Layout – Umkhulu Modules

Umkhulu Modules (this is a slightly edited version of an article which originally appeared in ‘Steam in the Garden Volume 18 no 3 – May/June 2008

“Ex Africa semper aliquid novi”

Pliny the Elder AD 23-79 would have us believe. Roughly translated this means there is always something new from Africa. Well, not in this case. It has all been done before, many times and probably better but this is how I planned and built a portable (?!) modular layout to run live steam on 32mm and 45mm tracks. The layout is called Umkhulu Modules.

It all started when my wife went out to buy a loaf of bread and returned with a townhouse. My dearly beloved had run in to an estate agent at the shop who asked if we were thinking of moving house as she had this divine townhouse for sale. WE were certainly not thinking of moving. WE had a ‘rondavel’ in the garden which had been custom built as a billiard room. It was 28 feet in diameter and had a high thatched roof. The previous owners of the house had kindly sold the billiard table leaving the room empty but it did not stay that way for long. After a short spell as an exercise studio, the room had accommodated Durban Modular Railroaders (DMR), an HO/Hon3 portable modular layout for 15 years (it started off as portable doing shows in shopping centres but eventually transporting, erecting and dismantling became too much like hard work). In addition I had a 45mm track running around our swimming pool so you could say that I was happily ensconced on the property. But to be fair, our lives were changing. Our children had flown the nest and maintaining a large, thatched property for just the two of us began to make little sense so after humming and hawing over the townhouse a decision was made to move. This obviously involved dismantling the HO/Hon3 layout (still in storage 14 years after our move!) and digging up the track around the swimming pool. That was quite a traumatic process

To read more about Umkhulu Modules please view here