In the run up to Christmas, I took a break from working on my own layout and worked on creating a micro-layout for my dad’s present. It is inspired by the feature in Model Rail 246 whereby Chris Nevard created a Bluebell Railway-style layout called Great Coles Wood Halt. For my variant, I aimed on a fictional would-be branch from Balsall Common to Rowington Junction where it joined the GWR branch to Henley in Arden. There is a longer fictional history that accompanied it upon delivery! The baseboard is a Scale Model Scenery “layout in a box”. What I liked about Chris Nevard’s layout was that it could be viewed from any side and, by cutting down the wooden backscene on the Scale Model Scenery on the baseboard, it made everything feel a bit lighter and more open. The platform was scratch built and designed to look like the original halt at Hayles Abbey Halt on what is now the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. I finished it off with a sandy/gravelly finish. After some Woodland Scenics plaster roll, I used some Das clay to create a smoother landscape that integrated the bridge. I used offcuts from the backscene to make a sort of fascia for the front of the layout. I started to build up the scenery a little bit at a time. I had to teach myself to slow down a bit, despite having quite a tight deadline! I had to keep the setup as simple as possible, by doing the complex work myself. I had my first go at installing a DIN plug to work with a Gaugemaster handheld controller. When it was finished, it thankfully was able to fit in the 22l wrapping paper box, although the lid wouldn’t close fully as the bridge was slightly taller than the box. One other problem was that the two isolating switches and point switch had to be removed from the fascia for transportation purposes, but as they are held in place by a small nut, this is easy to deal with. Thankfully, a mate who was heading to the area, had a van with just the right amount of space to get to the layout to its destination in one piece. The layout then spent most of the festive period pride of place in front of the (thankfully fake) fireplace and the old man immediately started talking about the next module! There were a few frustrations such as crimson paint no arriving on time meaning I couldn’t finish the platform shelter or the lamp (both of which would have been illuminated) but, as we always say, layouts are never truly finished.