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Gennigael: A fictional Mid-Wales Branch Terminus

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I have been actively modelling since the early 1960s, focussing mainly on GWR and BR(W) prototypes due to ancestral connections with South and Mid-Wales. In the 1970s, I constructed a 12 ft by 8ft “portable” layout, in 8 sections, with a large GWR loco depot and main line junction station, calling it “Carmarthen Junction”. This layout has evolved over many years and is described here: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/70468-gwr-absorbed-locos-on-carmarthen-junction/

This large layout proved to be rather cumbersome to transport and exhibit single-handedly, so my wife encouraged me to design and build something simpler for future exhibitions.




  1. It must be on one baseboard, with no awkward joins between sections.
  2. It had to fit inside a 7ft by 4ft box trailer, towed by my car.
  3. It must be capable of being suspended by chains from the rafters of my garage for long-term storage.
  4. Set-up time had to be less than 15 minutes from unloading.
  5. All scenery must be “female friendly”, ie there had to be much more than just trains on display, to make it attractive to all members of families attending exhibitions where the layout is displayed.
  6. All shunting must be done “hands off”.
  7. Locos and rolling stock must be a subset of the Carmarthen Junction collection. (You may notice that some of the following photos of locos and rolling stock were taken on Carmarthen Junction.)


Construction details


The baseboard was constructed on a screwed and glued framework of 75mm by 12mm pine, inspired by the frame design of private-owner coal wagons (as can now be seen under recent models by Hornby and Bachmann). The top surface is 12mm MDF, screwed to the pine frame. (This may be easily removed for ultimate replacement if desired.)



2 pairs of heavy duty metal handles are bolted to the ends to facilitate carrying to and from the trailer and also for attachment to chains when in storage.



 When displayed, the board rests on a pair of Ikea collapsible metal trestles and a black fabric skirt is attached with Velcro.



Design Inspiration


Most layouts seen at exhibitions in Oz are large, continuous circuit displays. Only a few use point-to-point operation. Even fewer demonstrate shunting and other operations found in termini. I decided to construct a terminus to fiddleyard layout. Most of those I had seen or read about were long, thin structures, with multiple joins. As an experiment, I decided to “bend” such a design, so the fiddleyard was at the rear of the layout instead of beside it. This required some rather sharp curves, so I chose to use Peco Setrack, as previous experience had taught me that flexible track tends to splay out at any joins within curves over time, leading to frustrating unreliability. Points are all Peco Streamline. Point motors are a mix of Peco and H&M.


The yard trackwork was inspired by those used at Blagdon and Cardigan and includes a small loco depot. This gave me a single platform, with passing loop, storage sidings and single road shed.


Placement of the platform siding on the diagonal of the board has made it look quite different from many other small layouts and has resulted in better use of the available space on the baseboard.



The supporting scenery was constructed on a sloping formwork of Styrofoam covered in kitchen towel paper.


A Faller working fountain forms a focal point of the village high street and always attracts attention from visitors, who then notice the other details.



The layout is named “Gennigael” in honour of my wife – Jennifer Gail – who has inspired much of the non-rail detail.




Four storage sidings in the fiddleyard feed into the line which emerges from under a bridge into the station yard. All trains terminate in the platform. Diesel railcars and autotrains may simply reverse direction and return to the fiddleyard. Remarshalling of other trains is more complex. Locos draw their trains into the station, stop, uncouple, draw forward, then run around the train. If the train is a passenger train, they may then recouple and await departure time.


If the train is a goods train, the loco couples to the brake van, uncouples it from the other wagons, then shunts it to one of the other sidings, uncouples it and then returns to the train, recouples, then shunts each wagon into its appropriate siding. It then makes up a new consist and couples this to the waiting brake van. It then either awaits departure or detaches from the train and moves to “loco” for servicing or stabling.


All of the above movements make good use of tension-lock couplings and strategically located Peco uncoupling ramps.


Point motors are operated by means of an “electric pencil”, which touches contacts installed on a track diagram next to the throttle, providing intuitive control of all operations.


For mealtimes at exhibitions, an auto-reversing circuit may be switched in to continue operation, utilising either autotrains or railcars.




The buildings are a mix of models from Triang-Hornby, Alphagraphix, Prototype, Wills, Faller, Ratio, Metcalfe, Mike’s Models, etc. All have been customised. All shops have been fitted with detailed interiors and provided with lighting. Street- and platform-lamps all work. Commercial buildings have been carefully selected to portray a typical British high street. Many of the buildings are made of card and are still as good as the day they were made.



Scenery Details


Inherent in the “female friendly” brief was the need to portray day-to-day life in a sleepy British village. This required assembling several dioramas, which include:

  • Funeral service at the graveside, next to the church, complete with pallbearers, hearse and mourners.



  • Sheep in the cattle dock awaiting return to their farms after attending a local show. Prizewinners are still wearing their ribbons (my wife’s idea)



  • Six cats placed strategically around the layout – on fences, platform, etc.- give children a challenge to find all of them



  • Signalmen hard at work in the fully detailed signal box



  • Customers having their hair styled in the hairdresser’s shop



Road Vehicles


Road vehicles are selected to complement the period chosen for any particular display – either 1930-40 or 1955-60. Models come from Corgi, Keil Kraft, Peco, Matchbox, Langley, Oxford Diecast, Original Omnibus – among others.




These have all been described elsewhere, but they include:


1930-1940 period:





Built in 1875, 848 was a late survivor of the 517 class which worked on the Mid-Wales line in the 1930s. She was scrapped in 1945. I modelled her as illustrated in Great Western Railway Journal #75 (Oswestry, 23 Aug 1938) and in Cambrian Railways Album - 2 (Brecon, 6 Sep 1936).  She was one of the long wheelbase examples with outside bearings on the trailing wheels, as shown in the drawing on page 22 of Model Railways, Jan 1980, so was the same length as the donor model.  My model of 848 was rebuilt from an Airfix 14XX body and Dapol chassis.





I started to gather some information about GWR 908 (Mid-Wales No.5) while still at school in 1966, but did not actually complete a model until 2009, using drawings from Railway Modeller (1966) and Russell's "Absorbed Locomotives of the Great Western Railway".


This used the chassis block and footplate from a Lima H0 4F, Hornby J94 wheels, scratchbuilt loco superstructure and a Mainline Dean Goods powered tender.


Another image is here:






This loco was taken over from the Cambrian Railway and extensively rebuilt for use on the Tanat Valley Light Railway. The prototype was originally named “Gladys”, my grandmother’s name. Inspired by an article in the Railway Modeller, I scratchbuilt this model in 2000, devising a sprung suspension for the leading wheels that works well to steer the model through curves and over irregularities in the track. It uses a Hornby mini-open-frame motor with 2-stage nylon gears: crown wheel & pinion followed by worm & wheel, mounted in a gearbox that is integral with the frame.





This 0-6-0 saddle tank loco was built in 1877 by Fox Walker & Co for the Whitland & Cardigan Railway, which was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1886. Initially numbered 1387 by the GWR, it was renumbered 1331 after being heavily rebuilt in 1927. It worked variously at Weymouth, Swindon and Oswestry until withdrawal in 1950.


The model’s body uses some parts from a Hornby “Smoky Joe”, with many other scratchbuilt parts and has been fitted to a modified Hornby “Toby” chassis, as described here: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/72460-gwr-1331-ex-whitland-cardigan-0-6-0st-project/





This 0-6-0 tank engine was built in 1874 by the Bristol & Exeter Railway, which was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1876. This loco was sent to Mid-Wales in 1927, where it worked the Tanat Valley line until withdrawn in 1934.


The model’s body was built from brass and copper and then fitted to a modified Hornby “Terrier” chassis, as described here: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/67786-gwr-1376-ex-bristol-exeter-0-6-0t-project/.






2517 worked from 1897 until 1940. Similar engines regularly worked the Mid-Wales line from Grouping until the 1950s.


The model was assembled from spares I had in my scrapbox, including a spare Dean Goods body left over from the construction of 908. Other parts included:

  • Wills/Finecast 1854 class chassis block (which has a suitable wheelbase!)
  • Suitable Romford wheels and gears
  • Tri-ang X04 motor with 5-pole MRRC armature
  • New rare-earth magnet for X04 motor

A new tender was adapted from an old spare from an ancient Airfix “City of Truro” kit, upgraded with new handrails, wheels etc and painted to match the Dean Goods.

This is, of course, an "old school" approach, and it doesn't have the finely detailed chassis that comes from a modern etched kit, but this quick project gave me a model that runs well and can take its turn on the layout without fear of failure.


Railcar 22



GWR railcar 22 was built at Swindon under carriage lot 1635, entering service in 1940. It was withdrawn in 1962 and was initially preserved on the Severn Valley Railway, but is now resident at Didcot.


This model is a standard Hornby one, purchased new. It works well and is useful on the layout when it is set in automatic mode in exhibitions (during lunch breaks, etc). I have painted the interior and fitted some figures, to add life to the model.



1955-60 period:





2516 was built by the GWR in 1897. It was retained in service in the early 1950s for use on the Kerry branch in Mid-Wales. It was withdrawn for preservation in 1956.


My model of 2516 came as a non-working Mainline loco, given away by a model shop that was closing down. After I stripped it, found that the pickup wires to the tender were broken and that part of the gear train was missing. The motor was still in working order, though. The plastic tender wheels had been replaced by non-standard metal wheels, possibly Romford, to which had been fitted gears recovered from the original wheelset. The plastic keeper plate had also been replaced by a 5mm thick steel one. I bought a set of replacement Hornby gears (which fitted perfectly) and repaired the wiring. The loco worked! I then repainted it into BR black, recalling the last few survivors that worked in Mid-Wales in the 1950s.





This was one of many LMS-designed 2MT locos sent to the Mid-Wales line in the early 1950s. The model is a standard Hornby one, bought second-hand in pristine condition and retained largely as built to contrast with 78005.





This was a WR loco from new (Oswestry, 1953) to withdrawal (Gloucester, 1964)


This model was a purchase from “Train Trader” in Sydney, starting life as a very sad looking Hornby (ex-LMS) 2MT. It was completely rebuilt, using a Crownline conversion kit and a new, smaller Hornby motor.





W22 is simply GWR 22, renumbered and wearing mid-1950s BR livery.


This is a standard Lima model, bought second-hand. Its previous owner fitted it with an interior light. I have painted the interior and added figures. Otherwise, it is as manufactured.




W55027 was a Class 121 railcar built for BR(W) in 1960 by the Pressed Steel Company. By 2011, 55027 was stored out of use. Some of its classmates are still in service with Chiltern Railways and Network Rail.


The model was a standard Hornby product that has been modified by painting the interior and fitting passengers and crew. Test running on a slight gradient resulted in severe wheel slippage, so I fitted replacement driven wheels fitted with traction tyres. It now looks and runs well.



Rolling Stock



  • 8782 is an ex-Cambrian Railways van and was adapted from a Parkside Dundas MR brake van kit (PC58). This was a relatively simple conversion



  • 56590 is a standard AA20, modelled by Mainline





Several PO wagons, made by Peco, Hornby or Bachmann, are suitable for the Mid-Wales area and are available for Gennigael:

  • Abercriban Collieries, Pontisgill
  • Cefnmawr & Rhosmedre, Acrefair
  • Llanelwedd Basalt Quarries, Builth Wells
  • Diamond Anthracite, Ystalyfera
  • Crawshay Brothers, Merthyr Tydfil
  • SLB, Oswestry
  • SJ, Pontnewynydd


Here they are, arriving at Gennigael behind 908:



A mix of GWR, LMS and LNER vans is also available, sourced from Hornby, Mainline, Bachmann, Ratio, etc.


Several designs of cattle wagon are dispatched to and from the cattle dock, including models made by Airfix, Parkside Dundas and Bachmann.


Passenger rolling stock includes:

  • Non-vestibuled clerestory coaches, adapted from old Tri-ang models
  • B-set, built from K’s kits
  • Autocoaches, both from K’s kit and also Airfix RTR
  • 4-wheeled coaches, built from Ratio kits



Several types of Siphon also see use from time to time.


The post-war rolling stock has an equivalent selection of passenger coaches and goods wagons.



The layout was completed over a period of about 3 months in time for its first exhibition at St Luke’s Church, Hornsby Heights, in 2001. It has been shown from time to time in other venues, such as Bateau Bay, Forrestville, Wollongong and Kenthurst, and is still in good working order. Despite having been constructed as an experiment to test whether a terminus-to-fiddleyard layout could be built on one board, it has proven to be a joy to operate and has attracted a lot of compliments from visitors/observers, notwithstanding the sharp curves.


The timber frame still shows no sign of warping or sagging, despite being suspended from chains for most of its 13+ years. (Please note that the temperatures in the roof of my garage range from about 2 to 40 degrees Celsius.) Some points have become a little unreliable in respect of switching current to relevant sidings and have been supplemented with latching relays wired in parallel with their point motors. The original Faller water pump died after about 11 years’ use(!) and has been replaced with a new one.


I plan to show the layout again at St Luke’s at my club’s next exhibition, planned for 8-9 November 2014.




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  • 1 month later...

For a future project you could call a layout Gwenhwyfar (the name the English render as Guinevere), as Jennifer is just the Cornish equivalent of the Welsh name. Still, it's your railway and your fun. I enjoyed the pictures and the tale behind the layout.

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  • 1 year later...

G'day, all,


Thanks for all the "Likes".


It's a pity most of my 2014 text has evaporated.


I hope the glitch is fixed and the account returns soon.


Since compiling the above photos, I have acquired a few more models which may appear from time to time on "Gennigael". The layout is currently sleeping in my garage roof space, so photos were taken on my permanent layout - "Carmarthen Junction".


The newer locos are:

1565 - a 1076 class double-framed pannier tank, constructed from a Wills cast 1854-class inner frame, scratchbuilt footplate and outside frames with Hornby pannier tanks and cab.



6401 - an approximation of a 64XX class pannier tank, constructed from a modified GBL 8751 class body on a c.1957-vintage Tri-ang diesel shunter chassis block



885 - an ex-Cambrian Railways 73-class 0-6-0, constructed from parts of a Mainline Dean goods, an etched chassis of unknown origin, with a tender assembled from parts of a Bachman ROD and Tri-ang B12.



11709 - a North British 0-4-0, rebuilt from a wrecked Tri-ang diesel shunter. (For use when the layout operates in post-war mode)



In all cases, wheels are Romford. Gears and motors come from a variety of sources.


I have posted accounts of the construction of most of these before, but I fear that, like the Gennigael accounts, their texts may have disappeared for now.


I hope these models are of some interest






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Some nice Locos there.


I like the use of "older" parts, etc.


Something that I am also doing...


I have an X.04 Motor Loco Drive Black 5 in works at the moment....


Based on the Tender Drive Hornby Models....

Edited by Sarahagain
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G'day, Sarah,


The tender-drove Black 5 is fairly easy to convert to loco-drive. I did so as part of assembling an inexpensive (and childproof!) "Henry" for use by my grand-daughter, as described here:

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/86971-henry-comes-to-carmarthen-junction/ (I hope this text doesn't evaporate!)


Good luck with your project.





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