Giles and Diane Favell



‘The Loop’ – O-16.5 Giles Favell

Layout Factfile: The Loop
Gauge and scale: O-16.5 (and ‘O’) Scale 7mm / ft
Time to build: 1 year
Period: Late ‘50’s
Prototype: …..not really….
Location: North Wales
Size: Scenic 4’ x 2’ Fiddle 2’8” x 2’, operated from front
Track: Peco Flexitrack

Locomotives: Narrow Gauge:
Baldwin 4-6-0 Wrightlines
Hunslet 0-4-0 Peco body, Scratchbuilt chassis
Hunslet 0-4-0 Opencab Saddletank and smokebox – Triang, Scratchbuilt Chassis
Marshall Diesel Wrightlines
Bagnall 0-4-0 Wrightlines
Rolling stock: Wrightlines, Peco, Scratch built
Signals: None
Power and control: Old-fashioned, Gaugemaster.
Buildings: Scratchbuilt, plasticard, Daz, Polyfiller

Over the intervening years, this layout has been exhibited and retired, and has since been sold out of my ownership

Like so many people, I’ve loved railways and model railways for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories were of my father working on his short-lived EM gauge layout (quite radical at the time – early sixties!), with Kitmaster coaches and other things I only half recall. The smell of a soldering iron has always taken me back.... I however always preferred the quaint image of top-heavy narrow gauge loco’s and stock meandering along almost hidden track – overgrown and blending in to it’s surroundings as if it’s always been there....shouldering its way through trees, bushes and buildings almost apologetically.... In the 70’s, I came across some model railways in various magazines – like the Ayre Valley, the Madder Valley and the Craig and Mertonford Railway - all of which set my imagination on fire. They had an atmosphere that was unusual and real – and I used to look at them for hours on end! I was always more interested in creating (or wanting to create!) a ‘picture’, rather than a complicated layout, and I’m still actually much happier sitting and looking and enjoying rather than operating.

At the time, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, 009 was the only narrow gauge available – so of course I had the ubiquitous ‘Decauville’, and later various other loco’s and bits-and-pieces. These were wonderful, but still not quite what I was after. I had, afterall, had holidays in North Wales, and fallen deeply in love with the Narrow Gauge there – particularly with the bits that hadn’t been restored yet, and were partially buried and over-grown. Still, you made do with what you had, and I made a little 009 layout – which of course never got finished - and that kept me happy. I had flirtations with 16mm scale when that first came out, and I scratchbuilt a fair amount of stuff in that size – which was very satisfying – but I knew that I would never have room for the layout I wanted in that size, as I tend to be more interested in the scenery than space would allow! I then left home for a career in theatre (...on the technical side...), and apart from from loco building in 7mm (both standard and narrow gauge) railways took a back seat for many years. My brother, Aidan, then got involved with the full size stuff, and I rode along on his coat-tails. He became a Passed Steam Driver, as did I, on a couple of the Preserved lines, which taught me loads.... (I now know what all the knobs and wheels do in the cab!) and whilst he stayed on with the big stuff, I down-sized to 10 ¼” gauge, and built myself a little Bagnall 0-4-2 loco to a scale of 5” to the foot. Small stuff compared to what I was used to......

However, I found the pining for a model railway hadn’t gone away, and with my wife’s permission and blessing (necessary, because I’ve completely taken over the front room....) I decided to FINALLY build the little railway I’d been so deprived of for so many years! It had to be 7mm scale, as a) I couldn’t see enough to put anything smaller on the track b) I had some 7mm stock anyway, and c) I saw Gordon Gravett’s beautiful 0-16.5 layout ‘Llandydydref’, which had the feel and atmosphere that I wanted to strive for!

My wife is wonderful, but I didn’t want to push it, so I decided on a scenic layout size of 4’ x 2’ – very small, but possible, I thought – and hopefully small enough to tuck away somewhere. I started work on it in the autumn of 2008, re-learning the techniques that I hadn’t used for 35 years, and, although one can always carry on tinkering endlessly (and that’s the fun!) a year later, it’s basically finished.

The track plan was intended to allow as much of a ‘run’ as the space would allow – rather than a train coming on two feet, stopping, shunting and going off again – and this allows me to watch a train travelling for at least eight whole feet it I want! The layout represents the ‘back end’ of a transfer siding between narrow and standard gauge, with the ‘main-line’ entering at low level, where there is a small, rather informal platform for occasional passanger use. This is largely operated by the Baldwin, which will drop off any wagons in may have brought, before propelling back out again. The Loop (being only 10” radius) is operated soley by loco’s with a four-coupled wheelbase, which will then take full wagons up to the upper level, and through the bridge, where their contents would be transhipped to standard gauge. All this just about offers enough operating opportunity, hopefully without over doing it.

The fiddleyard is a fairly simple traverser arrangement, using computer drawer sliders bought from B & Q. Indexing of the sliding table (making it stop with the track lined up.....) is using a Bales Catch – a sprung ball catch – also from B & Q, which acts on a flat steel bar, with holes in it. The holes matc h the track spacing, and the ball drops into the hole giving a positive detent action.

The track bed is all MDF, with a layer of cork (which reduces the noise, if nothing else), allowing the track to be pinned down. The track work is all Peco, buried first in fine granite ballast, as is fairly normal, and then abused with a liqud mix of polyfiller (in places, and pre-coloured to a light grey), and then generously coated with crushed and powdered slate, held down with PVA.

The scenery itself consists of expanded polystyrene, glued down, which was then carved into a hillside – always keeping in mind that the hillside was continuous, with the railway carved out it . In that way I hope I’ve achieved the feel of a bit of landscape, intead of merely a ‘bit of hill’ placed on a flat board....... Rocks were mostly molded from light-weight modelling plaster that our local Hobbycraft sells, and glued on to the carved polystyrene, and then, when I was happy with the general shape, and having roughed out the bridge in MDF and built up the access ramp, it was then covered in cloth, bedded down onto a layer of PVA, and then bushed over with more pollyfiller, worked in to the still wet material.

Grass is always a difficult thing, and I struggled like everyone else.... Years ago, i had gained a pleasing effect through dying lint, gluing it down, and then peeling the backing off – and so I happily went to the chemist. No, sorry, we don’t sell lint anymore, but we can order it for you. Yes please. That’ll be £20 (or thereabout’s – for a big roll, which is all they could get for me). A week later it arrived, and I found it nothing like the thick, luscious stuff of my youth! Nonetheless, I duly dyed it, and glued a sample down, waited a day, and peeled.... and the result was poor, to say the least. I then tried the puffed-on grass, which gives quite a good representation of mown grass, but still not what I was looking for. I then found some old carpet underlay in a skip, which I bleached, dyed and also sprayed in a couple of shades of green. This was glued down, and when dry it was teased out as appropriate. I also supplimented this by glueing on clumps of the longs grass, and by adding grass tufts from Continental Models, based in Llwyngwril, Gwynedd. These little tufts are beautiful – they’re not cheap, but well worth it. Grass was then finished off by painting with acrylics, and finally raising the ‘pile’ using an old toothbrush.

Having made a carcass of 6mm MDF for the Bridge, I didn’t want to use embossed plasticard to clad it with, as I wanted a more porous surface with no joints and slightly more irregularity to the surface. I couldn’t face scribing in that many stone blocks, so I made a latex mould from a sheet of embossed platicard, which, after it was dry, I liberally coated with talcum powder to stop it from sticking to itself (which latex it quite prone to do...). I then coated the surface of the MDF with PVA glue, and pressed Daz modelling clay into it, working it down till it was three or four millimetres thick. Then I overlaid the latex ‘master’ and worked it firmly down into the surface of the daz to emboss the stonework into it. The next day, when it was completely dry, I was able scribe any bits that didn’t come out well enough, and deal with joints and corners and things! It was a quick and satisfying process, that is of course eminently repeatable.

The bridge then took evenings of work painting each stone (having already painted the mortar colour over-all), which was tedious, but I survived....
With all the stonework etc., I selected about three greys and browns which were in some of the real stone I was using, and used just those colours, mixed up and random, in varying shades to paint everything. Using a small range of colours throughout helps ‘bind’ everything together looks-wise.... Various greens were then used for algae and general dampness!

One thing I have learned from the scenic artists in theatre (most of my life I've been a Production Manager in theatre) is that to make a set look 'aged' or even just 'not brand-new', they go over the whole thing with a 'wash' - basically water with the smallest amount of black or brown paint in it. Dirty water. They go over EVERYTHING. the result is a dulling down of surfaces, and a tying in of colours - so things that did stick out like a sore thumb instantly look as if they have been part of it for years. The effect can be very subtle indeed, but very effective for all that. I did that with this layout. Over grass, bridges, buildings, rocks, the lot (and of course the stock is weathered in much the same way). It works for me at any rate. (It needs a bit of courage to do it.....). I once made a timber roof structure in the garden to cover the pond (in an effort to keep the herons away), and my wife observed it was a pity it looked so new, but never mind, eventually it would weather in. I made up a thin wash, brushed it all over, and problem solved. In the same way, Builders sometimes have to give new buldings (in sensitive areas) a soot wash to tone them down a bit for exactly the same reason. It's just speeding up nature.

I’ve always enjoyed building loco’s and although these are mostly kits, they were no exception. The first loco was the open cab little Hunslet. Having really fallen for Gordon Gravett’s narrow gauge layout in the ‘80s, I set about a Triang 0-4-0 that my brother had given me some years before. As it transpired, only the saddletank and the smokebox remain – all else being scratchbuilt from plasticard. The chassis I made up from brass, using an Airfix 5 pole motor and a 60:1 worm and gear. Romford wheels where added, with outside cranks and rods.

The larger Hunslet was next – a standard Peco body, but with a scratchbuilt chassis again – this time with a portescap motor gearbox, which with some simple compensation on the non-driving axle, makes for a beautiful runner!

The Baldwin was straight from the Wrightlines kit box, though with a cab backsheet (like the Welsh Highland 590) which I always thought improved the look. This was fitted with an old XO4 motor, driving through 60:1 gears again. It tends to growl along, and is probably my favourite loco. More recently, a Wrightlines Marshall diesel has joined the fleet, and of course there are various boxes of loco kits to be made up!

On the standard gauge, the WD 2-8-0 is obviously the most impressive. It is an old Oakville kit, with various modifications.

There are a couple of Yorkshire Engine Co. 0-4-0’s – whitemetal kits that I made all the patterns for, years ago,

together with a L&Y Pug – a beautiful kit –

and also a Connoisuer Tram.

All in all quite an eclectic bunch of locos.

The Loop having such a tight radius means that conventional couplings won’t cope – and so the wagons have to have a wide buffing bar, over which the chopper couplings latch. For this reason, the locos are fitted with choppers front and back.

I’ve always stared at photos of old industrial railways and inspirational layouts to help isolate the atmosphere I wanted to capture, but I find one of the most useful tools is a digital camera. Particularly now my eye-sight isn’t as good as I’d like, I find it very helpful to take a photo, and look at it on computer to judge whether I’ve got something right – or indeed to show me that something’s wrong that I hadn’t noticed…..

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making ‘The Loop’ (I didn’t know what else to call it) – but of course I’m now looking forward to making another one - which looks like being in 0-14 for a change... (with a standard gauge feeder, of course....)

I've recently started the Mercian kit of the Baddesley Colliery 0-4-0 0-4-0 Garrett. Twenty years ago, I started the artwork to do an etched kit of this myself, but work got in the way, and it never happened – so I’m really looking forward to it, and I've also been side-tracked by experimenting with radio controlled road vehicles for the next 7mm layout......

More photos to come, and if Chris Nevard will give his permission, I'll put up some of his excellent ones..... (putting mine to shame!)

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