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

Ministry of Steam

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Last post I wrote explaining the generic requirements of running a disco train. Here are some specifics from what I think was the last one we ever ran.

This train was a triple whammy. Firstly, it was the end of season train which was run to thank the volunteers for their efforts over the summer months. Secondly, it was the 21st birthdays of two volunteers. Thirdly, we took the opportunity to show our poorer neighbours what a party really was.

In relation to the third item, every year the Ffestiniog and Talyllyn, and now for a number of years, the Welshpool and Llanfair, railways have an event where the staff and volunteers from the railways socialise. The hosting is on a three year rotation. As the FR was the host for this particular year’s event, we sent a message to the other railways early in the summer requesting we move the event from its usual spot of the August bank holiday to the weekend after so we could accommodate them on the disco train.

Temperence society

The mighty Alco ready to depart Porthmadog with the Easter 2003 disco train (C) Stewart Macfarlane

The following are the lists I still have from planning the event. As per the last post, I have added notes where necessary to clarify.


Things to do for 30th August

  • Finish 59 van (talk to Robco about what needs doing)

This was after the French students had gone home without finishing the brakes but before we discovered their mathematical error – we discovered that on the afternoon before the train…

  • Build bonfire – use wood from B.L., possibly also Minffordd Yard

B.L. = Boston Lodge. It is apparent that we must have run a works train to Dduallt for this but I can’t remember the specifics.


We know how to build a good bonfire…

  • Check smoke machine, also check smoke fluid
  • Make sure we have plenty of Gaffa tape
  • Look at changing the lights on the barn below 121 (105)

This was a bright idea to put colour lights in the carriage next to the disco carriage to form a transition. In the end we put crepe paper over the lights.

  • Buy AAA batteries for torch specs

These are the DJ specs so you can see what you are doing as made famous by The Chemical Brothers – very useful.

Looking the koolest kid around with these on…

  • Remember T-key, lighter and rags on the night

T-key for locking carriage doors and getting into a variety of cupboards are essential, not to mention lighter and rags for starting the bonfire.


Instructions for 30th August 2003

It is intended the disco train on 30th August will be made up of the following:

Alco, Linda, 59, 121, 104, 105, 14, 118, 106, 116, 103, 119, 101

In the event the train ran as Alco, Linda, 38, 59, 121, 104, 105, 14, 118, 106, 116, 103, 119, 101 due to the error with the van’s brakes.

For this to happen we need to organise the shunting of the sets in advance.

30th August set order A, B, C.

Set order means order of sets into traffic in the morning, with A forming the 1020 and 1340 departures from Porthmadog; B forming the 1120 and 1450; and C forming the 1240 and 1600. At this time the sets consisted as follows:

A set: 118, 106, 116, 103, 119, 101 (103 being the buffet, 119 the toilet carr, and 101 the observation carr)

B set: 12, 110, 104, 105, 14, 120, 11 (This was odd in being a 7 carr set but it was because it contained 11 and 12, neither of which had a full complement of seats compared to a front line carriage, and the set was missing a front line observation carriage as 100 had been transferred to the WHR for its last three seasons before becoming WHR PW mess coach 1000, and the new 100 had yet to be built)

C set: 121, 112,113,114,117,111 (This order may be wrong) including 111 as the observation (with toilet and the push-pull driving cab)

  • Before C set leaves in the morning detach 121 from the top end.
  • During the day shunt 59 van (now with vacuum) on to the top of 121
  • Prepare 121
  • Make sure 1340 crew put the spares in 6 road and A set down 4 road [at the end of the day]

The spares are the extra carriages that are coupled to the top of a fixed set to form a full length train. At this time of year it would likely to be 4 spares to make a 10-car train.


To aid in the understanding of the shunting, here is a diagram of Porthmadog. Interestingly it shows the groundframe the wrong way round. This is taken from the 2010 rule book so has the WHR line which wasn’t there in 2003. 


  • Take Criccieth to Port

Criccieth Castle, diesel locomotive used for shunting

  • Shunt 104, 105, 14 onto A set in 4 road
  • Shunt 12 and 110 into 5 road
  • Remove spares into 5 road
  • When 1450 train returns shunt stock as follows:
    • Shunt 12 and 110 into 5 road
    • Remove spares into 5 road
    • Shunt 104, 105, 14 onto A set in 4 road
    • Shunt 120, 11 into 3 extension (buffer up close)
    • Shunt 12, 110 into 3 extension (buffer up close)
  • Return Criccieth to BL
  • When 1600 returns get crew to shunt C set into 2 road
  • 59, 121, Alco, Linda arrive from BL
  • 59, 121 left in platform / 3 road as decided
  • Alco, Linda take water / fuel as necessary
  • Alco, Linda run round onto 59, 121, and shunt onto set in 4 road
  • Train pulled out and shunted into platform road

What actually happened was Linda did the shunt while the Alco took water and fuel. Having discovered the fault with van 59’s brakes, Hudson “toastrack” 38 which was the closest spare available was also shunted onto the top of the train before it was shunted into the platform.

We were short of time when we were doing the shunt and the generator wouldn’t start. Two of the team were locked in Van 59 to get the generator started while we did the shunt and when we finished we forgot them. Shortly before departure I got a phone call where all I could hear was generator noise. Remembering I rushed back and opened the door. When I asked what would have happened if I didn’t answer, they said, “turn the generator back off”!!

Ministry of Steam

The original poster advertising the event

Return Journey

  1. At Minffordd the guard must lock the seaward (engine side) doors of the bottom 6 carrs
  2. At BL, disembark all remaining passengers
  3. At BL the train is propelled into 13 road
  4. Leave 59, 121, 104, 105, 14 and draw back out
  5. Propel 118, 106, 116, 103, 119, 101 into 14 road
  6. Alco, Linda HBF


31st August set order C, A

  1. Clean A set (118, 106, 116, 103, 119, 101) in 14 road ready for 1120 train

Remember C set spent the night in Porthmadog and was then used for the 1020 train.

  1. Clean 121
  2. Remove 59 van from top of train
  3. Take 121, 104, 105, 14 with Criccieth to Port to platform road
  4. Shunt 12, 110 from 3 extension into 4 road
  5. Shunt 121, 104, 105, 14 from the platform road onto 120, 11 in 3 extension
  6. Shunt 121 onto 12, 110 in 4 road
  7. Shunt 121, 12, 110 onto 104, 105, 14, 120, 11 in 3 road
  8. Shunt 121, 12, 110, 104, 105, 14, 120, 11 into 4 road
  9. Shunt 121 into 3 extension

Finish positions:

  • 121 in 3 extension waiting return of C set
  • B set in 4 road

For this to happen smoothly the following needs to be requested before the event:

  1. C set is stabled in 14 road on the night of the 29th August
  2. Control asks the train crew of the 1340 on the 30th on their return to shunt the spares into 5 road and A set into 4 road
  3. Control asks the train crew of the 1600 on the 30th on their return to shunt C set into 2 road
  4. Control asks the train crew of the 1340 on the 31st August on their return to shunt 121 from 3 extension onto the top of C set before shunting it to wherever control requires it to be

Control is also reminded that C set on the 30th and 31st August will only be 5 carrs long.

FR Crest Small

As far as I am aware this was the only time that a party train has involved carriages from all three front line sets. It was also one of the few times the Operating dept has agreed to have one of their sets depleted to 5 carrs for 2 days of the summer service. It was unusual as a party train in that it had two operating bar carrs (so required twice the usual serving staff). It was also very unusual in being a Ffestiniog train made up of 10 corridor coaches – it was a heck of a walk to get from one end to the other that night!




Author: Chris H

Having now officially reached middle age, I am a rolling stock engineer and have worked in many different locations including a 7 year spell in Sydney, Australia, where I arrived with a suitcase and left with a wife and a son. I am now based back in my home county of Yorkshire where I juggle full time work, being a Dad to two rascally mini-mes, and trying to fit in railway modelling, assisting the GWR 1014 County of Glamorgan project, and visits to the top left hand corner of Wales. In addition to my heavily railway themed life, I am interested in rugby, cricket, reading crime novels, falconry, and medieval re-enactments.

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