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The Diorama Depicting a Train outside Wingfield Station in 1840

Below is an article written by Louis Heath who created the wonderful diorama that is on display at Wingfield Station, inside the booking hall.

The Diorama depicting a train outside Wingfield Station in 1840


Louis Heath. B.Sc(Tech)  C.Eng.

Historical Model Railay Society, member 6329


This is a very interesting period in railway history, when photography had not yet been (or had barely been) invented and we have only the written word, engineering/architectural drawings and artists' impressions of doubtful accuracy, to rely on. Fortunately we do have the magnificently restored Wingfield Station, which is now open to the general public who, in the author’s opinion, need to be shown what a train looked like at that time, just to put it into context.


The North Midland Railway, running from Derby to Leeds, only lasted from 1840 to 1844 when it was merged with others to become the Midland Railway. It was a time of great social upheaval as the downtrodden working class had just began to see a beginning of social mobility and the gentry sought to retain their position at the top of the pile. 


So how does a conscientious modeller set about building an accurate model of a train that ran on a brand new railway in competition with canals and stage coaches at the dawn of the industrial revolution? I suppose that the answer is that he can't. What I have done is to create a generic model of a typical train of the period based on the evidence that I have managed to glean. Others will undoubtedly claim they could have done a better job than me. No doubt they could.


Scale and Resources


The model track is Gauge 1 determined by the need for the public to see the detail and also the availability of the Occre laser cut kit for the locomotive "der Adler",  which was supplied by Robert Stephenson in 1835 to the Bavarian Ludwig Railway. This really was a very small locomotive and the kit is built to a scale of 1/24. It is of the Patentee 2-2-2 type.  With the requirement for more powerful locomotives to pull heavier trains, this was developed into larger versions. So I decided to Anglicise the locomotive and treat it as a 1/30 scale model. This makes it of a similar size to the drawings of locomotives in " Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, practically described  and illustrated" by Francis Wishaw, first published in 1840. Fortunately it was republished in 1969 and is a veritable tome and highly regarded. 


George Stephenson recommended that the locomotives on the North Midland Railway should run on 3 axles as those on 2 supplied to other railways were breaking the track due to their heavier axle loading.  We know that a large proportion of the 40 or so locomotives on the North Midland Railway were of this type.  I have been unable to find any records of numbers or names carried on the NMR locos in 1840 so my locomotive is anonymous.


The train of carriages


The construction of the carriages would not have been possible without the assistance of my son and his 3d printer. For the uninitiated let me explain the process: you just search on the internet for the model you want to print and download the STL file (acronym for stereolithography) onto your printer. Many authors supply their files free of charge, but others guard their copyright and you may have to pay a nominal sum. You can alter the scale you want to model in on a percentage basis and off you go. The resin is very tough and special adhesives, such as super glue are required. The fumes are toxic and a respirator should be worn. Because the carriages are not intended to be run on a model railway suitable wheels for the period were also 3d printed. 


The London Midland & Scottish Railway built some 4 wheeled carriages in 1929 to run with their replica of George Stephenson's locomotive Rocket for the centenary of the Rainhill trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. They may be seen in the National Railway Museum at York. The Rainhill trials established the supremacy of steam traction for the next 130 years. 


We found the STL files on line and printed one which was similar, but not identical, to the drawings in Whishaw's aforementioned book. The chassis is a bit modern and not quite right and the side windows of the three compartments are rectangular rather than curved in the opposite bottom corners like those of a stage coach. At that time the railways were buying carriages from stage coach builders, hence the characteristic design of the carriages. The guards sat on the ends of the roofs to watch over the train and operated the brakes on that carriage only, with a hand wheel. There were no guards vans and so passenger's luggage and other goods were carried on the roof under a tarpaulin.  I added the brakes and handrails.

Safety chains were added to the buffer beams in case the main coupling broke, to prevent the following un-braked stock running away.


Whishaw states that NMR carriages were painted Spanish Brown, (which is dark brown), picked out in black. Some sources indicate that they were yellow, but I preferred to paint them brown, which was easier. I have no idea what style of lettering the NMR applied, but the public need to be informed what they are looking at, so I adapted a set of North Eastern Railway carriage transfers supplied by the Historical Model Railway Society, from my personal stock. All carriage numbers are fictitious.


The next carriage is a first/second class composite based on the restored Stockton and Darlington Railway carriage in the Locomotion Museum at Shildon. Only people who paid the extra to travel first class had the luxury of upholstery and comfortable seats with a clear view of the passing countryside, so the outer two carriages had their side windows boarded up and wooden seats.  The braking system is different to that on the first class carriage.


The open second has no windows at all, but has the benefit of a roof. George Stephenson insisted that the three compartments should have full partitions between them. They have wooden seats. The chassis is from the same source as the first and composite. There are no brakes. The body is scratch built from ply.


The open third is designed to carry 40 people. How they fitted them all in am not sure. In case of rain or incontinence holes in the floor were provided. These holes also provided up-draught and prevented passengers being too warm below their knees, thus encouraging them to pay the higher fare for more salubrious second class travel.               

For poor people it was either that or walk. The chassis is a cut down version of that employed for the previous three. Again, there are no brakes.


In the last Parliamentary session of 1844, the young W.E.Gladstone, President of the Board of Trade introduced his Bill, which duly became law, that each railway company should provide one train a day which would convey third class passengers in  vehicles with seats protected from the weather “as far as is consistent with the necessary admission of light and air” at a rate of 1 penny per mile.


The Gentry had their own horse drawn carriages and preferred to travel in them rather than with the first class passengers, but railways were much faster than roads so they put their carriages onto specially provided carriage trucks and travelled in them in splendid isolation. They also took their own horses who travelled in a horse box which provided better accommodation than that provided for third class humans. On arrival at Wingfield (or other stations) the carriage truck and horse box would have been detached from the end of the train and shunted by hand or by horse power into the carriage siding where there was provision for wheeling the carriage onto the platform, unloading the horses and so away to their country estates for the summer. The carriage truck was 3d printed from an STL file provided by an anonymous benefactor. The noticeably shorter horse box chassis is a cut down version of the latter. Both daylight and ventilation were provided and a horse can be seen peering out. The horse drawn carriage is the very latest thing, a Brougham, just recently invented by Lord Brougham, with vastly superior steel springs to give a smoother ride. It was also 3d printed and the suspension works.


The Back scene


The back scene of Wingfield Station was printed for us by Scalology and is based on one of their range of 7mm to the foot scale scenes (1/43 scale). This one is called Tall Trees. James Boon Architects prepared a 1/30 scale architects drawing of the front of the station and the station house which was tinted to represent new stone work and the background was rendered transparent. This was then emailed to Scalology who electronically pasted it onto their Tall Trees back scene and printed a copy onto self-adhesive 'paper'. A shallow platform between the back of the train and the back

scene is provided using Slater's Plastikard worked stone for the platform face and paving slabs on the platform.


The whole diorama is 1.6 metres long and just fits onto the mantelpiece without defacing the mantel shelf and the new plaster. 


The Figures


A selection of cheap seated scale passengers was purchased from China. These had to be modified to represent early Victorians which was accomplished by adding outer garments made with Milliput, a two part epoxy putty which comes in sticks of different colours. Equal parts are cut off and kneaded together until a uniform colour is produced. The resulting putty mixture is self-adhesive and may be rolled out or sculpted. It hardens over 3 or 4 hours. These were then painted using acrylics. I was ably assisted by Ian Willey and Ian Holliday. Lots of passengers were required for the open third and they had to be squeezed in, chopping off bits to fit them together more closely. 


The locomotive crewmen were a little more difficult. Early photographs often depict them wearing top hats but this misleading because the senior managers of the railways liked to pose on their newly acquired engineering marvels, and top hats would have been impractical for the driver and fireman. As they are very visible they had to be posed correctly and so a pair of figures was purchased from Modelu. Some surgery and alterations to the position of the steam regulator handle were necessary to get the driver to look as if he is really controlling the locomotive. The fireman is nonchalantly leaning on his shovel. Modelu have a full body scanner and can produce finely detailed  3d printed models of actual people from life. They also scan statues of famous people and one of Robert Stephenson can be produced. The statue of George Stephenson outside Chesterfield Station is not suitable for a lifelike representation however.




We did not set out to build an accurate scale model of a North Midland Railway Train of 1840 because there is just not sufficient information available. Rather, we have produced a social statement about a world that was in transition. Reading the works of Charles Dickens one can see the disparity between the social classes and how the rich treated the poor. Not forgetting that the passengers travelling in open third class trucks with wooden seats were the luckier ones. If you could not afford the fare, you had to walk. George Stephenson himself was the son of a Geordie coal miner and at the age of 8 was paid 2d a day for looking after the horses on a farm, keeping them clear of the traffic on the Wylam Tramroad. He had very little education but witnessed the very earliest developments in steam traction and came up with ways of improving them, culminating with the Rocket which won the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. He and his son Robert were in demand from all over Europe and the British Empire to give advice on the feasibility of building railways, and the associated bridges and docks required to produce the transport infrastructure that we take for granted today.


In his retirement, George took up residence in Tapton House in Chesterfield, near to the North Midland Railway, which is only one of his many accomplishments.





  1. Whishaw’s Railways of Great Britain and Ireland (1842) Reprinted in 1969.

  2. Britain’s Railway Liveries Colours Crests and Linings 1825-1948 by Earnest F Carter 1952

  3. Nineteenth Century Railway Carriages, by Hamilton Ellis  1949

  4. The History of the Midland Railway by Charles E Stretton, 1901

  5. Travelling on the Victorian Railway by Anthony Dawson, 2017

  6. Working on the Victorian Railway by Anthony Dawson, 2017

  7. Early Railways, A Guide for the Modeller, by Peter Chatham and Stephen Weston, 2019

  8. Victorian Stations by Gerge Biddle, 1973

  9. North Midland – Portrait of a Famous Route. Part 1 Derby to Chesterfield, 2000

  10. Victorian and Edwardian Railways from old photographs, Jeoffrey Spence, 1975

  11. British Locomotive Catalogue 1825-1923, Volume 3A, Midland Railway and its Constituents. Compiled by Bertram Baxter and edited by David Baxter, 1982.

  12. George and Robert Stephenson – Pioneer Inventors and Engineers by Anthony Burton, 2020.

  13. The North Midland Railway Guide, 1842. Republished 1973 Introduction by O.Carter. Reprinted by the Derbyshire Historical Buildings Trust 2023.

  14. Midland Style by George Dow, with a contribution by R E Lacey, 1975

  15. Dickens on Railways : A Great Novelist’s Travels by Train, edited by Tony Williams


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