Trawsfynydd – Modelling the GWR line across the Welsh Mountains

EPSON scanner image

© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The decision to model something separate from Thirsk came about around a month ago. As I mentioned last week, Thirsk is a long project and at the moment finances can’t support the building of a home for it, let a lone the layout itself. I’m a relatively new modeller, coming into the hobby about 5 years ago. In that time I have quickly moved into wanting to model in fine scale, but in all fairness I’ve done no scratch building and have never built track. Now of course, I don’t have to build track to have a model railway, but for me Peco doesn’t cut it when you have seen hand built track up close.

I quickly came up with a check list which is as follows:

. Small portable layout

. Scenic, countryside

. Possible terminus or through line with a sector plate/traverser at one or either end

. Hand built track

. Complete change of region and era

. Operational interest/Possible Freight/Mineral based


Now I could have done something LNER, but felt I fancied something different, a complete change and contrast to working on my LNER fleet and for some reason I was being drawn West….something exGWR, in or around Wales.  I was contemplating something on the borders, Severn Valley perhaps. Every idea didn’t really cut it, I was trying to shoe horn ideas and places, cramming far to much into a space of originally 8ft-12ft. An early influence was Geoff Forster’s Llangunllo which had appeared on Modellers United a few months back when Geoff joined. Geoff’s modelling captured the very feel I was after, and there was something very appealing about Black exGWR Tank Engines with bright Crimson Coaches behind. It was at this point, Geoff mentioned Bala Junction as a possible location to model….which rekindled something inside me. That evening my friend Simon Robert’s suggested, after I had mentioned Bala Junction, about modelling something on the Bala-Blaenau Branch……things clicked straight away, this was the line I wanted to Model.

The origin of the rekindling, Geoff Forster’s mentioning of Bala Junction.

EPSON scanner image

© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Between 2009-2011 my Father and I had some lovely holidays in North Wales, and I was particularly drawn to the ex GWR branch between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Bala, and I remember glancing across the wild moorland while we were driving on the A4212 and looking at the lonely track bed of this former GWR Branch and thinking, what an amazing place for a railway.

Wild beautiful countryside, Cwm Prysor Viaduct, a lasting monument to this once stunning Branch Line.


© Copyright Ralph Rawlinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. 

Fast forward to October 2014….the decision was made within seconds, but where exactly on the branch to model?

Originally, I thought of Llan Ffestiniog which would work well with scenic breaks either end, and relatively simple to track plan, however further investigation showed that this whole section of line was under severe restrictions, due to weight and tight radii, allowing nothing but tank engines to work to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

I worked back towards Bala, using Foxline’s ‘Bala Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog’ by D.W Southern as my guide, a superbly detailed book on the history and route of the line. I came to Trawsfynydd, a station which straight away struck me in it’s layout. The whole station is on a curve as the branch bears Easterly round the fellside, climbing up the Mountains. Trawsfynydd boasted something else interesting….a locomotive allocation in the lean to shed joining the side of the good shed. Due to the nearby military camp, there was another station on the other side of the bridge, I knew I wouldn’t be able to model this but research suggests larger locomotives (43XX and possibly 78xx ‘Manor Class’) worked occasionally to the camp and through Trawsfynydd Station. Now the camp closed in the late 1950s, but I felt I could possibly get away with depicting something as I’m basing the layout in the mid to late 1950s…the last train to Trawsfynydd Military Station Perhaps?

The late 1950’s saw the building of Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station, on the shores of Llyn Trawsfynydd, and photos show Presflos being brought in containing concrete for the Power Station. These Presflos can be seen in photos in around the station yards between Trawsfynydd and Blaenau Ffestiniog….another thing about the area which would be interesting to include in a model. The track work in itself was interesting, but not overly complex and my good friend Andy Cooper is currently working out a plan in Templot

Trawsfynydd Station, now a private residence, with the Goodshed (with lean to still intact) beyond.

© Copyright Kev Williams and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Now going back to my original outline at the beginning of the blog……. ‘small portable layout’.

Portable yes, I intend this to be an exhibition layout….small…..well not exactly. Andy has worked out that to scale, it’s going to be 20ft. Now 20ft isn’t exactly small I know, but the actual complex part of the layout, around the station and goods shed is still within my 8ft-12ft original plan. The extra 8ft is pretty much single line and a head shunt and as I’m working with 4 foot boards, it isn’t much more complex to add an extra two boards. The module design will work well, as I have space to work on a couple of boards at a time.

Looking South West from Trawsfynydd…..who wouldn’t want to model such stunning country!


© Copyright Nigel Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

So there we are….Trawsfynyyd and I’m really excited about it. Although it’s length isn’t entirely small, it isn’t overly complex and a nice project to build my track and scratch building skills (the station is surrounded by cottages on either side…plasticard beckons!)

I’ve already purchased my first Pannier 8750 Class which will become 4645, and I’m being guided by Paul Marshall-Potter and Geoff Forster on detailing and improving the model…..more on this to follow!

Very much a learning curve….words of wisdom and advice welcome!


10 thoughts on “Trawsfynydd – Modelling the GWR line across the Welsh Mountains

  1. Sounds like a very exciting project Tom. I look forward to seeing this progress. If I were to start
    again. I think I’d go for handbuilt.
    I think you’re going to have lots of fun building this one, especialy scratch building the station etc


    • Thankfully, most buildings are preserved….I know it’s not going to be easy, but with photos…I should be able to make a decent job of it….a building is a box after all! 😉

  2. I look forward to following this Tom (found the link off your ‘thoughts’ thread on MU) it’s a beautiful area to base a layout on – I have a fancy to do something similar in 2mm. Will have to have another attempt at building points (35+ years after the first one!)

    Good luck!

  3. Thanks Keef

    It’s going to be quite the learning curve, but it’s something I need to crack on and do. I’m happy to commission the odd thing out, but generally would like to do most of this myself.

    Although I’m generally an LNER model, I do like 57XX….but that’s most likely down to the Reverend Wilbert Awdry!

  4. Tom

    Some books that may interest you

    Rails To Bala-1987

    Rails Through Bala-2011

    May also have some other bits’n’bobs-will let you know

  5. Hi Tom, looks an exciting project. Where did you find the track plans for the stations. I’m just planning an N gauge layout of Carrog to Bala and am having difficulty getting the track plans.

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