Thoughts on Layout Design…….

     I am a firm believer in the Iain Rice school of thought when it comes to layout design and planning, so I take everything into account rather than just the track plan. I ask myself what features would I like to model, the type of countryside through which the railway will pass. Usually I have a picture in my minds eye of how I would like the layout to look and have a selection of suitable buildings in mind that I would like to model. My inspiration coming from my collection of railway books, old modelling magazines or by simply being out and about exploring the countryside. Sometimes a single photo can start me off on another modelling adventure, then the urge to learn more about the scene kicks in, such as the social history and likely traffic flows.


Starting afresh and in 7mm scale has presented more than a few problems, I could have made things easier for myself by modelling an industrial or urban scene. Nothing wrong in going down that route but neither appeal to me, for I want to model an idyllic rural scene. Now that is easier said than done in the larger scales for it is all too easy to end up with what I call a top heavy look. By that I mean that the height of the structures and buildings on the layout are out of proportion to its length and width. In his two books on 7mm Modelling, Gordon Gravett mentions modelling some of his background buildings to a slightly smaller scale of  6mm to the foot, he also suggests that it is wise  to model small buildings if space is at a premium. Another friend who has a large 7mm exhibition layout suggested that the key to creating a convincing rural scene would depend on the depth available. So bearing all that advice in mind I started to seriously plan my new layout, I didn’t want much as far as track was concerned, a couple of sidings and a loop would suit me fine for what I had in mind. The simple arrangement at Llansilin Road was still fresh in my mind, so I bought a copy of ‘The Tanat Valley Light Railway’ by Mike Lloyd, not that I had any intention of modelling that particular line, but for the drawings, photos and to learn more about the railway and the industries that it served.

Further inspiration came from within the pages of ‘BR Steam In Dean’ by Ian Pope and Ben Ashworth, who has always been one of, if not my favourite railway photographer. A couple of photos of Soudley No. 2 Crossing near Cinderford caught my eye and I was soon working out how to model a similar scene. Were it not for copyright issues I would have included the photos here, alas the best I can do is to refer you to this recent photo and to paint you a pen, or should that be a keyboard picture? The old track bed is plain to see, now imagine a minor road crossing at an angle in the foreground, and just before the crossing a short siding capable of holding around three wagons branching off to the left. Timber is known to have been loaded there, the private siding being protected by a gate. There was also what appears to be an old van body roughly where the garage is today.  Anyway after trying a few ideas out I came up with the plan below……….

Bleddfa Rd. Plan

The plan is a mixture of  Llansiln Road and Soudley No.2 crossing, the latter being modelled as a mirror image. As for modelling the cottage I am undecided at the moment, it would certainly act as a handy view blocker for where the trains and the siding  disappear off scene. But I have another building in mind as well, so what I propose to do is to make the various building shells and then see which work the best.  Both level crossings will be simple affairs and probably modelled in light railway fashion with slatted wooden cattle grids on either side but no gates. Another question mark hangs over the ground frame which could be modelled open to the elements or enclosed within a small cabin? The line curved to the left at Llansilin Road but it is not possible to replicate that due to the layout of my modelling room. Sometimes you just have to compromise and if you can’t accept doing that then you will have  problems. The goods shed is on a siding loop as per the arrangement at Llansilin Road which will make shunting far from easy, whilst the small goods yard with its loading bank is pure fiction, as is the proposed water tower. The date will be set between 1959 and 1960, the line being in its twilight years, its survival dependant on the output of the local timber, or quarry industries. Goods inward comprising household coal, general merchandise and supplies for whatever industry I decide on  Passenger trains if any will be few and far between, and operated by a Railcar or a loco with a single coach. Yes, operationally the layout is rather limited, but so was Penhydd and Llangunllo, and that didn’t bother me one jot. In fact I think the short trains that I favour will be even more satisfying to run, due to the feeling of mass and weight of the larger models.

Bleddfa Road ideas 1

This was the idea taking shape a couple of weeks ago with sleepers and timbers being laid directly onto thin card templates. I would normally have used cork underlay but remain unconvinced of its sound deadening properties, perhaps foam would give better results, but having tried that many years ago I ended up with a switch back effect, so never again! Following the advice of the late Peter Denny I always aim to place my station buildings to the rear of the layout, the idea being that the absence of any passengers boarding or alighting trains is blocked from view by the carriages. Seeing as I intend to use loose couplings the goods shed and yard is to the front of the layout, which should in theory make things easier. I am hoping to avoid auto couplings at all costs.

One big change for me this time around is to attempt to paint my own backscene rather than rely on a photo scene. Fortunately a recent post by Paul Marshall-Potter on his Albion Yard  has inspired me to try rattle cans rather than paint by brush, the timing couldn’t have been better, so thank you Paul.

Wales 2012 015

The top scene has too much detail, but illustrates the sort of background that I have in mind. The lower one should be fairly easy to spray and when combined with some muted background scenery I hope that it will give me the effect that I have in my minds eye.

P1010819 (2)

This is how I see the scene developing and no I haven’t painted it. I cheated by cropping the foreground out of a photo, leaving the hazy blue background. Then I replaced the foreground with the sort of muted rolling countryside that I have in mind for my painted scene. The idea being to gradually increase the intensity of the foreground colours until they blend in with the ‘Mininatur / Silflor’ grass that I have selected, the actual joint between painted scene and modelled scenery being disguised by a hedgerow or similar.

P1010819 (2)


But my ideas don’t stop there because in an attempt to create more depth and a feeling of distance, I plan on securing the scene to the walls of my modelling room rather than to the layout itself. If my calculations are correct then I should end up with a large wrap around backscene on a sweeping curve, which will be some 20 cm from the rear of the layout.


Anyway enough of my ideas, time for a progress report…………..

P1010892 (2)

This is just one of the three track beds, with the wiring, droppers and Tortoise point motors fitted and tested prior to the bed being screwed onto the baseboard frames. The tape is there to hold the wiring in place so that it will fit into the notches that have been cut into the top of the baseboard frame cross members.


The photo above shows part of the 9mm thick ply track bed, with sleepers and crossing timbers in place. Since the photo was taken the baseboard frames have been extended in width to 50 cm, or just shy of 20″ in old money. Point crossings and switch blades are in the process of being made, only one of the former and a pair of the latter being on the to do list. The shell for the goods shed is almost complete and awaits cladding in corrugated sheet, as does the station building. The real shed was mounted on a timber frame but I rather like the idea of supporting it on brick pillars. Other work in progress includes the station approach road, the platform frame and face, but more about those another time.




6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Layout Design…….

  1. Nice to see progress being made Geoff, and I look forward to more! I enjoyed the prototype discussion between Simon and yourself, stuff I know precious little about!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Keith and thanks for your comment, I’m pleased that you are enjoying reading about progress at ‘Bleddfa Rd. and the discussions that follow.



  2. I have questions about this. As a goods only line, during the downgrading, might they not have simply removed the ground frame and put simple point levers in place? I accept that either might be possible, but wondered what the real railway did in this part of the country when removing passenger services.
    Also, although there are examples of terminals in the area having loop sidings, e.g. the Sling branch, if what was formerly a double-ended siding is now being used to run round trains, would the goods shed not be taken out of use, as it now interferes with operation? Either that or the trains would be propelled, with brake van leading, to the terminus and hauled back, loco first? (
    Mind you, there is always rope-shunting, common enough in your modelled time frame. (A friend’s late father did this in Suffolk with a Brush Type 2 in the mid 60s!)
    I enjoy reading Iain’s ideas on presentation, but I sometimes think that whilst he is building on the presentation ideas of Dave Lowery (with “Bevleys” in its original short format) and Barry Norman’s ideas on depth and composition (particularly with “Perherick”), he can lose sight of prototype practice and not understand how a particular track layout came about and how it was operated. I wonder here if you are in danger of creating a beautiful scene, but one which the prototype would not have tolerated?
    Of course, if you have done all your homework and found examples to put in a future post, then I am guilty of jumping the gun and deserve to look like a pompous fool! I do hope so!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Simon and thanks for taking the time to comment.

      A photo taken in 1956 by the late Geoff Bannister, which appears in his book ‘Branch Line Byways Vol 2’ shows the Llansilin Road ground frame, and also a facing point lock still intact and looking in a good state of repair 5 years after the withdrawal of passenger services. Of course I am relying on the information being correct, but seeing as he kept a diary of events I have no reason to doubt the dates, so I believe that I am on firm ground as regards the frame there.

      As for the loop siding and goods shed, in my grand scheme ‘Bleddfa Road’ was once a through station, but due to the line being breached (see my previous post) it has now become the terminus of the line. I agree with you about the shed being taken out of use, for that is what happened at our local station. However a local landowner and farm supplies merchant rented it from BR, and still received van loads of fertilizers, seed potatoes, bagged lime and other farmers supplies until the track was lifted. I know this because my late father was a frequent visitor to the goods yard and shed in connection with his employment. Whenever possible I would accompany him and on one such occasion witnessed a spot of shunting with nothing more than a large pinch bar and a favourable gradient!! Dunster on the Minehead branch also had a goods shed on a loop with two kick back sidings leading off it, so the arrangement doesn’t particularly bother me.

      Running around trains won’t present any problems as I don’t see anything more than a single van blocking the loop at any one time, and that can easily be shunted out of the way by arriving locos setting back and then pulling it forwards onto the engine release road. The van, wagon or whatever can then be set back onto the train in the platform road, thus allowing the run round to be used and shunting carried out. Of course if someone comes up with a remote controlled shunting horse then ‘Dobbin’ could assist :-).

      Iain’s ideas might well have been influenced by Dave Lowry and Barry, for their approach to railway modelling was ground breaking at the time.


      Liked by 2 people

      1. We use a fine chain instead of a rope, but chain shunting is commonplace on S scale layouts, so you could certainly consider it for the larger scale.
        It’s a lot of fun, too.

        Liked by 1 person

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