Carlisle To Preston

When I started working on the class 87 loco to add a new instrument panel and sound Class87, I needed somewhere to exercise it, so I created this layout of the West Coast Mainline between Carlisle and Preston.


The Layout

The layout runs from south of Preston to North of Gretna Junction with some short sections of the joining lines:

  • Preston to Blackpool
  • Carnforth to east/west
  • Settle and Carlisle
  • Oxenholme to Windermere, etc.

These branches might be extended and/or detailed in due course.

Main features of the line (from north to south)

  • Gretna Jct, just into Scotland the non-electrified line to Dumfries and Ayr diverges from the mainline
  • Between Gretna and Carlisle should be the large Kingmoor marshalling yard and depot. At the moment I haven’t modelled Kingmoor as the program could not handle the complexities without killing the frame rate. It should be possible to model Kingmoor in a later version.
  • Carlisle is a complex area with a lot of junctions and will tax the power of the computer. I have modelled the freight avoiding line - which was closed in the eighties but adds interest to the area.
  • South of Carlisle is the long climb through Penrith to Shap. There are plenty of freight loops to allow fast expresses to overtake slower freights.
  • From Shap down through Tebay to Oxenholme. This includes the scenic section through the Lune Gorge south of Tebay. I haven’t modelled the M6 motorway - this is a railway simulator after all, and Shap Fell is much nicer without the tarmac.
  • At Oxenholme the line to Kendal branches off.
  • Carnforth has the junction with the coast line to Barrow and the line to the east towards Leeds. There should also be a lot more sidings, but I haven’t modelled these yet.
  • Lancaster and the branch to Morecombe.
  • Preston is another complex area, and again frame rates will be low here, north of the station the line to Blackpool heads off west.

Building the layout

The layout was built with the digitiser, so laying the route (once the digitiser was set up) was very quick. I laid double track the whole length from North to South in one go before setting the grades and elevations. To grade the track, I took the gradient profile and entered the gradients into an excel spreadsheet to find node elevations at key points. Next I ran a loco from end to end of the line with “Show Distance from zero” turned on to find the relevant points where I needed to set the elevations. Once this was done I used “Grade between markers” to set the grades over the length of the layout.

Next I used the digitiser again to import dem terrain points into the layout, and after triangulation ran my test loco along the line again checking the terrain and tweaking a few points where required.

Next I used the Quick Sigs function to add four-aspect signals the length of the line.

Only once the gradients were satisfactory, I started adding loops, sidings, crossovers etc, using the Quail plans as a guide.

Two big tasks were to layout the major stations of Preston and Carlisle where I referred again to the Quail plans for details, although as I mentioned above I wanted to include the Carlisle freight avoiding lines which has been removed by the date of my edition of the Quail plan.

Next I added the river Lune around Tebay and stitched the course of the river in order to form the gorge, and again some tweaking of the terrain was needed.

Trains and Routes

At the moment the routes are fairly simple.

Electric hauled expresses

  • 1A87 Stops: Preston
  • 1B87 Stops: Preston, Carlisle, Lancaster
  • 1C86 Stops: Preston, Carlisle, Lancaster, Oxenholme
  • 1D87 Stops: Preston, Carlisle, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith

Diesel Express

1S47 Class 47 hauled between Settle & Carlisle line and G&sw line

Local dmu’s

Local dmu services are implemented in and out of Carlisle (to workington line) and around Preston (to Blackpool line).

Freight services

Various freight services (mostly using freightliner or tanker wagons) run on the mainline, at the moment these run into a stub at Kingmoor and turn back to the south. These services should be looped to allow the expresses to pass.

Layout Version 1 (Dec 07)

  • Mainline largely complete, fully signalled and most sidings and loops in place.
  • Carlisle based on Quail plan, but adapted to earlier layout (as far as I can remember it)
  • Preston based on Quail plan of 1990.
  • I haven’t added any roads, even the M6.
  • River Lune in Tebay area
  • Kingmoor yard is only modelled as a simple stub, there should be also be four tracks between Kingmoor and the junction with the freight line.

Todo list


  • Some rivers need to be added, eg at Lancaster, north of Oxenholme, south of Preston and south of Penrith, as these have a significant effect on the terrain. I haven’t tweaked the terrain in these areas, knowing that I plan to put the rivers in.
  • Station buildings, esp Preston, Carlisle, Penrith, Lncaster
  • Branches to Blackpool, Morecombe and Kendal
  • Extend Barrow line
  • Add local services and branch services
  • Add bridges/viaducts over rivers
  • Add road bridges
  • Improve models of 87/86 (and would love to have 81..85 as well)
  • Dig the old model of the apt out of the archive and update it

Anyone able to help with some of the above models needed, please get in touch.

A Note on Frame rates

This is a big layout, it does require a powerful pc to run effectivly. Frame rates will be low, especially in the Preston and Carlisle areas. I’m afraid there won’t be much we can do about this until the new version of Rail3D with DirectX 9 is ready.

Improvements to stock, such as the recent mkii updates by Andrew Masterson have helped a lot, and it is hoped that there will be an updated 86/87 before too long.