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Chemical Plant (mostly Faller)




A shortened version of this account appeared in an article on 'Lockdown Modelling' in the August 2020 edition of 'British Railway Modelling'; this blog entry is longer and has some more photos.



I started the lockdown period in England full of good intentions, one of which was to build some of my personal stockpile of kits – I am a “stock acquired beyond life expectancy” (SABLE) sort of person. This activity began well enough with a Faller tank farm deemed ideal for my next layout. This was my second recent Faller kit after their industrial metals processor and it went together so well I was inspired to look online for something to go with it. A short moment of madness happened and two days later I had the kit for the chemical plant outside my door.


A Faller kit is somewhere between an Airfix kit, where you buy the parts and stick them together, and a Wills “craftsman” kit, where you get a pile of raw materials and make the parts to a drawing. Faller supply dozens of sprues of generic parts – girders, tanks, pipes and so on – and a book of instructions. Notably what you do not get is any kind of scale floor plan or general arrangement drawing; and so when you begin construction you do not really have a clue where to fix anything down onto a base. For the chemical plant you have 32 pages of instructions (these begin with the terse word “option”!), 54 sprues, and an inspirational colour picture on the box. The model uses around two-thirds of the parts supplied; of these, many of the smaller pipes and nearly all of the railings need trimming to fit.


The instructions give you a build sequence but this only works if you are leaving the model unpainted. I scanned through the instructions to identify the major elements of the model and proceeded to build them as subassemblies, painting them as I went along. The assembly of plant equipment for the ground floor is identical to a part of the tank farm, and seems absurdly intricate for something almost invisible inside the finished model, but at least I began on familiar ground.


From time to time, the instructions tell you to cut parts to a specific dimension. I am convinced, Faller created their instructions by measuring from a test build – parts of their build are clearly crooked in their photographs, and you can best take the dimensions with a pinch of salt. I cut the parts so they would fit. The instructions also call up parts you do not have, like eight specimens of a part where they only provide four. But life would be dull if everyone’s models turned out identical, so I improvised along the way, especially with the pipes.


Eventually I had to tackle the main section of structural steelwork and a mate gave me a scrap of MDF board to build this on. The steelwork builds up in layers, one storey at a time. This is logical enough but it makes for a model difficult to build “square” in all three planes.


The numerous staircases and railings are a bright but slightly soapy yellow plastic. It is good to have these pre-coloured, but they would not stay put with my EMA Plastic Weld or Carr’s Butanone. I bought some Revell Liquid Contacta, and this worked.




The colour scheme was inspired by photographs of the refinery at Grangemouth and a visit to the power station at Bradwell, and so the model is a selection of shades of grey. I used Tamiya sprays for the large parts, especially their TS-32 Haze Grey for the steelwork and TS-81 Royal Light Grey and TS-76 Mica Silver for the tanks. When I needed a brush to hide mistakes and marks from solvents I used Revell acrylics.




After I added the last storey, I thought how nice the model would look with some internal lighting. I bought a pre-wired string of 30 white LEDs to do this, these came from JS Models of Keighley. The LEDs came encapsulated in clear resin, so to make their installation easier I ground down the resin on the back of each one and attached a disc of black styrene. I chose black to stop light leaking through what is supposed to represent steel girders and decking. Well, the grinding disc went in a bit too far for one LED but fortunately, this was near one end of the string. I threaded 24 LEDs into the steelwork, and added the other five good ones below walkways.




By now, the subassemblies with their wires were completely unmanageable so I made a permanent base for the model. This is 3mm plywood, braced with strip wood and more plywood. It was tricky to fix the structural steelwork onto a wooden base. I used loops of brass wire hooked over the plastic mouldings and soldered up underneath. I fixed everything else down with PVA. The base holds a simple voltage regulator PCB and two AA batteries. The batteries let me run the LEDs when the model is outdoors for photography.


The model looked a bit bare so I garnished it with some parts from other kits. The terminal pipe-work at the front is from a Kibri kit for an oil storage tank, and the demountable office building is Kibri as well. I used some parts from a Faller old-time cement works to add an extra storage tank at the back, and there is even a scrap of an Airfix tank wagon in there too. I put a row of street lights along the railway side, these are N gauge ones from Kytes Lights, extended with short lengths of brass tube.




The Faller kit builds into a good-looking if somewhat under-scale model. Really, the footprint is barely larger than a couple of detached houses with good-sized gardens, and a prototype could easily be twice the size. Nevertheless, construction kept me occupied for 85 hours spread over five weeks of the lockdown.


I have posted some details of the build in the topic for 'Shelf Marshes' starting here:



This model is now the centrepiece of the 'Shelf Marshes' module of my Shelf Island project.

Edited by 47137

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Interesting topic and that kit appeals to me.   I think Knightwing do (or did) some general purpose pipework and security fencing mouldings at a low cost for projects like this. 


Unfortunately I'm no chemist, so I wouldn't know what should go where.  I don't think these factories exist as generic breweries for every chemical known to man though, but are specifically designed to produce particular products which are needed on an industrial scale.  So to build something plausible, I suppose I'd have to nominate some specific chemical, and then I'd need an expert to explain its production equivalent of the knee-bone-is-connected -to-the-hip-bone. 

And I'd want to know how raw materials arrive and how the finished goods leave, preferably both by rail of course.


Whilst that does look to me as a layman like a chemical plant and I like the illumination you've fitted, I suspect a chemical engineer would want all sorts of things changed. 

For example if a chemical is dangerous if it escapes, they tend to put a bund round the tank to catch any leakage.  

It bears a passing resemblance to the Gas terminal at Bacton in Norfolk, though that is rather flatter and seems to have a lot more pipes.  https://www.shell.co.uk/about-us/what-we-do/bacton-gas-plant/about-bacton-gas-plant.html

That would make an interesting model but it seems to have a (justifiable) 24-hour police presence, and I think you would be arrested on suspicion of terrorism if you so much as stopped and pulled out a camera.  Looks like a cushy but very boring job for the rozzers.

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Looks especially good when lit.  I'd hate to try and explain what ll the bits are for :)

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