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


Stoker

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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).

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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.


 

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"...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.

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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.

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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.

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From the labs...

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... 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?

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

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A quaint trackside oddity in sunny Cornwall?

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

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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...

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

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48 minutes ago, Calnefoxile said:

I have a question regarding the transport of China Clay and the wagons used.....

 

I believe that UCV and OOV were the same thing - the code was changed in 1983.  This type used a 9 foot w/b chassis.

 

The OWV was longer and ran on a 10 foot w/b chassis.  So, the types are not inter-changeable.

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6 hours ago, Calnefoxile said:

I have a question regarding the transport of China Clay and the wagons used.

 

From what I have managed to find out the China Clay was moved around Cornwall in wgaons designated as UCV, but these wagons never really left Cornwall. There was a train called the Clayliner that ran from Cornwall to Stoke-on-Trent and because of the type of Bearings used on the UCV's the Clay was transferred to wagons designated as OWV.

 

Now in N Gauge there are not so many choices for China Clay wagons, but Kernow Models commissioned a special via Farish of the UCV's on a proper 9' chassis & Peco have produced a wagon designated as an OOV, NR-51 https://peco-uk.com/products/china-clay-hood-wagon now my question is; Is the Peco variant sufficiently close to an OWV that can be used in the Clayliner Train??

 

Regards

 

Neal.


It's been a while since I worked in N scale so I had to think about this! The clayliner was a mixed pool of standard BR 5 plank 10' wheelbase wagons which are readily available from I think all 3 manufacturers, and highfits which are available as a kit from the N Gauge Society. Alternatively it's a pretty simple kitbash to cut the wagon ends out of a Farish 5 plank and insert some corrugated styrene. The N Gauge Society does also have the metal bodied version if you'd like to add a bit of variety to a rake. Subtle differences between brake gear types are simply too small to appreciate in 2mm scale so I never even bothered - once weathered they're such a close fit that nobody notices anyway.

Use masking tape for your sheet, with a simulated load underneath to create the "bulge" - sheeted opens were always loaded above the wagonsides to create a "hill" so that rainwater wouldn't pool on the sheet. The sheets were various shades of grey, black, dark blue, etc. but if you're feeling adventurous, use some clear tape for a couple of the sheets, and give a light mist of white weathering with an airbrush - there were some experimental clear plastic sheets for these wagons and that adds a little interest.

For the roller bearings, I just used a sharp knife to remove the old friction bearing, and replaced it with a piece cut off the end of a styrene rod of appropriate diameter. This is pretty crude but to be honest with N scale it's so small that this actually does the trick at normal viewing distances.

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On 01/01/2020 at 01:21, autocoach said:

We had a fairly active yahoo group that fell afoul of the many changes of ownership of yahoo and the devastation of the online forums (the new owners were worse than ole Smaug.).  There was considerable information in the files of that group that described not only the railway transport of china clay but the whole process. Coline33 of this parish was the owner of the yahoo group and I have just offered to help reconstruct it on the groups.io platform where most of the active yahoo forums have migrated, Hopefully we will be able to move the files that we have saved from yahoo there too. 

Thanks for mentioning the CCB Yahoo Group.   Firstly I was not the Group Owner (GO) and changes in the manner Yahoo made to signing-in prevented my entry into the site to continue my role of Moderator whilst the GO spent much of his life abroad.   The GO too had problems in communicating with Yahoo.   I have started the new year with further applications (with two from ' down under') to join which I can only forward to GO via personal email for approval.   In confirming that the approvals were granted the GO has found the site 'empty'.   Fortunately, last year on receiving the formal Yahoo notification of their changes and knowing the problems that another of my groups had experienced and changed course, I was able to download and save the content that I had contributed.   My work was mostly from CMR through to BR early diesel era with wagons to the fore!   So I am now responding to requests for data direct and anyone wanting help is welcome to contact me.  

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I've just found this article when I was looking for something else but it struck a chord. Returning to the initial post my own thoughts are that most railway modellers are more interested in trains (and principally locomotives) rather than railways*. So for example when they model the large passenger station this is really to accommodate a long express pulled by a big engine which is the focus. 

When they model clay district, its the shorter clay train. 

The problem is how they plan and build the model. Obviously almost everybody is constrained by space but the almost universal error is to put the scenery around the track rather than the track into the scenery. In real life there is no chicken and egg option but in a model there is. Instead of building a railway in a scene most people put a scene around a railway in the space that is left. 

Making models quaint is a trap we can all easily fall into as we search for the bucolic, decent, easy, sunny days of yore we imagine must have existed before the frantic and stressful lives we live today. It's hard to convey poverty, insanitary living, rudimentary healthcare, dangerous working conditions and the asylum/work house threat via a toy train. Much better a rosy cheeked countryman and a gaggle of laughing children harvesting a rich rural bounty. No one can see the cripple or industrial amputee hidden in the hovel and eeking survival on parish relief and charity. When did anybody last model a rundown Ag Lab's hovel as opposed to an Agatha Christie class thatched cottage?

Anyway, here comes the XYZ first class only Pullman express. Weren't the railways wonderful!

 

* For me railways encompass so much more than tracks and trains. Railways they are about people and what people do. How they effect society as a whole, architecture, art, industry and the countryside. Locomotives are simply tools to propel trains carrying people and goods. Of course some are beautiful and some impressive creations with great appeal and charisma but they are essentially a means to an end and receive disproportionate attention compared to other aspects of railways. The hobby is after all railway modelling and not locomotive modelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Has anyone found drawings of the CMR iron bodied China clay tippler wagons? Or close up photos?

drduncan

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Not got a drawing but there is a half descent photo of 2 going up the incline at Newquay. It in John Vaugham's Newquay branch book page 184 plate 295.

 

Hope that helps

 

Marc

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On 12/01/2020 at 10:23, coline33 said:

Thanks for mentioning the CCB Yahoo Group.   Firstly I was not the Group Owner (GO) and changes in the manner Yahoo made to signing-in prevented my entry into the site to continue my role of Moderator whilst the GO spent much of his life abroad.   The GO too had problems in communicating with Yahoo.   I have started the new year with further applications (with two from ' down under') to join which I can only forward to GO via personal email for approval.   In confirming that the approvals were granted the GO has found the site 'empty'.   Fortunately, last year on receiving the formal Yahoo notification of their changes and knowing the problems that another of my groups had experienced and changed course, I was able to download and save the content that I had contributed.   My work was mostly from CMR through to BR early diesel era with wagons to the fore!   So I am now responding to requests for data direct and anyone wanting help is welcome to contact me.  

I must confess to being the errant GO of the China Clay Branchlines site on Yahoo Groups.  Life changed when I started the restoration of a medieval house in France and my modelling went on hold in preference to 12"/ft scale timber frame repairs.  I must publicly thank Collin for his massive efforts to keep the site going in my absence. Throughout the final years I found the Group increasingly difficult to use and many errors crept ino the system with photograph and file access proving especially difficult. Initially I put it down to my lack of IT abilities but so many others suffered the same and in the end I went back to 'real' building.  The closure of the site is a big loss to those of us with an interest in china clay modelling.  Lockdown has brought me back to 4mm/ft and I'm delighted to find this thread on RMW.  Thanks again Collin for your amazing  contribution to CCB and your perseverance.

Edited by Nick Platt
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Some great photos in the thread.

I think the OP needs a serious chill pill though. People model railways for relaxation, and quite often an airbrushed version of reality is what they want , in their ideal world. If I was modelling London , I wouldn’t want someone getting stabbed on my platforms - but to indicate where it’s set, I may want to model the shard - compressed to 1/10 scale because it’s says “ London “.

 

Same with cornwall. I’ve never met anyone who has said “ I hate cornwall, it’s so ugly “ ( although the clay areas are quite ugly compared with the fudge tin inspiring fishing villages ). But if you want freight, to indicate cornwall, it’s China clay , not really any other show in town.

 

And yes, I doubt most people will want the reality of a 3m long shed or Linhay or whatever. Because if that is the reality, the other reality is that it probably got one or two trains a day. Boring. Too much reality is dull sometimes.

 

Just my take on it.

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Yes, Rob, that is why my china clay line remained in the BR steam and early diesel days in the limited space of an extended dining room table!!!   But my "Polbrook" clay works buildings are those from KMRC with a halt for passenger trains between Wadebridge and Bodmin plus through freights.   Result is a lot of movement in the limited time the layout is in place.   Nice to have the space for modern image operations but if it was for me then the passenger service Newquay to Par would have to be rerouted!   But it is great to see the work that has been put into Rosevear.

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I’ve flirted with the idea of China clay planks a few time and still have 6 CDAs, but even using every bit of freight west of Exeter in my chosen time period ( late 90s or early 80s), it still didn’t make for a very exciting prospect 

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IMHO probably the best period to model a China clay works would be some where around 1919-23 as the amalgamation of all the smaller companies into ECC would allow you to have different PO wagons at the same Linhay at the same time. To keep people's interested having the same stock running in and out would be a bit boring for an operator let alone those watching.

Marc

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I reckon models of China clay works are very popular and that’s good. Yes they may understate the size and complexity of the real thing but that applies to pretty much any type of installation on most model railways. My N gauge layout is in Devon so is restricted to the clayliner. Ok I haven’t modified the axle boxes to roller bearings but it’s close enough for me.

Having said that I’m thinking clay hoods may have been seen in south Devon - there were certainly some at Exeter Riverside from time to time.

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4 hours ago, Furness Wagon said:

IMHO probably the best period to model a China clay works would be some where around 1919-23 as the amalgamation of all the smaller companies into ECC would allow you to have different PO wagons at the same Linhay at the same time. To keep people's interested having the same stock running in and out would be a bit boring for an operator let alone those watching.

Marc

Yes, Marc, but I would extend the period to 1930 as the GWR also converted some of their absorbed wagons into the clay trade.   BR in fact did exactly the same thing in transferring some of the general POs acquired into clay service by the 1950s.   Both World Wars created in peacetime an increase in clay loadings urgently requiring more wagons than available.   I agree that the use of the named POs is far more attractive to the uninitiated than BR grey ones where to appreciate the wagon differences requires an expert knowledge.

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5 hours ago, Furness Wagon said:

IMHO probably the best period to model a China clay works would be some where around 1919-23 as the amalgamation of all the smaller companies into ECC would allow you to have different PO wagons at the same Linhay at the same time. To keep people's interested having the same stock running in and out would be a bit boring for an operator let alone those watching.

Marc

I’d struggle to get any 37s involved with that 

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Having built and exhibited Wheal Elizabeth, I’ve a real temptation to build another China clay layout. Not helped by the subsequent acquisition of Kernow’s PRAs and a Tiger hopper.

I’ve got other layouts to finish first though!

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I loved watching the operation of "Wheal Elizabeth" at shows and also for its flexibility of era.   "Minion" looks great for the steam era so how about having a "Denise" for the diesel era?   Or maybe you have already built that!

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To me it was the mixture of some clay facilities in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere that appealed to me. So not so much the huge settings like Rocks at Goonbarrow or Burngullow but Ponts Mill, Moorswater and Wenford Bridge. The industrial trains squeezing past cottages or through dense woodland. And that's what I've tried to capture a little bit in my layouts. Even in N it requires huge compression - but so does the whole layout with curves that are far too tight, short loops and sidings. To me its about capturing the atmosphere and essence of a place. My clay works may be very under scale but it still towers over the passenger line and dominates the scene.

 

The OP talks about loading wharfs where clay was brought in by lorry from other works. Were there any examples of these into the blue diesel era? Would be an interesting feature to add

 

Great to see more photos of Wheal Elizabeth. It was a real inspiration of mine, especially the multi era aspect of it

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Did the Yahoo group (I think I was a member) ever get moved to the preferred new platform Groups.io? Most other Yahoo groups were migrated in 2018-2019. 

 

I still have a lingering hankering to to a small highly compressed Wenford Drys in OO.  At least 3 Kernow resin cast clay drys are in storage somewhere in my house and I have a bunch of kit1923 RCH clay wagons and all 3 BWT's  although inoperable.  The revival of the Kernow road van would make the scene. 

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No, the CCB Yahoo Group did not go elsewhere.   With Nick emulating Tom Sawbridge abroad and I having problems being recognised by Yahoo as a member, the Group site just elapsed into the ether.   

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On 03/09/2020 at 10:02, TomJ said:

The OP talks about loading wharfs where clay was brought in by lorry from other works. Were there any examples of these into the blue diesel era? Would be an interesting feature to add


They were mostly gone by the time the diesels came along but the few that lingered were Nanpean Wharf, Meledor Mill, and Rostowrack/Slip. The first two were used to bring clay from drys that were not rail connected, a dying breed by that time! I'd say the practice ended in the very early 70s, after which Nanpean Wharf was used to take delivery of pipework and equipment for use in the industry, and Meledor Mill was relegated to a shunting loop for the nearby Collins dryer. The latter, Rostowrack, was a loading point for china stone - it had a mass concrete ramp for trucks to back onto, with a loading chute at the end of it which fed the wagons waiting in the siding below. Rostowrack lasted a little longer into the 70s.

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