'Before Home Computers' - The Origins of Beechingless Barnstaple
My Dad started it all - long before I was born - only my eldest brother could now fillin that part of our history.
My first recollection is of the layout being in the loft, Hornby 3-rail, but being taken to the local Church Fetes - (East Barnet had a large Vicarage and Garden at the time, and before I was born the family had lived near the church ) although I only really recall his showing Comedy Films on 8mm: probably my elder brothers were running the trains whilst my sister sold bunches of lavender from our garden. Dad started filming before World War 2 and I will be re-transferring his archive in HD for the remaining family 'soon'. My elder brother had a Saturday Job at Colonel Beatties first Hobby shop in Hampden Square ... and he rebuilt the layout with Trix Twin track ... before leaving home for Sussex.

An early 8mm film of mine depicts my 2-rail rebuild of the layout in the loft - with a Cavelcade of all my stock - filmed shortly before the layout was scrapped entirely to be replaced by Beechingless Barnstaple in 1977... When I have re-transferred it in HD, I will upload it to You Tube and place a link here.

The Origins of Beechingless Barnstaple
Family holidays were to stay with grandparents in Barnstaple: travelling by Southern Region's Atlantic Coast Express to Barnstaple Town. A neighbour there - Bill Brock - was based at the Junction ( and had an allotment there ). The Multi-part through train departed behind Merchant Navy's and then West County Class or older SR steam locos concluded our journey.
I will add here a photo of me newly arrived at the Town Station with loco behind.

After the Western takeover and dieselisation our route down became the Cornish Riviera from Paddington - hauled on departure by Western Class Diesel Hydraulics and arriving with a Warship. We have archive film of BR std 2MT tank locos for journeys to/from Braunton and Instow.
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My mother used to commute to school at Ilfracombe by train - I can only recall a 1970's visit to the station by bus - and watching a newly wed couple departing in a DMU. Nowadays we can only travel as far as Barnstaple - but my layout has always offered the onward journey - without cut backs ... Beechingless Barnstaple.
My mother was also on the last Lynton and Barnstaple train; and with us on the 2nd of re-opening.

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I used to work the 'AP' (Alexandra Palace) shift pattern of alternate 12hour days - giving me multiple weekdays to build the new layout at my parent's so that it could be relocated when they retired and moved back to Devon. Beechingless is therefore now in its 3rd loft, as total-rebuild v4 ! v1 1977-1981, v2 1981-1983 v3 1983-2005 v4 2005-2024...

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The first version of Beechingless Barnstaple - 15ft x 9ft Oval
Torrington and Ilfracombe placed over the main boards and reached by a long incline behind the junction.

The loft was completely floored with ¾" chipboard panels, screwed to the joists ( and later removed to the next house ) The main boards were 5ft x 2ft x ½" chipboard with 2x1 outer framing screwed to the chipboard (no attempt at corner joints). A top surface of Insulation board copied that of previous layouts and Woolworth's 18" Coffee Table Legs were screwed to the chipboard
This low 18" board height maximised the available roof space - and was an easy working height when laying on the new loft floor.
Cutting the insulation board caused a lot of fine dust which hung around - and I had to vacuum the entire house afterwards - be warned!
Limited Power Tools of the time were a Bosch Drill with an attachment for a jigsaw which had to be removed to drill a hole.
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With each house move we ensured the new loft would house the existing layout - and in both cases, the layout expanded. In the later lofts (v2,v3), circles were cut from the chipboard (like Rally Cars) to lighten them, and new extensions built from 6mm plywood.
The boards had their own removal lorry when we moved in 1983.
In 2005+ Version 4's 8m x 5.5m total-rebuild for the new extended and converted loft changed to aluminium square tube frames and triple-wall polycarbonate roofing sheet topped by fire-resistent foam and then XPS foam above - a lightweight construction since adopted for Skandi2, Bruksbanen Mk4 and Mk3e

Initial Control was to be via Isolation Shift - but Zero-1 was announced before it was completed
Lynton was a small board located above the remaining short side - and accessed by a cliff-edge incline squeezed in between Barnstaple Junction and the standard gauge inclines for Torrington and Ilfracombe.
This 'Tippex-modified' version of the hand-drawn scale-diagram shows the narrow gauge added off the righthand end of BJ platform 1.

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Version 3 was a 'squarer' version nearer 5m x 5m with the 2m Micromimic display located centrally over a new Lynton Narrow Gauge built on a steelframe over the central water tank, and adding Barnstaple Town ( and a ferry ) - as seen on the Zero-1 Mimic. The Ilfracombe incline moved to the other side - starting after the new Town Station and behind Exeter/Taunton storage. Torrington was reached by a descent behind Barnstaple Town and then a low level shelf on the inside edge to the same side as Ilfracombe.
The Lynton and Barnstaple is not showing on the Micromimic as it remained analogue at the time.
At a neighbour's suggestion, Barnstaple Junction's Platforms were rebuilt with a curved appearance ( incline behind reloacated to behind Exeter Storage )

[Photos of this period and some early video will be added at a later date]

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The first Train Ferry - built for v3 - included a Peco Y point to access 2 tracks onboard.

In its 'last days' circa 2002-2005 v3 became DCC for the track but remained Zero-1 for the Accessories - making use of the separate track and accessory busses installed to avoid problems caused by the high-current APT. 130 Points and signals also stretched its capabilities (99 codes)
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Early planning for V4 was to use Peco Code 75 and to re-use the Fleischmann Modell track from Barnstaple Junction Yard for the Exter Storage Area
Rocoline-with Trackbed was first used for the high-level loop on the RSJs above head level - but eventually spread to replace all other track except 1 Peco Diamond Crossing which requires a Frog Juicer. Roco / Veissmann Point Motors are embedded in the ballast. Lenz LS150 decoders are used for analogue point motors. [ Skandi 2 changed to using Train Tech CDU Accessory Decoders ]
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EARLY Version 4: The original 'Exeter' Lower Level Storage using Fleischmann Modell Track and video monitor

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