London Model Tramways

4mm scale model trams

Kingsway Subway - the model.

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Articles on Kingsway Subway appeared in the February 2006 edition of Railway Modeller magazine and also the Jan/Feb 2006 edition of Tramfare magazine.

The first part of the model was built during 2004, with the Embankment section being added in 2005. A further modification involved a new Theobalds Rd and return loop board being added. Previously the line curved round behind the Central School of Arts building - the new arrangement is nearer the prototype and has enabled the construction of a further building as well as the placing of a backscene showing a trolleybus driving down (the now vanished Parton Street) to the Bloomsbury terminus.

Inevitably much has had to be omitted – the real thing would be about 15 yards in length if modelled in its entirety. Hopefully the model shows the main features, and gives the flavour of the original.


Kingsway Subway was exhibited for the last time in 2010.

Plan of the layout. Much of the length of Kingsway and all of Aldwych are missing, but the general shape of the geography is retained. 



Baseboards and track

The baseboards are rather varied in construction due to the different levels involved in the model. These are built from plywood and softwood, and bolt together, supported on wooden legs.

The track used is Universal code 100 Peco Streamline, with small radius Peco points. The facing point leading into the Waterloo Bridge entrance of the Subway is controlled with a SEEP point motor. The trailing point is left free to move as the trams pass. Another point in the Subway leads to a hidden siding (this is non-prototypical unless you believe the episode of the Goon’s Show that featured the Subway!), and is in practice seldom used. It is controlled via a push rod. 

A view looking down into the cutting from which the Southampton Row ramp rises. The (overscale) scribed setts can be seen. 

On visible sections, the track is covered with Polyfilla , which is then scribed when dry, to represent the stone setts. A groove must also be cut close to the running rail to allow space for the wheel flanges. The rest of the road surface is represented by painted hardboard which is the right thickness to acheive a road surface just below rail level. In the Kingsway tunnel, painted card is used to represent the concrete surface. A strip of plasticard is used on visible sections to represent the conduit rails (fitted before the filler is laid). 



Electrics and operation

Since it was built, the layout has received numerous modifications. The original layout without the Embankment simply had a return loop turning the trams from the southbound platform to the northbound one. At this stage the layout used an H & M Duette providing separate north and south feeds. With the addition of the Embankment a Morley Vector twin controller was used to provide feeds to the Subway and Embankment sections (and also provided a CDU for the point motor under Waterloo Bridge. To allow for a greater intensity of service however, the Duette has reappeared now controlling the north and southbound sections of the Subway, and the Vector now controls the north and south sections of the Embankment. Generally the 'juice' is left set to a suitable level and the tram cars are driven 'on the switches', i.e. a section up ahead is switched off so that the car will halt - usually at a stop.This allows the operator to start a car from a stop and then turn his attention to another car safe in the knowledge that the first will halt at an appropriate place. Most stops allow for two or more cars to wait in line. Four cars can queue in each of the station platforms.

A queue of cars on the Embankment easily achieved through the use of sectioning and replicating a once commonplace scene.

Each of the three hidden return loops (one at Theobalds Rd, one at Hungerford Bridge, and another representing Blackfriars) has a number of switched sections and so cars can be parked awaiting their re-entry 'on stage'. The Theobalds Rd loop has a passing loop so that cars can be taken out of service as required. Because of the steep 1 in 10 entrance ramp the northbound 'juice' has to be turned up to enable a car to climb the slope and not fly off the edge of the baseboard! All of this makes Kingsway a demanding layout to operate although practice does help.  




 An aerial view of the entrance ramp. The descending car on the left will have been switched on from the Theobalds Rd stop and the operator will be secure that it will stop safely on a switched section in the southbound platform. The ascending car will be under power to climb the slope before the juice is reduced when it turns into Theobalds Road.


A small 12v transformer provides power for station lights. It is also used to operate an electric counter that counts how many trips have been made past Cleopatra’s Needle. During a day’s running at an exhibition, this can be into the hundreds. A further use of the transformer is to power a signal for trams entering the Subway from the Embankment. This signal only lights when the way is clear for the Embankment operator to send the next tram into the tunnel. Once the tram has entered the Subway the Embankment operator may ring a bell to alert the Kingsway operator, who will do likewise when he passes a tram south from Holborn Station for the Embankment operator to take out from Waterloo Bridge.

A view of Holborn tram station. Taking a successful photo here is as difficult as it was on the prototype! The clear plastic roof can be seen above the two trams that are waiting to  head north. The one heading south is invisible to the operator.

Southbound trams in the station are invisible to the Kingsway operator, their position only indicated by section switches in the ‘off’ position. Using this method a southbound tram might stop at the far end of the platform of Holborn Station. The switch for the section behind it is then turned ‘off’ before the next southbound tram stops neatly behind. A similar arrangement is used northbound as well, although these trams can be seen by the operator through the clear plastic road surface.  

An aerial view showing the plastic 'road surface' that allows the northbound line to be seen. The southbound line is under the road surface in front of Holborn Underground station. This also shows the pedestrian stair wells that gave access to the tram station. There was no direct access to the Underground station - passengers had to cross the road.

The slope is genuinely 1 in 10 just the same as the real thing. Only one tram should be on each line on the slope. Sometimes if there is a hold up on the Embankment, southbound trams might fill the platform leading to another tram having to wait at the loading island in Theobald’s Road. 




Two cars waiting at the Theobalds Rd loading island, prior to diving down the ramp into the Subway. The driver of the first would be watching a signal mounted on one of the ornamental lighting pillars to tell him that the previous car has cleared the station. 

From Theobalds Rd, northbound trams pass through the ‘sky’. Offstage there are an inner and outer loop, each sectioned which can hold two and four cars respectively.


The view 'offstage' in the Theobalds Rd loop area. This view shows it filled to maximum capacity. Usually cars out of service will wait on the inner loop, whilst service cars run round the outer loop.

At either end of the Embankment are smaller return loops. That at Hungerford Bridge will hold four trams. They cannot be seen by the Embankment operator so a detector system is employed to give him a visual indication. As the trams enter and leave this loop, the cars overhang the track considerably, and two passing cars would collide. The entrance and exit to this loop are therefore controlled by the same switch which allows only one section to be live at any time. Although the layout is primarily intended to show the workings of the Subway, other services running along the Embankment are also represented. These turn in another loop just past Waterloo Bridge. The Embankment operator thus has to identify trams and direct them correctly. 


A view on the Embankment showing car 85 an ex-East Ham tram on route 38 being followed by an RTL bus on tram replacement route 155, and then a Feltham completing it's turn around the Embankment loop ready for a trip to Croydon. On the far left a Subway car is turning into the entrance under Waterloo Bridge.



Buildings and scenery.

Most of the buildings still exist, and so it was possible for many photographs to be taken for reference. Plasticard was used for the frontages with various layers being used to build up detail. The windows are printed by computer printer and then fixed behind clear acetate sheet. Some of the buildings have been reduced in size in order to be more manageable – either losing an odd floor or section.    


Africa House still stands in Kingsway partially occupied by a pub. In reality the Subway continues under the roadway before following the route beneath Aldwych before exiting under Waterloo Bridge. On the model all this is missing and the road continues over the bridge.  Just above the higher pair of pillars can be seen a flat panel - on the real building this is a sculpted frieze representing Africa with a lion and more - I'm not sure how this could be done! 

Holborn Underground station had been redesigned by Charles Holden in the thirties. The booking hall features automatic ticket machines. A new 'split screen' Morris Minor passes by.

Backdrop to many Kingsway Subway pictures is the building housing the Central School of Arts. Students at the college apparently 'obtained' a VIA KINGSWAY SUBWAY side board from a passing tram as a momento and someone took a very helpful photograph from one of the windows which gave me an exact shape for the Theobalds Rd loading island. Whilst exhibiting the layout I have met the lady who maintained the lifts in the building that dates from the early 1900s and also someone who was lectured by Harry Beck (of tube map fame) whilst at the school.

Another area that is difficult to photograph. The sky board behind the bridge and the entrance to the Blackfriars loop are hard to avoid. This is where the Subway cars turn left to enter the subway whilst other services continue to Blackfriars. The Embankment operator has to be on his toes not to divert a 38 or worse still the Feltham into the tunnel! Felthams did pass through the Subway on transfer to south London - but it was done at night and very slowly because of the tight clearances. Even today one can still see the metal loops from which the TRAMWAY CROSSING sign was suspended below the bridge span.

On the Embankment, mounting card is used for Waterloo Bridge, the Embankment wall, and Cleopatra’s Needle. The hieroglyphics are not necessarily accurate – so no jokes about spelling mistakes please.   



The features of the Victoria Embankment are distinctive and were not difficult to make. The two sphinxes are (crudely) carved from wood. The characteristic lamps are built from cocktail sticks, beads, twisted wire and card. I had wondered whether to provide a sky board here or to leave it open, but it gives protection whilst travelling. I've never been brave enough to try to depict the scene across the river - maybe it's a foggy day in London town?


The ornate railings, so distinctive of the Southampton Row entrance ramp and station stairwells are constructed using plastic station fencing with additional detailing from plasticard. 






Although not bearing close examination the railings around the station entrances and ramp were an essential component. The signs show blank spaces and erasures as a result of the withdrawal of route 31 in 1950. Today the railings and stone base have gone - one set is at Crich stored alongside the track - but you can stand on the island in the middle of Kingsway and look through a steel grille to the steps below!


The slope was a steep 1 in 10 giving the effect of a roller coaster as the tram hurtled into the subway. A newspaper report suggested a ride through the subway as a half term treat giving a thrilling ride downwards, and, on the upward journey the excitement of the possibility of the tram sliding as it moved from the traffic light at the top of the incline.


 A pair of 35s pass on the ramp. At the top the driver had a signal interlinked with the traffic lights. Even today the conduit slot rail has a plate which appears to show the location of a detector which one assumes was intended to minimise delay. But trams did have to wait, and in the wet with a full load the driver had to be careful when the time came to move across to Theobalds Rd. He might dispense sand to aid traction and would hopefully not blow the breaker and have the tram roll backwards down the slope!

Road vehicles

The buses on the streets are all appropriate for early 1951. RTs and RTLs are beginning to be the standard London bus. Some can still be seen with wartime standard reduced destination displays and cream upper window surrounds. Others are in overall red with full blind displays. Older vehicles still survive though including STL, STD and D. The latter are seen in red and green, as some former Greenline examples were re-used on routes from Merton garage.


An RT crosses Kingsway on route 25. It has the early postwar livery with cream window frames and a blind still to the wartime standard. Behind (on the backscene) is a later RTL with a complete set of blinds. 


The layout is set in early 1951, just when the batch of green Daimlers had been transferred to Merton Garage after their replacement by new green RTs at Romford. Here a green D type is followed by one in more usual livery.



A further example of the variety of buses to be seen in 1951 is provided by this STD operating on the 77A route.

Being 1951, the Festival of Britain is in the news. This was held on the south bank opposite Waterloo Bridge. On the bridge can be seen an R stock Underground car being transported care of Pickfords, to be an exhibit in a show of what postwar Britain could produce. This was one of the first aluminium cars, and so part of the body was left unpainted. Some years later the first fully unpainted cars were to enter service. 


The partially unpainted R stock complete with police escort is just crossing Waterloo Bridge although Africa House is still visible on the left! Clive Greedus built the Pickfords lorry and trailer and detailed my scratch-built R stock car.

In recent years the number and quality of scale model road vehicles has improved no end. There are still perhaps not enough prewar vehicles available - in 1951 most cars on the road were those that had survived the war - perhaps having been 'laid up' for the duration. New cars were for export - home buyers would have to wait months for a new car. 

A new Austin FX3 taxi heads south along Kingsway whilst a Ford van of the E83W type which was first built in 1938 stands at the traffic lights waiting alongside the wartime austerity Daimler on route 77. 







A former ST bus now employed as a tree-lopper enables it's crew to attend to the trees in Kingsway. This is another scratchbuilt model detailed by Clive Greedus.





FX3 taxis wait opposite Africa house as an STD heads southwards.  

Two new postwar cars, a Triumph and Austin wait in Kingsway for the Holborn traffic lights to change.

The Trams

The Subway was served by E3 and HR2 trams. Outwardly these were similar to the majority of other London trams, but they had steel bodies - an important factor designed to reduce the danger of fire whilst in the Subway. The models have been converted from the Tower Trams E1 plastic kit. This involves replacing the lower side panels and rebuilding the ends of the upper deck.

The cars have to climb the 1 in 10 ramp up to Southampton Row, and to achieve this, are fitted with Tenshodo SPUD motor bogies. The trams therefore have only four wheels, not eight. Cosmetic bogie sides are fixed to the bottom of the body sides and these disguise the SPUD. The motor bogies are fitted with a plasticard chassis which is laden with lead to assist traction. The completed unit fits inside the tram car body against ledges just under the lower deck window level.

Even a scratchbuilt model of ‘Bluebird’ tram number 1 and a Feltham used on the Embankment section are fitted with similar chassis. All trams are fitted with appropriate posters and route details printed on the computer. Driver and conductor are fitted at opposite ends of the tram – Kingsway uses return loops and so the driver always faces forward.   

Ex LCC E3 car 1995 rounds the curve towards the entrance ramp. There were two batches of E3s one of former Leyton cars and one of LCC. From this angle the SPUD's four wheels are rather apparent - in practice the trick seems not be noticed!


As well as the E3s, cars of classes HR2 were also operated through the Subway, running on route 35. These had similar bodies but had equal wheel trucks and were originally intended for use on 'Hilly Routes'. Many of the HR2s were not equipped with trolley poles and were thus confined to wholy conduit routes. Car 149 is one of these.

Car 1 was known as Bluebird having originally been painted in a striking blue / ivory livery and used on the Subway routes.  Later it was painted red and used for enthusiasts tours including runs through the Subway. It is currently displayed at the National Tramway Museum at Crich, unfortunately in non-operational condition.

After the war the modern Feltham trams were transferred to Telford Avenue depot. They would often run on the 16/18 route which ran from Purley to the Embankment. Here ex-LUT 2135 heads towards Hungerford Bridge and thence to Westminster ready for it's return to Purley. An E3 heads north about to enter the Subway.

The ex-East Ham cars were basically copies of the standard LCC E1, and some lasted right to end of the London trams. Here car 85 heads north along the Embankment. The RTL bus on route 155 is also going north - southbound buses used the reserved tram track, and there were at least two accidents as the two modes of transport came together! 



 Car No.





















LCC experimental car

ex-East Ham

ex-LCC HR2 with rehab top deck

ex-LCC HR2

ex-LCC E3

ex-LCC E3 last Kingsway service car

ex-LCC E3

ex-LCC E3

ex-LUT Feltham


Works Cars

London Transport had a fleet of works cars which could occasionally be seen around the system attending to utilitarian tasks. If the viewer is lucky and patient, he may see some on the Kingsway layout. 


Car 015 is caught having just climbed the ramp, perhaps on it's way to Holloway depot with a load of sand. All cars carried sand in hoppers under the long seats in the saloon which was dispensed to aid traction in the wet.

012 was one of a pair of similar cars used for carrying wheels and other heavy items between depots.

In winter there was a small army of snow ploughs and snow brooms - here is snow broom 037 - equipped with rotating brushes under the platforms which brushed the snow from the tracks. Going the other way is a scratchbuilt model of one of the Karrier breakdown tenders which would pull or push a disabled tram in order to clear the way for other cars held up behind.

Tram stop



No trams in sight. The Embankment had been built with a wide roadway which allowed the trams to run on a reserved track near to the Thames whilst other traffic used the rest of the road. After the tram tracks were taken up the road became the dual carriageway that we know today. On the model Cleopatra's Needle should be further along from Waterloo Bridge.




An enlargement of the previous picture shows Uncle Angus being photographed in front of the Needle, but also poses a question 



The tram stop is one of the very few to have one of the new concrete posts - similar to many hundreds of bus stops then being erected. Rather than red, tram stops had  blue bullseyes on the flag, Green Line coaches had green. By LT logic then the ceramic cap which indicated a fare stage should also be blue - just like I have painted it - but was it - all my pictures of the real thing are black and white! There were so few of this type of tram stop that perhaps LT cheated and used a red bus one - do you know - have you a colour photo - please let me know!