June 6th 1944 saw the largest seaborne invasion in history, the Normandy Landings, which led eventually to Allied victory in World War 2.

A special themed area in Hall 1 will commemorate this event, to remember the gallantry and sacrifice of the armed forces personnel who took part, and to mark the immense efforts of the railways and the railway employees throughout the war.

As well as seven model railway layouts (two of which are making their debut at this exhibition), a display by the Military Railway Study Group, and a display of military models, the themed area will also contain  information displays about specific aspects of railway operation during the second world war, for example, Operation Pied Piper, The Jellicoe Express (aka “The Misery”) and Ambulance Trains.  It will also pay tribute to Driver Benjamin Gimbert GC and Fireman James Nightall GC, whose actions prevented catastrophic damage at Soham station just four days before D-Day.

The purpose of The Military Railway Study Group is to collect, exchange and whenever possible, to publish factual information on the operation of the railways of any combatant nations . Relevant material from any era, when the military used railways in war and peace, and other associated subjects, from supporting or neutral countries, is also of considered interest.

The wartime railway had not been extensively studied by serious railway historians until fairly recently. The Study Group was founded in 1989 as The World War 2 Railway Study Group to address this. The Group offers a bi-monthly bulletin, and produces pamphlets and books at irregular intervals.

Some More Information About The Layouts




















Photos (c) Matt Stevens


As with the Great War some thirty years previously, the railways also played a key role in World War Two, transporting people and goods throughout the country; dispersing the returning troops rescued from Dunkirk, evacuating children from the London Blitz, and moving the men and material from their depots and assembly areas to the embarkation points for the D-day Landings of June 1944 (codename “Overlord”, from which the layout gets its name).

Overlord, 23 March 2009. Photographed for Hornby Magazine.














Although the layout has been exhibited for a number of years, we are still adding to it. For those who may have seen it before, new this time are sections of the Mulberry Harbour, the floating port towed across the Channel to provide the supplies and support for the Allies to secure and advance from the hard-won beachhead through France, Belgium, Holland and ultimately over the Rhine.

We are still constantly trying to improve ‘Overlord’, so if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask,

Parsley Hay Junction

In 1942/3 the US forces took over the War department depots on the Staffordshire Derbyshire border so temporary locations had to be found for the War Department equipment and vehicles while new locations were constructed / expanded. Parsley Hay Junction between Buxton and Ashbourne was one such location and was used to store vehicles while a new depot at Hilton was built. The existing mineral (Lime Stone and cement) traffic was war critical so had to be maintained along with traffic for two further depots built near Buxton, Harpur Hill (18,000t of high explosive) and Dove Holes (88,000t of petrol). Additionally the line was used for the safe transport of war materials manufactured in the Manchester area due to the remoteness of the line, so traffic increased from a peak of 12 trains per day in peacetime to well over 100 during WW2. Post war the line reverted to 3 passenger trains and a similar number of stone trains on the mainline, the CHPR line was a little busier due to small capacity trains.

The depot was operated by a small contingent of active soldiers supported by several walking wounded from the Buxton rehabilitation hospital and also Italian prisoners of war from one of the 10 PoW camps in the area. The steam railcar in the picture is being converted to a ambulance car for the conveyance of non-active workers to and from Buxton. The layout also includes a group of ATS girls practicing on Bofors anti-aircraft guns and associated equipment such as range finder and search light. The Buxton area was only bombed once during the war by a stray aircraft that failed to find its intended target in Liverpool and jettisoned its bombs near Harpur Hill causing no deaths or injuries.

Hartley Poole Too

Hartley Poole Too is a fictional location somewhere on the Somerset Levels in the middle years  of the Second World War. The centre of the layout is dominated by the power station.

To the east lies an army camp which houses a variety of military vehicles prior to D-Day 1944, and boasts hospital and NAFFI Nissen huts. The camp is served by a small country station which has a two-track GWR main line, off which a siding can accommodate such wagons as tank-transporting warwells and warflats.

To the west lies a battery of anti-aircraft guns with two functioning search lights.  Towards the rear is a rifle range. At the far end is a shot-down German aircraft which has crashed into a cottage with smoke emanating from it. The pilot awaits capture by advancing Home Guard units.

Against the scenic break board runs a high level shuttle for a diesel railcar. The line appears from off-stage on the west and runs along an embankment, behind the power station, over an arched viaduct to a high level halt at the east end.  A detached siding serves a gunpowder store.

In the foreground is a river scene with naval craft and bankside railway tracks for military trains.






Photos (c) Andy York, BRM

Aston Magna

Although Aston Magna is a fictional layout, it is based firmly on similar secondary lines which were suddenly called upon to carry far more traffic than was the case before the war.

Like so many rural backwaters, the line through Aston Magna saw reducing use with the introduction of cheap motor transport after the Great War.   The only assured business were weekend hikers exploring the rural idyll of the Oxfordshire / Gloucestershire borders and the regular market traffic.  The Great Western Railway opted to run the line with railcar and auto workings to reduce losses and some rationalising had occurred in 1933; primarily the removal of all signalling and the reduction to single engine working.

The build up to the Second World War saw a resurgence in traffic as a variety of military and government facilities were built alongside the line. By the outbreak of war the line was often running at capacity and the GWR had even costed the reinstatement of signalling to increase flexibility.  New station business came from increased agricultural outputs and the nation’s increasing need for timber, as well as the many personnel billeted nearby.


Photo (c) Hornby Magazine

Stodmarsh is presented by Kevin Cartwright, who is a member of the Gauge O Guild, and a fan of the classic BBC TV Series Dad’s Army.

He is also the builder of the military models on display next to the layout.

Photos (c) Kevin Cartwright