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

Leave a comment

Give the dog a Bone

I bought a box of tat on eBay recently. I love looking at the tat collections. Just occasionally something decent comes up. If it does, I’ll put a couple of quid on it and see if anyone else notices. In this case it was a stock box. It only appeared in pictures 10 and 11 though so most people missed it. Good news for me.

The wheat cleared from the chaff

Once it had been delivered I trawled through the dross that filled the box and, having filtered out some 32mm gauge bits to go to the spares box of the Rhos Helyg Locomotive Works in North Wales, I ended up with a Grimsby fish wagon, a blue circle presflo, an Esso tanker and a Mighty White bread van amongst others.

Additionally there were sufficient bits for a class 58. Not one of my favourite locos but again in the archives there is a story which does interest me.

You see when BR produced the 58 they built it in modules – novel for the late 70s / early 80s – and they looked at selling beyond these shores so they did export version designs. They didn’t make it into production. Except one did. Well maybe it didn’t but there will be an export 58 on Penlowry.

Export locomotives vital statistics

Penlowry will have 58 001 which in my story went back into the works to be made into an export demonstrator. It kept the livery it had when it went in for the conversion so it sports RailFreight large logo livery.

And it’ll be this version – the single cab 58.

The model. As far as it got… until now!

For more information on the Class 58 see:

(The export drawing and the export model courtesy of Colin J Marsden’s –

Leave a comment

Try this on a titchy breakfast!

I’ve been having a think about stock for the railway. Some stock will reflect the locations – ale pallet wagons and covered wagons for the brewery, insulated wagons and milk tanker wagons for the chocolate factory, high speed trains for the Stollen.

However, the great thing about Sodor is it runs this remarkable double existence of heritage and modern railway stock. This is good news as it will allow me to run absolutely anything I want.

That coupled with the fact that the mainline will have balloon loops at either end to allow for continuous running when I want, gets Penlowry into the good books with a friend of mine. He gets so wound up about all those rose-tinted-bespectacled-Great-Western-branchline-scenes he wants to run a model railway show where the only models allowed have to be continuous running! (He is also the same friend that said that the best way to see Doncaster is at 90 on the through lines with the chime whistle wide open – he has a point!)

Anyway, back to wagons. Given this licence to do what I feel like, I intend to build up some mixed freight rakes using all those great wagons and vans that were fashionable in the 1970s and 80s that advertised products such as KitKats, Smiths crisps, and the like. Keeping an eye out on eBay can bring in the bargains and none of these wagons go for any great amount of money because they are all cheap plastic and, in a lot of cases, cheap printing, and the detail is considered poor in comparison with today’s models. A touch of weathering powder along with removal of the huge tension lock couplers for something slightly more discrete, and maybe a brake cylinder and bags will do wonders.

First in the rake, seen here before the authentication treatment, is old faithful, and my favourite since I was a child, the Weetabix van complete with Brains and Dunk – Neet Weet Beet!*




*If you were born during the time of John Major or Tony Blair as PM, or born in a country where they have some imitation product known as Weetbix, and therefore have no idea what I’m on about, check out this blog post that tells the whole story)

Leave a comment

Small but perfectly formed

Module 3: Arlesdale Railway

Possibly the first new build preservation loco, although since the chassis already existed I think the Square holds that title

Possibly the first new build preservation loco, although since the chassis already existed I think the Square holds that title

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Ratty. Ever since we went to the Lake District for “summer” holidays as kids. We always climbed a lot of mountains in the rain but on a sunny day we’d go for a trip on the line. It helped my Godfather was Vicar of Gosforth, Nether Wasdale, and Wasdale Head. We used to stay with him but most of the time camped, sometimes at the farm at Nether Wasdale IIRC- unpasteurised milk on cornflakes nigh on straight from the cow – yum! Proper green top. (Remember those days – silver top, red top, blue top, gold top, and green top). The food at the Wasdale Head Inn was always good too especially after a day in the fells.

Anyway back to the railway. Of the locos, ‘Rock was always my favourite although I quite liked Mite too.

It occurred to me that I could include the Ratty in my railway using Z gauge. Just recently I picked up a z gauge loco cheap at Wheels of Steel behind Bond Street station in London. When he heard what I wanted it for I got an extra fiver off. Too banana! It is a 2-8-2 tender loco so Mite it will be. I got hold of a copy of the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association drawings and scaled them on a photocopy to 4mm. This allowed me to measure up the models against the drawings.

7mm Association R&ER Drawings

7mm Narrow Gauge Association R&ER Drawings

The tender is bob on dimensions wise and the front and back end of the loco is spot on too. Unfortunately the coupled wheelbase is too long so to keep the appearance right I’ll boost the diameter of the boiler so it looks the right diameter for its length.

The ever popular opens. Home to lovers of cinders in hair and ash in eyes.

The ever popular opens. Home to lovers of cinders in hair and ash in eyes.

For stock I intend to use a Parkside Dundas FR carriage 38 as the basis for some bashing to make a semi open. I’ll probably also do a couple of opens and a saloon with a bit of scratch building / more bashing all of which mounted in z gauge bogies.

The Parkside Dundas model of this will form a good starting point for some semi opens

In the model the railway will be short- just the terminus and a short bit of main line. Passengers for the MSR will have a short walk from the Ratty terminus, which has swung off the old formation to the right, to the MSR station which will be on its original trackbed.

I’ll probably look to automate this section to try and keep it simple…!

As you can see I also haven’t decided whether it’ll be Arlesdale Railway or Ratty. Probably a mixture. It’s my railway after all.

Next up – the Rail Research Unit…

Leave a comment

A Study in Blue


Well if you’re a Holmes fan you’ll know about scarlet and if you’re a Sherlock fan you’ll know about pink, but this one’s in blue.

My wife wanted to find a blueprint to put on the living room wall. We agreed it was better to get a real one that meant something rather than some cheap tat from a shop.

On eBay I picked up a set of 7 blueprints. Intriguingly these were all stamped on the back “7th Feb 1934”.

They were all North British Locomotive Company. Having researched them and discussed it with a number of people I believe they were printed for a sales agent to carry around to use to sell their wares “this is what we can do” sort of thing.

Trying to resolve what they were exactly took a bit of time as 3 were 3’6″ gauge, 1 was standard gauge, and 3 were 5’6″ gauge. In the end I booked in with the National Railway Museum’s Search Engine facility and had a look at the original order books they have. They also have the original linen hand coloured GAs for the standard gauge Fairlie.


Here is what they are:

South African Railways 15CA 4-8-2


South African Railways MH 2-6-6-2 Mallet


South African Railways FD 2-6-2+2-6-2 Modified Fairlie


Mexican R1 / R2 Double Fairlie


Bengal-Nagpur Railway KSM class 4-6-2


Great Argentine Railway CS6 4-8-0


Great Indian Peninsula Railway N1 2-10-0.


The modified Fairlie is interesting because they weren’t very successful. Only 2 FCs were ever built and only 4 FDs. The FDs were produced in 1925 so presumably hadn’t shown their inherent weakness after 9 years if the NBL Co were still trying to flog them.

Also found a typewritten sheet in one of the order books at the NRM which showed which orders in WW2 had or had not yet been given authority to build. Real wartime rationing. Munitions before motive power.


Leave a comment

Platform gaps and other stories

There’s always the old adage that if you look about you’ll always find the justification for the setting on your model railway when it’s out of the ordinary. Here’s a couple. 

For example, say you need low relief housing but can’t put it up against the backscene? No problem, here’s one in York. Presumably this is back to back housing with one half knocked down.

Low relief house prototype

Ridiculously small radius curves making the platform gaps look huge? Here’s the platform gap at Scarborough.

Scarborough Platform gap

I’d just been doing a piece of work the other week building a platform gap calculator model in Excel (to work out where it was acceptable to put a new station for an existing railway in London) so this was quite interesting.

It made me wonder why they were using platform 5 at Scarborough (the one with the tightest curve) when they have 5 to choose from and only use 2 at any one time. If it’s not out of standards it is ever so close (Railway Group Standards say maximum horizontal gap is 250mm, maximum vertical is 150mm, and maximum diagonal is 350mm).

Finally and a slight trumpet blow which I’m not prone to but I am quite proud of this one. After a 9 month application process some people have decided I need a jacket with leather arm patches. To say nothing of the pipe. Which for the next month is great because apparently until the 6th of April I’m still a young member.



OK, I will get back to the model scene setting soon I promise!