Modelling the historic Ffestiniog Railway presents many challenges – but to those who rise to meet them, the result can be truly exquisite. Paul Holmes tells the story so far of his 014-scale ‘Dinas 1869’ layout that has been on the exhibition circuit for well over a decade
The FfestiniogRailway was built in 1836 as a horse and gravity-worked 2ft-gauge line to transport slate from the Ffestiniog quarries down to the sea, but by the early 1860s traffic had grown to such anextent that it looked to introduce steam traction, with the first George England engines entering service in 1863.
The line ran from Dinas, in the Rhiwbryffdir district of Blaenau Ffestiniog, down to the quays at Portmadoc (now Porthmadog).
This model portrays that early Dinas terminal as it probably was in the year 1869. At that time the FR passenger trains terminated here and at Duffws, the other Blaenau station, alternately. Subsequently all passenger trains went to Duffws, and Dinas remained a goods-only station.
Very little information is available from those early years, and the layout is based on a handful of photographs and the earliest large-scale Ordnance Survey map of the area.
Having previously modelled in 4mm scale, both standard gauge and FR narrow gauge, I decided to follow so many others and move up to the ‘senior’ scale of 7mm:foot (O scale) and build it to the more accurate 014 standards rather than opting for the more commonly used 016.5.
It is often no harder to build rolling stock to the narrower gauge, but constructing the chassis of locomotives does need some extra effort. As no ready-to-run track is available, this does mean building it all from basic materials. As a member of the S ScaleModel Railway Society, I was able to buy their bullhead rail and cast chairs, and used superglue to fix the chairs to ply sleepers. The mid-Victorians ballasted right over the top of the sleepers anyway, so most of this detail is hidden!
The buildings are all based on those few photos that exist. The main station has a shell of foam board, covered in Das clay and scribed with random stone. It’s a long building and took a while to scribe, but as the back of it cannot be seen from the viewing side, it was necessary only to clad the front in stone.
The buildings around the incline are again foam board, but this time with cladding added from Slaters’ embossed stone plastic sheets bonded to the foam board with Evostik (taking great care to avoid the expanded polystyrene core which melts rapidly if the Evostik reaches it). After painting the stones with Humbrol enamels, the off-white mortar courses were picked out using a Rotring pen with white ink mixed with a little black.
One line goes straight through the station and onwards to further quarries, but the passing loop and‘ platform’ road curved sharply around the building to terminate at the foot of the incline to Samuel Holland’s quarry. My original idea was to make the incline work, but having wasted several weeks of modelling time messing around with Meccano wheels and pulleys and motors, I gave it up as a lost cause and it remains static.
For the full article and to view more images, see the December edition of Modelling – available now!
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