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Photographer, scribbler, model maker, beer fancier, self confessed train nutter & general nerd.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A Day with Alan Downes

nevard_100615_downes-box_DSC_7983_web, originally uploaded by nevardmedia.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting the legendary model maker Alan Downes at his country seat in the wilds of Lincolnshire to photograph his latest top secret creation. Whilst I cannot tell you any more about that, I do have to say that Alan is great company with many tales to tell of his modelling career which frequently brushed with the rich, famous and even royalty - many of who had and have model railways.

One of the funniest stories was of a visit to a trading estate in Slough to visit some chap called 'Anderson' who was planning a TV series with puppets and space ships, Alan dismissing the chap as barking mad and thought no more about it. A year or two later his daughter was watching Thunderbirds on TV and the coin dropped.....

Being a professional model maker, Alan has many short cuts to allow speedy progress of large structures in record time, he also dismisses fine detail, he says that you simply so not need it if you get everything else right. I bet very few admirers of his work ever notice that none of his windows are open, or that they have no curtains because everything else is so 'right'.

What has all this got to do with the signal box above? Well, just as I finished repacking the car for my departure south, Alan appeared with the signal box and said "this is for you, do something useful with it". The model is O gauge and as a 4mm scale modellier I have yet to move in this direction until I have alittle more space, so for the time in an attempt to 'do something useful' I set this shot up in the garden with a bit of OO track close to the camera to fool perspective and create this little scenario. I have to say I rather like O gauge.......mmmmm...


  1. An O16.5 (or O9) line on the trackbed of a standard gauge line?

  2. I guess it could be narrow Gauge Bure Valley stile?
    Does anyone have a thought of the signal box style? Allan said that it follows nothing in particular, but I think it looks rather 'Highland' in design?

  3. It doesn't look very GER/LNER to me which is what the Bure Valley would have been like. Unfortunately none of the original signal boxes on the line are extant. The only one left with any connection that I am aware of is the box at Wroxham, on the East Norfolk Line, which is being turned into a museuem presently. There is a box at Aylsham for BVR control but that is a modern construction and painted light and dark stone (GWR).

  4. Did he mention the story behind the enormous town centre layout he built that appeared in the Modeller years ago ? I have heard rumours that the owner was a bit more colourful than expected.

  5. Phil,

    He did, and yes he was supposedly! I'm hoping that Allan will get a computer and online soon.


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