In the beginning 'Warren Lane' consisted of 2x 6ft long, 30inch wide scenic boards with a 6ft long 6 track fiddle yard and was able to be comfortably set up in Maggie's garage. There was a single crane working the yard and operations revolved around the coming, going, and shunting of container services using DCC control. In this short form it emerged onto the scene at the end of 2010 to a very good reception.
To help complete the look of the yard, a second Heljan Container Terminal was aquired and repainted to match the first but spent most of it's time parked at the end of the yard due to only being able to operate 1 crane at a time.
An extra 6ft of scenic board was added in early 2012 which made it's debut in long form at the Watford show that May. This included run-round loops for the far end of the yard so trains could now drive straight under the cranes plus more crane track so both cranes could be operated at the same time. It also allowed a continuation of the mainline along the back and locomotive returns now started running back along the 'up' side of the mainline. The 'down' side of the mainline although not useable to run proper passing services would see use with various maintenance trains appearing on scene.
To add to the constant evolution of the existing layout, when the new board was added the over-head catenary was upgraded along the whole of the layout to help firmly plant itself on the Great Eastern Mainline (GEML). The masts used on the layout are modelled on prototypes used at various places along the GEML and contain several hundred individually solded pieces of metal each.
Unfortunately this extra length on the layout meant it was not so easy to fully set up in the garage anymore and testing is conducted with just the relevant boards set up as required. The layout only sees full set ups when it's booked for exhibitions which have become more and more frequent.
A slight casualty of extensive exhibition use is the health of the cranes. The 'primary' crane for use is the one nearest the shunter as it is on the longest length of track. When enough operators were available the second crane would also see use on the new board. The intensive use of the cranes for several hours a day is causing unfortunate faults and breakages with them and generally require rectification work after every show recently so the decision was made to generally only operate the Primary crane and save the second as a 'hot-spare' on the layout for if (when!) the first goes faulty. Following this, in the next round of layout upgrades the number of crane controllers will be reduced to just a single position but able to control the whole of the crane tracks. to help reduce the risk of total crane failure during a show, a third crane was very generously donated to the layout and as this is written is awaiting a repaint to match the others.
The next stage of the layout's evolution is currently being worked on and will take 'Warren Lane' from being an end-to-end shunting and slow movement layout, into a full circuit covering roughly a scale 4,000ft of mainline run in both the up and down directions. This will allow faster passing freight and passenger services to run along the layout between container services and add more variation to the layout.
On top of this, there has been a complete re-work of the turnout operating system to make the layout much more user friendly and hopefully avoid operating 'dead time' while the train drivers work out which train to run next. Currently, several operators are required in various locations to control the entire layout, the new system will better focus this man-power and enables the entire layout to be controlled from 1 location. It has already been succesfully tested on the now completed new fiddle-yard boards and is waiting to be incorporated into the rest of the existing layout.
Also incorporated into this control system is some basic signalling between the train operators and the crane operator to try and avoid accidental damge to the cranes by trains moving off while the crane is attached to them which tends to be the most common cause of a loss of crane during shows. Whether this proves to be effective or not and helps extend the life of the cranes remains to be seen.....
Because of the way 'Warren Lane' has been extended during these changes, it is always possible for it to revert to it's original format which makes it very flexible layout with different personalities depending on an exhibtion organisers requirements.
Work in progress over Holiday
Baseboard finished, 75% track down, point motors fitted and wired
Fiddle Yard Extension 01/07/13:
Curved end boards tested and fitted to Fiddle Yard, July 2013, featuring 'Alan':