With the benefit of many more hours to occupy my life since my recent retirement I have launched upon a new model railway layout. There has been some good progress on the model and my thoughts are now turning to some shipping for the Dunkirk and Overlord scenarios. I am hoping that Mike Trux is going to be the oracle for the latter. Introduction: The starting point for the layout was made five years ago when a number of opportunities came to fruition to allow the project to be planned and designed. One of these was the purchase of a house with a large garden, and the other was the discovery of Folkestone Harbour. It is strange how coincidences collide eventually but it seems that the railways of Folkestone have always been within my modelling circle for some years. My early attempts at building locomotives many more years ago included a sample of the SR Z class, and I choose number 955 for no other good reason than because of a connection to a then current motorcycle. It turns out that this same loco was used on the Folkestone Harbour in 1930 during a series of trials to find replacement shunters for the very ancient order of the Stirling R class engines. Another modelling project was to scratch build a mobile railway artillery gun and a similar gun was fired at enemy ships in 1940 from Folkestone, and my latest model of a rake of WW1 Netley ambulance coaches were also used from the harbour for casualty evacuation. It is said that the lure of sea brings old mariners back to the coast and it is true that my time served in the Royal Navy had a bearing on the choice of a port as a model. And indeed ports are interesting subjects with a variety of ships, loads and cranes to delight the interest and to challenge the skills. It was this that confirmed the harbour as my personal objective to keep the grey matter and fingers in tip top condition as the years advanced to beyond the coming of a bus pass. Folkestone has a long and varied history which has been well documented and photographed. There are maps galore and the memories of local people to tap into. So it was the work of several months of intensive research to mine the data to form a picture of how the railway arrived into the town and developed the harbour for the cross channel ferry service to France. The Swingbridge: In all of the discoveries of this wonderful modelling gem two features stood out as project breakers. The railway crossed the harbour on a viaduct and spanned a 150 foot gap across the water to the South Quay on a swing bridge. In 1847 this was the largest of its type in the world and was to become the reason for building the layout. The thinking was that if I could design and build this particular structure then everything else in the model would be easy enough. There were sufficient photographs to be able to draw the bridge in profile, and by good fortune at the same time, the original drawings were made available online by Rail Network Heritage. These helped to explain the internal construction of the woodwork timbers and steel strengthening rods. After a couple of prototypes in styrene plastic a decision was made to go high tech. There are three identical spans and whilst the scratch built plastic models looked acceptable in isolation the combination of the three spans in the first bridge was very weird as each had a slightly different profile. A very quick learning curve to get to grips with a CAD package turned out a set of drawings for a universally identical span and for the internal beams. These were sent off to be laser cut in wood. The layers were still warm and smelling of charcoal when they were glued together to form the bridge components of the right thickness and the identical shapes. Putting the bridge together and painting it was attended by an immense sense of relief. And of satisfaction. And pointed towards the next challenge. Can my, or indeed any, locos get a train up the Fearsomely Famous Folkestone (FFF) incline? The South Quay: The home for the layout is in a 20 foot long garden shed with an 8 foot wide base. The intention is to have the London to Dover mainline running around the top of the garden in a 50 by 40 foot oblong and entering the shed (cunningly disguised as a Southern Railway signal box) on the back wall. The junction to the harbour starts at the point that the mainline bursts through the Shakespeare tunnel and the branch line descends down the incline over the viaduct and bridge to the south quay area. The relative heights of the mainline and the dock side were set by best guessimate on what was thought to work for those poor old R class shunters. There had to been enough downwardness to mimic the FFF incline but still allow trains to work up it in a manner which resembled the real thing. As a consequence of intermittent periods of will-it-or-wouldn’t-work the levels of the two track boards changed constantly as several attempts to install the bridge were made. In the end, hands on hips, frown on brow, I said sod it. And ‘nailed’ down the bridge base board in a final and desperate effort to so that track laying could actually start. The incline was build and tracks connected to the bridge. A little LBSCR Terrier was plucked from the loco storage shed and volunteered to push a carriage and a few vans up the FFF hill. At the slightest hint of gravity the Terrier slipped and then stalled and the train was subject to a few more F’s. But after a little gentle talking too, some cleaning and fettling, and oiling, and generally being a proper railwayman, the next few runs produced the longed for result. The train arrived at the junction and all was well with the project. With these double successes in the back pocket the quay and pier were to become a hive of activity as long forgotten skills involving sleepers and rails and chairs were quietly resurrected and refined. The dock side area of the south quay has a number of modelling features, including sleeper laid track through the harbour station, in-laid rails in the dock sidings and berth side lines, cranes in three versions and several bits of marine equipment, a lighthouse and a life boat, baggage containers and several types of trolleys, not to mention signals with many posts and huts of all sizes. The photos show the beginning of the harbour station area with the branch line coming off the swing bridge, and south quay area. The Folkestone harbour railway has the tightest curves on the whole southern area system according to an enquiry from Mr Harry Wainwright in 1911 at 150 ft, or 41 scale inches but luckily I have managed to maintain 5 ft curves as the norm on the layout so far. First train up the Fearsomely Famous Folkestone Incline (after a bit of cleaning, oiling and fine tuning). The South Quay with the track layout becoming clearer in the mind. The picture is taken from the Promenade pier. The boxes in the centre represent building to be constructed although I hope to re-use many of my late father’s wonderful creations. The Ecco shoe box is really the Harbour station, and the long cardboard box will eventually metamorphose into a goods warehouse. The role of masking tape roll is in fact the first wagon turntable and the small grey building next to the goods brake will be a version of the bullion room. The south quay dock side where the wagons will be loaded from ships and passengers will trip their merry way off to the exotic call of France on the cross channel ferries. The control levers are a reminder of happy days spent visiting my grandfather in his signal box in Loughborough. In the fullness of time these will pull off servo powered points and signals. What Is It? There is one bit of equipment which had defied identification. A very tall A-frame on the dock side has been spotted around the railway in this and other images. From the feedback of fellow O gauge modellers it transpires that the frame is a gravity pile driver. The corrugated shed next to the frame houses the engine to pull up the pile weight and to move the frame around the site to its next work location. In the centre of the same image is a single railway wagon. This looks like fish truck to me. Folkestone had only one industry before the railway arrived in 1843. The fishing fleet numbered 300 vessels in the late 1700’s and the harbour was built in 1810 to protect this vital source of income. It was noted by the railway that fish trucks were becoming a problem as the volume of passenger traffic increased. This is the first image of the fish truck that we have seen and we would welcome any comments. The Next Stage: The plan is to progress the laying of track in the south quay dock area with the aim of completing the railway lines through the harbour station. The idea is to have a long length of track which is connected to the bridge and incline to able to run a longer train, perhaps 6 coaches, up the slope to test the ability of locos to overcome the FFF. Or not, as the case may be. The Naval Plan: Apart from the military trains which have already been built (the 12in howitzer gun and Netley ambulance coaches) the port model offers a number of maritime options, just to remind me of the water borne adventures. These include: HMS Havant returning from Dunkirk with the Folkestone Belle, the LCI's being loaded with troops for Force L, HDML's on the Operation Glimmer decoy fleet, US coastguard cutters (cos I like them), SECR paddle and turbine steamer ferries, including SS Onward (sunk and salvaged at the pier in 1918 and served with distinction at Dunkirk - first ship on the round trip - and D-Day), fishing boats of the Cornish Lugger type, and any other floating beauty which can be justified to be a part of the model.