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I am returning to railway modelling after a 20 years' gap. Like many, I have been collecting bits and pieces of model railway stuff over the years but this is my first serious British model railway layout construction effort ever.


After moving to a larger house, I now have two bedroom-sized spare rooms available in the basement. At the moment, my model railway shares the smaller room with my work bench and, after negotiation with my wife, the larger room is now temporarily (?!) occupied by the home gymnastic equipment. I have an option to remove the gymnastic equipment to the garage when/if my model railway will expand out of the first room. The smaller room is 285 cm wide and 365 cm long (equals about 9 feet by 12 feet), and the larger room is 365 cm wide and 345 cm long (equals about 11 feet by 12 feet). The smaller room is now the home of the model railway layout based on the Afon Wen station, a junction between the former GWR Cambrian Coast line and the LMS branch line to Bangor. I have chosen, however, to model the time period of 1950s through early 1960s, mainly because the good selection of ready to run locomotive models available in the 4 mm scale.


My version of Afon Wen is based on the layout plan published in Stephen Rabone's and Trevor Ridley's book "Layout Designs for Operation" (Atlantic Editions Ltd 2006). The original layout plan is designed to occupy the room area of 10 feet by 19 feet, but I am forced to fit it into the 9 feet by 12 feet space. It limits the platform space in the station, but a length of about 5 feet is available, which should be sufficient for five coaches and a locomotive (or pair of tank locomotives). In my mind it is fair enough even for the Cambrian Coast Express in the rural North Wales. While I have not been able to model the prototype inch for inch, I hope that the layout gives the feeling of being alongside the Cambrian cost in the 1950s.





The overall scheme is simple: a sectional shelf type layout along the walls featuring the 10-road traverser. Negotiating the corner required an 18" radius curve, smaller than I would have liked to, but sharp curves were not unknown on the Cambrian Railways.

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The layout is sitting directly on top of bookcases, so I did not need to build extensive baseboard supporting system or attachments along the walls. Having custom bookcases built was beyond my budget, so I looked for commercial bookcases that were deep and high enough to fit the size of most railway books. Eventually, I found what I needed in an IKEA store.


When sectional baseboards are placed on top of the bookcases, the overall layout height is 142 cm (equals about 56 inches). That will provide a comfortable viewing height and allows a nice room for my workbench under the baseboard.



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Excellent layout there, only 7 or 8 miles from where I live now.....................


It might need a couple of South Caernarfon Creamery wagons on a bridge........ :derisive: only kidding... MartinWales will know what I mean

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Solid-top baseboard construction


Because the layout stands in a furnished room, its construction had to take place in my garage. Sawdust around a computer is not a good option. Besides, construction, particularly wiring, could be done more comfortable on a workbench. Before placing the baseboards on top of the bookcases, I installed all of the layout wiring and switch machines underneath.


I cut the entire baseboard from one sheet of waterproof grade 15 mm thick chipboard, cutting the top, sides, and ends on my table saw. The frames are about 5" high, and I assembled them with glue and screws.


A) First a simple jig is made in order to facilitate baseboard frame construction. B ) Then the side members and the end member are screwed and glued in position to make a rectangle with the help of the jig.


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C) and D) L-girder structure is constructed by joining two strips of chipboard with the side members.


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E) The completed baseboard frame is seen from underneath. F) Finally, the frame is turned over and the top baseboard is secured in place with screws. I am usually not a fan of using a vast expanse of flat chipboard for scenery, but most of the area I am modelling is within the coastal plain of Cardigan Bay and is quite flat.


post-8580-0-76582200-1344025690.jpg post-8580-0-53944600-1344025708.jpg

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Solid-bottom baseboard construction


Two exceptions in my flat baseboard construction are in the both ends of the layout where the track line enters the traverser. These are the sea wall and the beach in the east end of the Afon Wen station and the bridge over the Afon Wen river in the west end of the station. They are both below grade level of the station and I must modify the solid-top baseboard to accommodate this.


Continuing the theme of simplicity, the solid-top baseboard is turned upside down and a few cross-members are attached with screws through the side members at each end and into the bottom baseboard. Instead of normal rectangular cross members, shaped chipboard profile pieces are used. The profile of the cross members proves basic contours for the scenery and help to support the track. Because the side frames are about 5" high, I can reduce the high of the front side member (i.e. rear fascia) if needed. After that, the chipboard roadbed is cut to shape, screwed directly into the cross members and the roadbed top is covered with cork tiles in the usual manner. This results in a sturdy, though heavy, baseboard best suited to semi-permanent sectional layouts. In order to reduce the weight of the baseboard, it is possible to drill holes in the cross members without reducing the strength of the baseboard too much.


I hope that following old pictures give some idea of my solid-bottom construction method. These baseboards were intended to my previous layout called 'Penmaenpool'. This layout effort never really progressed beyond this point, because I realised the very limited operation potential of the Penmaenpool station compared to e.g. Afon Wen. Well, collecting the false starts is the common nature of this hobby, I think. :sarcastic:




One advantage of a solid baseboard is that I can lay out the track plan prior to installation to see how the plan would fit:






More pictures of my current solid-bottom sections of Afon Wen will follow when I will progress with them.

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The revised plan of the Afon Wen station


Developing this layout plan, I was lucky to collaborate with Mr. Paul A. Lunn, a gifted layout designer and an acknowledged model railway writer. Thanks to Paul’s enthusiasm and superb intuition, I am now able to share the advanced version of my layout plan.


The west end of the Afon Wen station


My main concern was the right hand corner of the layout (i.e. the west end of the station), where I originally had four parallel tracks with tight radius. Best that I could do was to use the railway workers’ cottages as a view block in the foreground. Not good at all!




In my revised layout plan there are only two parallel tracks in the right hand corner and that makes a huge visual impact, I think. Moreover, the one great advantage is that one is viewing the curves from the inside, meaning the gap between coaches will be much smaller than if viewed from the outside.




This schematic track diagram shows the west end of the Afon Wen station. Pwllheli is to the left of Afon Wen junction and the Bangor line is at the top of the track diagram. The main coast line between Afon Wen and Penychain was doubled in 1947. Trains from Bankor used the upper main line on the left and often the northern platform. The double line reverted to a single line after the station of Afon Wen was closed on 1964. There were only two railway spans over the Afon Wen River, the third bridge was devoted to the station road. The branch line to Bangor diverges from the main line after the bridges. I decided to include the station road bridge in my layout.


In the revised layout plan I also changed the track arrangement near the west end of the down main line platform. Now there is a Y point providing an access to the ash siding. Photographic evidence suggests that the ash siding was used also as a (temporary?) carriage siding. If this was the case, the minimum length of the head shunt should be the length of the longest locomotive plus a length of an average carriage. But I am completely happy with the shorter head shunt because the main carriage sidings are situating in the east end of the station anyway. Moreover, the shorter head shunt fits much better in this layout plan :) . I suppose that the longest locomotives in the Cambrian metals were the GWR Manor class (61 ft 9¼ in) and LMS Stanier Class 5 (63 ft 7 3/4 in) locomotives. In that case, the minimum length of the head shut is about 30 cm in the 4 mm scale.


The east end of the Afon Wen station


Here the revised plan is draw with the Peco curved 30”/60” radius point in mind. Now there are also more sidings for carriages and goods and the radius of main line is slightly longer. I think, however, it will be worth spending quite a bit of time drafting out the track layout at full size on the baseboard itself. I hope that in reality I can ease the curves a little further.





The lift-out section and the entry door


The main entry door to the model railway room is located in the lower left hand corner, and what is worse, it is hinged to swing inwards. I thought about re-hanging the door to swing outward, but because of a big sofa on the other side this was not practical. I also decided that I did not want to have to duck-under just to enter the room. On the left wall (when you walk into the room) there is another door to a larger spare room and the access should be unrestricted to that room too. I must live with that.


Based on the aforementioned discussion, I redraw the layout plan during the weekend :victory: . The current version of the Afon Wen Station Mark II is attached below. All comments are welcome!



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Hi Jaakko. Good work - there is a lot of potential here! An enjoyable read - it's great to see a layout develop, step-by-step, from the plan. Keep posting lots of photos as you go along!



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Hi Jaakko, just a thought on the door into the Railway Room, is it of a type that could be replaced by a similar looking Bi-folding type door ?


Best regards



Hi Craig,


You are right, a folding door may be a good option. In Finland, however, folding doors are not common and it may be hard to find one in a suitable size at reasonable price. The straightforward solution is to remove the whole door. I must think about it more.






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Will the 10-track traverser go back far enough for the front track to line up?


This is a tricky question! The original Stephen Rabone's layout plan was based on the classical fiddle yard design with 10 tracks. I optimitically try to adapt that in my plan by using a traverser.




This schematic track diagram shows the proposed operational train arrangements of the traverser. Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 are intended for the trains use on the Bangor line. Other tracks are reserved for the Cambrian coast main line traffic. The up main line trains will use the tracks 5 to 7 and the tracks 8 to10 are intended to the down main line trains. These tracks will be used to hold the coaches for the trains such as Cambrian Coast Express, North Wales Radio Land Cruise and Welshman. The track 1 is intended to hold my beloved Derby Lightweight DMUs. I really like the Bachmann’s recent ready-to-run offering. :)


The backward movement of the traverser is limited due to the space restriction, but I hope that I can relief this limitation a little bit as follows. The exit road number 1 represents the coast main line to Portmadoc and the exit number 2 stands for the down main line to Penychain and Pwllheli. The exit number 3 corresponds the branch line to Bangor and the up main line to Penychain. The branch line to Bangor diverges from the up main coast line as I described earlier in the thread # 11. Therefore there is no necessity of an access from the track 1 to the exit 2 because the branch line trains of Bangor do not use the down main line when arriving Afon Wen. On the other hand, there is no need for an access from the track 10 to the exit 3 either, because the Western Region coast line expresses do not head Bangor. From the outmost roads (i.e. the roads 1 and 10) there is no access everywhere but the traverser is still capable of replicating all the necessary prototypical train movements. I this way, I can save a few inches.


A few words about the coach formation. In my plan the traverser holds a more or less fixed formation of coaches representing the various trains. What I will do is only to chance appropriate locomotives on either end of the fixed seque of coaches. Sorry chaps, recycling coaches is the order of the day! ;)


This traverser issue needs definitely more practical feasibility studies during the course of the layout building process. I really do not know how hectic holiday traffic my traverser can generate eventually, but I suppose that it will offer several happy “playing-train” hours for one or two operator anyway.

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Points arising from points


The track plan of the Afon Wen station is based on the Peco’s code 75 medium radius points. I used old Peco electrofrog points because I had them on hand. They were bought at a bargain price from a local hobby shop a few years … well … over twenty years ago. Scaring how fast time flies!


I made a few improvements to my old electrofrog points by cutting the both closure rails, soldering the frog polarity switching wire to the rails underside of point and soldering a length of wire from the stock rail to the closure rail and further to the feeder wire.




A) Top view: The both closure rails are cut near the frog by using an electric disc cutter.




B ) Underneath view: The sleeper joiners are cut underside of the closure and stock rails after the pivots. Also the sleeper joiner near the frog area is cut.




C) Underneath view: The frog polarity switching wire (yellow) is soldered to the rails underside just after the frog.




D) Underneath view: A length of wire is soldered across the underside of the stock rail and the adjacent closure rail on both sides of point. The red and grey wires will eventually connect to the DCC bus. A black flexible 16/0.2 mm2 wire was out of stock in a local electronics shop, so my colour code for track feed dropper wires is now red and grey, not the normal red and black…


These modifications ensure good electrical continuity once the track weathering and scenery building stages begin. Note that Peco is now producing their new electrofrog points with factory fitted closure rails insulations and the cutting of closure rails as such is not needed any more. In that case, however, other modifications can be done to achieve a more DDC friendly point. Please consult the other postings to the RWweb or Brian Lambert’s excellent home page (http://www.brian-lambert.co.uk/).

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I am very interested in this layout Jaakko especially since it is a model of the next major station down the line from Pwllheli which I am modelling. We seem to be both at about the same stage of development. Like yours much of my Pwllheli layout is perched above bookcases and where it is not I am using IKEA adjustable height legs to ensure that the other baseboards are level. What do they say .... great minds think alike?


Best wishes


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I am very interested in this layout Jaakko especially since it is a model of the next major station down the line from Pwllheli which I am modelling.

Best wishes



Wonder if there's a way you could send bell codes to each other over the 'net? (I do have some Visual Basic code for simulating bell codes, but I don't know anything about internet communications!)

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Wonder if there's a way you could send bell codes to each other over the 'net? (I do have some Visual Basic code for simulating bell codes, but I don't know anything about internet communications!)


What a wonderful idea. Perhaps something to be explored once the layouts are fully operational. Mind you we would need to source a copy of the working timetable around 1960.

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