designing your layout
             model railway civil engineering
             baseboards, stands and lighting
             track laying and fiddle yards
             model railway signalling
             model railway wiring
             realistic model buildings
             model railway backdrops
             realistic scenery
             the art of soldering
             how we built the viaduct
             how we built our harbour
             how we built a new platform
             how we transport our model railway
             how to keep your layout clean
             locos and rolling stock articles


how to build a model railway

by John de Frayssinet and Jennifer Ayres of 3Dperfect

Our 'how to' articles are available free to all those who are interested. This section is gradually being expanded. There are of course costs to maintain the site and if you have found this section useful, a donation would be very helpful.

early days at the Festiniog Railway

Many of us have been captured by the allure of the narrow gauge railway for much of our lives. Characterful little trains with rich histories winding their way through sylvan countryside or hanging on the side of vertical cliffs prompt some of us to model them in miniature as a way of bringing the experience home.

Narrow gauge railways have been around for a long time. They started out as small horse drawn or hand propelled trams, usually serving mines. In the early days of the steam railway a controversy raged between Stephenson's standard gauge and Brunel's broad gauge. Many 'experts' believed that it was impossible to build viable steam locomotives for narrow gauge; that is, until 1864, when small steam engines were delivered to the Festiniog Railway.

This line brought slate from the mines of Festiniog down to the harbour at Portmadoc. It was wonderfully engineered to give a constant gradient so that loaded wagons could run using gravity alone. One mountain, Moelwyn, was in the way. Balanced inclines were used to haul the wagons over the top. A small bore tunnel was finally built and this opened the way for steam power.

The success of the Festiniog Railway resulted in narrow gauge railways being exported throughout the world. In no small part, this was due to a remarkable family, the Spooners, who had so much to do with the development of the Festiniog.

World War 1 brought a boost to narrow gauge, where portable railways were used by both sides to transport troops and munitions to the front.

The advantages of narrow gauge include a huge reduction in construction cost and the ability to navigate much tighter curves, along with reduced operating costs. As labour costs increased after the Great War, their main disadvantage, the cost of trans-shipment to standard gauge become more and more apparent. Many lines had disappeared by the Second World War but we have been left with a fascinating legacy which still fires the imagination of many of us.

atmospheric freelance in 7mm/ft by Nicholas Brown

Narrow gauge railway modelling will always represent a specialised sector of the hobby because much more material has to be scratch or kit built rather than bought ready to run, commercially. Nevertheless, most of what followsales is equally pertinent to modelling in standard gauge.

Modelling techniques change rapidly and this E-book has been written after the construction of County Gate; completed in 2009. The author also builds layouts of any gauge to order and is constantly experimenting with new techniques to improve realism and running quality. This book describes methods favoured by the author but it should be emphasised that he does not for one minute assert that these are the only or necessarily the best ways of doing things. because we all have different specialist skills and as a consequence, some methods work well for one modeller while others may be disappointed. One hopes that the book will at least be thought provoking and help a newcomer achieve a high and satisfying standard.