Saturday 21 November 2009

No I won't.

Here's something I've been working on today, inspired by yesterdays jaunt and no I won't be building it. Click on the image to get a full sized view.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Chipboard Monster

I've been looking back through the blog and it appears that I've not made mention of my big trainset. I've either been very lucky or very good but the fate has smiled upon me in the shape of a large playroom which I'm free to fill with toys. In it I'm building a model of Morfa Mawddach, the junction of the Cambrian Coast and Dolgellau lines. Actually I'm building a part fact, part fiction version of the station; I might at some time be persuaded to divulge the back story but for now all you need to know is that I can cherry pick the bits I like and conveniently ignore those I don't.

At the moment the baseboards are about 75% complete, some track has been laid at the site of Morfa station, the stock (the same as used on Shell Island) doesn't require much in the way of augmentation, some structures are finished and some are under way. Don't expect much in the way of updates, as the layout is deliberately long term in nature, but I might show how I've tackled some of the aspects from time to time.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Coming soon ......

.... Machynlleth's first Railway Collectors Fair and Swapmeet.

Organised by my friend and fellow enthusiast Nick who tells me that there are still a few pitches available. He can be contacted on 01654 761424 or by e-mail

Monday 28 September 2009


Thanks to this blog I've become ridiculously interested in the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowden Railway, in particular the projected line from Beddgelert past Llyn Gwynant and on to Betws y Coed. Though I've yet to do anything concrete it hasn't stopped me from taking a very plesant detour on my way north through Gwynedd to visit a friend to take these photos of the locality.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Abergwynant, also appearing at .....

In response to Rogers request for an overall view of the layout I can do no better than direct you to an earlier outing on the internet here. Abergwynant features a short way down the page, but do spend some time browsing the other contributions there's much that is of interest, I particularly like the last layout a dual gauge German affair.

Saturday 12 September 2009


After Shell Island, I sort of repeated the Cambrian Coast theme with Abergwynant. The fiction became ever more dubious in an attempt to justify the retention of a short section of the line from Morfa Mawddach to Dolgellau as far as the quarries at Abergwynant. The layout was pretty successful in the aim to be ultra portable though once the lighting gantry was added it became obvious that it wouldn't be possible to take it on jaunts using public transport. It's now in the safe keeping of my friend Martin Jones who makes sure it gets a far more frequent airing than I ever would.

This isn't the last you'll hear about Abergwynant ......

Friday 14 August 2009

Corris Model Railway and Toy Exhibition 2009

Held over the August bank holiday weekend, this year the Corris Exhibition moves to a new venue at Corris School, just across the car park from the Corris Railway and Museum. In total fourteen layouts will be on display, backed up by demonstrations, trade stands, craft sales, refreshments and the Corris Railway Society Stand.

The exhibition opens daily from 10:30am until 5:00pm on Saturday 29th, Sunday 30th & Monday 31st of August.

I'll be bringing two of my layouts Chwarel Bach (009 'push-button pizza') and the ,so new the paints still wet, Isle of Avalon Tramway (EM). Make a day of it, come and say hello at the exhibition, take a ride down the beautiful Dulas Valley on the train and perhaps visit the Craft Centre too.

Thursday 30 July 2009

Hello world .....

.... meet the Isle of Avalon Tramway, my latest EM gauge microbe.

Monday 27 July 2009

Scenes from an exhibition.

I wasn't sure quite what to expect from the Tywyn show having no prior knowledge of what else would be there. If I'm honest I thought that it might be a little bigger than it was, though the constraints of the venue were to a large extent overcome by a careful and varied selection of layouts. Here's a few of them.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Shell Island at Tywyn

Less than a week away, the Tywyn Model Railway Club's exhibition will be held in the Scout Hut, Neptune Road, Tywyn from 11:00 until 17:00. It's less than five minutes walk from both the Cambrian Coast and Talyllyn Wharf stations. For those unfamiliar with Tywyn Neptune road runs all the way from the seafront past Wharf station, cross the coast road and into the town where it joins with Main Street; the scout hut is on the Wharf station to Main Street stretch.

I'll be taking Shell Island on one of it's few journeys from my playroom, but as I'm such an incurious chap I've no idea what else will be there, though my 'informant' tells me that previous years shows have been well worth the effort of a visit.

Friday 17 July 2009

The Return of Mojo

It's obviously been a good year for growing as the varied shades of green have spread over most of the pizza. Actually I've gone from happy with the scenery here to a spell of disenchantment with some of the stock I'm putting together for The Isle of Avalon Tramway. I've been doing all the right things, and I'm fairly happy with my workmanship it's just that the result is a bit, well, pants. In an effort to try and get my head in the right place with it all, I spent this afternoon sorting out the pizza's camper/mess van. It was in bits with all the glazing out as I'd removed it so I could waft over some Testors Dullcote, to knock back the high gloss finish of the van body. So concurrent with sticking the glazing back in (5 minute Araldite) I've been tinkering with the chassis to engineer a proper fix. The resulting solution is a plasticard base plate glued into the body, resting on the original road chassis mounting lugs. This base plate has captive nuts front and back which the Kato mechanism is bolted to, obviously there's also a suitably shaped and sized cut out to clear the motor. Overall I'm rather happy with this as I seem to have my modelling mojo back. Hurrah.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Every Cloud.

As the date for the Corris Model Railway Show draws ever closer (August bank holiday weekend if you want to plan ahead) I'm taking every possible opportunity to push the pizza towards acceptability if not completion. A terribly wet afternoon yesterday, meant fencing, undergrowth and a few trees appeared on the layout. I've also added chimney pots and ridge tiles to the cottage which is now ready to be bedded in, though this still remains undone.

Sunday 28 June 2009

The Dennis Allenden Fan Club

Yesterday I took a trip to Bala, the pretty way, which just happens to pass the Bala Lake Railway at Llanuwchllyn. They serve excellent tea, scrumptious cakes and a fine selection of pre owned model railway magazines. I left with a handful of Model Railway News and it's sucessor Model Railways. I was particularly pleased as there were three articles by the late Denis Allenden. Quite apart from being a model making genius, way, way ahead of his time, he was quite simply the best writer to have ever written about our hobby. Even if you're not interested in the railways of France, try to get hold of some of his work; it's learned, witty and without a trace of being forced.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Time to Tidy

My railway room/workshop is in a mess at the moment. It seems to be one of those things like hair turning grey or eye sight deteriorating that sneaks up unnoticed in stealthy increments. I find that once the chaos reaches a certain level it has a detrimental effect on my model making; with nothing turning out as I'd hoped. Just before the need to clean became apparent I managed to fit couplings to a pair of coaches that I converted from cheap continental horse trams some time ago. The couplings were folded up from Paul Windle etches, slightly modified to pivot, and only fitted with loops at one end. Whilst this coach was in bits I painted and fixed a pair of passengers in place. The clutter began to tell with a less than neat paint job, but as they're riding inside I reckon that this time I can get away with it.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

How Green Was My Valley.

It's a big hurrah as I've finished the basic scenery on Chwarel Bach, the posh name for the pizza. I've dusted off one of the lines passenger coaches for the occasion, though if you look closely it's obvious that there's some work still to be done in the coupling department. I'm looking forward to a bit of gentle pottering as I add detail and further structure to the layout. But for nowI'm happy to sit back and admire the scene bathed in the evening sun.

Monday 15 June 2009

Blackpool Trams

A while ago I considered trams to be a distinctly inferior species of train, however these days thanks to several visits to Blackpool I'm starting to appreciate their charm and variety. Though most will have an impression of Blackpool's system as a tourist amusement that shuttles along the prom from amusement park to candyfloss stall, there's far more to it than that. Though the southern section runs along the prom, the middle is more interurban in character on its own right of way before heading through the centre of Fleetwood down the middle of the road as most Victorian city systems did. Tucked away behind the prom are the car sheds, though not accesible to the public there are good uninterupted views from the street.

If your appitite has been whetted for a visit, I can thoroughly recommend 'The Gallery' bed and breakfast run by my friends Paul and Mimmo. It's boutique hotel in style and comfort, though at far less than boutique prices. It's close to both trams and Blackpool North station. Click on the picture above for full details.

Transport of Delight

When my beard wasn't grey, I had an MGB. Though it used almost as much oil as petrol and had it's fair share of rust I was very fond of it. Part of it had to do with the comfort of the driving position and part the satisfying amount of torque the engine put out. I was delighted when a 4mm (ish) example was one of Cararama's first releases. I repainted the model to match my long gone motor; I believe that the colour was called sandglow, though I reckon it was closer to baby poo in tone. The wheels were a bit of a disapointment being printed wire spokes, not at all convincing. I attempted to represent the Rostyle wheels my car had by over painting the printing. Last week I noticed that the Cararama Capri had Rostyle wheels, though painted silver. Last night I prised the Capri's wheels free, repainted them and bunged them in the MGB. Result, it now looks like it should have done. The photo shows the model on its new rims with a set of my original attempts behind.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Wagon Train

You might have noticed the wagons lurking on the high level line to the tip in the post below. I was rather pleased that after a week of fruitless on and off searching they turned up quite unexpectedly when I'd turned my attentions elsewhere. All three are Parkside kits and were built at the same time I started putting more effort into my EM gauge stock. I wanted to see if it were possible to get away from the chocolate box image that 009 had at the time and portray the sort of decrepitude I remember from poking about the quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog and Penmaenmawr in the seventies. The wagons are a visual sucess but their extreme light weight means they are very sensitive to track imperfections, but this won't be a problem in their role of decorating the line to the tip.

A bit of background.

I felt a bit arty yesterday morning so decided that it was time to get the paint out and start sloshing it about on the backscene. I find that I have to be in the right mood for model making or it all goes horribly wrong. The right mood for soldering is not the same as the right mood for painting. In my earlier years I never stopped to differentiate; maybe it wasn't so important then, maybe I'm fussier about the results now or perhaps my younger model making was universally iffy anyway. Anyway I'm rather pleased with the results with the sky and outline of distant hills increasing the depth of scene. I prefer hand painted backscenes over the current vogue for photo composites as carrying the same level of craftsmanship and artistic sensibility over from 3D to 2D and using similar materials somehow unifies the whole.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Preview ....

Persuasive fellows these men of the cloth; I've been talked into both contributing a short piece on Shell Island towards a book and taking it to the Tywyn model railway show this year. Mind you given that to all intents and purposes they are professional speakers then shouldn't be too surprised. The Tywyn show is on the 25th of July this year; I'll post further details nearer the time. I believe that the book will be out later than this, certainly my copy won't be delivered until about the same time. By way of a preview for both here are a couple of shots of the layout.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

High on a hill side.

The last pieces of landmass went down at the weekend. A further line was laid on the shelf above the tunnel heading from the quarries off scene at the left to the tips at the right, behind this a continuation of the hillside was formed again from corrugated card covered with the plaster, sawdust and glue mix. I now plan to work from the stream upwards applying all sorts of stuff to try and transform what looks like desert into the lush greenery of Wales.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

What a mess?

Not sure about this, but I think I'll go with it for the moment.

In fact I've spent an hour this afternoon engineering a better solution than just plonking the body on top of the Kato mechanism. I rather fancy some sort of works trailer to go with the mobile mess van.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Pizza The Scenery

I'm pretty good at excuses for putting outdoor chores to one side and playing trains. Living in deepest mid Wales it's usually a case or rain starts play, but over the bank holiday weekend it's been too hot and sunny for one so delicate as me. Out came card, glue, sawdust and plaster and down went the basic landforms on the pizza. The landscape at the front of the layout was blocked in some weeks ago, but that to the rear is corrugated card. Having tried out both I think I prefer the card; once the ground mix (patching plaster, pva and sawdust) is slapped on then smoothed out with a cheap and nasty paintbrush all the angular edges disappear. It is less messy than hacking polystyrene about and glues take to it better. Anyway here's a few photos of the state of play.

Monday 25 May 2009

Banger Blue

With digital photography and a compact camera it's very cheap and easy to take reference photos of anything that catches the eye. I'm a bit of a sucker for items that exhibit decay so this old Austin in quiet repose down a backstreet in Porthmadog was a must.

Friday 22 May 2009

Cowboy and an Indian

I mentioned that some new 009 stock is being built, more accurately it's a mix of new build and a refurbishment of some old pieces. One of the projects that crosses over is a new build of a Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Sharp Stewart tank on an old Fleischmann mechanism that I've tweaked and tuned. The body is mainly plasticard,though the boiler is a ballpoint pen, a union freebie I think. The chimney shows its origins as a length of brass tube, the dome was a whitemetal casting that I re-profiled. At the front of the engine is the part finished pillar cab, nickel silver wire uprights and the roof from a suitably curved tin can, appropriately for an Indian machine Rajah ground ginger. The dubious materials are concluded by the use of the boiler backhead from an old Airfix L&YR pug.

Though the chassis isn't right (inside frames, level cylinders and wrong slide bars) it does have the right wheel base, and the motor fits into the tanks with a little dimensional fudging. I can't claim anything approaching accuracy for this model, but that's not my target, I'll settle for capturing something of the character and proportion of the real thing.

Pizza Express

Living in mid Wales is rather like being surrounded by one giant narrow gauge theme park; whichever direction I take from home I'll eventually stumble across one. My local line is the Corris, and though I'm a member of the society, up till now my support has been limited to helping with and exhibiting at their model show each August bank holiday. This year I'll be bringing a very small shunting layout, but so I can take a break from time to time I thought I'd put together a quick circular 009 layout to take as well. The idea is that the audience will be able to summon trains from the hidden storage under the slate tips with a push button, so even if I've gone for a personal needs break, sandwich or hunting for a bargain on one of the stalls, something should still move.

Here's the progress to date, the board, 2'x2' in a D shape is built, track laid, wired, tested, and some of the scenery roughed out. The small cottage was built from a set of my own plaster castings several years ago giving me a bit of a head start. The retaining wall, bridge and steps are new build, as is the railway bridge in the photo below. I'm building a few new pieces of stock, but the main thrust from now on will be to get the rest of the scenery blocked in, particularly the slate tips which will stretch down from where the wagons can be seen above.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Shell Island

Shell Island is the first layout that I've been truly happy with, partly because I pushed my standards up a bit and partly because the 'less is more' penny finally dropped. Though I'd always built small layouts, the proportion of track to scenery was greater and the scenery itself didn't have the amount of 'quiet' areas that I managed here. I'd also started to get slightly better results from my camera of the time (Zenith E) with a set of home made extension rings, so the layout was designed with the camera in mind.

Friday 15 May 2009

Foss Bank

Following on from Trawden, a new layout was started, set alongside the river close to where I lived in York at the time, it bore the name Foss Bank. I had childhood memories of the idiosyncratic Derwent Valley light railway, and I wanted to capture some of the atmosphere of the route. Imagination came into play and conjured up the highly improbable Foss Valley Light Railway that connected with British Railways at Foss Bank. The rear half of what was a very simple layout represented the national rail network and the front track that snaked along the riverbank the FVLR.

Foss Bank sort of set me along the finescale route, still in OO but with SMP track and plastic based point kits. I'd started to attempt stock that was a little more refined and to scale dimensions than some of the previous models; here we see a rather basic conversion of the Hornby class 25 into something approaching a 24, remember this model, it'll crop up a bit later on. Again the buildings were scratchbuilt, but by now I'd settled on plasticard as the most suitable material.

At the far end of the layout, the Foss Valley offices are obviously inspired by those of the DVLR, as is the Drewery shunter. This as far as the FVLR was concerned was probably the high point of rolling stock construction being a Dapol (ex Airfix) kit body on top of a modified Mainline 03 chassis. I seem to remember that this was the first model that I flush glazed; it too is still in existence having been passed on to my friend Laurie when he started a layout based on a possible interchange with the Derwent Valley Light Railway.