Jump to content

Modellers aren't doing china clay justice... and that's a shame.


Stoker

5,909 views

One thing I see quite frequently when browsing layouts on forums like this one, is that if it's china clay themed it's all too often been shoehorned into a micro layout, or the clay works is relegated to occupy the smallest possible corner of the larger layout. The thinking I've quite frequently encountered is the question of "how little clay works can I get away with modelling?", as if it would be an intolerable burden to include more than the absolute minimum. To give you an example, for one modeller here on RMweb I produced a 3D model of a traditional coal fired dry as a scale reference for his new layout - the subject in question was in actual fact the shortest (in length) single clay dry serviced by rail in Cornwall (a shorter one existed at Burngullow West sidings, however this was more of a supplementary dry that was an addition to a larger complex of drys).

whealroseoutside1.png.27f46c63d6de17f038af5d66bdb8a849.png

The model in 00 scale would've come out at about 1 metre long and 64cm deep.  Well it turned out, even this was too big! I was asked if I could design something smaller.

Knowing that no smaller dry existed, what I offered our comrade was something that I thought was a pretty good compromise that would suit the desire to work with both limited trackside space AND the desire to build small coal fired drys: Instead of a trackside dry in his desired spot, I recommended a trackside loading wharf, with nearby small drys on the hillsides in the corners of the layout, connected by road to the wharf, with lorries taking the clay the short journey from the drys to the wharf. This is something for which there were several prototypes in Cornwall, at Bugle, Ruddlemoor, Gunheath, Carbean, Meledor, Nanpean, just to name a few. Sadly, the idea was dismissed immediately, "I want a dry by the tracks". Why though? Why build something when you cannot do it justice? If you really "want" it why are you so willing to diminish it to the point of pure fantasy? I walked away utterly convinced that I would be unable to help this person, and that they'd be best left to their own devices.


 

Quote

"...if people can find the passion to model passenger stations to prototypical standards, why is this enthusiasm lacking among those who are attracted to the clay?"


Of course, I understand that modelling the smaller works is more practical than the larger, given just how huge some of the prototypes are, but I feel this issue goes further than that. People just seem to genuinely dislike the idea of building large structures and sacrificing precious layout space to the works. This attitude really puzzles me, because I'm quite the opposite; when I think about designing a new china clay layout, my first thought is "how much clay works can I fit in the available space?". In my view, a large part of the appeal and the atmosphere of the china clay branches comes from the buildings in the works, with towering roofscapes, almost like hillsides made out of corrugated asbestos. The buildings dwarf the trains, framing them with tall loading wharves and covered loading areas. Their size and length is also a matter of practicality, clay trains often being 4 or more large bogie wagons long, or rakes of ten or twenty 4-wheel wagons.

40019698981_1b0c1fc6dc_o.jpg.e94cd7591718b1edfe2da356504198d4.jpg
Who doesn't love Vaughan-esque scenes like this?

This phenomenon almost completely disappears when it comes to passenger trains, with modellers often wanting to include the absolute maximum amount of platform length they absolutely can. This complete 180 in attitudes is quite puzzling to me, because in an instant it demolishes all excuses applied to the china clay prototype. With the construction of stations, you often hear of concern surrounding running trains of prototypical length (albeit at the lower end), having platforms of prototype length (again at the lower end) to accommodate them, and dedicating adequate width on the baseboard to the station structures. This begs the question, if people can find the passion to model passenger stations to prototypical standards, why is this enthusiasm lacking among those who are attracted to the clay? For some reason, the desire to construct grandiose train sheds of large city terminii also seems irresistible, often with stunning results, yet I can count on one hand the number of layouts I've seen that have attempted the larger clay works, despite their being equally as impressive in presence.

It's not just in the size either, it's also the fidelity. People seem to use diminishing language to describe clay dryers. I shudder every time I read the word "sheds" when what the modeller really means is linhay. This may just be a case of ignorance of the subject, to wit there is something of an information vacuum on the internet regarding the finer details of the subject, and I've made plenty of my own efforts on this forum to remedy this. But there also seems to be just a general contempt of the silly little industry in silly little ice-cream-and-beaches Cornwall, putting their silly little white stuff in their silly little oversized garden sheds! How quaint, right? This low-fidelity approach belies a much more characterful, textured, nuanced structure. A great opportunity is missed when one merely decides to plonk unaltered sheets of slater's finest corrugated plasticard over a balsawood frame, as even the roofs are an interesting mix of lapped sheets, clear skylights, vent hoods, ridge and edge trim, and the occasional mismatched replaced panel.

kernickstores1.png.c68351a5c43f106cc4762abb145b346c.png
Just look at how varied this one structure is... so much for a "shed"!

"Quaint" is another word oft applied to Cornish clay that makes me shudder, because like "shed" it also denies or ignores a much richer reality. Clay country is not so quaint to me. I grew up there, and quaint isn't even on the list of adjectives I would've used to describe it. Clay works as I remember them were rough and ready, set in rugged landscapes, poor (but happy) villages, the works staffed by hard (but friendly) Cornish men, managed and coordinated by efficient intellectuals, chemists, and engineers, working in futuristic mid-century offices and laboratories of ECC's unique mid-century-modern architecture. The upper echelons of the company had a bright vision for the future, and the proletariat shared in their optimism. Clay work was once hard work, many men spent 6 hours a day just shoveling clay off a hot pan, or shoveling coal into a furnace. The built environment is imbued with this vibrant human history, because it was built by the minds of the men who lived in the reality of this place.

eclplab1930.jpg.5e4a7f295ed3a307b38ee3c38a5904cf.jpg

From the labs...

1410914687_greatlongstonekiln1959.jpg.4626b66a214f2bbc183d49e0e121f295.jpg

... to the drys.

To build a model clay works as just a "shed by the tracks" is to do a great disservice to the subject, and also to yourself. By doing so, you are short-changing yourself of the opportunity to indulge in the colourful living history that is the Cornish clay industry. So my plea to those of you who are at the drawing board, ask yourself: What would the men in these photos have built?

96u_trc_p53a-cw18_china_clay_mining-collecting_the_cakes.jpg.4b06e98602e5d4f0960220dc0469242d.jpg

Just a 100 foot long shed with a chimney and a pile of coal?

WMA_P1_1_1107ed.jpg.234e1535e32849523959e6ae832fe3ff.jpg

A quaint trackside oddity in sunny Cornwall?

WMA_P1_1_582ed.jpg.06d976330ae8dac30cd22402148c0913.jpg

Or maybe something more befitting of a company that once boasted a headquarters like this?

1021102776_50001chasewater12678b.jpg.fff780cef42d0442eb456ab6b7669bba.jpg

I know not every layout room will have the space for the grandest of works. But sometimes it's just a matter of changing your focus. Because even a very large works...

40694852713_445d640670_o.jpg.e721b1fec778c27c003e06ec5d57d5d0.jpg

...can seem much smaller if the photographer picks a different angle.

  • Like 29
  • Agree 3
  • Informative/Useful 6
  • Friendly/supportive 3

76 Comments


Recommended Comments



A very interesting post. Freight traffic, including clay, has always fascinated me.

 

I would suspect lack of familiarity with the prototype clay industry would apply to the vast majority of us.

Most modellers will have visited large mainline railway stations, and realise just how big they are. While many of us also visit preserved railways, which usually have much smaller stations or halts. So we have some idea of the station atmosphere we want to portray. 

I have used trains for over 50 years, and visited hundreds of stations. In that time I have made quite a lot of trips into Cornwall, and although I have seen various clay loading locations in passing I have never ever been in one.

 

cheers 

  • Like 2
  • Agree 2
Link to comment

I would partially agree with your sentiments, but at the same time would also say that not many people are aware of the "science" behind the workings, and to term a well known phrase - "The devil is in the detail".  Personally, I do not know how the dries worked.   The anatomy of a China Clay works would be interesting, including how the dries work, what the walls behind your rendition of the clay works are etc..  (Assume storage, but surely that would make it even wetter?  Plus then,  wouldn't the area then be nothing more than a white sludge?)  Like I say - I don't know because I have not been closely associated to the china clay industry.  Plus in modern times, health and safety would not permit you near the workings.  As an analogy, and as possibly some consolation -  the same happens with locomotive depots in the modern era!  

 

Someone had started a fantastic model based on Burngullow, but then broke it up!

 

The attraction of China Clay, is surely a reasonable variety of wagons, some prototypical small rakes, people go to the area on holiday and popular locomotive variety - Class 25's, Class 37's, Warships, Westerns, Class 47, Class 50 and even Class 60/Class 66 in recent times.

 

Regards,

 

C.

 

  • Like 1
  • Agree 2
Link to comment
13 minutes ago, dogbox321 said:

.....The anatomy of a China Clay works would be interesting, including how the dries work, what the walls behind your rendition of the clay works are etc.. ....

 

I had similar feelings as those above but a little research brought me to Stoker's own excellent thread at

I think it's well worth following up this 'back story' to appreciate the contents of the current post more fully.  An excellent and interesting survey of a remarkable industry!

 

Mike

  • Informative/Useful 3
Link to comment
  • RMweb Gold

I completely get where you are coming from,

For some reason there is a preconception (possibly because of the short train lengths that are possible) that China Clay makes for a perfect limited space layout.  Great in theory, but as you say, there is no such thing as a small china clay works.  I have often thought about making a model of Ponts Mill, it ticks the boxes of having a mix of very interesting looking structures, interesting wagons and unusual moves with the Class 08s propelling break vans.  The down side is that in 4mm scale its just so long, and that’s just for a small works taking short train lengths.

 

With my layout I tried to get round this by only modelling part of the works, so you should see a longer set of wagons dissapearing off scene to be loaded.  The down side being that to run it properly you would end up with a layout that would need a fiddleyard at one end that is twice the length of the layout (and one at the other end the length of the layout.)  So in effect the train lenghts have to be massivly compressed in order to run the layout properly, an issue that is really prominant when you want to run CDAs.

  • Like 4
  • Friendly/supportive 1
Link to comment
  • RMweb Gold

Going right back to the OP, the 64cm depth of that building is a bit of a problem but I don't understand why the 1m length would be a problem on any layout.

Rosevear seems to have produced a very comprehensive CAD drawing there. Was that intended to be used to manufacture a kit of parts via digital tech? I would be interested in a set.

Link to comment

On Empire Mills, the MRC’s now sold EM layout, we had a dry about 1m long based on a rather unique  dry with a central furnace (the name of the real dry escapes me). We had to reduce the length of the model by about 1/2 to 2/3rds and it still looked massive!  

 

See the defunct EMpire project blog especially the photos from the Alexandra Place 2015 show:

 

Edited by drduncan
  • Like 1
Link to comment

 

 

2 hours ago, drduncan said:

On Empire Mills, the MRC’s now sold EM layout, we had a dry about 1m long based on a rather unique  dry with a central furnace (the name of the real dry escapes me). We had to reduce the length of the model by about 1/2 to 2/3rds and it still looked massive!  

 

See the defunct EMpire project blog especially the photos from the Alexandra Place 2015 show:

 

 

Just looked at this layout - very nice buildings, don't really show the clay drying process.

 

image.png.a1f1eb766b10297670ce12cb0d50dddc.png

 

I am assuming the building are a type of L shape, with the Furnace/Kiln on the Right, with clay then moved to the storage areas, ready for loading into the wagons at the front.

 

Would be nice to see a plan view of a clay works showing what happens and where.   Along with any photos showing the finer points.   I had seen on a video in the past, where China Clay is extracted using water, but that then must be a nightmare to move, and process, unless the customer wants it in slurry form, as per the Irvine flow (which is where it was discussed).  

 

Likewise - before mainstream electricity - which I am expecting is used in any kilns/dries now, then prior to that was it coal?  I assume that was rail hauled in?  Then that needs sidings, unloading etc.  The more you dig, the more questions it opens up, as to what goes on behind that building which on a layout shows china clay in a storage shed waiting to be loaded into a wagon!    

 

Regards,

 

C.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment

Perhaps a few of the alleged model layouts
are models of model layouts. :jester:
I agree with Stoker.

Edited by Penlan
  • Like 4
Link to comment
1 hour ago, dogbox321 said:

 

 

 

Just looked at this layout - very nice buildings, don't really show the clay drying process.

 

image.png.a1f1eb766b10297670ce12cb0d50dddc.png

 

I am assuming the building are a type of L shape, with the Furnace/Kiln on the Right, with clay then moved to the storage areas, ready for loading into the wagons at the front.

 

Would be nice to see a plan view of a clay works showing what happens and where.   Along with any photos showing the finer points.   I had seen on a video in the past, where China Clay is extracted using water, but that then must be a nightmare to move, and process, unless the customer wants it in slurry form, as per the Irvine flow (which is where it was discussed).  

 

Likewise - before mainstream electricity - which I am expecting is used in any kilns/dries now, then prior to that was it coal?  I assume that was rail hauled in?  Then that needs sidings, unloading etc.  The more you dig, the more questions it opens up, as to what goes on behind that building which on a layout shows china clay in a storage shed waiting to be loaded into a wagon!    

 

Regards,

 

C.

See 

for the internal layout of linhays or dry.  Also the relationship with the settling ponds.

 

I believe about 1 ton of coal was needed to dry about 10 tons of China clay.

 

Duncan

  • Like 1
  • Informative/Useful 2
Link to comment
11 hours ago, Joseph_Pestell said:

Going right back to the OP, the 64cm depth of that building is a bit of a problem but I don't understand why the 1m length would be a problem on any layout.

Rosevear seems to have produced a very comprehensive CAD drawing there. Was that intended to be used to manufacture a kit of parts via digital tech? I would be interested in a set.


That's 64cm deep when including the settling tanks and the single track siding in front of the linhay. Were it to be reduced to just the building, the structure would've been 1 metre by 20cm.

I hadn't really thought about producing any kind of kit of a clay works until you mentioned it. My 3D CAD drawings are simply used as a scale reference mock-up - I find it's easier to build a 3D model where errors can simply be deleted, and if I'm modelling a prototype as the model progresses it can be compared against photos to ensure the correct dimensions have been captured.

I have considered in the past producing a series of smaller, Cornish themed resin buildings, ala Scenecraft. For this kind of thing I'd mostly be making Cornish cottages, mundic bungalows, Cornish Units, etc. To produce a kit for a china clay dryer, I'd really only be able to offer it as a craftsman kit, basically just all the raw materials required and a set of templates and instructions. This is most certainly something I'd be willing to offer if people would be interested.
 

5 hours ago, drduncan said:

On Empire Mills, the MRC’s now sold EM layout, we had a dry about 1m long based on a rather unique  dry with a central furnace (the name of the real dry escapes me). We had to reduce the length of the model by about 1/2 to 2/3rds and it still looked massive! 


That would be Carlyon Farm dry, the prototype still stands alongside the former Trenance branch. Built by John Lovering, as evidenced by his signature square plan chimney stacks, it was announced in press statements to be the "largest dry ever built". It actually wasn't! Great Treverbyn dry at Par (served by Alfred and Judy) had the longest drying pans. For continuous rows of conjoined pans with furnaces and chimneys between, both Blackpool (back before it was modernized) and Wenford held the record jointly, roughly 1/3rd of a mile of drys.

The smallest drys served by rail were a handful of drys that were under 250 feet, but over 200 feet in length. All were roughly 40 to 50 feet in building width, and had settling tanks that extended anywhere from 60 feet to 120 feet behind the building. If you were to compress the settling tanks out of the equation, a realistic coal fired dry (circa 1890 to 1960) can be had in a space 1 metre long by 16-20cm deep.

The loading edge by the way was usually divided into multiples of 20 foot lengths, because that was the length of one china clay wagon, buffers and all.
 

2 hours ago, dogbox321 said:

Would be nice to see a plan view of a clay works showing what happens and where.   Along with any photos showing the finer points.   I had seen on a video in the past, where China Clay is extracted using water, but that then must be a nightmare to move, and process, unless the customer wants it in slurry form, as per the Irvine flow (which is where it was discussed).  

 

Likewise - before mainstream electricity - which I am expecting is used in any kilns/dries now, then prior to that was it coal?  I assume that was rail hauled in?  Then that needs sidings, unloading etc.  The more you dig, the more questions it opens up, as to what goes on behind that building which on a layout shows china clay in a storage shed waiting to be loaded into a wagon!    

 

Regards,

 

C.


Without at all meaning to sound condescending, I think it's really interesting and informative to see the point of view of a person who knows nothing about the industry and what questions they have, and I thank you for commenting. The difficulty of being a teacher is remembering what it was like to know nothing, and reading your comment it very much takes me back to the days when I was a curious child who had so many questions about how the industry worked.

Although I have made a few topics on the subject and answered questions wherever they cropped up on the forum, perhaps having a single reference source would be more useful to people. I'm considering starting a separate blog detailing the industry, with all the topics divided up into individual blog posts for easy reference. Is that something that people think might be useful?

Edited by Stoker
  • Like 4
  • Informative/Useful 2
Link to comment

I would like to see you post a lot more; your knowledge of the subject is just so impressive.

I read the OP this morning, and thinking about it throughout the day I realised you were saying exactly what I have long thought (with a few differences!)

I know quite a bit about the industry and its effects on life in mid -Cornwall (for good and bad) and often felt  "i know too much to make a bad model", but often times I dont have the skill/time/inclination to make a good one - You have made me re-think that attitude as one to over come not roll with.

  • Like 1
  • Agree 1
Link to comment
  • RMweb Gold
11 hours ago, Stoker said:


That's 64cm deep when including the settling tanks and the single track siding in front of the linhay. Were it to be reduced to just the building, the structure would've been 1 metre by 20cm.

I hadn't really thought about producing any kind of kit of a clay works until you mentioned it. My 3D CAD drawings are simply used as a scale reference mock-up - I find it's easier to build a 3D model where errors can simply be deleted, and if I'm modelling a prototype as the model progresses it can be compared against photos to ensure the correct dimensions have been captured.

I have considered in the past producing a series of smaller, Cornish themed resin buildings, ala Scenecraft. For this kind of thing I'd mostly be making Cornish cottages, mundic bungalows, Cornish Units, etc. To produce a kit for a china clay dryer, I'd really only be able to offer it as a craftsman kit, basically just all the raw materials required and a set of templates and instructions. This is most certainly something I'd be willing to offer if people would be interested.
 


That would be Carlyon Farm dry, the prototype still stands alongside the former Trenance branch. Built by John Lovering, as evidenced by his signature square plan chimney stacks, it was announced in press statements to be the "largest dry ever built". It actually wasn't! Great Treverbyn dry at Par (served by Alfred and Judy) had the longest drying pans. For continuous rows of conjoined pans with furnaces and chimneys between, both Blackpool (back before it was modernized) and Wenford held the record jointly, roughly 1/3rd of a mile of drys.

The smallest drys served by rail were a handful of drys that were under 250 feet, but over 200 feet in length. All were roughly 40 to 50 feet in building width, and had settling tanks that extended anywhere from 60 feet to 120 feet behind the building. If you were to compress the settling tanks out of the equation, a realistic coal fired dry (circa 1890 to 1960) can be had in a space 1 metre long by 16-20cm deep.

The loading edge by the way was usually divided into multiples of 20 foot lengths, because that was the length of one china clay wagon, buffers and all.
 


Without at all meaning to sound condescending, I think it's really interesting and informative to see the point of view of a person who knows nothing about the industry and what questions they have, and I thank you for commenting. The difficulty of being a teacher is remembering what it was like to know nothing, and reading your comment it very much takes me back to the days when I was a curious child who had so many questions about how the industry worked.

Although I have made a few topics on the subject and answered questions wherever they cropped up on the forum, perhaps having a single reference source would be more useful to people. I'm considering starting a separate blog detailing the industry, with all the topics divided up into individual blog posts for easy reference. Is that something that people think might be useful?

 

A very interesting set of replies. Thankyou.

 

My knowledge of the inner workings of china clay production is certainly limited although I do recall looking at it a bit when on a school geography field trip to Cornwall in 1972.

 

Like you, I am a "curious child", always up for visiting any industrial facility to see how it works. But most people are not. I well recall one of the first activities organised for us as students, a visit to a glassworks making bottles for Champagne. Only about 30% of my colleagues turned up and college principal was, quite rightly, a bit miffed with the absentees. I think that being of that enquiring disposition is probably one of the things that pushes us into modelmaking as a hobby. We are more interested in the world around us.

 

30 years ago, when I was working in the model trade, I tried to get my boss into production of resin kits of buildings. He was not convinced of the viability/market. Scenecraft (and others) has proved me right. I should have pursued it on my own. Making the masters would not have been a problem and Victor, our resin caster, was a master of the craft.

 

I think you could have great success with a range of small Cornish buildings. Agreed that the dries might need a different approach such as you suggest.

 

 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment

An interesting and thought provoking blog entry.  I don't think what you describe as "not doing justice" is unique to China Clay, many of your observations on the compromises that modellers make are equally apparent when other forms of industry are modelled.  The post draws a comparison to modelling a station; the majority of models of stations that I can think of include some degree of compromise, is that so different to reducing the foot print of a clay dry to suit the available space on a baseboard?

There are many examples  of layouts that successfully capture the look and atmosphere of a real location despite these compromises.  They can still be satisfying to build and entertaining to operate.  I suppose we all have slightly different blind spots when it comes to overlooking these things though.

  • Like 3
  • Agree 2
Link to comment

Very interesting blog. I built Wheal Elizabeth a few years ago and based the dry and linhay on Great Wheal Prosper on the Wheal Rose branch from memory. I was struck by how little that dry changed, being served in the end by a 37 and a single tiger. I can’t remember how long I built the shed, 21” from memory. I can remember sticking the 10,000 plus tiles onto the roof individually though!

 The dry has been converted to holiday lets now. Quite fancy trying to stay there at some point.

I’ve been drawing up plans for another China clay layout (as you do) and had intended to include more of the works than I did on Lizzy, though the length of trains is, was and will remain an inevitable compromise.

  • Like 3
Link to comment

Andrew,  your memory is quite good - the linhay is 21.5 in long on Wheal Elizabeth but as you say, in reality this is a pretty small works like the Carbis works.

 

I have been playing around with ideas based on the Wenfordbridge line on and off for a while but having visited the site last week while on holiday it is clear that this facility is somewhat bigger than its final output would suggest - according to "Map my Run" it is about 650 m long.  The buildings are Listed and still standing and although fenced off are clearly regularly accessed by "visitors".  I found a planning notice on part of the site dating to 2010 when there were plans to convert it into apartments and although that hasn't happened. the Local Authority website might have some info.

 

Like others, I find the clay industry and the rail facilities a fascinating subject and aspect of rail operations in Cornwall but, as Stoker, has said in the original post most facilities are way too large for just a corner of a layout but may lack the operating potential needed for me to sustain interest if modelled as a single facility especially in the air brake era of clay trains. Clay hoods are a little easier but you do need a lot of them to make sense of operations!

 

I look forward to seeing developments on Stoker's Rosevear project and also to learning much more about the clay industry as this progresses.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Guest JiLo

Posted (edited)

 Very interesting topic.

 

A few years back on my first layout (Rockvilla Goods) that I finished, I went for larger buildings to 'frame' the scene of an urban area.  This received a lot of positive comments at exhibitions.  Some people did say the buildings were too large, however I had actually compressed them as to scale, they looked too large!

 

Buildings that surround railways, especially those that were served by the railway were large and more often than not, dwarfed the loco's and wagons

 

Image_207.JPG.bc5d83a3f7df46ef4a00840033c149a0.JPG

 

My current layout is staying with the theme of buildings framing the layout, one structure will be the best part of 3 feet lo as part of the backscene but serving no purpose to the actual railway

Edited by JiLo
Link to comment
14 hours ago, jbg said:

Andrew,  your memory is quite good - the linhay is 21.5 in long on Wheal Elizabeth but as you say, in reality this is a pretty small works like the Carbis works.

 

I have been playing around with ideas based on the Wenfordbridge line on and off for a while but having visited the site last week while on holiday it is clear that this facility is somewhat bigger than its final output would suggest - according to "Map my Run" it is about 650 m long.  The buildings are Listed and still standing and although fenced off are clearly regularly accessed by "visitors".  I found a planning notice on part of the site dating to 2010 when there were plans to convert it into apartments and although that hasn't happened. the Local Authority website might have some info.

 

Like others, I find the clay industry and the rail facilities a fascinating subject and aspect of rail operations in Cornwall but, as Stoker, has said in the original post most facilities are way too large for just a corner of a layout but may lack the operating potential needed for me to sustain interest if modelled as a single facility especially in the air brake era of clay trains. Clay hoods are a little easier but you do need a lot of them to make sense of operations!

 

I look forward to seeing developments on Stoker's Rosevear project and also to learning much more about the clay industry as this progresses. 

  


I have noticed that modellers have a tendency to be attracted to the same works over and over again (Wenford, Carbis, Pontsmill, Kernick, Blackpool) I suspect because they appear in "atmospheric" photos that are perhaps more widely circulated than others. These are often works that would be quite far to the bottom of the list of works that I'd recommend to modellers due to their size or lack of operational interest. Other, much more reasonably sized works existed, however it seems that the vast majority are simply unaware of them, and true enough usually few existing photographs of them ever made it to print. One confounding factor here is that of copyright... historic photos that can't be published because the copyright owner is holding it to ransom for some grandiose and unrealistic sum. Thus most of the books we have on the subject come from those who either have a large personal archive, or friends who do and don't object to publication. All, of course, much the detriment of modellers and historians.

You also bring up the issue that china clay works can sometimes be more interesting to look at in romantic John Vaughan kodachrome format than to actually experience in (model) reality, and the problem only gets worse the further back in time you go. In the days of manual handling, standard procedure was to simply park a rake of wagons in front of a linhay, and then leave them there for however long it took for them to be loaded with wheelbarrows. Things only got more interesting once wheel loaders, bagging machines, mills, and chemically graded clays entered the scene starting in the 1930s but thanks to the war not really becoming widespread until the 50s.

One of the things that I have been doing over time is creating some china clay layout plans based on works that I think would make suitable candidates based on a criteria of interesting operations, wagon and traffic variety, and minimal compression in a small space. These designs are mostly based on a single 8' x 4' sheet of plywood cut approximately in half to give baseboard depths of around 2' to 2'6". I still have a few more of these to do, so I think once I have a reasonable number I should put them all in a future blog post.

Edited by Stoker
  • Like 5
Link to comment

Hi there, Stoker,

A very interesting post, I nearly missed it!

I think what you describe is a problem that affects most of us who take more interest in freight workings than passenger. It's relatively easy to immerse yourself in "passenger" surroundings, take a journey, become the object that the railway was (partly) built to transport but freight?

It is inanimate, doesn't communicate and is less easy to become involved with unless you actually work in such an industry (increasingly less common, sadly).

So, you have to be more dedicated to follow freight in general and very dedicated indeed to really learn and understand how your chosen industry works.

In the USA, the reverse is frequently true but in the UK, I always felt rather different for being a freight man (carried over from my US interest)! Since RMweb came into being, I have discovered that there are others who feel the same as me, which is a relief.

My chosen field is more 'steel' but certainly 'clay' is of great interest.

I look forward to reading more.

Cheers,

John.

  • Like 2
Link to comment

Slightly off-topic for China Clay but I think this is a problem common to including most rail served industries in our models. From docks to steelworks, if they warranted private sidngs at all,  they tended in reality to completely dwarf the goods trains serving them. 

This was brought home to me a few years ago when I found a real (though disused) yard in the small village of Valmoint in Normandy. It consisted of a headshunt and two sidings each with a capacity of no more than three four-wheel wagons. The rail yard itself was small enough to be modelled at full size and I envisaged this as a sort of double inglenook Microlayout.

Valprotoplan.gif.49f13f88fbcdde5e46d76bf01729e585.gif

 I came up with this microlayout with almost no compression of the trackwork

Valmicro.gif.5314fefff3d67021f8e65444f80162a6.gif

 

The local TOM (Train Omnibus Marchandise i.e. pick-up goods train) would shunt the station sidings, picking  up or dropping two or three wagons for the silos after which the points could be set to protect the main line. Shunting could then proceed within the private yard (the real Valmont was worked by capstans though I envisaged a small four wheel petrol shunter) while, if fiddle yards were added at both ends,  other trains passed by in the foregound.

 

However, when you actually looked at the size of the grain silos that this tiny yard served. 

Valsilos.jpg.22a4b90271971a93ac95b53ef3082740.jpg

Valwideshot.jpg.fea8e9bd44fb303be67a24ce7f0aaef7.jpg

They were comparatively enormous and this was among the smallest of these local co-operative silos; most of them would run almost the entire length of a station.

 

Similarly, you didn't really get sidings serving fish docks large enough for just one trawler, general docks with room for a single Clyde puffer, or tiny brickworks. 

 

Though it's probably not your era, did any of the china clay works use narrow gauge railways to load straight into main line wagons or would the standard gauge siding always be alongside the dries?

 

When I was in Plymouith in the mid 1960s I seem to remember the dries at Moorswater as beng comparatively small. However, my interest there was traces of the Liskeard and Caradon so I didn't pay too much attention to the China Clay set up.

 

 

Edited by Pacific231G
  • Like 3
Link to comment

Fascinating subject. I like the idea of treating it as an industry not just the quaint Ian 4 wagon linhay I am adding a comment mostly so I will be able to follow the topic. 

 

7-8 years ago while modeling Padstow, I became fascinated with the Wenford line and dries at Wenford Bridge. I acquired 3 of the 4 mm resin cast drys from Kernow along with each of the 3 Beattie well tanks (none now operational) and 10 Cambrian 1923 RCH 10 ton clay opens to build a short string that would (as was intended but never really happened) move clay to the Padstow long wharf for transhipment to small freighters as far as they could navigate up the Severn and to Ireland. The final part of those clay trains is the LSWR brake van due in October from Hornby.  I could never get ECLP transfers to represent the PO clay wagons after they had been returned to ECC after 1945.  If I had built the 12 module of the Wenford dries before I lost interest it would still have been only half the length of the real buildings. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
4 hours ago, Pacific231G said:

Though it's probably not your era, did any of the china clay works use narrow gauge railways to load straight into main line wagons or would the standard gauge siding always be alongside the dries?


Yes they did.

The 3' gauge steam worked Gothers Tramway brought clay from the dries at the Gothers works to a loading wharf along a section of the St Dennis branch back when it used to connect with the Newquay branch.

The 2' gauge Simplex diesel worked Hendra Light Railway brought clay in Hudson/Jubilee type skips from the dry at the edge of New Hendra pit to the Quarry Close loading wharf siding on the St Dennis branch just west of Nanpean wharf.

There were also many loading wharves, with at least one on every clay branch in Cornwall. These were basically just platforms built to around 4' to 6' above railhead, and allowed clay to be brought a short distance by road from smaller drys that lacked their own siding. When I say smaller drys, I mean some were really small. The absolute smallest I've seen was a building just 100' long, and 30' deep, with a single settling tank to the rear, and internally a drying pan a mere 9 feet in width and 80 feet in length. This is roughly 50% of the size of the smallest directly rail served dries. A layout built around this operation would be able to fit into a small space indeed, and would also have additional operational interest in the form of public goods, coal, and timber.

Edited by Stoker
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
  • Informative/Useful 3
Link to comment

Interesting post. I think most modellers start in reverse - I’ve got some clay hoods, I like 37s , I like Cornwall , what can I do with them ?

 

personally the reason these industries exist on small layouts is for operational interest - to do some shunting. I’m not too bothered ( and I suspect 80%) aren’t abut the whole process or maximum accuracy.

 

Now I could take over the whole loft and have a bash at Burngullow , but I’d have to build a load of structures and what could I run ? 2 trains a day maybe ?

 

If I were to use that space , I’d need way more operational interest, afterall im a railway modeller not a structures modeller 

  • Like 2
Link to comment

I'm not familiar with the china clay industry or particularly interested in the details of how they operate, but I agree that many modeller's representations of industrial structures are, in general, too small.   As far as I am concerned, a 'shed' that is one metre in length isn't that big and I agree with your sentiment that if you are going to represent an industry, then you need to try and capture the scale of the setting relative to the trains.  As has been said above, many structures tower over the trains that serve them.

 

Unfortunately, looking at model kits on the market, few are anywhere like big enough to dominate their surroundings, but I find that's not just a problem with industry.  Many buildings including houses, shops and churches seem unrealistically small in my eyes.

Link to comment
On 30/08/2019 at 08:58, rob D2 said:

Interesting post. I think most modellers start in reverse - I’ve got some clay hoods, I like 37s , I like Cornwall , what can I do with them ?

 

personally the reason these industries exist on small layouts is for operational interest - to do some shunting. I’m not too bothered ( and I suspect 80%) aren’t abut the whole process or maximum accuracy.

 

Now I could take over the whole loft and have a bash at Burngullow , but I’d have to build a load of structures and what could I run ? 2 trains a day maybe ?

 

If I were to use that space , I’d need way more operational interest, afterall im a railway modeller not a structures modeller 


The problem with having this attitude is that trains do not exist in a vacuum, and if you become too narrowly focused on them, you just end up with yet another peco-on-plywood. If that's what you're happy with then by all means don't let anyone stop you, but this post or indeed really anything I've ever posted on RMweb aren't really aimed at those people.

The fact is that (some) people care enough about structures not to put an LMS signal box on a GWR layout, and they care about scale enough to want platforms that match realistic train lengths. If you ignore the interplay between structures and trains, what operational interest do you really even have? Trains have to come from and go to somewhere... unless you're content to watch a roundy roundy.

Now personally, I suspect that the real reason for the lack of good representations of the trackside element of the china clay industry is entirely down to the lack of good reference material on the subject, and very little else. If you want to know how long and wide the average station platform is, or find drawings for a standard GWR signal box, guaranteed you can find that information in more than one book. But to the best of my knowledge there is no single source for similar information as it relates to china clay trains.

The whole point of my efforts on RMweb have been to try to provide some of this information, but maybe I really should just take it a step further and publish a book, both in print and as an e-book. That way the info is there for those who want it, and those who don't give a toss can simply give it a miss and carry on.

Edited by Stoker
  • Like 7
  • Agree 1
Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...