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Penlan - LNWR in South Wales, 1910 - EM gauge


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PENLAN - LNWR in South Wales


by Penlan


original page on Old RMweb



??? posted on Mon Sep 07, 2009 12:17 am


So, PENLAN the layout - after numerous requests, I have collected together the data that's distributed around RMWeb and created a specific topic for it.


The following is a partial extract from the Text I supplied to the RM earlier this year, and is included to show how I got here. Photographs are credited to their taker where known, I have not used any from the RM as these are specifically subject to copyright.


My interest's in the LNWR in Central Wales and the MT&A lines in the period 1900 - 1910 where cemented when I met Tudor Watkins, Martin Wynne and Colin Brace at the Worcester Model Railway Club in 1972. Tudor is the master of Neath & Brecon knowledge, Martin is known on this Forum and Colin is somewhere high up in Railtrack or whatever it's called now. We became the S&T section of the Worcester Club (Stand & Talk) preferring to work on our own layouts at home. I am a member of the Welsh Railways Research Circle and the LNWR Society, both very useful sources of prototype and modelling information. I have tried to embrace the internet as a silver surfer and have found this Forum a valuable source of inspiration and problem solving. I look with wonder at the last 10 years in the RTR market and the rise of modelling standards as shown every day on this Forum and every month in the high street magazines, standards and detail far removed from the days when I started back in the 1950's, some people say my standards are still some 25 years behind, so be it, it's my approach to the hobby. A brief word to say my other hobby is Longbridge Austin 7's, 1922 - 1939, I'm the International Registrar for the A7 Clubs Association.


PENLAN, the layout was featured in the March 1993 Railway Modeller under the name of 'Hartwell', and it was built by John Degg and Bill Wood of Stoke on Trent. In the early years on the exhibition circuit I supplied a lot of the rolling stock, reduced as John and Bill built up their own stock. The trackwork was built to a gauge of 18mm (EM gauge) with some tight clearances, using ply sleepers with copper rivets, rail soldered to these and then C&L cosmetic chairs glued on - a process none of us wanted to be involved with again for some time. Eventually the layout was retired in 2002 after the Wigan Show and I brought it down to my home in west Cornwall for my own use. The main reason was I faced the fact that now I'm retired, I would probably never have the time to build a layout to the standards I required, especially with my declining faculties. In 2006 local members of the EM Gauge Society decided to set up a Cornwall EMGS area group, and I found myself coerced back into active modelling again.


Hartwell was renamed PENLAN, reflecting the area I'm interested in, the LNWR's Central Wales Line between Craven Arms and Swansea Victoria. Where's PENLAN? There is not a station called PENLAN on the Central Wales line, although various Penlan's do exist around the Swansea area. The layout's location is somewhere south of Pontarddulais, about 8 miles from the LNWR's Swansea Victoria terminus.


PENLAN - I have made a number of changes to the layout from it's Hartwell days to reflect the character of the Central Wales line and my methods of operating a layout. These include a double track at one end, with an additional baseboard inserted beyond the viaduct, inspired by the view in MRJ 28 (1989) of the late David Ratcliff's LNWR Banbury layout, of a train coming out of a gentle slopping cutting. When I came to put in a new cross over for the double track, I found the trackwork had been laid to older standards than the current EM ones, viz. 18mm rather than 18.2mm track gauge and track centres at 42mm rather than 45mm - I had wondered why my slightly over width coach running boards had been catching the ground signals. I have added sidings, the scenic board and widened three other boards. The baseboards are built from 9mm MDF board and to a standard size 3' long by 2' wide, which makes them easy to handle single handed, however the three widened boards have proved to be a pain to move about. The baseboards are aligned with pattern makers dowels, held together with over-centre clips at the front and back edges. The overall size of layout 31' x 2' 6", of which 21' is scenic - with two 360deg rotating four foot long fiddle yard boards at either end. When transporting the layout to exhibitions - pairs of baseboards are clipped face to face with protective endboards, to make up boxes..


On Hartwell the electric's, points and signals were fully interlocked, both within the hidden away control panels and the point /signals position feedback came from the actual point and signal motors. When I set about making some adjustments to the track layout, the existing interlocking caused a lot of headaches, so in the end I removed all the interlocking and built a new, much more accessible, control panel with a form of passive interlocking and DC sections that can be switched to any controller - DCC has no attracted me yet, although it would be a god-send for the double track entry and dual lines fiddle yard, at the Down / Swansea end of the layout, I've had my moments with this fiddle yard including at Cardiff Show in 2008, when seemingly all the tracks became live and trains moved due to a set of circumstances when 3 controllers were in use at the same time - it had not shown up on pre-show tests before - this has now been rectified. One of the considerations for the choice of a simple as possible operating system on PENLAN is that I only do a couple of exhibitions a year and the team - who live about 250 miles away from me - only meet up on such occasions, thus it's difficult for them (and me) to be trained up ready to operate anything complicated - every layout has it's quirks.


Some of Hartwell's ground signals have been removed and replaced with semaphore arm signals, plus some extra signals for new movements due to the revised track plan. The points and signals are operated through Fulgarex motors wired for AC operation. Cosmetic point roding has still to be installed (Sept 09). There are three handheld controllers built by me from a design of 30+ years ago. They are designated for Up line/Fiddle yard, Down line /Fiddle yard and one for the Goods Yard.


Hartwell's buildings have been moved and added to, such as the goods shed which is reduced in height by 6mm and an 'office' added on to give it more dimensional interest, the Goods Shed back wall also needed some attention as it had seriously bowed. The new cattle dock is based on the one at Llanwdra, the details of the LNWR style fencing was very difficult to track down, but once I had completed the cattle dock, lo and behold a photograph arrived in the post showing the details to perfection!! The glazing in most buildings is real glass - 5thou microscope cover slips. I have changed the general nature of the scenery to try and reflect the area to the north west of Swansea. I have used some items from previous layouts if they fit in, such as the two arched overbridge at the Swansea (Down) end and the footbridge at the other end, these were rescued from a former layout of mine - Holywell Town. The Ratio telegraph poles are scheduled to be replaced with scratch built types more in keeping with the Victorian/Edwardian period of the layout.


The stone walling is part of the Merit Range now distributed by Peco, cut into short sections and hot-glued in place. This is gradually being replaced by modified timber fencing from Ratio. The Saxby & Farmer Signal Cabin was built by me in 1970 for Penlan Mk 1, an early use of Plastikard in the UK and has featured on a number of my layouts since, Hartwell's signal box was a scratch built LNWR type 4, which is now produced by Bachmann (Ref. 44-011 Hampton North Signal Box), after the third time of being asked if it was the 'Bachmann box', I thought time to change, plus in it's original position on the Up platform it was not a very good place to be - on the inside of a curve with the main station building blocking any sight line in the down direction.


The rolling stock is either scratch or kit built, many of the coaches are assembled from etched zinc printers plates on privately etched chassis', glazing in the coaches is glass - 5thou microscope cover slips. All the painting, PO hand lettering, coach and locomotive lining is done by me. Recent RTR offerings have been of such high quality that some are now used on the layout (e.g. Dapol's 'Berthlwyd' weathered wagons for instance). My LNWR stock has appeared on various layouts at exhibitions and private running sessions including the late David Jenkinson's Long Drag layout when it was owned by the late Keith Bannister, to see 12 coach trains in full LNWR livery gliding by from an armchair with a cool drink to hand, contentment!


At exhibitions my main co-operator is Tudor Watkins and we feature a selection of his splendid Neath & Brecon Rly., rolling stock to give it a day out from his non-portable layout, 'Devynogg'. This layout is to be featured soon in RM.


Right, now to photo's etc. The sources are acknowledged in the titles, all are extracted from RMWeb pages.

The photos deal with PENLAN as it is now, I shall add some more pages of the mods undertaken to widen the base boards and change the scenics in due course.





??? posted on Mon Sep 07, 2009 9:29 am


Picture titles (Edit the following has not transferred over, so will be added in due course) - First, who's photo, then where taken and finally any further info.


First set of Photo's are basic overall views of the layout. Edit - The facia board is 21' long... icon_eek.gif
































??? posted on Mon Sep 07, 2009 9:38 am


Picture titles - First, who's photo, then where taken and finally any further info.


Second set of Photo's are Buildings on the layout. EDIT - Another photo from Stubby47, Signal Box + Cat icon_biggrin.gif






























??? posted on Mon Sep 07, 2009 9:47 am


Picture titles - First, who's photo, then where taken and finally any further info.


Third Set set of Photo's are Rolling Stock biased! The Neath & Brecon Stock is Tudor Watkins.
























??? posted on Mon Sep 07, 2009 9:53 am


Picture titles - First, who's photo, then where taken and finally any further info.


Forth Set set of Photo's are Oddments + The new Control Panel, which looking at it has already been amended - there's more signals on there now.


















??? posted on Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:02 am


There are other photo's to come later, such as rebuilding the baseboards and some of the changes I made to the track layout etc.

Plus track plan and for exhibitions - the minimum 'footprint' we require to operate the layout in!





One of the first modifications I wanted to do was extend the layout in the Down, Swansea end. I had long been inspired by the photograph in MRJ No. 28 of the late David Ratcliffe's Fiddle Yard entry/exit scenery after passing over the road bridge.


This view is a couple of cobbled together photos from the article and then reversed it (if you could see the lettering on the wagons, it's back to front). I liked the gentle flow, giving a sense of spaciousness to the scene.


Then I had to set about building it, making this end double track in the hope of making operation more interesting! The original viaduct on the Prototype at Hartington was built to double track standards, all I've done is install that second track.


Hopefully the following photographs show some of the methods and sequences, starting with what was on Hartwell - a blank board beyond the viaduct (it did have a hole in it so the trains could reach the fiddle yards icon_wink.gif .), then photo's showing part of the construction with MDF. The overbridge is from a former layout, Holywell Town.




























??? posted on Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:48 pm


The track Plan - the bottom part is where viewers stand, operated from the top part... If you know what I mean icon_exclaim.gif


Swansea is the Down end, Pontardulais is thus the Up direction.








??? posted on Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:58 pm


As stated in my OP, this layout was originally called Hartwell, it is based on the track plan of Hartington on the LNWR's Ashborne to Buxton line. This line's structures, cuttings etc. were built to double track standards, but remained single track for much of it's length.


Hartwell's track plan was as this, although some obvious compromises were used to enable it to fit onto the baseboards, such as on the layout the track was curved the other way through the station which then meant the Signalman could not see anything coming from the top (Buxton) direction, which is why I changed the signal box position.


It was only after I saw this plan I realised there was in fact a loop to what is now the headshunt and access to the private siding on PENLAN.








??? posted on Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:49 pm


Right Hand End modifications - Pontardulais end!


Once the layout was down in Cornwall, after the Wigan Show in 2002, I felt the private siding and single main line track seemed to close together where it went into the fiddle yard. In fact it was less than the 6' way, scaling out to about 5' 6", and there was a boundary fence between the tracks! This scenario is seen in photo's 5 & 6 (where all I've done is put the van in a 'better' position). icon_biggrin.gif Photo's 1 & 2 show the layout as it was when Hartwell, + there's also some junk on it......


So I set about making the separation wider, then also to add some scenic interest by adding an incline to the private line (this then impacted on the fiddle yard arrangements icon_frustrated.gif icon_frustrated.gif ), plus increasing the height of the scenery on the viewing side as the main line went off the scenic section - a regular topic on this Forum, going off-scene without cliche's - unfortunatly this one follows the cliche.


This sequence of photo's, most which were just taken for my own records with a poor camera in even worse light, will hopefully will give you some ideas of the changes made on Hartwell at this end of the layout to become PENLAN. Photo's 14 - 19 show the layout as it is today (about an hour ago), same icon_redface.gif camera though.




PS - There's more subjects on PENLAN to be loaded up yet icon_sad.gif







































Comment posted by Coachmann on Wed Sep 09, 2009 7:13 pm


As trains from Swansea have to stop in Penlan station for the token before entering the single line section for Pontardulaise, wouldn't the diamond crossing have been a single-slip to enable trains to gain direct access to the goods yard headshunt? As things stand, they have to draw forward onto the single line section, reverse into the Down platform at Penlan then cross the diamond into the yard headshunt. Things are easier for goods trains from Pontardulaise.



??? posted on Wed Sep 09, 2009 7:29 pm




So, TIC, only down trains stop to drop and pick up stock from the goods yard. Actually I have been trying to work out sequences for working the goods yard and the principle problem is safegaurding the brake van.


On Hartwell, the stone trains dropped/collected wagons from the front layby/siding, always in the down direction, when turned at the Down end, the stone loads taken out transferred by hand to the Up fiddle yard and the train then worked empty through to the Up end, worked empty down into Penlan shunted into the layby, collected by a loco from the stone quarry, pushed back off scene to a sepereate siding in the Up fiddle yard, loaded with stone, brought back to the layby and collected for the Down direction again - Draws breath, as I recall............




PS - I would mention that one of the reasons I took over Hartwell, was I would never have time to build my own layout now I'm retired, thus I took what was to hand and tweeked it - this is said with a smile on my face.... damn, the dog wants to go for a walk and then there's the Legion meeting tonight... back tomorrow. icon_biggrin.gif


But Coachman, many thanks for looking at what I've done in a little bit of depth, that is appreciated.


Comment posted by Fat Controller on Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:31 pm


I just about remember steam trains on the line from Swansea Victoria to Pontardulais, perhaps from the day when my great-aunt took me on the Mumbles Railway, which ran parallel to it for the first few miles. The station architecture captures the line beautifully, reminiscent of the station along Mumbles Road, just before the railway crossed it.

. If I have but one criticism, it is that the bridges I remember on the route, notably those around Dunvant, were of yellow-brown Pennant Sandstone, rather than grey limestone, but I suspect that the reason yours are the latter is because they were part of the original Peak District model.

A beautiful model, which I hope to see one day- does it venture onto the exhibition circuit?



??? posted on Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:53 pm


Fat Controller wrote:

.....which I hope to see one day- does it venture onto the exhibition circuit?



Yes it does.... the next scheduled shows are:


2010 - ExpoEM at Bracknell

........Warley NEC.


2011 - Trainwest at Melksham

........Wakefield (I think)


2012 - Summertime somewhere, can't find the details icon_mrgreen.gif

........Wigan last proper outing, marks 10 years since Hartwell's final show in 2002.


We may be doing Truro in either 2012 or 2013, after that we are to old/knackered to trapse around the countryside from west Cornwall.


The layout is normally set up at home so is available for visits etc., but subject to vetting etc.





??? posted on Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:30 am


As the question of operating has been alluded to....


In the OP I mention that my main co-operator lives some 250 miles away, and multi-person operating sessions only happen at Exhibitions.

Therefore at an exhibition I try and instil some sense of order, panic that everything is going wrong - "What's that smell", "why's that train there", "were's the lunch tickets"........ and yet my co-operators (preferably 2 or 3) just glide along in some parallel universe. There is a basic operating mantra - lost in the mist's of time, but really we just go with the flow, something about "....just a hobby...".


I am however aware from the post exhibition de-briefs that everybody else involved have enjoyed themselves, THEY have had a very relaxing time and when's the next outing, there was apparently even one group at York who held a meeting (in South Wales) afterwards wondering why Penlan was such a happy relaxed state of affairs behind the layout (I don't recall this!) and why their's was not!!!!


BTW - I do treat the lads helping me to dinner on the set-up day/night, it's a time to stop and relax after we've reached where'ever we are in the country, after the layout's up and ready - something I've done for nearly 40 years now, and it works, stop the world, we want to get off for a few hours - best place was Wigan, long time ago in the Tudor Hotel, but that's history now, oh, and I remember a nice long evening in an Indian diner in the Portsmouth red light area with John and Bill, who created Hartwell.


Actually this year at York was very good too, because apart from my co-operators Tudor and John Miles we spent a lot of the weekend socially with Mike Bird (retired Cardiff Exhibition Manager) and Graham Tierney, excellent company, banter and a few beers.





??? posted on Thu Sep 10, 2009 5:58 pm


A few more shots of buildings etc around the Station.


The Crane inside the Goods Shed was added recently, but nobody can see it, until this photograph, then I notice the hooks tangled up in the chain and the ropes come off the pully.....


The two brick sheds were placed elsewhere on Hartwell, but I did not want them, however when I came to finish off this corner next to the cattle dock I ran out of ideas, so I stuck these two here, temporary like icon_wink.gif


The Cattle Dock is based on the one at Llanwrda a few stations up the line from PENLAN, there really was a 'Penlan Dairy' at Llanwrda, I have an old milk bottle with the name on too..... The fencing details proved very illusive until I had built this one, 50% of the Dock fencing is from my first Cattle Dock built in 1980.


The Station seat was scratch built in brass (with 5 others in about 1972), not the etches now available.


The Goods Yard Entrance lettering is from (very old) Lettraset sheets, the smallest letters from the copyright details that ran along the bottom - again this about 35 years old...


And finaly for this session a 'Do Not Cross The Line' notice, a photo, printed off on the PC - at last something using modern technology!





















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C2, C3 and SWMBO and myself have just spent a very enjoyable afternoon visiting Penlan and Penlan. Here are a few snaps...


A birdseye view of Penlan, looking east.



Puffin rests between duties



Two of the yard staff seem to have found time to chat...



Some of the offices at the rear of the yard


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  • 4 years later...
Will there be any samples from Kinmundy Distillery?


Maybe.......... :declare:


It is Burns Night on Saturday..... :boast:

"..Pardon, what's that, Oh, you'll be back in a minute! ! ! ! " .... :nono:

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Not sure how I have not popped in before, maybe I did not see the link in your signature.  Shame I missed it in the flesh.  It does look good, which is not surprising from what I have seen you posting of your work.


'Not sure you would have time to build a layout once you retired'?  I certainly had no time before I did, mind you I know what you mean.

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Cracking set of pics of a really cracking layout. I didn't realise until now that it is so extensive biggrin.gif


I've come to this very late and am sure Penlan will have already seen this, but anyone wanting to see the Pontarddulais - Swansea Victoria just before closure should see this on the BFI website:




It was a real gem; considering the tourist honeypot that the Gower is now, the loss of the Swansea-Mumbles railway should still be much regretted.  It would have made a glorious preserved railway.

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Many thanks for the link, I shall watch on Sunday..
Being retired there are things to do...  
Stag Do tonight, friend's wedding tomorrow with music through till mid-night,

yes I know an early finish, but some of us have to be home for our Horlicks..... 
Sunday find where my wife's relations have got to on Saturday, they are flying from the States,

we said we would meet them, but nobody seems to know where.. 

Right safety belt, and out we go......

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  • 6 months later...

I remember this layout well from the 1990s when it was Hartwell, it was one of my favourite layouts on the exhibition circuit back then. I didn't know until now what had become of it and it's great to see that it has had a new lease of life and is looking as good, if not better, than ever. Is there any prospect of a further exhibition appearance? 

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 Is there any prospect of a further exhibition appearance? 

I've had the layout since 2002, brought home after the Wigan Show..

It's last public appearance was at Cardiff in 2015.

The layout is still operational etc., though the ends are being converted to allow it to be a roundy-roundy within a 29ft long room.

It no longer goes to exhibitions because :

1.  I'm getting to old physically to carry it around etc.,

2. Van hire is becoming more difficult now I'm in my mid 70's.

3. It is based on the 2nd floor of the house, getting it up & down two flights of stairs is, difficult (see 1.).

4. My co-operators all live in South Wales and Worcestershire.

5. The sort of exhibitions I like to attend are at least 4.5 hours driving away (from Lands End area),

.... and if north of Birmingham etc., 6+ hours, which means arriving home alone, about 1am, unloading etc.,

.... and returning the Van in the morning before 9am.  Done that, 'T' shirt, etc.,


Thus no more exhibitions, but the layout is up and running.

But many thanks for the compliments.

The rolling stock does guest at various exhibitions on other layouts though.

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Good to see this again, Penlan.


I'm intrigued by the construction of what I call your 'bridge board'. You seem to have got away with a very small dimension on the side pieces. Or is the strength of the board augmented by the trackbed top?



Miss Prism, I shall have a look, the boards are MDF, I will take a photo or two.

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I've come to this very late and am sure Penlan will have already seen this, but anyone wanting to see the Pontarddulais - Swansea Victoria just before closure should see this on the BFI website:




It was a real gem; considering the tourist honeypot that the Gower is now, the loss of the Swansea-Mumbles railway should still be much regretted.  It would have made a glorious preserved railway.

Thanks for that link. The Mumbles line may not have had much effect on tourism to the Gower, but it would be a useful commuter link today.

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Hello Mr Penlan,

I'm very pleased to see this layout again, IIRC I did see it at Wigan in 2002 and I remember being deeply fascinated by it then. I remember being deeply disappointed by the following years Wigan shows as there were never such a great mix of layouts from the belle epoche again. Shame.

Glad to see it is still working in your home, long may you enjoy it.



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I'm intrigued by the construction of what I call your 'bridge board'. You seem to have got away with a very small dimension on the side pieces. Or is the strength of the board augmented by the trackbed top? 



A. Track level above base of board = 9"

B. Mimimum height at front of board = 2"

C. Minimum height at back of board = 4.5"

D. Heights of front at either end 5 - 6"

E. Width of board = 3',   

Boards are 2' front to back (bar the station boards which now go back < 2' 6".

When all the board were 3' x 2' they were easy 'ish to handle single handedly, they average 12kg's each in weight.




Looking at this (murky)  photo,  there's a MDF 'plate' under the bridge to give strength, there's also two uprights to the MDF trackbed through the bridge piers.  The 1.5" x 1.5" cross-piece is to tie the front to the back, on most of the boards this is a MDF sheet with the centres cut out (saving some weight) that also act as holding handles when moving the baseboards.  In transit two boards are clipped together via end boards. 




Taken from earlier in this thread - this shows a 'normal' MDF cross-piece where the cut out centre can be seen.  Height of the MDF is not something that's shied away from.   :O

BTW the overbridge, was from Holywell Town - I expect it's mentioned somewhere on this thread.



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