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

Penlowry potest in Cambria

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And that’s enough Latin for one day. Apart from per ardua ad taberna perhaps.

In the second half of last year, a friend of mine, who from his nickname you would think was bright orange and had long arms, decided that he wanted to concentrate on 16mm live steam and as a result wanted to get rid of his layout which in a part built and dismantled state had ben carted about various places around County Durham without any progress being made. Knowing that I was me and I had two Mini-mes, he asked if I wanted to offer him a ridiculous price for it to take it off his hands. Having had my ridiculous offer accepted, a few weeks later I was in receipt of a part built model railway in 00. Since then it has been moved to various sides of the garage as I’ve used the space for other things.

The railway itself is a terminus station along an 8’ x 2’ board (currently split into two 4’ x 2’ boards), and a 6’ x 18” fiddle yard which folds in the middle for storage, the whole lot being wired for DCC. The boards and railway are well built and provide an excellent start point for what I want. The railway currently looks something like this:


The trains enter from the left through a road bridge into the station with brewery siding followed by goods shed towards the front and bay platform at the back. The road over the railway continues round the corner past some shops and slopes down to the station yard. Here are the two sections of the layout as it arrived.

As built picture.png

Now that my work sees me working from home more than not, one of the rooms in the house is to be converted into an office for me, which will result in sufficient space for this railway to be erected. The room is large enough for the 8’ section to run down one wall, and the 6’ section to run down the next wall at right angles, with a new corner piece inserted to join the two together. However, I’m not content with the terminus plan and I’ve been quite ambitious in my planning (but hopefully not rubbish). I plan to put the fiddle yard at the right hand end of the 8’ board, reworking the track at the current buffer stops so the track exits that way onto the curved board and onto the fiddle yard, and the original exit to the fiddle yard will have a short section of track beyond the scenic section long enough to hold a branch train. An additional piece of board will be added to the right hand end of the 8′ section for a shed scene, and a lower level surface added on the outside of the current front of the board to produce a dock scene. This will mean it will look something like this:



These 8’ boards will then be a model of the fictitious:


The raison d’etre of the model is that this is the loco change point for the Cambrian with trains coming from the fiddle yard on the main bidirectional line into the station where the train will then reverse with a Cambrian loco (you know, Manor, 90xx, Jones goods, etc.) to haul it down the Cambrian single bidirectional line back to the fiddle yard. The branch going off the scenic section to the short spur in the other direction will be the Penlowry Town branch and will see AEC railcars and short branch trains.

Over the Christmas break I had a play about with timetables and the 1904 Barmouth Junction summer working timetable has given me a good start point.


The corner section board will be of Penlowry Beach station and will be a recreation of a section the Patriarch once built for a corner of his layout with a station with a beach directly off it and a church on a cliff overlooking (complete with mermaid behind a rock on the cliffs and the Rector trainspotting from the churchyard). This was originally a model of a Cornish GW line and similarities can be drawn to the Welsh coast. The church in question is a model of St Mary’s, Lockington, East Yorkshire, built in Linka when the Patriarch was Rector there. The Beach station will only be on the Cambrian bidirectional line and so mainline trains will pass through the site of the station non-stop. A camp coach will stand on an isolated piece of track nearby.


Lockington Parish Church ©Peter Church

To keep my narrow gauge me happy I am going to insert a NG station at the back of the layout in the current station yard running from the fiddle yard behind the backscene of the beach section, with some NG track also in the Brewery yard and dockside. The hidden link between the two is a potential future addition if I can make it all work.

I have also shown the possible mountain railway section running from the NG station, heading to the left, behind the street scene which will be changed from low-relief shops to full depth houses.

In terms of date, my aim is to go for 1948ish. I say ish because that gives me flexibility. 1948 means that most things will still be GW not BR, particularly this far from London, but will allow the running of early BR stuff too. Being a loco change point, there may be the opportunity to see foreign locos working 1948 exchange trials to the Junction along the mainline. The Patriarch now only does model engineering so has promised to pass on all his 00 stuff which includes a Dean Goods and a Duke, both of which were still in use on the Cambrian at this point (free fact for the day – not all 90xx were Dukedogs, some were renumbered Dukes).

For me this post-war pre-BR Standards period is really interesting as there is a right mix of modern and frankly ancient traction and rolling stock and the drive for standardisation had not yet taken hold, there were no Mk1s, and hardly anything was in that all covering BR black that so many seem to get excited about. (We all know the only GW engine that looked good in BR black was 3717…)


Duke class 3254 Cornubia (built as number 3255 in 1895) which by 1948 had been renumbered into the Dukedog class as 9054 and been allocated to Machynlleth (and possibly sub-shedded to Portmadoc). By withdrawal in 1950 it had run 1,632,815 miles.

So what about my magnus opus layout? Well yes, I still would like to build it and maybe I will one day – or at least sections of it such as the tunnel through the fish tank. However I do feel I need to be retired (!) to have sufficient time to build something like that and realism has set in that I need to do something achievable if I am to do anything at all. Having this model railway fall into my lap so to speak gives me that leg up I’ve been needing. Having a location and era focus will help stop my ridiculous imagination running away with itself.

So welcome to the new Penlowry. It covers the GW stuff I want to do (Hawksworth locos); being a loco change point it will have a decent shed so it ticks that box too; it’s based in Wales and what could be better than that?!; it will definitely have standard gauge and narrow gauge; it has a brewery and sidings which is my sort of tipple; it may well have mountain railway as well at some point; and I am wondering if I can achieve a short section of 00-6.5 in the corner scenic section to cover that too. It may be possible occasionally to run the layout as an 80s layout allowing for test trains down the quiet Welsh railways to cover for my inherent desire to model that too.

At any rate, at some point in 2017 a model railway will start to emerge. Honest! I hope you will enjoy reading about my new journey as much as I intend to enjoy going on it.

So there you have it. Penlowry is on the Cambrian.


Dukedog at Afon Wen © H C Casserley


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.

One thought on “Penlowry potest in Cambria

  1. Pingback: Patriarchal modelling | Penlowry

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