The Story of Whitedown MPD

This layout dates back to the late 1980’s, when Denis Stevens of AMRG built it. At that time it was named Sandy Lane TMD (Traction Motive Depot – refers to modern image diesels). Denis built it as a representation of the Old Oak Common Diesel Depot. It was exhibited at numerous exhibitions, operating with the blue diesels era with the occasional steam loco. Denis was profoundly a ‘diesel man’.

Whitedown MPD (Motive Power depot – refers to Steam and early diesel timespan) layout is based on a fictitious location in Southern England where most of the rolling stock is BR Southern region, with the occasional visiting non-Southern loco. Also it includes Aldershot and District buses.

Unfortunately Denis passed away in 2016 and I was honoured to be offered ownership of this layout. 

Denis and myself joined the Alton Model Railway Group in the mid-eighties, and formed a strong friendship over a great many years. It was common to see Denis and myself operating different layouts including Thomas’s Junction, Hayling Island and Sandy Lane. Denis also built two other diesel depot layouts, one in ‘0’ gauge called Figgs Marsh and the other in ‘00’ scale called Goringe Park.

The late Denis Stevens and ‘Swordfish’

During mid 2016 I started to appraise the Sandy Lane model railway layout. It had given many years of sterling work at exhibitions, but was now showing signs of ageing and needed some freshening up with some updating. I decided to try and keep the concept of what Denis had designed, track wise. I saw this as an opportunity to ‘Improve’ the layout and take it back in time to the late 50’s/early 60’s, to the BR Steam and Diesel period. 

I started by replacing all of the ageing Peco pointwork, and most of the track at our own exhibition the following February.  This layout attracted a lot of interest, as myself and my son spent most of the weekend removing and making the trackbed ready to accept the new pointwork etc. The only original area I have done little with, is the turntable and joining tracks. So points and track were all replaced and a new control panel was constructed. I started making new buildings (Metcalfe) and tidied up the scenery.

The first extension to be added was a small board to include the Steam Loco shed.

A small Terminus Station board was constructed and a third rail was fitted, to enable Southern electric units to be used. I also wanted a garage and a small Aldershot and District bus depot. Operating signals were also installed, and the storage yard increased in size slightly.

The next extension was a Town scene at the other end of the layout. The majority of the buildings used were Metcalfe, with a few Superquick kits. I have found that the Superquick buildings do benefit from additional reinforcement internally.

Operation street lighting have also been installed, along with working Pelican crossing lamps.

On the two original layout boards, any modern buildings left over from the modern image era have now all been removed, suitable steam period buildings have been fitted in their place. A coaling tower has also been installed on a new spur track from the turntable.

The revamp of this layout has been ongoing since the end of 2016 to current date. As with most projects there is always room for new ideas, suggestions and improvements whilst ensuring it retains its original character.

There have been basically three extensions to this layout

  1. A short extension (Steam Shed)
  2. The terminus station board
  3. The Town Scene (constructed during lockdown 2020).

When we are able to resume Model Railway shows, it is hoped to exhibit this layout again – it truly deserves to be seen by like-minded enthusiasts, who love all that model railways give. Model Railways to me is such a great hobby that can be enjoyed by enthusiasts both young and mature!

About the author – Richard Pretious

I have been involved with Model railways from a very early age, building my first layout in 1983 from proprietary components such as Peco track, points etc.

I have 5 layouts; a mixture of 00 and 0:16.5, and LGB garden railway system. 

My hobby has such been for over 37 years, exhibiting at approximately 12 shows a year, though less in recent years.

At the 2020 AMRG show I also did Wiring demonstrations on a self-made portable small layout, which attracted a lot of interest, in-depth questions and opportunities to teach wiring. It was a great opportunity to pass on my knowledge whilst having a jolly good time! 

The last time this layout was exhibited was at the Basingstoke and and North Hants Model Railway Society exhibition in March 2020, pre-lockdown.