Professional modelmaker Geoff Taylor introduces his scenic layout masterpiece, which is set on the Ruabon to Barmouth route in BR steam days.
Penmaenpool station is only a part of my layout, which also includes Barmouth Junction, Dolgelley goods yard and a long scenic section. The real station closed in 1965 and was situated on the line from Ruabon to Barmouth in former Great Western territory. The section from Dolgelley to Barmouth was built by the Cambrian Railways before being absorbed by the GWR. Although BR Western Region took over in 1948, the line was managed by the London Midland Region from 1963 until closure.
Above: One of the key factors for Geoff was to ensure that ready-to-run models could be used wherever possible. As it turned out, much of what he needed was available or released during the layout's construction. A Bachmann Ivatt 2MT 2-6-0 rolls along the water's edge towards Penmaenpool platform with a local train formed of BR Mk 1 stock.
Unlike most stations, Penmaenpool wasn’t attached to a platform but was totally separate. To get to the Up platform, passengers had to cross the tracks and a small road. For the Down platform, they had to cross the road and then a siding to get to the platform. There was a very small goods shed, a signalbox and surprisingly, a two-road locomotive shed.
A very nice looking toll bridge crossed the river at this point and the road from it went right across the line between the station building and platform. Another feature was the ‘George Hotel’, situated very close to the track, further adding to the marvellous setting. This hotel had the main road running right behind at roof level with the ground rising very steeply from that. So all in all, a fantastic scene that just cried out for a model to be made of it.
Above: Ex-GWR 45XX No. 4569 is in charge of a short pick-up goods heading for Dolgelly. Lush greenery, exquisitely made by Geoff, envelops the line and the attractive timber-built locomotive shed.
The largest locomotives used on the line were ex-GWR ‘Manor’ 4-6-0s and BR Standard 4MT 4-6-0s. A variety of smaller locomotives was also seen on the line, such as GWR 43XX 2-6-0s, ‘Collett Goods’, Collett 58XX 0-4-2Ts, ‘Dukedogs’, 74XX Panniers, Ivatt 2MT 2-6-0s, BR Standard 3MT 2-6-2Ts, 4MT 2-6-4Ts and 4MT 2-6-0s amongst others. Diesel railcars were seen from the late-1950s, especially in the summer months, working excursions from industrial towns in the Potteries and the Midlands.
Above: 'Dukedog' No. 9022 waits for the road at one of Tony Geary's handbuilt signals, which combine kit parts with scratchbuilt details.
Anyone who has built a layout knows there are many different aspects to building it and one of the main items is the trackwork. Fortunately, my good friend John Bailey made the points for the other parts of the layout and ‘Penmaenpool’ was the last section to be built. He made them using Templot software, nickel-silver rail and individual chairs. I was more than pleased with the result.
I have used SMP plain track on the rest of my layout and was going to use it on ‘Penmaenpool’ too, but John had other ideas. He planned to make all the points using ply sleepers, so I suggested making the plain track in the same manner. This was very time-consuming, but the end result was worth the extra effort.
I used two different shades of Woodlands Scenics stone for the ballast, which is brushed in place, sprayed with water and a few drops of washing-up liquid, and then I dropped diluted PVA all over and left it to set for 24 hours. It is a tedious job, but if done a little at a time it’s the best method. A very diluted matt black was applied afterwards to weather the stone, highlighting where locomotives rest with oil stains. Away from the scenic sections, I used Peco Code 75 track for both points and plain track.
Above: Surprisingly for such a small station, Penmaenpool boasted a two-road locomotive shed. Part 2 of this article next month will focus on the layout's buildings.
Much thought was given to the hillside above the layout, as all the electrics had to be above the baseboard. It also had to be removable to ensure access to everything. There are in fact seven separate scenic sections, which run the length of the layout. One section needs to be lifted out first before the others. MDF was used to make the boxes and then in-filled with insulation material and covered in Woodland Scenics ground cover of various colours.
My trees are Seamoss, sprayed in brown and grey, coated in spray glue and cheap hairspray and then covered in texture from Woodland Scenics. I thought about making my trees individually, but when I realised how many would be needed, I decided a quicker way was necessary.
Other parts of my layout were painted by an artist, but for ‘Penmaenpool’, I thought I would have a go myself. If it went pear-shaped, I would have to get someone else to do it properly. However, I hopefully have a scene that is convincing. I’ve asked friends to be quite blunt, but so far no one has!
Above: From the late-1950s, diesel railcars were used on day trips from the industrial towns and cities of the Midlands to scenic lines in Wales. A pair of 'Derby Lightweight' sets thread their way between the hotel and the Mawddach.
Trains run to a sequence based on BR period timetables that I acquired. But, bearing in mind that the service was fairly sparse, I have added a few more moves to make operating sessions more enjoyable. I have a screen to show what the next move is and each page is changed on a laptop. The good thing about this is that the operators never know what their next move is!
Apart from the two-coach shuttle, which works back-and-forth from Barmouth to Dolgelley a few times a day, all other trains are only seen once out and once back. The whole sequence takes approximately six hours, so if you operate it for a few hours, you won’t see the same train again.
This has been a very nice project to make and it gives me enormous enjoyment when operating with others. I would like to give a big thanks to all my friends who helped make ‘Penmaenpool’ what you see now. Thanks also to Tony Geary for helping with some of the wiring, making locomotives and stock work better and of course, those lovely semaphore signals. When I first started the layout, my friend John Bailey helped me enormously with the original wiring, point making, showing me how to make plain track, helping with making the baseboards and various other things, such as making a Comet Models chassis for a GWR ‘Manor’ 4-6-0. Sadly, he passed away at the beginning of 2015, so he never saw the finished layout. He is greatly missed, but there is a lot of John about, every time I look at ‘Penmaenpool’.
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