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

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Cat’s got the cream – shameless post of cute cats

Following on from the last post about the finally finished tank car, I decided t’other one would actually have different graphics since advertising was such an important part (and still is) of the transportation of goods.

Keeping to the same theme, in homage to our two rascally kittens, Phryne and Dot, I have decided that Penlowry’s dairy, Bluebell Dairies, markets its cream products under the trademark of Kitties’ Cream.

I’ve done the graphics but need to go and buy some more inkjet vinyl matt labels to print it on.


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The future is bright

Just in case people think I’m just out to bash the FR, I’m not. A lot of what they do I think is fantastic. This is one of their best successes yet. I love it.


The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways have been successful in securing a significant Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £454,500 to support an ambitious training programme to introduce heritage skills to a more diverse audience. Part of the HLF ‘Skills for the Future’ scheme, this programme seeks to recruit twenty trainees over a two-year period. The railway aims to attract trainees in order to share the heritage skills of its talented workforce and in doing so, encourage careers in the heritage sector.

Paul Lewin, Director and General Manager comments:

“For our national heritage to have a bright future we need to ensure that there are people with the skills necessary to conserve, work with and interpret our heritage assets. It is of vital importance that people from all backgrounds are attracted to be involved in our heritage at all levels. Also as traditional heritage skills diverge from the requirements of mainstream industry, it is ever more important that we concentrate on developing those skills. This program, made possible by HLF, allows us to focus on these challenges in a way that we simply could not otherwise hope to do.’

The first step in the project has been to appoint a Project Manager to oversee the program. Karen Spring, an accomplished former head teacher has been appointed and will immediately work to prepare for the first round of trainees who will join the programme in September this year.

Skills areas covered by the scheme include Horticulture, Heritage Joinery, Heritage Mechanical Engineering, Dry stone walling, Permanent Way Engineering and Heritage Interpretation. The scheme will work in collaboration with local partners and colleges.

We are now actively seeking potential trainees for the scheme. Initial contact can be made by emailing



If you’re interested in a place on this scheme, we’re holding an all-day ‘taster’ session on Tuesday 24th April – with a further four dates planned in June.

Please email for further details…

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Cat sup

Well it’s only taken nearly a year but I’ve found time and a solution to finish off the first of my custom liveried milk tankers.

For the newer readers of the blog, Bluebell was our much loved and totally daft cat who used to sit on my shoulders while I worked. Unfortunately her time with us was short lived as she had no road sense. I therefore decided to immortalise her on Penlowry by making the local dairy be named after her.

The milk tankers are Dapol unpainted ones, sprayed white and then the livery applied using printed labels. I tried decal sheets but the ink and sheet combination didn’t work well and when I twigged the background could be white not clear, the use of a label made so much sense.

Once printed, a slot was cut in the top for the walkway fixings to be clear and then the label was carefully applied, using a fingernail to ensure a tight finish onto the tank bands.

I like the result. Now to finish t’other one.


Has anyone got a spare £200k?

Well after yesterday’s amusement now it’s time for something completely different.

I spent the day on Saturday playing on the narrow gauge at Beamish as part of the Great North Steam Fair. It was an excellent day apart from it being the only day of the four where it persisted it down all day!

I spent most of the afternoon driving Statfold, the 2005 built quarry Hunslet. It and Jack Lane were batch built by Statfold Barn Railway. At the time I am told they cost £140k.

Add some cash for inflation and material costs rocketing (particularly in 2008) and I reckon you’re looking at £200k for one now.

And I want one. They’re bloody good fun.

I’ve pre-ordered a 009 Dorothea but it’s not quite the same.

The problem is I’m £200k short. Can anyone help?!


‘Tis utter madness (in my humble opinion)

Yesterday was a melancholy day for many of us. Certainly one of the saddest in my life. The Festiniog Railway Company decided to retire the double Fairlie Earl of Merioneth from service forever. Yesterday was its last day in service. It’s like losing a relative. For me, I did a lot of trainee firing turns on the Square, and when I was a qualified fireman, a day on the Square was always something to look forward to. It really did fit the bill of doing what it says on the tin. An amazing loco.

What beggar’s belief in all of this is the reasoning for this retirement. Here is what the Company said when they announced the decision.

Earl of Merioneth, affectionately known as The Square due to its angular appearance, is approaching the end of its ten-year boiler certificate and needs a new boiler, boiler cradle, smokeboxes, chimneys and water tanks. Only its power bogies, built in 1986, are serviceable and they are in need of heavy overhaul and new tyres. The decision was thus made that building a brand new loco was the best approach rather than patching up one that is effectively life-expired.

The new one in question will be a recreation of James Spooner.

Fabulous you might think. Well, not really. We already have three red Victorian double Fairlies – why on earth do we need another?

Here they are:

Right to left are:

Taliesin, the single Fairlie, built 1999

Merddin Emrys “built 1879” (with new tanks and bogies in 2005, a new boiler in the 1960s and due another new boiler shortly, new domes and cab in 1988, and new smokeboxes and new chimneys in the last year or so)

David Lloyd George built 1992

And Livingston Thompson built 1886 and now just a collection of knackered bits

In 1988, once the railway had money for such things, Merddin Emrys was re-Victorianised from its 1960s austerity look to the result you see above. In 1992, DLG appeared, crowned as a return to making locomotives that look Victorian. So in the words of the French knights, “we’ve already got vone”. More than one. Why do we need another one that looks the same? Where’s the variety? Where’s the interest? There is only going to be a very small segment of the world’s population that can tell the difference between the Ffestiong Fairlies, while previously, at least we had the variety of the Square.

As I’ve said in a previous post, the Square is the remaining symbol of a period of railway preservation history that must not be forgotten. That a railway, with no money, could build a deviation, and then turn round and promptly build a really useful locomotive is an achievement to be celebrated. No other railway manged anything like this for decades. However the current Festiniog Railway Company board seem determined to wipe the restoration of the railway from the history books, focus solely on the Victorian heyday, and the retirement of the Square is the crowning glory of their achievement.

I said earlier that what beggar’s belief in all of this is the reasoning for this retirement. Here is the announcement again:

Earl of Merioneth, affectionately known as The Square due to its angular appearance, is approaching the end of its ten-year boiler certificate and needs a new boiler, boiler cradle, smokeboxes, chimneys and water tanks. Only its power bogies, built in 1986, are serviceable and they are in need of heavy overhaul and new tyres. The decision was thus made that building a brand new loco was the best approach rather than patching up one that is effectively life-expired.

I have included this picture of the double Fairlie so those unfamiliar with the design can understand what is being discussed here.

As I hinted in the caption above, Merddin Emrys has been through the same process, but with no thought of retiring it. Why on earth not? By the company’s own reasoning Merddin Emrys should have been retired in 1996 when its boiler failed and never rebuilt. The FR Co.’s statement is also misleading because it ignores the fact the bogies will be overhauled anyway for use under James Spooner.

And while the Company carries on about maintaining all locomotives in working order but also that “life-expired” locomotives should be retired, let’s not forget there is currently a locomotive called Welsh Pony in Boston Lodge works having an “overhaul” that consists of replacing the frames, cylinders, boiler, cab fittings, and tender, (and I’d imagine smokebox), and refurbishment of the tank with new material let in.

So let’s retire a locomotive that is incredibly useful, but by the polar opposite argument restore a locomotive that will be about as much use as a fart in a spacesuit for hauling a 12 carr revenue train up the valley (or have we forgotten why the double Fairlie saved the Ffestiniog so much expense…?). Hopefully I’m not alone in my raving that sanity has nothing to do with decision making in the top left hand corner of Wales.

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Stocking up

With a week off work I have been doing some tidying. I realised that my modelling cupboard consisted of an awful lot of air surrounding some models.

I have therefore ordered some stock boxes and have discarded the original packaging – even of the limited edition things I have – shock horror you may think. Not really, I’m just a realist. Have a look on eBay at all those boxed limited edition models that 20 years ago were worth something – such as Wrenn stuff, now to be picked up for not a lot – why, because the people who perceived them as potentially valuable are no longer around. (Sorry, that was a bit morbid wasn’t it). Told you, I’m a realist.

The 009 stuff has also been boxed more rationally and so, once I have a new handle and clips for the box, will be ready for any travelling I want to do with said models.

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Fruit Mex

A quick trip to York Model Railway Show yesterday. We did the usual with me taking the Mini Mes around for a couple of hours then having the afternoon to myself. Mini Me 1 was very taken with the Z gauge bullet trains while Mini Me 2 much enjoyed some modern image particularly when the trains were “tired and stopped for a rest” (signal at danger).

I didn’t take many pictures though there were some excellent models there including Hull’s 009 Crumley and Little Wickhill layout which is up for sale (£1000 if you’re interested). I particularly like the model with its unusual view down the valley. Brilliantly done.

I do like a good unusual load.

I did like the Welsh village with chapel on the Helford Valley Railway.

Another view of the Helford Valley Railway with a well worked station yard.

It’s all about perspective. The clever use of perspective here to get the roads to fade into the back scene is well done. I think this is on St Ruth but don’t quote me (apologies).

I did of course get some goodies. In particular some more Sprat and Winkles and a Fruit Mex that was on sale for missing a coupling – not a problem when they’re to be replaced with the former anyway.