Foxborough (N Gauge)
The Silverfox LNER loco No. 2512

SilverFox DCC Model Railway Club

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Foxborough (N Gauge)

The size and shape of the N gauge layout was determined by the space available in the smaller of the two ground floor rooms at the clubhouse. This is a multi-use area, also accommodating membership meetings, as well as being used as a work area for construction projects.

These factors determine that the layout footprint is in the form of a shallow inverted “U”, with its base running 14ft 6 in. alongside one of the long walls between corners, with the legs extending 8ft partially along the side walls.


In order to maximise surface area to accommodate trackwork for both the scenic and storage boards, the layout features a “Double Deck” arrangement in which the storage area is directly under the scenic boards, connected at either end by twin-track helix modules. The vertical separation between the two levels is approximately 14ins (36cm).

The sketch below depicts the basic footprint of the layout, showing the relationship between the helix modules, and the upper (scenic) and lower (storage) boards.

Both at the clubhouse and at exhibitions, operation of the layout is carried out from inside the “U”; in the latter case the layout will be viewed from the outside.

Baseboard Plan

There is a total of ten baseboards, ( five each scenic and storage), plus the two connecting  helix modules. Baseboard construction features side members made from double-ply girders, with solid softwood ends to accommodate alignment dowels and connecting bolts. Baseboard tops are in 6mm ply, supported by suitable cross-members, in the form of double-ply girders. This method of construction provides adequate rigidity and strength, and light weight. The photo below shows the underside of one of the corner storage boards.

Baseboard construction

Lower Storage Boards

The middle three boards carry a total of fourteen storage tracks (seven in each direction; the outermost and innermost in each set provide through routes as well as access to the loops, which are all about 2 metres long. The photo below shows tracklaying in progress on the storage boards.

Early stage in building the fiddle yard

The picture at left also shows some of the recessed point operating bars which will connect with surface mounted SEEP point motors. Frog polarity will be changed by separate microswitches. The point motors will be operated by MERG accessory decoders which are shown on the photo below.

Support Tables

The baseboards do not incorporate legs; instead, each pair of upper and lower board is carried on a support table frame. The former rests on the top of the frame, whilst the latter rests on cross-members linking each pair of legs. This arrangement allows for much easier set-up at exhibitions – all five tables are first set up, levelled and connected to each other, before the baseboards are slid into positions and bolted together. Consistent with this philosophy of easy set-up, each table has a pair of pivoting leg units, integral with the frame. The photo below shows this general arrangement.

Baseboard support

Helix Units

Each oval turn of the helix is made up of four 90 degree segments and two straight sections of 6mm ply trackbed. This is supported by ten pairs of vertical threaded rods, connected to the plywood sections by cross-pieces of aluminium plate. Adjustment of hexagonal nuts on the threaded rods allows setting of the gradient, which is nominally 2%. This method of construction has proved to be quite robust, whilst permitting fine tuning of the gradient. Track is Peco Code 80 Streamline, the inner circuit being set to 3rd radius, the outer to 4th. Pairs of dropper wires are soldered to each length of track to mitigate voltage drop (there are nearly three metres of track in each of the eight turns of the helix!).

The following photos show stages in the construction of the first (left-hand) helix. The last photo shows the completed helix connected to the adjoining upper and lower baseboards. This is the configuration which was shown at the 2014 Silver Fox exhibition, with trains circulating up and down the helix.

Starting to construct a helix Top view of one helix Helix side view Helix alongside main boards


Construction of the baseboards and helix units started in late 2013, and was broadly complete by mid-2014. As already mentioned, this gave us the opportunity to demonstrate a working helix at our show in August 2014.

Tracklaying on the three central storage boards started in June 2014. This comprised fourteen storage roads, each around 2 metres long, connected by a total of 28 points.  By autumn 2014, initial wiring on the storage boards was underway, together with installation of point motors. In late 2014, construction of the second helix module was started. Early 2015 saw us start the installation and wiring of microswitches for point frog polarity setting, and the building and installation of the MERG accessory decoders to allow DCC operation of the points. Concurrently, plans for the trackwork on the scenic boards are being finalised.

Work in the first half of 2015 concentrated on laying & wiring enough track to take the layout to the August club show as an operating work-in-progress with trains running complete circuits of the whole layout. This was achieved, the layout attracting plenty of interest and favourable comment from visitors and exhibitors alike.

Fiddle yard point motors & MERG Kit 52 DCC decoders The N gauge layout as a work in progress at our 2015 exhibition

Since then the track plan for the upper (scenic) boards has been finalised. Work has continued on the track and wiring and research into costing of a DCC system (NCE PowerPro) and point operation. For the latter, it is proposed to use Tower SG90 servo motors (as for Watkin) controlled by Tam Valley drivers.

The layout will be non region-specific, generally operating in the late steam/early diesel era; the trackplan not being based on a particular prototype. It provides for through running served by the low-level storage boards with a branch line, loco depot, goods yard and industrial sidings.

Consideration is now being given to appropriate scenic treatment (i.e. station and industrial buildings, road infrastructure, housing and landscaping).

“Foxborough” has been suggested as a name for the layout.

April 2016 Update:

The name “Foxborough” has now been confirmed and has a logo! It reflects the club identity, and the subterranean nature of the storage boards.

Since the show, virtually all the permanent trackwork has been laid on the five scenic boards, leaving only the installation of the motorised turntable and the completion of the elevated branchline and terminus on one of the corner boards. All points on the scenic boards are actuated by servos, operated via “Tam Valley Depot” driver boards. Virtually all under-board wiring for track droppers, busses, and point operation has been completed.

Control panels have been built (two small for the storage boards, and a larger one for the scenic board). These boards feature professionally produced mimic diagrams showing the relevant track plans – the latter features both LED indicators and pushbutton switches for point control, as well as via the DCC handset. The recent club bulk order on NCE included a Powercab, SmartBooster and UTP panels specifically for Foxborough.

Currently, we are in the process of setting-up the point servos. It is hoped that this work, followed by full functional testing will be completed during May. Planning of the scenic features will start shortly.


The layout made its second appearance at the club’s annual show in August 2016 as a “work in progress” in the guise of its new identity, Foxborough.  As before, it attracted considerable interest, particularly in the operation of the helixes.

Virtually all the trackwork on the upper (scenic) boards has been laid, wired and ballasted. The only track remaining to be laid is in the proposed industrial area on the central board.  The branch line and terminus platform has been built and its station building is ready to be installed.

Commissioning and testing of the point operating servos on the upper level has been completed. The MERG accessory decoder boards which control the solenoid-operated points on the lower storage boards have also been tested. The working sessions prior to and after the Xmas holiday have been occupied in installing, wiring and testing additional microswitches on the 32 point motors on the lower storage boards. These switches detect the status of each point, and light corresponding LEDs on the two small mimic panels mounted on the storage boards.

The turntable serving the loco shed has been installed, and is ready for wiring-up. With the completion of the functional elements of the layout it should be available for running sessions on Monday evenings. The club has recently invested in a TOMIX track cleaning vehicle  – this is a motorised unit which has multiple functions to vacuum,  polish and clean the track.

A start has been made on the scenic basework of the left-hand corner board where it is planned to site a village community and market garden adjacent to the branch line terminus.

Outline planning permission has been granted for a loading bank and cattle dock alongside the siding on the left-hand board. In preparation, a Ratio cattle dock kit has been completed.  Road access will be via a skewed level crossing over the branch line. We are looking into the possibility of servo operation for the gates. The road will also serve industrial premises overlooking the loading bank.

Some Metcalfe (card) industrial building kits have already been assembled, together with a few etched brass building kits from Severn Models. We have purchased a few more examples of both at the recent N Gauge Show. There will be lots of opportunities in the coming months for members to get involved in both the construction of buildings (either from kits or scratch-built), and scenic elements of the layout, as well, of course PLAYING TRAINS!!!

It should be noted that the club now has a small amount of N gauge rolling stock for use on the layout for those members who have yet to invest in their own. We have a DMU, a “Jinty” steam loco, and Class 37 and 47 diesels – all DCC equipped, as well as a small collection of freight stock.

The following photos show:-

Main Control PanelRear of RH Fiddle Yard PanelN Gauge project at our 2016 exhibition

The reference point is taken as the club show last August, when the layout was exhibited as a “work in progress”. For this occasion, a pair of temporary tracks were laid across the scenic boards connecting the two helices, so that trains could be run in both directions round continuous circuits - see photo below.


Since January progress has been made in the following areas:-