Modelling the Railway across the Mountains

Pannier Tank near Bryncelynog
Pannier Tank near Bryncelynog, © Nick Harling

The decision to model something smaller and not ECML, came when I realised that I hadn’t developed any real modelling skills, other than renumbering and weathering. I’m a relatively new modeller, coming into the hobby about 5 years ago and 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 as that has been my area of interest since small, 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?

Trawsfynydd Station, 1959. To the far left you can see a resident pannier in the lean to shed (most likely 57XX 9669)
Trawsfynydd Station 1959 (South)

Trawsfynnyd Station, looking towards Blaenau Ffestiniog

Trawsfynydd Station 1959 (North)

The late 1950’s saw the building of Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station, on the shores of Llyn Trawsfynydd, plus the building of the reservoir above Tanygrisiau, and photos show Presflos being brought in for both of these structures. 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 today, now a private residence with the Goods Shed (with lean to loco shed 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 so can easily be compressed. 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!


Join the Conversation


  1. Came across your blog whilst trawling for info on Frongoch and Cwm Prywser Viaduct, modelling 16′ x 8′ finescale OO, baseboards built working on final trackplan before construction of pointwork.


    Eamonn Seddon
    Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Leave a comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s