“Die Keinnamebahn”

I thought that after all the time I have spent reading about the great work done by others on various forums including Narrow Gauge Railway Modellers,  I should better put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) and describe how I built a 12ft long, 9mm gauge, H0e narrow gauge layout in a 6ft shed ready for exhibition in February 2017.

Die Keinnamebahn”, or how I built a 12ft H0e layout in a 6ft workshop


About 4 years ago, as I am approaching retirement, I decided to get back into railway modelling after a break of nearly 50 years. In my youth I used to model in 009 and I have always had a love of narrow gauge railways with memories of spending time selling ice creams on Tan-y-Blwch station. As an impecunious teenager I was only able to buy the cheapest locos etc. such as the Joef Decaulville, and it was a pleasant revelation, 50 years later, to finally be able to buy the items I wanted without having to worry too much about the cost. To please the domestic authorities I built a small dedicated modelling workshop of 7ft x 5ft external dimensions to do my modelling in. This workshop I have equipped with the modelling tools I could only dream about in my youth. I now have several Proxxon saws, end-mill etc. as well as a Dremel drill system, pillar drill and a solder rework station. I started to buy 2nd-hand locos by Bemo and Roco via eBay and settled on modelling in H0e, 3.5mm/ft on 9mm gauge track, converting the Bemo H0m stock to H0e as required. With a career in computing I have always been a bit of a gadget-freak and so I chose DCC (Digital Command Control) for the control system.


Once I had built and equipped the workshop I now had to decide how I was going make a layout, suitable for exhibition, on a workbench only 3ft x 2ft.in size. It was at this time I came across the laser cut 3mm MDF baseboards produced by Tim Horn near Norwich (www.timhorn.co.uk). His 400mm x 250mm x 50mm scenic boards at £10 each seemed a good starting point, especially after Tim agreed to supply me with replacement board ends that took pattern maker’s dowels. These modified ends are now supplied by Tim as standard with these boards. The use of small over-centre catches stop the boards separating in use.

The layout was designed from the start to run exclusively under DCC as this system only requires two wires connecting between each board. I decided to use the brass pattern maker’s dowels to provide not only the alignment for the boards but also to carry the DCC power connection between the boards. Each board has, installed under the baseboard, the relevant DCC decoder for opening the points and servo controlled features on that board. The points are all solenoid powered using Gaugemaster GMC-PM1 Seep point motors with built-in switch for changing the polarity of the point frogs. Point control is by either a Digitrax DS54 twin switching decoders or DS64 quad switching decoders. Servo controlled features (more on those later) are by ESU SwitchPilot Servo Version 2 units.

The track is Mainline 009 by Peco with Mainline 18” points and ‘Y’ turnouts. All the frogs are switched using the Seep point motors.

Die Keinnamebahn

I chose this layout name almost in a moment of panic. Having said that I would like to display a layout at my local club’s (New Mills & District Railway Modellers) exhibition in 2017 I was asked what it was called. I realised that I had no name for it!

Knowing a small amount of German, on the spur of the moment I chose “Die Keinnamebahn” – “the railway without a name”. From this name I was able to make a ‘history’ for the line.

The railway is set in the Alsace area of France/Germany, allowing me to choose from a mixture of French and German features. The line would primarily carry cement, fuel oil and timber from the port at Keinname and traffic from the ferry. The main loco type I use is the excellent Roco Hf110 tender and tank locos with roling stock by Bemo, Liliput and Roco.

The Layout

The layout is currently constructed on eight of the scenic boards, giving a length of 3.2m which we display on two 6ft folding tables bought for that purpose. Most of the boards have LED lamps which are powered by full-wave rectifiers and capacitors on each board which rectify the DCC supply suitable for LED use. These lights provide an easy way to check that we have continuity between the boards.

All trains depart from the two board, four track fiddle yard. The first building a traveller sees when the train enters the scenic section (board 3) is a French crossing keeper’s house by Hornby International. Like most of the structures on the layout, it is screwed into place from below to permit ease of removal for reuse of modification.

Board 4 provides the diesel and coal loco refuelling facilities using the Faller kit. The water crane and coaling crane are both servo activated and can be activated either by board-edge DPDT momentary switches hidden behind a rusty corrugated iron shed on the board, or by direct DCC commands from the Digitrax DCS51 Zephyr Xtra DCC command station. The two points on the board are controlled by a Digitrax DS54 controller.

From the refuelling board the line splits on board 5 to provide the approach and passing loop to the station. The line passes a turntable with two storage roads. The turntable is a Peco n-gauge turntable powered by a DCC-controlled motor and gearbox of my design. The motor is a 10rpm DC motor and gearbox connected via a worm and 32 tooth spur gear to the turntable. By setting the DCC decoder to provide 1.5 volts a rotation speed of 180 degrees/minute is obtained – exactly the same as the turntable on the quay at St Valerie-sur-Somme on the Chemin de fer de baie de Somme, which I filmed when on holiday. The motor, worm and spur gear cost a total of £4.68 inclusive of postage from China via eBay! Alignment of the turntable with the tracks is by eye, the operator being able to ‘drive’ the turntable at a crawl for final alignment via the Digitrax 125z decoder running as loco 99.

The station, board 6, for “Keinname” has a level crossing made of coffee stirrers and rolling crossing gates from the French MKD crossing kit. The adjacent station is also an MKD kit with the addition of a Faller servo-controlled water crane on the platform.

The next board, board 7, has a crossover to service the run-around loop, a spur to the quay on board 8 and an approach spur to the ferry on board 8. A derelict cement plant (by Faller) is installed on board 7. It was heavily weathered using the Vallejo rust kit and also pale grey pastels to simulate cement dust. A small wood stands next to the cement plant. This board has four servo-controlled uncoupling ramps to my own design which enable locos to uncouple and run around the trains as well as leave wagons in both spur tracks. The uncouplers can be triggered either by DCC commands or by board edge switches behind the cement plant. An ESU SwitchPilot Servo Version 2 controls the uncouplers. I specify Version 2 for the ESU unit because I initially used a Version 1 unit. This very quickly burned out because it was not able to shut off the servo power after it had operated the servo. The Version 2 of the SwitchPilot Servo can be set to remove power a few seconds after the servo has operated. This is done by setting CV50 in the unit to 4. I have not had any problems since using the Version 2.

The last board, board 8, has the Artitec Wittow narrow gauge ferry model (called “Keinnamesee”) in a dock as well as an oil storage and transfer facility on the spur. Due to the delicacy of the ferry model, and tight clearances, I built the approach ramp to simulate the ferry in the process of docking. This was to prevent rolling stock entering the ferry. A sturdy raisable barrier stands at the entrance to the ferry. The ferry terminal gantry was converted from the Faller crane and was heavily ‘rustified’ using the Vallejo Rust kit.

The Future?

“Die Keinnamebahn” has, so far, been exhibited twice at Chapel-en-le-Frith with the New Mills & District Railway Modellers (2017 & 2018) and at Rainhill in November 2017.

We have received much positive feedback from visitors and we would be happy to accept invitations to other exhibitions, especially if our expenses could be covered if far from our home in the Peak District.

All the modules are stored in two dedicated storage cases between shows and the whole layout, tables and chairs etc. can be transported in our small estate car.

“Die Keinnamebahn” is in a constant state of development and my next task will be to investigate ways to produce a continuous run version of the layout utilising some of the original modules.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wife, Annie, for her patience and forbearing during the construction of Die Keinnamebahn and for her support as an operator at the exhibitions. I really could not have done this without her.