Thursday, May 29, 2008

Better than the best?

So come 2009, how will the WHR score? I think it will improve on:
- cafe/shop
- attractions
- walks

Conservatively scoring those extras brings it to...............78%

Which is enough to draw the first position with the FR! Roll on 2009...


1st - The Ffestiniog Railway

With a class leading 78%, the FR is streets ahead at the moment. The loco variety, year round running, super views of sea, river, slate, forests and mountains and on board service mean its the country's premier line.
It could be better on kids facilities, some views are now lost to tree growth and the top of the line needs finishing really. The cafe at Harbour is too small (expecially when the WHR opens next year), but where else can you sip Purple Moose either next to an original engine in the bar on indeed by bottle on the train?

Plenty of other FR images from my hols are available here:

2nd - Talyllyn

Pipping the Welsh Highland (C) by just 2% is the Talyllyn. It scores well throughout but is still 7% behind the winner (revealed later).
Kids facilities are pretty good - books/jigsaws in the cafe at Wharf plus a super slide (see image) and play area at Abergynolwyn. It runs a decent timetable for most of the year, has 7 steam locos, a decent run with nice views, good walks, a museum/cafe/shop complex at Wharf etc. I do think the essence of the place has altered recently - Wharf no longer has that special feel - and the engines are going through a repainting phase that will please some and horrify others...
But all in all it's a super railway and that's why it scores 71%. How could it improve - on board service is one...

3rd - WHR (Caernarfon)

Narrowly beaten to 3rd place in the WHR(C) - how many of you expected it to be an FR 1-2??

The railway is of course wonderful, but it's let down by the lack of facilities for kids or indeed facilities at all at stations and it doesn't have a cafe so scores 0/5 on that one.

Overall 69% way ahead of Bala at 61%.

I have also calculated a proposed score when complete at Easter next year and will reveal that at the end of this top 10 countdown.... Of course it will then have a cafe!


4th - Bala Lake

Any railway where you get a footplate ride is high up in my scores! A lovely ride along the lake, nice carriages, a good shop/cafe and plenty of free parking.

It loses out on loco variety, facilities for kids and intermediate attractions. Otherwise a lovely little line.



5th Llanberis Lake

The Llanberis Lake railway is a pretty ride along the lake, has a good shop and cafe and links nicely to the free Welsh Slate Museum and Padarn Country Park. The staff we had interaction with were unfriendly and somewhat 'business like' - telling us to hurry up with shop purchases as the shop closed, just 5 mins after the train got back. The guard was also grumpy, although the driver was a top bloke - taking the first image from his cab!
Overall it scores 60%

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Here's one for you

With one eye on the Engalnd vs USA friendly and one eye on modelling, tonight I all but completed a model of Beddgelert. It still needs a bit of cleaning up, the roof attaching and annoyingly the cylinder overlays were missing from the kit(!), but is 90% complete. The minitrix 2-6-2 needs some fiddling to get it DCC ready, but it looks possible.


6th - Fairbourne

The Fairbourne - ex playground of the popstar keyboard player John Ellerton (he who nearly built a miniature railway on the WHR trackbed).
We had a nice trip - the people were friendly, it's good for kids (G scale railway and small animal display), plus a top cafe and shop. The engine variety is good (Darjeeling, NWNG, L+B etc) and trains run regularly. However the line is somewhat boring for 90% of its length - mainly looking at sea defences and a road, before the final 10% which is lovely - a cracking view of Barmouth and the estuary. We got the observation coach but it suffered from too few windows and got a bit warm to say the least!
Overall 58%

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

7th WHR (Porthmadog)

We have obviously visited this line quite a few times over the past few years, this time for the 'Hunslet: generations' gala. Thomas loved the miniature railway, the diesel you can make sounds on (badco I think), being on the footplate whilst I drove Gelert, climbing on board Karen in the sheds etc

The 'freight' trains on phase 4 were also fun, especially as they seemed to be matching the main line train for speed (first image), which made quite a sight. To cap it all off I bought a paper 4mm scale model of Russell (nice) and we even got a takeaway cup of tea for the car. Pretty cool.

But as an attraction, it suffers from it short length (roll on 2009) and one engine in steam operation along with the relatively uninteresting flatlands of the Traeth. 52% and hot on the heels of the next 3 in my top 10. With an extension to Pont Croesor I think it might get to 58%.
The massive Lyd2 diesels (last image) need a bigger playground!
It scored full marks for the shop and 3 extra points for a super gala to include the extras mentioned at the top of this post.

8th - Great Orme

8th and only just better than Llechwedd was the Great Orme tramway, which is indeed narrow gauge.

It is hampered by the lack of facilities for kids and the necessary change of vehicle half way up.

We visited this earlier this year.

No. 9 Llechwedd

9th in the top 10 narrow gauge railways visited on holiday is Llechwedd - yes it does count as the miners tramway is a 2ft gauge diesel railway with stopping points inside the caverns! It scored 44%, just 2% better than Corris mainly due to better opening times, loads of free parking and a large cafe and shop.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reaching the heights

How to get the right scale height for trees on Rhyd Ddu?? Well, it's easy you just need a Seat Altea!

So I took a photo of said Seat Altea (not mine!) parked right next to the trees. Then from the Seat website I found out how high the car is and compared the height of the trees...

The answer... 135mm, easy as that.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Some news


A few tit bits regarding the layout:

- The ramp has been measured to scale and a plasticard initial version will be made, so I can decide exactly how to mount it on the layout.

- The culverts near to the station steps were taken out as the levels are just not right and a large hole cut in the baseboard to allow me to sink them lower. I will need to turn the baseboard upside down to nail it down properly.

- The triangular piece and the station/Fridd Isaf hills have been covered with mid brown undercoat.

- A canister of VIM has been sourced (somewhat difficult to find) and this will be used to clean flux deposits from the carriages prior to priming.

- I have been considering trees again (especially how to model Larches accurately). In doing so I came across this website -

- The wiring diagrams are being altered for DCC and some track may yet have to be relaid - the yard headshunt most probably.

- Whilst on holiday I purchased a Beddgelert body kit for my minitrix 2-6-2 chassis and checked with my friend and profilic narrow gauge author Peter Johnson that the loco would have at least made it to Rhyd Ddu at some stage (it was a Bryngwyn engine) and he thought it would have done on bank holiday specials. There is certainly an image of it on a huge train at Dinas destined for the main line! I will find any method I can to justify it, as I really like the engine!



Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Holiday railway review part 1

This is the first in a series of posts on full scale (12 inches to the foot) narrow gauge railways visited during my holidays. My wife and I have devised a clever marking system which works as follows:

Marks out of 5 for the following:

  • Loco variety
  • Parking
  • Cafe
  • Shop
  • Carriage comfort
  • Staff friendliness/helpfulness
  • Days open in the year
  • Publicity
  • Walks
  • Revisit potential
  • On board service
  • Attractions along the line
  • Facilities for kids
  • Photography opportunities
  • Engines in use at peak
  • and up to 5 extra for special things such as being offered a footplate ride etc

plus marks out of 10 for the following:

  • Views
  • Interest along the length of the railway

All of that adds up to 100 and each railway has been marked and a league table produced.

First up is the Corris Railway which unfortunately came bottom of our set of 11 railways visited this holiday with just 42%.

Both staff and cafe scored very highly - very friendly people, a relaxed atmosphere and the best cup of tea we had all holiday. But of course the line suffers from its short length, single steam loco, only one accessible station, only open for a few days a year etc. Extend to Tan y Coed, sort out Corris station site and build a replica of No.3 and it would be a different story, but given the slow progress since their inception as a society in the 1966, it might take a while.

There is of course a super Corris layout (that I've featured previously on this blog) in the museum/shop/cafe at Corris too!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

and I would drive 500 miles and I would drive 500 more

Well 1,016 miles in total - 2 weeks in North/Mid Wales on holiday - lots of blog posts/images/videos to come, but for now enjoy this little trio...