Thursday 24th April 1930 isn’t much of a date in the history books, we were a month away to the day from Amy Johnson landing in Darwin for example, and it appears that nothing much happened that day of any real importance, certainly by today’s media hungry, event driven, standards. People went about their daily lives and in some cases as we shall see later, left their mark, unassumingly, for posterity. Many modellers like to take elements of real railways and weave them into their designs, some use a completely freelance template, and others like to model an exact location. The last option is frequently a path trodden by a modeler with a good bit of experience under their belt. With this plan the simplicity allows all three approaches to be followed, but the part that makes the exact location option quite easy is the fact that the main buildings are still extant, and the location relatively small.
Today after all the festivities I often take a few moments to just sit and chill out frequently picking up one of my collection of books and ‘imagineering’ a model railway layout. For many years the Great Western branch line terminus has been seen as a bit of a cliché, of late, modern MPD’s or Scottish BR Blue era branch line termini are also sometimes regarded as a ‘stereotype’ model railway. So then, unashamedly returning to the Great Western branch line terminus, for the same reasons as they, and the above more modern subjects are so popular. Using these ‘cliched’ prototypes, a modeller can often achieve a good, realistic layout in a relatively modest amount of space. This time its not looking at a postcard seaside Devon or Cornwall with Southern running powers, but rural Mid Wales. We will also look at how you can adapt the prototype with readily available scenic items and rolling stock to make your own interpretation of this charming and quintessentially Great Western branch terminus. When I look at such a project I tend to look at some of the social history of the area. This wouldn’t have been a chocolate box type Western terminus, in a pretty thatched village, this was rural mid Wales Marches, well off the beaten track with a harsh rural economic climate too.
New Radnor lies approximately 20 miles west of Leominster, and lies against the eastern foothills of the Cambrian mountains. I first came across the Station buildings on the way back from Llandovery to Hertfordshire, in the late 90’s, and was staggered to find myself driving past a station that seemed to be complete apart from the lack of track. At that time the site was a bit run down and was a caravan site, it still is, but has been upgraded significantly, and the owners have an interest in the history of the site too, which bodes well for the buildings futures.
The site has a natural backdrop of a hill which if you model an early era can be left as upland grazing, or if you bring your era to the 1940’s and later, the backdrop would be Forestry Commission woodland. If you are going to have a go at re-creating this station or one with a similar backdrop, one thing you’ll need to be good at is making trees, and I will add a posting in due course to the blog on how I do mine.
The main station area comprises just two buildings, the goods shed, and the station building itself. Both are relatively simple in design, drawings are available in the Wild Swan book of the branch, and both buildings are still extant. The track plan is simple too so the whole station easily provides that first stepping stone for those wishing to widen their skills into scratch building, replicating an actual location, or interpreting a real location with a high degree of authenticity.
The track plan changed a few times over the years but is in essence a simple run round loop with a couple of sidings. As such it suits all modelers from those using set-track up to those who hand build track from individual components. Again the simplicity of the design lends itself to the stepping stone of building your first track, or a change to a finer scale standard, OO to EM/P4 or N to 2mm. With four turnouts, the wiring for either DC or DCC operation will be very simple. The track layout is interesting in that it looks like a through station, and that was the original builder’s intention, with an extension to Rhayader and then on to Aberystwyth being the somewhat optimistic goal. Alas as with many of the early railway ideas, money and practicality put paid to such grand designs and New Radnor was as far as the line got. The station platform is on what would normally appear to be the run round part of the loop, thus emphasizing the fact that this was a truncated line.
The structures still standing as of late 2009 were the station building and the goods shed. The station was small and even as a terminus there was only a covered ground frame for the signalling. There was a brick built water tower next to a cattle pen, and in keeping with the size of the station these were quite small. The station and goods shed building appear to have been built from local stone, as you can see from the pictures they are very simple straightforward structures to attempt a scratch building project with.
However for the modeler who doesn’t want to go that far there are some easy ways round the buildings. In both the Ratio and Wills ranges of kits there are buildings that could be used to give the flavor of just this sort of terminus. There are of course ready made cast buildings available too which shouldn’t be overlooked, but the beauty of a compact layout like this is the opportunity to make something distinctive and unique by either scratch building or modifying kits to give a model which has your, as the modeller, signature or style. To use current TV talent show vernacular you can ‘make it your own’.
So if we look at what’s available to easily modify in 4mm scale we have from the Wills Kit range
Ground level signal box SS29,
Water tower (stone) SS34,
Station building SS67
Goods Yard Store SS63
Platelayers Hut SS50
Also in the Ratio range you could swap the yard store SS63 for the Provender goods store 513, and cattle docks are available in both OO (502) and N (202). These products listed above are not a definitive purchase list, but give an idea of what is easily available in many model shops throughout the country. The key thing about all of the above items is that built and painted to a consistent standard they will give a believable set of small terminus buildings and set the scene for our Great Western or Western Region terminus. You can do much the same with N gauge, the Ratio, Peco and Kestrel ranges of kits all have suitable buildings which you can use as per the kit, or adapting them to make your own design.
For the person who wants to run stock straight from the box with a prototypical mix of locos and stock, New Radnor offers a cheap and pragmatic option. In both OO and N gauge ready to run options are readily available.
The branch was operated primarily by the GWR class 58XX 0-4-2T, coaching stock was recorded as Worcester Division ‘B’ sets with a typical range of freight wagons, and the classic GWR/WR 20 ton ‘Toad’ brake van. To ring the changes in motive power a 57/37/74XX pannier tank could be used. The 58XX can be easily represented by the Hornby and Dapol 14XX tank models in OO and N gauge respectively, all that’s really required being a number change with 5807 and 5814 being the staple locomotives used on the line. The most notable difference being the 58xx’s were not motor fitted, so wouldn’t be seen with the ubiquitous ‘push-pull’ driving trailers so often associated with a GWR branch line. The coach ‘B’ sets were a high density seating suburban design, frequently coupled in pairs. Both the Hornby and Dapol versions are of similar diagram and can easily be utilized straight from the box. The goods stock can be made up from a wide range of kits, and also from the ready to run ranges. As the branch line was a small and very rural affair then the art of the mundane is what you should look for in terms of stock, so it’s very typical standard freight stock of open wagons and vans. Typically for wooden body opens the RCH six and seven plank private owner as well as Great Western company prototypes, mixed in with some ‘foreign’ company stock. In BR days the RCH wagons would be in tatty condition with them being rapidly replaced by the BR 16 ton steel mineral wagon. To add more variety whilst remaining plausible, a bogie bolster may occasionally turn up to take large tree trunks away felled from the local forestry, and cattle wagons for livestock. On occasion a horsebox could be added to either the passenger or goods train as you desire, Parkside produce a 4mm and 7mm kit of the N13, a typical Great Western design that lasted into BR days, and Hornby in 2011 also brought out a new tooling of the GWR horsebox. If you decide that you’d like to bring it up to BR diesel era, as a line that escaped the Beeching axes that can be modelled using an Heljan (OO) or Dapol (N) Hymek as per the Newcastle Emlyn branch, with the passenger traffic being provided by a Hornby (OO) or Dapol (N) class 121 single car DMU. So the modeller can have a prototypical range of locomotives and stock available off the shelf, and in the overall scheme of things keeping the prototypical flavour can make cost savings as you aren’t tempted by the latest releases from the manufacturers.
Stock readily available in OO
B-Set Coaching stock Hornby
Class 35 Hymek Heljan or Hornby
Class 121 DMU Hornby
GWR Toad Hornby or Bachmann
Stock readily available in N
57xx Bachmann Graham Farish
Class 35 Hymek Dapol
Class 121 Dapol (2010 Release)
This quick overview of a long disused rural backwater shows that if you search hard enough, or are just plain lucky like I was, there are some real gems still hidden in the British landscape, even in excess of fifty years after the last train ran, even down to what appears to be on some of the doors GWR light and dark stone colors. For those of you who want a challenge and want to build something with a little more purpose or realism than a rough sketch in the pub it gives a good template to work from. It’s compact enough to be built by one person, and if you wanted to make an accurate portrayal of the station the Wild Swan book and the fact that the real thing is still there gives plenty of inspiration for the project. When I was there the site owners were very interested in my idea to actually build a model of where they live, and they are keen to hear and see any new information regarding the railway. They were kind enough to show me inside the station and goods shed, both of the buildings are being looked at with a mind to convert them for accommodation. Whilst there, I noted painted on the crane that is still inside the goods shed, the date, 24th April 1930. That was presumably a date it was inspected or tested, and was a fascinating link back to the 1930’s when the site was still very much an active station.
There you have it then, a Great Western Branch Line which isn’t the typical portrayal so frequently seen in the printed media or at exhibitions. If you’d like to see an example of how this type of model can make a plausible layout I can reccommend ‘The Chronicles of Penhydd’ http://thechroniclesofpenhydd.blogspot.com/, which not only covers the layout, but has plenty of valuable ideas on capturing that most elusive element of a layout, ‘atmosphere’.
The New Radnor Branch
Wild Swan Publications ISBN 1 874103 06 2
New Radnor Station Campsite http://www.oldstationcaravanpark.co.uk/
Finally many thanks for taking the time to read this blog over the year and wishing you all the compliments of the season.