how to build a model railway
by John de Frayssinet and Jennifer
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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
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.
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