Chelfham in 7mm/ft 16.5mm gauge by the Shoreham-by-Sea MRC
written by Brian Taylor,  photos by Tony Wright. Article transcribed by J de F by kind permission of the 'British Railway Modeller' 1999

'Exe' and a two coach train runs onto the viaduct which carried the railway some 70 feet above the Stoke Rivers Valley. The building behind the viaduct was a watermill. It is now part of a special school.

It is more than sixty years since the last train on the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway sent steam drifting across the North Devon Countryside. Yet interest continues to grow, with more books written about it than any other comparable line. The L&B was of course unusual in many ways. For example, it was possible to book a ticket on the Southern Railway's crack train 'The Atlantic Coast Express' through to Lynton. Passengers were very surprised when they had to change trains onto the 'toy' railway at Barnstaple and they were even more surprised when the journey of less than 20 miles took one hour and forty minutes! But everyone enthused about the scenery seen from the line, especially travel writers. The Warde Locke 'Red Guide' devoted two whole pages to a trip along the railway. The passing of the L&B was even mourned in a short valedictory piece published in the edition published shortly after the line closed.

Our model of Chelfham Station with its associated viaduct began as a joint project between the Sussex group of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Association and Shoreham Model Railway Club. Although everyone who worked on it was a Shoreham Club member, we were very much aided by Colin Pealling who lent us a good many photos from his collection. This made it much easier for us to piece together  what the station looked like during its heyday.

The baseboards and track quickly appeared mainly due to the efforts of Charles Benedetto, Keith Willis and the late Tony Wright, for many years the secretary of the Shoreham-by-Sea MRC. The main structure was built in MDF  with 3" X 1" framing. PECO O-16.5mm track was used. We had toyed with using the more correct 14mm gauge for the layout (the L&B was built to 1ft 11 1/2" gauge) . We had however, quite a bit of stock to 16.5mm gauge so adopting 14mm gauge would have rather restricted what we could have run.

trackplan    click on image to enlarge

the viaduct

For reasons of size, we had to reduce the length of the viaduct which, although it meant losing two of the eight arches didn't affect the impressive look of the structure too much. The real structure was constructed of Marland bricks which were usually a cream colour. However, in this case, the bricks are tinged with red. This is probably because they were 'seconds', used to save money. Whatever the reason, the combination of cream and red means that the structure appears pink in some lights. We did experiment with giving the model a similar colouring but the effect of six pink arches purposefully striding across the landscape would have looked particularly silly in model form. Cream was deemed to be more appropriate. It seems strange that such an impressive structure was to be found on an otherwise unassuming little railway. In fact the L&B had another viaduct called 'Lancey Brook', but this seems from photos to have been rather a basic affair compared to the slender elegance of Chelfham. However, it was only built because there was a shortage of spoil to build an embankment.

After leaving the viaduct, trains descended on a 1:50 gradient into the Yeo Valley which they followed to Barnstaple.

Chelfham viaduct is curved at its Southern end and is in fact wider in this section to accommodate the swing of the rolling stock. Not realising initially that this was the case we made the viaduct wider than it needed to be to allow for the overhang of the rolling stock. This caused us to have to remove a chunk from the centre of the model by sawing along its length! The model is made of softwood and MDF, overlaid with card. Wills random stone sheeting was used to clad the base of the viaduct.

the station building

Chelfham had a particularly attractive 'cottage style' building. Bratton Flemming also had a relatively small building whereas those of Woody Bay and Lynton were built in 'chalet, Nuremburg style'. Maggie Petlett built our model of the Chelfham building from thick card clad with Milliput. Maggie also made the signal cabin and a good deal of the scenery on the layout.

In spite of the last train having passed on its way so many years ago, a surprising amount of the station has survived. Apart from the station building, the tiny signal box remains along with the men's' toilets. Even the cast station name supports are still to be seen.

'Yeo' entering the station. The red line that can be seen on the inside of the wagon indicated the height to which it could be filled with ballast without overloading. All the bogie open wagons were treated this way.

Chelfham's small station building with waiting shelter added by the Southern. The signal box is one of the distinctive Evans O'Donnell signals supplied for the line's opening.


Chelfham's UP starter signal survived the demise of the railway back in 1935. It found its way to Clannborough Rectory together with the observation/saloon/brake coach which is now in the National Railway Museum. We modelled this signal using butchered parts from a Model Signal Engineering Midland Railway arm fret.  Various other parts were scratch built. This signal was one of the original L&B type made by the firm of Evans O'Donnell. Quite a few of these were replaced by the Southern Railway. At the very end of the line's existence, there was a solitary upper arm quadrant signal at Woody Bay. We made the Chelfham DOWN starter signal from Model Signal Engineering to represent a Southern rail-built signal. However, it has since turned out that it should have been a concrete post type. Both starters are propelled by H&M point motors of ancient vintage. Recently we have installed point rodding including facing point locks. Allen Etheridge did most of the work on this and the provision of telephone poles plus a good deal of other work on the layout. Allen is a junior member of the club, being born a mere 45 years after the closure of the L&B!


It was felt that a backscene was needed to complete the layout. I somehow ended up with the job and as you can imagine had quite a few goes at getting it right. We had a couple of photos supplied by Colin which showed the buildings next to the viaduct. When blown up, these were rather hazy. We spent a bit of time trying to figure out what was there in the 1930s but what I finally painted involved a lot of guesswork. One of the buildings had a water wheel alongside but this was not quite visible from our chosen viewpoint. Gouache paints were used for the backscene.


'Yeo' runs into the down platform as 'Exe' prepares for the journey to Barnstaple. The Evans O'Donnell starter signal can be seen and a standard SR lamp hut is in the foreground.

The stock of L&B engines consists of 3 of the 5 that worked the line. Yeo and Exe are both models of the Manning Wardle locomotives originally built for the railway although the locos are modelled in their later form. Both are Alan Gibson kits. Yeo, I made myself while Exe was bought ready made. Both kits are of the early Gibson type. Many things about this kit are excellent but I must admit that I struggled to make mine run. To give both engines greater freedom on curves, I eventually rebuilt them with new front frames spaced more widely apart to give more room for the pony wheels to swing. I also moved the rear pony wheels forward, closer to the driving wheels. These modifications made very little difference to the look of the locomotives but gave them the ability to negotiate curves down to 19" radius. It is actually surprising how little movement there was on the original locomotives. There was 3 1/2" play each way. This scales down to 2.04mm either side in 7mm scale.

Yeo is painted in what can be described as 'Southern intermediate livery ', green with white and black lining but without the familiar 'sunshine yellow' 'Southern' lettering and large numerals. 'Exe' is painted in the later livery used on the locos with 'Southern' and numerals applied.

The forth locomotive supplied to the railway came from America, due to a strike which paralysed the British loco building industry. This engine was 'Lyn' built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. It is said that she caused more trouble than the other locos put together, although this is strange because a number of similar but larger locomotives supplied to Australia and used on Victoria narrow gauge railways (including the now preserved 'Puffing Billy Line') were very successful. Our model of Lyn actually belongs to Colin Pealling and was probably built in the 1950s, although we don't know by whom. Colin had stripped it down for painting many years ago but got sidetracked, as it were, by various projects involving full size narrow gauge engines. I put her back together and added some more detail, then painted her in Southern livery as E762. The model is very well built and driven by a seven pole motor and has ball race bearings in her axle boxes.


The coaches are made from Langley kits. The artwork for these was prepared in 4mm scale so in 7mm scale, the fold lines are too wide. To get over this problem, it is best to cut out all the components individually and avoid folds altogether. The Langley kits can be made up into rather nice models of L&B coaches but do require rather a bit of work.

goods stock

The most readily available kit for an L&B goods vehicle in 7mm is the PECO van kit. We have one on the layout. The van kit as it comes is very nearly correct but the ends aren't quite right. However, a bit of work with Plasticard is all that is needed to put things right. A couple of Langley goods vehicles can be seen on the layout: bogie flat wagon no. 28314  was built and painted by Nick Jackson. The bogie van was built by yours truly, with a certain amount of detail added. Bogie wagon no 28302 was scratch built by Nick Jaskson, mostly from card.

Another view of 'Yeo'. Behind can be seen one of the concrete nameboards put in by the Southern. Two of the supports for the boards are still in position.


The occasional 'foreign' train can be seen crossing the viaduct. Strangely, Glyn Valley Tramway and Tal-y-Llyn trains do not seem too out of place although we couldn't begin to justify their appearance on the layout. Undoubtedly we have had quite a lot of fun building Chelfham. The Lynton and Barnstaple as a subject of modelling is not without its problems, though. Perhaps the most tricky is keeping stock on the track on curves that a rather tighter than they should be. It is perhaps amusing to note that the L&B suffered such problems in real life. For example, carriages had to have parts of their underframe paired down in order to negotiate the curve into Barnstaple Town station. There is indeed, a prototype for everything. Even the great pioneering modeller, John Ahern, when he built his model of Manning Wardle 'Taw', cheated: faced with the problem of his Manning Wardle negotiating the sharp curves on the Madder Valley Railway, he used fixed pony wheels with no flanges!.

Yeo leaves for Barnstaple: note the third class observation compartment in the first coach. The small building in the foreground is the signal box. In the background, Chelfham's short siding can be seen, which intersected the Down platform.




      bring 'Lyn' back to life