Despite being on record as saying that Llangunllo would be my last layout here I go again with another slice of Mid Welsh make believe, but this time in 7mm scale. As usual I am looking to capture the atmosphere of a rural railway that is well off the beaten track, and though I will be seeking near perfect operation, the running of trains will be of secondary importance. Railway modelling for me is all about creating a realistic and believable scene through which a railway happens to pass, landscape and architectural modelling now being my main interests.
So where exactly is Bleddfa Road? Well Bleddfa itself can be found five miles down the road from Knighton on the A488 heading for Penybont. Blink and you will probably miss the village, which is part of the community of Llangunllo in Powys. Personally I hate the new names given to our old counties, so for me the area will always be known as Radnorshire.
The remains of two hill forts which can be dated to around 200 BC stand guard over the village, one can be found on Glog Hill and the other to the west on Llysin Hill. The village also boasts a 13th century Grade 1 listed church, and apart from the usual village amenities that is your lot. The surrounding countryside is mainly agricultural and mainly populated by sheep, though at one time there were at least five quarries in the area. The Radnor Forest is also prominent and stretches way into the distance, as for Bleddfa Road I am afraid that is pure fiction.
Now for a spot of make believe, had the Lugg Valley Railway been built then it would have missed the village of Bleddfa by a country mile. So the nearest station to the village, which was built to serve the quarries rather than any would be local passengers was called Bleddfa Road. The unwary being totally in ignorance of the distance from station to village. I haven’t mentioned Bleddfa in my previous ramblings about the Lugg Valley, because up until six months ago it hadn’t entered my head. But all that changed when I decided that Llangunllo’s days were numbered.
Those of you who have followed the Lugg Valley saga will be aware of a swollen River Lugg undermining a bridge abutment to the east of Llangunllo, which lead to the partial closure of the line. As you can see from the map Bleddfa is on the Presteign side of the breach, and thanks to one of the quarries in the area remaining in business it has now become the terminus of the line. So there you have a potted history of Bleddfa Road, and the story behind my latest modelling project.
Llangunllo is no more, and for the first time in many years I have no model railway. I hadn’t planned or expected the axe to fall so quickly, but it seemed pointless to delay dismantling the layout any longer, for it had only been gathering dust of late. Having an extensive photographic record of the layout made the decision easier, so section by section it was taken apart, as much as possible being salvaged for use on my Llanbister Road diorama, but even that is under threat, for having discovered the delights of 7mm scale modelling I have lost all motivation to continue with it for now. So it has been put in store along with the buildings from Llangunllo, and my remaining 4mm scale locomotives and rolling stock.
It didn’t take long for nature to start reclaiming the platform, or for the S&T department to remove the signals. The dairy chimney was another earlier casualty and it won’t be long before the dairy buildings are demolished, which doesn’t bode well for the local workforce.
For a short time the local pick up goods continued to run up the branch from Llanbister Road, but following some road improvements what little traffic remained was lost to competition from local hauliers.
The old layout served me well, taught me many new lessons and techniques but I had taken it as far as I could. So it made perfect sense to take a final photo shoot and call time on my 4mm modelling exploits.
It might be the end of Llangunllo but the story of the Lugg Valley Railway will continue, albeit in 7mm scale. In fact the old baseboard frames have already been refurbished, slightly modified and are ready to be set up again to form the foundations for Bledffa Road
I mistaken thought that I had managed to put any ideas of modelling in 7mm scale behind me. But a year on from my first experiments I find myself needing an even stronger magnifier to see what I am doing, the arthritis in my hands and fingers isn’t getting any better either. So small components are becoming even more difficult to handle and work, they are also being dropped on the floor more often, which leads to frustration at times. So having taken all things into consideration temptation got the better of me earlier this year and I ended up purchasing a Dapol / Lionheart 74XX Pannier tank. To be honest I had always wanted one since they first burst on the scene several years ago, so when they became available again at bargain prices I snapped one up. My thinking being that if a layout of sorts didn’t materialise then I could always sell it, 7mm models tending to hold, or increase in value. Dapol had also announced plans to produce examples of Collett’s 14/ 48/ 58XX family of tank engines, which more or less tipped me over the edge.
I also bought a three Dapol goods wagons and a few wagon kits to help me get a feel for the larger models. The Dapol wagons were purchased more as an aid to some speedy layout planning really. It is all very well plotting things out on paper, but sometimes a few items of stock come in more useful than card templates when checking clearances and accurate train lengths etc, etc. Previous planning exercises have proved that I could build a small 7mm scale layout in the space currently occupied by Llangunllo. But I needed to make doubly sure that I could build my sort of layout in its place before I thought about dismantling it. I will explain all about my sort of layout in a forthcoming post.
So I drew up a plan of action, I had already come up with a few layout plans but before getting carried away I set myself a few tasks. First of all I would build a wagon kit, followed by the shell for my intended station building, and finally I would try my hand at track construction.
I started off with this Peco kit for a GWR AA3 16T Brake van, which I prefer to the larger 20T cousins. Being slightly shorter it is ideal for the sort of layout that I have in mind. Despite the age of the kit, which dates back to the 1980’s the components are very nicely detailed and fit together extremely well. I also found the component parts easy to handle and for once I wasn’t constantly dropping things on the floor.
My first 7mm scale kit build waiting to be weathered, the transfers were purchased from Railtec-models, the Kington name being a custom job. According to my research W56010 was allocated to ‘Tondu’ and survived well into the late 1950’s. So once again I claim modellers licence, which explains how the van ended up at Kington.
So far so good, ‘Llanrhaiadr Mochnant’ station building was next on my list of projects. The actual building was situated on the Tanat Valley Railway, not that I have any plans to base my layout in that area. At this stage I just wanted to construct the shell of the building rather than a full blown model, The idea being to see what would, and what wouldn’t work in the space that I have available. This particular building was chosen for two reasons, firstly it is on the small side and secondly I feel that it is full of character. The prototype was built from corrugated iron sheet but I am thinking of modelling it as a timber building, and with a slate roof. At the moment the roof is a simple piece of thin card, which for the benefit of the photo has just been tacked in place. The proper roof will be made out of ‘Palight’ like the rest of the building.
The small extension on the left of the building is the ladies W.C, which in later years was removed and replaced with an extra office.
Finally a few thoughts on track, when my friends first became aware of my interest in 7mm scale the subject of S7 was mentioned. That was something that I quickly nipped in the bud, for I had no desire to change the wheels of locomotives and rolling stock, I had spent thirty odd doing just that whilst working in ‘EM’ gauge. So it was down to a choice of 32 mm, 31.5 mm or 31 mm gauge, I was advised to forget the former, steer clear of the latter, and to use 31.5 mm gauge seeing as would be building my own track. So I went shopping for track gauges, sleepers and crossing timbers would be 1.5 mm ply as supplied by Slater’s, I also used their rail. Rail chairs, slide chairs and fishplates were sourced from C & L Finescale.
A friend who has mastered ‘Templot’ printed out some track templates and away I went. Following my usual track building methods I glued the sleepers directly to the template, which will be glued directly to the track bed using waterproof PVA.
Despite the slightly narrower gauge, my hand built track actually looks wider than the 32 mm gauge track produced by Peco, which just goes to show how correct sleeper size and spacing affects the overall appearance. Being more than satisfied with the appearance of the plain track and turned my attention to a simple point. Once again I used my usual construction methods and started off building the crossing as a complete unit. However rather than build it up on thin copper strip as I would when working in 4mm scale, I used some 1 mm square brass.
Once the complete assembly had been soldered together it was cleaned up, rail chairs were slid in place and the crossing was glued to the sleepers using a mix of ‘Araldite’ for the brass strips, and Butanone for the rail chairs. This isn’t the place for a blow by blow account of point construction, and anyway there are plenty of tutorials on the internet. So moving on, what surprised me was how easy the job turned out to be, in fact I am convinced that it was far easier then working in 4mm scale. I believe that is down to larger components being easier to handle and work, a larger file can also be used which speeds up the removal of metal when making the crossing vee and switch blades.
After approx eight hours work, spread over a couple of days I had my first B6 point. Initial testing proved to be more than successful with both kit built and Dapol wagons gliding through the point ever so smoothly, as you can imagine I was really pleased. So what next? – well once the tie and stretcher bars have been fitted the point will be wired up with the aid of some jump leads and tested. If my Pannier negotiates it smoothly then the point and track that I have built so far will be glued down onto the track bed, and go on to form the first section of my proposed layout. A ‘Tortoise’ motor will be fitted and everything will be wired up correctly, then tested again. Ballasting will follow along with the staining of the timbers, the chairs and rail will be painted and first section of track bed will be attached to the baseboard frames.
These small projects have taught me a lot, best of all I have enjoyed myself and I think I am almost ready to let go of 4mm modelling. It is funny how my eye has now adjusted to the larger scale and now my 4mm models that look strange. I never thought I would say that but in my case it is true. As I type this the components of another wagon kit are awaiting assembly, I was warned that they could be addictive and so it has proved.
The regeneration of Llangunllo continues as the branch enters the final months of its life. Passenger services have now been withdrawn and the S & T department has been busy removing the signalling equipment. With no signalman or station staff to tend the allotments they have become overgrown, the huts being removed for use elsewhere. The closure of the dairy has seen its landmark chimney disappear from the scene, and nature is now rapidly reclaiming what was once hers.
The train crews are now responsible for opening and closing the crossing gates, and for manually operating the points to the siding and loop. The bridge is now subject to a weight restriction as well as a speed limit, only locomotives with the lightest axle loading’s, such as 1455 and 7416 being permitted to cross over it.
For now goods trains run as required between Llanbister Rd, and Llangunllo, but for how much longer is anyone’s guess. The sidings beyond the road bridge are now being used to store condemned rolling stock. The latest wagons awaiting the torch arrived earlier this week behind 7416, which can be seen propelling them into the yard.
Meanwhile the Llanbister Rd. diorama is developing as intended, well almost for I have decided to use the old Llangunllo signal box rather than build a new one. The level crossing and its wicket gates have now been bedded into the road, which like the buildings that are now taking shape around it was made from 2mm foamboard. Artist acrylics were used to paint it, then it was given a light dusting of talc whilst the paint was still wet to add a little texture. I still have some work to do in that department, but it is slowly coming to life
The rough unkempt grass around the crossing and telephone box is Noch Meadow, it needs toning down and will look much better when different shades of static grasses have been added to it.
A birds eye view of the diorama, the grass is clumps of Silhouette 715-245 Sheep pasture late fall, bought directly from the manufacture in Germany along with other scenic materials whilst the pound was still strong. Other grasses of different shades and textures will gradually be added as I go along.
I have also made a start on ballasting the track using my last supplies of Carr’s ash. The signal has also been salvaged from Llangunllo along with the point rodding, allotments and huts. The latter are in the process of being bedded into their new home, I have positioned them differently this time so that Iain Robinson’s delightful creations can be seen from a new angle. Work has stopped on the engine shed for now because I can’t decide whether to model it with, or without doors. Many small sheds lost their doors towards the end of their life, sometimes due to accident and at other times on purpose.
Well that brings my 4mm scale modelling exploits up to date, next time I will explain how my 7mm scale plans are developing.
A month before the Easter Holiday of 1961 the Milk Marketing Board announced the impending closure of Llangunllo dairy. The writing had been on the wall ever since the Radnor County Dairies site had been taken under their wing. Fearing for the very future of the Kington Railways once the milk traffic came to an end, an SLS brake van special was run over the network of lines on Easter Monday. Starting at Leominster the train headed for Kington with 7416 in charge, 1455 then took the special up to Presteign and Llanbister Road before returning to Kington, where 7416 took charge again for the journey back to Leominster.
1455 patiently waits for the enthusiast to return from Llangunllo East yard, before heading for Llanbister Road. Three days later following severe storms, a swollen River Lugg undermined a bridge abutment east of Llangunllo, thus severing the line to Presteign and beyond.
Fortunately the bridge to the west of Llangunllo station survived, but following an inspection a weight restriction was imposed upon it, the bridge having been subject to a speed restriction for a number of years.
Crosville Motor Services are currently providing a rail replacement bus service between Llangunllo village and Presteign. The Bristol L5G seen here, being hastily drafted in to perform the honours. It is said that the locals are very happy with their new bus service as they no longer face the long walk from the village to the station. However the railway staff don’t share their enthusiasm as their futures are full of uncertainty.
Llangunllo goods yard is still open for business but rather than a daily pick up goods, trains just run as required, but for how much longer I wouldn’t know. Fortunately 1455 was on shed at Llanbister Road when the bridge was damaged, and she is seen here ready to return to Llanbister Road yard with empty wagons.
The signal box was an early casualty being purchased, and dismantled by a preservation society for use elsewhere, don’t ask me which one as I haven’t a clue for the box disappeared overnight. So the train crews now have to open and close the gates behind them. No doubt a few people will have their eye on the heap of coal that has been left behind.
So much for the story, but what is going on? Well the layout see’s very little use these days and is just taking up much needed space as it gathers dust. So over the coming months it will fall into decline just as the real railway did. The allotment scene is going to live on at Llanbister Road, the space it now occupies being allowed to return to nature. The station platform will become overgrown, as will the loop and goods yard. I will be keeping a photographic record of the transformation as it takes place. A modelling project with a difference if ever there was one………..
Meanwhile work continues on Llanbister Road shed, and as a spoiler here is a glimpse of a new 7mm scale purchase….?
I find it hard to believe that five years ago Llangunllo looked like this……..
The photo sequence charts the arrival of the branch passenger train, from which empty milk tanks are being detached.
Meanwhile over on the workbench these buildings were taking shape, built from plans that appeared in ‘Buildings in Miniature’ by George Iliffe Stokes, the building on the left is about to make an appearance on my Llanbister Road diorama, whilst the two in the centre became the farm house at Stokes Farm.
Here are the buildings intended for the farm, now worked up with carved DAS stone and brickwork. The idea at this time was to have both buildings on a lower level so that the passing trains could be viewed over the roof tops. Yet another idea that was quietly dropped.
But all was not lost for part of the building found a new home when the old feed store at Llangunllo was converted into Stokes Farm. Part of the building still lives on today at Llangunllo, but it is now almost hidden from view by trees.
All looks peaceful at Llangunllo but storm clouds are gathering and the future of the line is in balance. Thankfully one of the local drivers has been busy rallying support to keep trains running, and for now the line has been given a stay of execution
Llanbister Road is coming along nicely now but true to form I am making a few changes. To begin with I am now going to model a chapel, well it wouldn’t be a true reflection of Wales without one would it? But the main reason for going down that route is because I think a little height is needed towards the rear of the diorama, so the idea of a small garage has been dropped. If that wasn’t enough I have also decided to model a small signal box beside the level crossing, rather than a simple open ground frame as originally planned.
This is how I see things developing, the chapel front might seem familiar, well it will if you followed Penhydd because it is the old dairy office. I find it is a good idea to retain old buildings for future planning exercises. Of course what you see here is only a preliminary mock up apart from the level crossing. The signal box is pure Watlington which to my eye sits rather well. Wicket gates for the level crossing have now been assembled, sprayed in primer and are almost ready to be installed. I rather like this photo for I feel it gives the impression of the line heading off into the wilderness.
The signal box is there to control the entry to the engine shed, the trap point on the shed road and a home signal which will protect both the level crossing and shed entrance.
An overview of the diorama as it was last night, the hut beside the engine shed will be replaced with two scratch built examples. But the next jobs are to fit the wicket gates, then detail the track, fishplates being added first followed by the point rodding, cranks and compensators.
Some of the components waiting to be installed, I glue the rodding stools to a length of sleeper strip, which acts as a handle and makes it easier to thread the rod through them. It also provides a base for each stool once they are cut away. The single compensator was left over from Llangunllo and like the cranks came from the Brassmasters etch. Once detailed the track will be painted and ballasted, and then I can start to add the greenery and complete the buildings.
I have also been working on the cobbled stone pavements and kerb stones, which are scribed ‘Palight’ foamboard. Brassmasters etched grids have also been added to the road which is waiting to be surfaced with fine aquarium sand and talc. That might sound crazy but when done correctly it can produce a finely textured road surface. The same materials can also be used to represent rendered walls.
I must admit that it is a joy to be able to work on the diorama from all angles, under board wiring was a doodle as the whole diorama was just tilted on its side. I have even been doing some modelling outside on the patio, so much nicer than being stuck inside in the current fine weather.
Finally 7416, a re wheeled and detailed Bachmann model poses beside the coaling stage. Well that’s it from me, time to pick up my Easter reading, “The Tanat Valley Light Railway” by Mike Lloyd. Now I wonder……………