Chronicling the development of my Cambrian and Narrow Gauge 4mm scale model railway

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Hill start

Module2 : Kirk Machan

It may be helpful to remind yourself of the map of the line, see here.

The dual gauge section which starts in Peel Godred runs through a single bore tunnel to Kirk Machan.

Here the narrow gauge splits back off from the standard gauge at the station throat and they both run into separate platforms at an interchange station with the Culdee Fell Railway.

There will be some form of stabling for the narrow gauge here as it is the terminus. How much of the mountain railway is modelled will depend on the final location of the railway but the idea is the mountain may well sit above the balloon loop of the standard gauge mainline to save space. As a minimum it is intended to include the mountain railway climbing from Kirk Machan station and crossing the standard gauge / narrow gauge on a viaduct and then disappearing up the mountain.

Culdee and Catherine cross the viaduct - courtesy of

Culdee and Catherine cross the viaduct – courtesy of

The gauge of the Culdee Fell Railway will be 10.5mm (HOn3) which scales to 2’7.5” in 4mm: 1 foot scale which is the gauge of the UK rack railways (Culdee Fell and Snowdon Mountain). However, modelling it won’t be easy. I’ve thought about it a lot and I think the answer will be to get a 10.5mm gauge power bogie with traction tyres (or a regauged 9mm bogie – more below) and mount it as the rear bogie in the carriage of a standard loco-pushing-single-carriage mountain railway train. The lead bogie of the carriage and the loco will then provide pick-ups.

The loco will probably be a freewheeling chassis of a 9mm loco regauged. When doing research for this part of the model I found an article in a magazine which championed the idea of regauging 9mm (N gauge) rolling stock for HOn3 uses. It is said (!) to be quite easy as N gauge axles are normally long enough for the task. We shall see!

The two types of mountain locomotives ( © Denis Egan and AM Hurrell)

The two types of mountain locomotives
( © Denis Egan and AM Hurrell)

The loco will be one of the early type locos as the more enclosed nature of the valve gear  is helpful for modelling (and looks much more aesthetically pleasing in my mind). The body of the loco will be an Ertl model of Culdee. A quick run with a tape measure over one of these confirmed they are surprisingly accurate. Swapping the face with a smokebox door and some tidying up of the less well cast parts of the bodywork will be the majority of the make-over. Getting the valve gear sorted will be the interesting bit!!

Ertl Culdee Fell locomotives

Ertl Culdee Fell locomotives

I had come across the concept of using Ertl models before for 009 modelling and I have an Ertl Skarloey kicking about somewhere with a 9mm Arnold chassis ready to be married up. There is an Ertl Lord Harry available (one of the later locos) but it really isn’t as good.

Ertl Skarloey

Ertl Skarloey

Unfortunately the quality went out of the window for the Ertl carriage (Catherine) which is poor. Therefore the carriage will probably be a Parkside Dundas Welsh Highland Railway ‘Bro Madog Eisteddfod’ Bogie Coach or similar with a Guard’s compartment added.

Time and a lot of experimentation will tell whether I can get enough tractive effort to mimic the gradients of a mountain railway without putting a real rack in. I haven’t yet decided how I will replicate the rack but as it will be cosmetic there may be some options using different plasticard profiles.

Next up – Arlesdale Railway…

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Small but perfect

Module 1: Peel Godred

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Module 1 was originally my whole railway. It started out when I was living in Australia. I wanted a test bed to run models I was building. Then I thought, why not make it scenic? Then I thought, why not make it dual gauge? Then I thought, why not cram as much into a small space as possible?

Dual Gauge track in the Czech Republic - (Copyright Michael Roots, accessed from Wikipedia)

Dual Gauge track in the Czech Republic – (Copyright Michael Roots, accessed from Wikipedia)

The size of the module is small – dictated by the size of the desk I was dismantling to make it – about 1m by 0.75m. Fortunately in designing Penlowry it fitted perfectly into the bigger picture. I hope to post a picture of the baseboard for it shortly. It is built, tracklaying being postponed by a 12,000 mile move, and I do have photos… somewhere!

The Concept

At Peel Godred the railway will run through the streets of the town, over the industrial area and swings over the standard gauge branch line and down to the station. Here the dual gauge section starts with a NG spur into the brewery and a separate standard gauge branch to the brewery and chocolate factory. The idea is that raw materials come in by the Mid Sodor Railway and the majority of the output goes out by standard gauge, with some going back over the hills to supply the thirsty people of the Mid-Sodor and Ratty.


As mentioned previously, Purple Moose Brewery opened a second plant due to demand. The brewery is a home for NG locos (thanks to the enthusiasm of the brewery owner), hopefully including vertical boilered Leary, and it also owns two standard gauge locos named Madog and Glaslyn. These were built low profile a la Alfred and Judy due to the original NG bridge over the branch which was built low to ease the gradient for NG trains heading out of Peel Godred.

The branch originally went to Peel Godred’s fledgling port where shipment to Scotland, the Isle of Man and Ireland was possible. The port came to nothing, goods were shipped out via the railway, and the branch now terminates at the aluminium works. With more powerful locos and Peel Godred being a request halt for the NG allowing trains a run up, a full height bridge has now been installed but the locos remain as an oddity.

Bagnalls Afred and Judy at the Foxfield Railway - (Copyright Norman Bates, accessed Great Central Railway)

Bagnalls Afred and Judy at the Foxfield Railway – (Copyright Norman Bates, accessed from Great Central Railway)

Just to prove there is occasionally some action and I don’t just talk about railway modelling, here is the bare bones of Glaslyn under construction.

Bachmann Bill (accessed from

Bachmann Bill (accessed from

The Bachmann Bill and Ben unfortunately are quite large. I am keeping the wheelbase (which is also a tad long) but shortening the chassis particularly at the front bringing the cylinders back to where they should be, lowering the cab roof, and lowering the whole body to “hunker down” on the chassis a bit more. The tanks are in fact thick enough but the paint job makes them look ridiculously thin. A repaint will make all the difference to this loco. Here is the chassis having had the front cut off with the cylinders lined up ready for shortening of the piston rods and slidebars.

Bachmann Bill chassis post shortening

Bachmann Bill chassis post shortening

Whether Madog will ever exist remains to be seen. Glaslyn has its plates thanks to N-Brass, and livery will be Glaslyn blue with Purple Moose crests above the nameplates and Porthmadog on the tank fronts.

The chocolate factory will have a NG and standard gauge link. It will be called Burgess’s (a family name) supplying their world famous irresistably delicious Snowballs (my wife’s family name).

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Pacing the railway


I’m back! Sorry about the delay folks. I had chicken pox. Yes as an adult. People always look at you wisely when your kid has it and says best to get it over with when young. Turns out they’re quite right.

Anyway enough of that. Pacers, love them or tolerate them they probably saved many branchlines from closure in the 80s so they have their place in history. And to be fair since fitting with decent seats they are slightly more comfortable.

There is a thought going round the railway at the moment that Pacers will be gone by 2019. Why you ask?

In 2019 the TSI PRM comes into force. A double TLA! (Three Letter Acronym). Technical Specifications for Interoperability – Persons of Reduced Mobility. Or Accessibility for short.

This states that trains must give “equivalent access” to people of reduced mobility. The rumour generators state that because of the steps in the doorways of Pacers this means they won’t comply.

But all trains on the UK network have some form of steps in the doorway either outside or inside the train. And most continental European railways have low platforms so have a multitude of steps.

The key to the answer is in “equivalent access”. This basically says if you cannot provide unassisted access (level boarding – floor of train level with platform) then you must provide assisted access. Or a ramp as we like to call them.

So the Pacers comply.

Actually they don’t. PRM also means that if toilets are fitted on trains there must be one PRM compliant reachable from PRM seating. In other words the big toilet with the curvy door needs to be reachable from the wheelchair spots.

As an aside, toilets on my favourite railway, the Ffestiniog, aren’t truly compliant as a PRM toilet to standard design is wider than the loading gauge! Instead they provide equivalent toilets which enable use by a wheelchair person despite not complying by the letter of the law.

Back to Pacers. Pacers have a toilet. A little one. Pacers also aren’t big enough to fit a compliant toilet. So what happens in 2019. Simple. Lock the toilet out of use and put a sticker on the door saying No Access or Staff Only or something. Then you have a compliant Pacer. It’ll cost about £5 per unit. New train for £3Mish or old one for £5? Hmm…

Inconveniences a lot of people to comply with the law. But it will be compliant. So not quite the end…

And anyway it won’t totally be the end anyway because various versions may well be seen coming and going from the Rail Research Unit on Penlowry. But that’s another story.