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


The little grey cells

As I said in an earlier post, my modelling appears to have currently reached a temporary hiatus. There is little I can do about it. I have two sons who are hardly independent, a job that has gone into overdrive, and, as my previous but one post said, I am getting to grips with the new pump world.

One of my regular readers, who happens to write a blog about modelling that does happen, said to me recently, “You like to have several projects on the go at once don’t you?” He may well be right, but I think my blog is misleading because I haven’t anywhere near as many projects actually on the go as I make out. Many have reached the drawing board and are no further.

This doesn’t concern me greatly, because the day will come when the kids are busy doing homework, and when not doing homework, chasing girls, and I will get some time to build things. All I am doing now is the planning.

Although I don’t get much modelling time, what I do get are 10 minute breaks between jobs in the office, and a lunch break where I need to think about anything but High Speed Rail in Canada, buying trains for Mexico, looking at recently scrapped trains in Australia, and has the right team won the latest franchises in the North of England (to give an example based on this week just endeth).

These 10 minute breaks are ideal for research. So for the last couple of weeks I have been resurrecting an idea I’ve had for some time to build a 1988 built steam loco in 009, and the last couple of days in amongst the hectic world of modern day Colonial railways, examining GWR tenders, Hawksworth ones in particular, both for my Pacific project and also for something else. These dabbles in online research keep the creative juices flowing and ensure I don’t end up in the loony bin.

More on 1988 steam locomotives and Hawksworth tenders another time. I may also do a piece on Hawksworth himself. The more I look into his work, the more I’m saddened he didn’t get a chance to show what he was really capable of.

One of the results of this week’s research: Did you know that Charles Collett did an 8 wheel version of his standard 6 wheel 4000 gallon tender?  No I didn’t either. He only did one. I presume it was an experiment to see if you could get the same capacity on a wider route availability. Presumably it wasn’t worth the bother.

Anyway, here it is attached to a Hall.

Collett 8 wheel tender

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Destination “K”

Recently I have done some travelling. With places which begin with K. Korea was one trip – for once being in the South was preferable to being in the North. The other was to Kingston upon Hull. Or ‘Ull as we prefer to call it. 

The Korea trip was a business trip to Seoul and included a look round the depot for Metro Line 9 and a trip on the high speed line. The trains for Metro Line 9 look like a fat Class 141. See:- 

Metro Line 9 EMUs

Metro Line 9 EMUs

The high speed trip was a there and back from Seoul to Daejeon in the middle of the country. 1 hour each way. Both legs were in a KTX-1. These are the Alstom Atlantique TGVs with a nose job. Incredibly, they even used the same paint for the colour stripe class demarcations on the body sides. We did see a KTX-2 while we were at Daejeon which is Korean built with Alstom equipment. KTX series 3 and 4 are pure home grown products but we didn’t see them. 





There was also an interesting flower bed with clock outside the station at Daejeon.


No trains today...

No trains today…

The trip to Hull was as previously mentioned to pick up my tamper and have a gander at Bron Hebog. It really is as impressive as the pictures always suggest. Well worth seeing when it’s next out.

My tamper has a quick test. Here it is approaching Cutting Mawr above Beddgelert

My tamper has a quick test. Here it is approaching Cutting Mawr above Beddgelert


One thing I did like at Hull was the opportunity to hire a stool for a £5 returnable deposit for small people. Mini-me is still a bit short but he still found it useful at the Hull Model Engineers’ stand.

Mini-me in "choo-choo" heaven

Mini-me in “choo-choo” heaven

The other layout which was on my top 2 list was Crumley and Little Wickhill. The corner layout enabling the perspective of looking down the valley rather than across it produces stunning views. Very well done and makes me wonder if I can do that anywhere on mine.

I also had preliminary discussions with Boston Largs Works about another commission. Watch this space!!

A view showing the wild expanse of the layout. Note the "wind up" Russell in the foreground (not clockwork - it's what cut down Russell does to WHR fans)

A view showing the wild expanse of the layout. Note the “wind up” Russell in the foreground (not clockwork – it’s what cut down Russell does to WHR fans)

Wife, Mini-me, Tamper. A good day out. (and wind-up no.2, the Parry people Mover on the extreme left, which you will only ever see going downhill...)

Wife, Mini-me, Tamper. A good day out.
(and wind-up no.2, the Parry people Mover on the extreme left, which you will only ever see going downhill…)

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I have a thing about tampers. They’re weird enough to be interesting. And once you understand how they work, the detail differences become interesting too (honestly!).

I worked on a tamper once. I took on the job of designing the regauging of one when the Welsh Highland was being built. The finished article is fit to tamp any part of the Ffestiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway. Not surprisingly after tamping almost all of the Welsh Highland it needed a bit of fettling and went to Plasser for a rebuild a couple of years ago.

What’s this to do with model railways you ask? Well, when I was in Australia, Rob, better known for being one of the modelmakers behind Dduallt and Bron Hebog, built a model of the KMX tamper for the Bron Hebog layout. He said he liked it because it was unique.

Well it was until I asked him if he’d build me one. Coming from north of the border, this was an offer worth pursuing so over the last couple of years he (in his guise as Boston Largs Works) has been building me one. This isn’t entirely unrealistic as there were 3 of these tampers built to this design although the other 2 don’t sport the roof as that is an FR/WHR/Me addition. (Nor do they sport windscreen wipers as they originally worked down a coal mine in France so we got some from a local boat chandlers IIRC).

KMX tamper

KMX tamper (C) Rob Waller

The model is now complete. So in a couple of weeks I’ll be going to the Hull Model Railway Show to collect it (and maybe have a play on Bron Hebog). I am quite excited.

My unpainted tamper posed with the original finished one

My unpainted tamper posed with the original finished one (C) Rob Waller

Another view of the two tampers

Another view of the two tampers posing on the Bron Hebog layout (C) Rob Waller

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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).


A new blog and a new name

I’ve decided to start this blog as:

a) I want to record my modelling activities (railway modelling – my wife always reminds me I forget that important word “railway”…)

b) I want something to pen any thoughts I have

c) This project is so mad I suspect I’ll find other like-minded mad people out there too to exchange ideas with.

So what’s Penlowry?

Penlowry is the name for my model railway. As it is a big project and I have nowhere to put it, I have cunningly conceived a plan to build it in modules that can be put together at a later date when we own a house with a requisite sized loft to put it in. Quite frankly, a fox from Oxford University would have struggled to do any better.

I will post a diagram of the entire project soon. For the moment, let’s just say it will contain 5 gauges and will be 4mm to the foot (1:76). The gauges are 00, 0010.5, 009, 006.5, and monorail. Told you I was mad.

The name Penlowry comes from the first module which I originally was building as a stand-alone model. It has 00 and 009 tracks and is depicting the junction between the 2 in a factory setting with chocolate factory and brewery (based on the Purple Moose Brewery in Porthmadog). The industrial setting reminded me of paintings by the artist L. S. Lowry so much I looked for a name to suit.

Brewery Train, High Street, Burton by LS Lowry

Brewery Train, High Street, Burton by LS Lowry

In the completed model the upper end of the module will be a headland and so I borrowed the Welsh word Pen for head or headland (as in Penrhyndeudraeth – Headland between two beaches) and so resulted in Penlowry. I also checked to ensure Lowry or Llowry didn’t mean anything in Welsh. It doesn’t according to my friendly Welsh guide, although Llowry is a girl’s name.

So there we are. Penlowry.

In the next post I’ll scan a copy of the concept diagram and see if I can expalin a bit more about the modules.