Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Here's some more, it's number 4

So, number 4 of the 5 best narrow gauge layouts is:

Well, it's another historical prototype. It was close between 'borth y gest' and this layout for the 4th position (I felt I couldn't include both due to the historical stock similarities).

It suffers from that annoying scale fascism I go on about. It's 3/16" (4.76mm) Scale at 9mm Gauge! This is known a S scale and is 19% larger than 4mm scale, allowing the incorporation of more detail, but with clear drawbacks in the number of kits available and inter-use of other people's models on the layout. boo hiss!

The layout is a labour of love: trackwork is laid with individual cast white metal chairs. Whilst the locomotives are scratchbuilt, with split frame chassis and Portescap motors.

The scenics are fabulous - rock faces very believable, slate walls laboriously built up piece by piece and buildings scratch built to model exactly the prototype.

You've guessed it - 'Tan Y Grisiau'

Historical Ffestiniog layouts such as this one do tend to suffer from a restricted pallet - slate grey, some green scenics and a dull red livery on almost all stock! This is also true of 'borth y gest', and it can make these layouts 'boring' to the uninititated. But then it's also correct!!!

This is a true classic layout - most excellent.

There is a photo section in the Railway Modeller Dec 1997 or see


Monday, February 26, 2007

stay alive it's number 5!


This is the start of a week of posts on the best of the best 009 layouts. We start with 'Dulas', a lovely model of the Corris Railway. This now resides in the Corris Railway's museum/tearoom.

See for some other photos...

What makes this layout great is the utter believability (helped of course by modelling a real scene, albeit historically). You can really believe you're in the scene when you get down to eye level. The buildings are superbly modelled, scenics are really impressive (including the extraordinary idea of using the hairy fibre bits from coconuts as dead bracken) and there are the 'right' amount of people, sheep and details like phone boxes etc. A super little layout.

The only criticisms I can think of are:

1) That it is a static exhibit in the museum, rather than out and about promoting the railway and top class scenic modelling
2) Some of the slate walls are a bit too regular and flat
3) Some of the background trees aren't quite as believable as other bits of the scenics.

But that's nitpicking really, a top layout and a good start to my week of reviews.

For more info on Dulas, either visit the Corris Railway - or see the Oct 1999 Railway Modeller (there'll be one on ebay!).


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Coaching manual (part 2)

Following various purchases, I have settled on the following as the first sets of coaches to be completed. I have kits for all these in stock:

Core FR set:
14 (ex Lynton and Barnstaple brake)
103 (modern bogie)
104 (modern bogie)
37 (semi-open small bogie)
38 (semi-open small bogie)
11 [van 4]
12 [van 5]

WHR Set 1:
2115 Pullman
2090 saloon brake
2040 saloon
2020 open
23 heritage WHR ashbury bogie
B wagon (for bikes)

FR Heritage Set:
Bug 4
Ashbury 4-wheeler 9
Bowsider 17
Bowsider 20
Curly Roofed Van

WHR works train:
1000 (mess car ex 100)
SAR brake
3 B wagons

PLUS various other wagons, to include a slate train.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

The green green grass of home...


Long grass is hard to model correctly. I've heard of various ideas:

- Rubberised horse hair, which I think looks too long and doesn't stand up in the way long grass does

- Silflor, mentioned previously on this blog, great but very expensive. I will use this in parts.

- Woodland scenics 'field grass', good for clumps, but fiddly to do right

but, perhaps the link below is actually the answer??? Utilise static to make the grass stand on end. I might not absolutely like the colours chosen in this example and I would definitely want to add other types of material amongst it to break it up as well as field grass, silflor, scatters and other bits...but the base idea is worth a go I reckon:


Friday, February 23, 2007

What makes a good layout?


So, after 5 posts on layouts from Shepton Mallet, what can we deduce about what makes a good layout?

Well these are my top 10 things:

- Scenics - believable, not gaudy and nicely blended

- Prototyical scenes - again believable, even if its a fictional layout, let's have some realism - not a 9F on a B set or a small engine like 'Lilla' hauling 10 coaches etc.

- Atmosphere - I want to feel like I'm actually 'in' the scene. Bad backscenes regularly ruin good layouts.
- Consistency - every corner should be as well modelled as the focal point

- Liveries/paint schemes - either the correct prototype livery or something sensible - weird and crazy liveries are a massive turn-off for me
- Decent running - I know that's not always possible, but most of the time.
- Painted track and correct colour ballast

- Decent weathering of stock where appropriate

- Structures, bridges etc that are architecturally correct

and, above all:

- The overall impression is what matters, yes bits of guitar string to help uncouple are operationally nice, but they ruin realism and the layout becomes a train set, rather than a model.

Next week, I'll be considering, given these criteria, which are the best narrow gauge layouts and what Rhyd Ddu can learn from them....


Thursday, February 22, 2007

last one...


Last post on Shepton Mallet then...

Big Cat Mine Co, a classic now at the show, simple but superbly detailed. Just beautiful. Doesn't seem to have been improved since last year, but is it possible to improve it?? 9/10

Stump City. Odd one this, because previously I have written it off as just another round and round layout (and I'm not much into American lumber layouts). However, my brother David really liked it, which brought the necessary interest and having had a decent look at it, I agree it's actually very well done. See the building above, very nice indeed.
Some cheeky little extendable spots on Tor Farm - nice idea....I wonder where these came from?

Cascade Yard in On3. 3ft gauge Canadian's just Canadian comments to make really...just Canadian stuff.... that I'm not much bothered about...

and finally, Aberfal Mining and Minerals Ltd in another unusual scale of 1/2" to the foot.

Traders? Not bad
- The 009 sale stand is always worth a look (and the cheque book took some serious damage!)
- Worsley works had the new SAR brake van done (so that got snapped up too)
- Two bookstalls were good
- Parkside Dundas were there (but why pay top whack, when you can get the same stuff second hand on the 009 society stand?)
- Backwoods Miniatures (mostly peddling On3/On30 stuff, only the 7mm Beyer-Garratt was on display from non-US prototypes)
- Mercian (had spent all cash by then, so didn't really look, but some of their FR wagons are good and the kit for Welsh Pony is great [if a little pricey])
- In 7mm wrightlines, port wynnstay, the 7mm society sales and others were there and then there were an assortment of traders from the other scales too.

So, not bad at all really, although there wasn't a tools stand or anyone selling woodland scenics (green scene were there, but their stuff is second rate to woodland scenics in my view).

Catering was good, ham rolls at a £1 - bargain. However, I felt overall the layouts weren't as good as previous years (compare Narrow Gauge North in Leeds next month - Dinas Ddu, Tan-yr-allt, Borth-y-gest etc..) and there were a few holes in the trader support. So overall, the exhibition gets 9/10 - it's always nice to have some room for improvement!


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

and on, and on (and ariston?)


Remember than ariston ad - whatever happened to them? So, part 4...

Aldbourne in 009. An English narrow gauge railway that was beautifully modelled except that I found it a little boring, looking like an all-too-common standard gauge branch line and the trees on the backscene - what's with them? 8/10

Hampstead Norreys in O-16.5. Nice stock - bugs, GVT tram loco, Harlech Castle etc.

Pagham Harbour in 009. Lovely, curvy nature created interest, scenics were spot on and the stock was good too.

A sprung crossover on Paley Green Tramway (G scale) - very nice indeed.

And finally (for now, another update tomorrow), the quite novel 2mm narrow gauge group's example 'layout'. So small even my young eyes wouldn't know where to start!


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

and another one!


some more...

This is Exdale, in O-16.5, a mineral/passenger line somewhere in England. It was OK, but very nondescript, even boring really. Parts of the scenics let it down, such as the long grass tufts in the picture below...

The 5.5mm people were there too. I've never really understood why there is a need for this scale. Surely 4mm or 7mm is enough choice. It runs on 3mm track )12mm between the rails)which equates closer to 2ft than 009 (which is really 2 foot 3). The problem, is the lack of stock, which means much has to be scratch built. However, I was pleasantly surprised by that now available (see below):

and for some light relief, this cheeky little loco (can I call it that) was spotted next to Aldbourne (more on that lovely layout later). A full 10/10 for comedy value.


Monday, February 19, 2007

More from Somerset, hic!


Gosh that Cider's nice, hic!

More from Shepton then...

This is 'Shapwick Moor' in )-16.5. It depicts a narrow gauge line for the peat industry in the Somerset area. Not necessarily my cup of tea (which is typhoo decaf at the mo), but pretty well done.
This is 'Matthews Corner' in the bizarre scale of Gn15 (1:24 on OO track apparently!). It's a small layout with just one point and must be a little boring to operate. However, it shows what can be done in a small area in a fairly large scale. The buildings were very nicely modelled. 8/10
Watt Estate in O-9 (O gauge on 9mm track). It represents a fictitious 15" estate railway, such as that built in 1895 at Eaton Hall.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

It just goes to show...

Hi all,

A rather enjoyable weekend. Saturday was the annual (now traditional) jaunt to Shepton Mallet for 'Narrow Gauge South West' and then on to Cheddar and the Thatcher's cider shop at Sandford. The latter sports 2.5L of top local cider straight from the barrel at £2.65!!! - brilliant!!

Anyway, this is the first of a series of posts this week on the exhibition...enjoy! First up, is a cheeky little layout based on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway. [Please note my use of miniature here, I cannot stand people calling 15" gauge railways and the like, narrow gauge!].

This layout cleverly (and uniquely??) used OO scale locos and OO track, with scratch built coaches. What a good idea!

Any Garratts on show?? Well, apart from the bargain K1 backwoods kit I picked up for £40 less than list price(!!), there were two others...

This backwoods NGG16 in 7mm 'ready to run'! It's put together in the Chinese factory of Mr Cheng for a rather chunky sum of money (out of my league entirely). I have to say, however, it does not sport the elementary mistakes on the O scale black 5 or King they also now do 'ready to run', but don't get me started on that one!

And this G scale NGG16 No. 143, resplendent and 'steaming' by remote control. Super! tempting to give this 10/10, but I'm kind of biased aren't I!!

More from this show in the next few days....

Don't miss the latest on the real WHR by the way - the Afon Dylif bridge was lifted in on Saturday -


Sunday, February 11, 2007


Went to Felley Priory today for 'snowdrop Sunday' - very nice! Sunny weather, a little damp under foot still, but the snowdrops and hellebores were lovely. Tea and fruit cake was good too.

Snowdrops never seem to come out too well in shots like these, but there are loads behind Claire and Thomas (I promise).

Anyway, on to modelling... Today, I attempted my first ever go at white metal kit-making using solder. Well, it certainly was interesting. To start with I clearly don't have the top kit, just a temperature controlled cheap ebay iron (£15 or something). My antex iron is not variable and would melt the white metal too so that's not a possibility. Apparently some people use their normal irons and just unplug them and let them cool before using for white metal - weird!!!

However, it was a most interesting experience. The flux seemed to disappear very quickly and hence I needed to use quite a bit, the solder 'dries' quickly (or is it 'solidifies', 'hardens' or 'add your own word here'...) and the iron doesn't have to be too hot at all.

Now that's good and I'll tell you why.... It means you can actually hold the pieces together whilst soldering, rather than a) getting burnt fingers or b) using various bits and pieces to hold the objects together without getting a).

So, I seemed to get along pretty well and the results are below...

Harlech Castle, on a farish 08 chassis. The entire body is done (all soldered) and just needs detail (air horns etc.) and buffer beams. The kit tells you to test run it first, as the beams can short out on the track as they hang rather low. Thus I need to try it on the layout before I add these, or the steps. Then I got on with 'Prince'...

Progress so far... tender chassis was completed and wheels inserted (to the correct gauge using my N gauge society back-to-back measuring device). I then chopped the chassis about, taking various bits off to make it fit beneath the main bodywork. I stopped work as I need to consider how best to chop the cylinders up to leave room for the smokebox to clear the chassis, but enough to keep the cylinders in line too. Might decide to just chop the cylinders off and use some plastic strip, instead of sawing the current cylinder holder down to less than 1mm thick (it looked fraught with likelihood of breaking it anyway).

So these two locos have taken a decent step forward tonight and my skills at soldering have been bolstered too.

Now, I probably ought to get on with coach building again soon as I seem to be developing a serious plethora of locos, with nothing for them to pull!


Monday, February 05, 2007


Hi all,

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, this has been caused by:

- writing a load of info for the Ffestiniog website - locos, walks, attractions stuff
- having to go to Paris for most of last week on business
- the arrival (off ebay) of several new Ffestiniog books from the middleton press series
- the transfer of my narrow gauge railway video collection to DVD and the sale of said videos on ebay
- recent trips to mothercare to purchase travel cots [note plural!]

Anyway, I'll be doing some modelling this week and hope to complete a couple of whitemetal locos that have sat in the box for too long - Prince and Harlech Castle. In fact, I spent some of tonight cleaning up the parts...

First, I'll be reading Iain Rice's book on whitemetal loco construction for some tips...

Progress update later this week.