuts.

While the original station scene and goods yard boards have been retained, the original three arch viaduct has been removed for the time being and replaced by a flat 4ft x 2ft 6in baseboard which leads back to a new full length 18ft x 2ft storage yard which will hold 10 tracks once again, but being longer it will accommodate additional trains. The storage yard boards have been recycled from the original layout and parts of the ‘O’ gauge test track.

Above: The conversion of the 2ft extension board to a river scene will add interest to the scene and make way for two GCR Birdcage bridges to be installed side by side.

Completing the circuit are the original junction boards which will be used as the starting point for the much grander plans for the future which will see the quarry scene rebuilt and enlarged, the diversion route reinstated, but set on a gradient to reach a low-level storage yard, together with introduction of a new depot scene around the station in place of the goods yard, all new platforms and much more.

Above: The framework for the new river scene has been cut entirely from off-cuts of timber and will feature 3D printed Larssen steel piling either side of the river bed.

And I should probably mention the stock change and setting too. The plan is to install overhead catenary on the upper level main circuit with full colour light signalling and a modern theme, while the new diversion route will feature steam age semaphore signalling to give it an altogether different appearance. All these changes will also result in the layout being renamed, but I haven’t even thought about what that name will be!

Above: The beginnings of the new 10 track upper level storage yard are being laid allowing the first trains to circulate the full 18ft x 13ft layout. More track is needed!

In total the layout plan as it stands will feature a minimum of 50ft of scenery – maybe 70ft, we will see – a ten track and eight track storage yard across the two levels, and a maximum circuit length to cover all routes once of around 190ft.

This won’t be an overnight project – there are too many elements for that – but I will keep you posted on its progress here in Staff Projects and you will be able to watch video updates from time to time on Key Model World. Right now though, I’m going back to lay the upper level storage tracks so I can get more trains out! HMA Dapol Class 59 passes the location of the new signalbox on Topley Dale.

Above: A Dapol Class 59 passes the location of the new signalbox on Topley Dale. The signalbox is the laser-cut Norton Bridge kit available from the Key Model World Shop while the Larssen steel piling behind is from the same source.


Size: 18ft x 13ft

Track: Peco code 75

Control: DCC

Period: 2000-2023

Region: Flexible

The new space for the layout offers a larger working area, but I was also keen to avoid mistakes that I had made with the previous version