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After 5 years and 30+ exhibitions it was time to think about a replacement for my 'G' scale 45mm gauge Hambleden Valley layout.  It had to be something different. The only criticism I heard was that it was too big to run indoors at home, but could not be left outside in the garden, so neither an indoor layout nor a garden railway. Hambleden was unique in using radio controlled live steam locos on an end to end layout involving lots of shunting of rolling stock. So this time it had to be a 'round and round'. However it also had to be different from the usual offering of unballasted track, a nod to scenery and out of the box rolling stock.


The new layout, called Pen-Y-bont, was going to be 16mm scale on 32mm gauge track and be based in Welsh slate territory.  However, the unique feature this time was going to be that all the scenery was going to be from real plants, growing in soil and it would be left outside all year, except when dismantled and transported to model railway exhibitions in the back of my van.


Would it work - it remains to be seen....................

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OK Due to the design brief, no wood could be used in the baseboard construction. So like Hambleden, the starting point was polycarbonate roofing sheets to which was bolted 2in deep plastic plant trays. These were fitted with 2in expanded foam insulation sheets painted matt black.




For exhibitions, the layout will rest on the beams and trestles used for Hambleden




Test setup. The seed trays with the conifers were lated replaced with long plant trays. The backscene boards are plastic sofit boards.




The track is Peco SM32




The foam sheets were cut to the track plan, leaving spaces to fill with soil for planting.




More to follow....................



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I am fascinated by your approach! I want to build a small layout for the garden, but it would have to be able to be dismantled to avoid the severe winter weather conditions up here in the Northern Highlands! I would probably build a permanent railbed and find some way of fixing the track, which is not permanent! Possibly combine some real planting, like yours, with some kind of weatherproof back scene in places? Your scenery reminds me of those living roofs, where mosses and houseleeks thrive!

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Another couple of pictures, this time on track ballasting. As the area the model is set in is Welsh slate territory, I used slate for ballast.  I made my own from a bag of slate chippings from the local garden centre. Pieces of slate were crushed with a club hammer and then sieved to remove the larger pieces. It took many days of slate bashing to provide the required quantity for the layout.  On the sidings, the slate was mixed 50/50 with sieved compost, but on the running lines this was reduced to 25/75 This was all laid dry and brushed into place. It was then lightly sprayed with water before dribbling on a 50/50 exterior grade PVA and water mix.  It has consolidated over time and shows no sign of washing away despite of lot of rain this winter.







Next time I will get on to the planting up of the layout using alpines chosen for their small leaf size.



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The key to the success or failure of this design concept is in the planting.

Most alpines are sold for their flowers, but I was only really interested in the leaf size and overall height.  I found there were a number that fitted the bill. The commonest and most prolific were the miniature Thymes, but my favourite alpine is Leptinella and I have several varieties.  Others that fitted the bill were Pratia, Mentha, Isotama and of course the inevitable ‘mind your own business’  There are a few others plus a good smattering of various mosses. There are 3 or 4 types of miniature conifers for the backscene, the names of which I have lost.

Over time the alpines continue to spread and have crossed over from one baseboard to the next and I think will eventually hide all the joins between boards.

Here are a few pictures taken last summer.  Depending on what month this layout is viewed, its appearance will change from all green through to a profusion of pink, blue and white flowers in the height of summer.


















The biggest problem so far - birds.  I need to keep it covered with netting to stop the birds ripping up the moss looking for grubs.



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From the outset, this was designed to be a portable exhibition layout.  The scenic section consists of 5 baseboards each 4ft long x 3ft wide. Each has a 4ft x 2ft plant tray bolted to them. A secondary plant tray 4ft x 1ft containing the conifers with a 14in high backboard rests on the baseboard.  I have dismantled and reassembled the layout several times and the boards slide into a rack mounted in my van to transport it in the same way as I do Hambleden.  Hopefully when exhibitions return you will get to see it, but probably not until next year.


Here are a couple more photos from last year of the layout set up on trestles in my garden







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