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Layout Focus - Prestatyn
British Railway Modelling

Layout Focus - Prestatyn

Posted 16 April 2015   |   2848 views   |   Hobbies & Crafts   |   Comments (0) If you’re living far away from where you grew up, a model railway can help you to relive those rose-tinted childhood days and the trains of your youth, as David Phillips explains.

I was born in Prestatyn, a seaside town on the most northerly point of the North Wales Coast, in the Summer of 1966. It was not the most auspicious period in British railway history, but I spent 25 years in the town before moving to London. My father had worked on the railways as had his father before him, so it was inevitable that I developed an interest in railways from an early age. A Tri-ang ‘Big Big Train’ was my first proper train set (I still have it!). Many layouts in various scales followed over the years, most little more than an expansion of the train set on a board, until January 2011 when I joined RMweb and became enthralled with the layouts on display. These depicted a far greater level of realism than I had thus far demonstrated. Experiencing the enthusiasm among the forum members to help and encourage a new modeller, coupled with the desire to build something more worthy of my time and effort led to a new beginning; and so Prestatyn in N was born.

I have always had a real fondness for Prestatyn station; its long, slender gently-curving platforms; the semaphore signals that exist even today and the booking office/main building which survived from LNWR times. It has only recently been removed to be replaced by an exact replica. I loved sitting on Platform 2 - which faces South and used to get really hot, gazing out onto the mountain behind, whilst waiting for the trains to pass through and guessing which platform they would take as they thundered up the coast from Chester.

The sheer variety of rail traffic which has passed through the station in the last half century is amazing and was another reason for choosing this location. From humble DMUs to locomotive-hauled expresses and Super Voyagers; from Freightliner container trains to ballast trains and nuclear flasks, just about every type of diesel locomotive seen in the UK, and pretty much every type of passenger vehicle and freight carrier has passed through. There have also been many steam specials gracing the North Wales Coast, so plenty of excuses to run out the famous locomotives and pretty coaches! Not all trains stopped at Prestatyn, so there’s plenty of scope for trains to run through whilst others are stopped in the station, providing operational interest as well as the ‘watching the trains go by’ views I remember from my childhood.
COMPRESSION
I decided to model the station trackplan as laid out in 1962, before the Up Slow line was removed. This gives Up and Down main lines with their respective Slow lines; I also included the bay platform by the signalbox at the west end, but left out the branch line to Dyserth due to space constraints.

The layout is 11’ by 2’ 2”; this was the space available so the prototype had to be compressed to ensure it fitted with all the salient details still present. These included the station building, signalbox, overbridge, footbridge, four-track crossing including single slip at the West end of the platforms, and the old Victorian footbridge upon which I used to stand as Class 40s and 47s roared underneath!

The central island platform at Prestatyn is 860’ long, not including end ramps, and 20’ wide at each end. Approximately 517’ from the west end is the first of the overbridge supports, which is also the widest part of the platform at 31’. The curve is more accentuated on the Down (south facing) side by about a foot, so the platform bows out by 5’ on the Up side and 6’ on the Down side. In 2mm scale, this equates to 1,720mm long and 40mm wide at each end; the widest part being 1,034mm from the west end and 62mm wide. Assuming an end ramp length of 20’ that makes it 900’ long, so 1,800mm in 2mm:1ft scale. The other platforms are approximately 10’ wide and follow the curve of the island platform.

All this came out slightly too long for the space available to I decided to adopt the ‘rule of thirds’. For example, rather than having the platforms at 1,800mm long I could shorten them by about 559mm (22”) to 1,219mm (48”), but still retain the gentle curved profile of the original. The latter would accommodate a Class 40 and seven Mk 1/2 coaches with room to spare at each end, so this was the way to go; a locomotive and seven coaches represents the majority of inter-regional workings, and the expresses (which mainly passed through) could be eight or nine coaches at a push, which I thought was more than enough. I had to shorten the HST to 2 7 from the more prototypical 2 8 but that was a small price to pay.

In working all this out I also discovered that prior to 1961 (when the platforms were lengthened) the station was roughly the same length as my model and the pointwork actually ran into the station area, as does mine. It was only moved away from the west end with the lengthening upgrade. So I actually have a prototypical trackplan that works for me albeit from another era; but then it’s a representative layout not a scale rendition!

FLEXIBILITY
The baseboards were built from 9mm ply on a 2” x 1” frame, and are lifted up on 4’ 6” legs in order to clear all the stuff underneath; this is a great operating height as you can look into the layout rather than onto it, and enter into the operation much more easily. It also makes for easy tracklaying and scenic work as you don’t have to constantly bend over to paint or glue things together.

The era represented can be changed quite easily as the basic infrastructure has remained unchanged since the 1960s, and indeed the station building has just been rebuilt to original London & North Western Railway (LNWR) specifi cations! By swapping the stock and road vehicles I can change the whole layout from 1970s BR blue to 2000s Arriva Trains Wales/Virgin Trains in just a few minutes.
"I’ve tried to replicate the mix of virulent weeds and hedges amongst dead grasses and a mixture of trees which typifi es The Morfas behind Prestatyn station"

All the track in the scenic section is Peco code 55 fi nescale laid on Gaugemaster foam ballast strip – this has been augmented with loose ballast and heavily weathered. All other track is Peco code 80; all the points are electrofrog and changed using Peco switches. I use a Gaugemaster Q four-track controller and HF2 track cleaner and have never had any problems with performance; testimony to the running qualities of the stock as well as the track!

The fiddleyard has five loops for each main line meaning there can be ten trains available for any one operating session, and each side can accommodate up to ten-coach expresses in the longest loops.

Scenery is from Woodland Scenics, and the superb Static Grass Applicator from FMR provided the power behind the grass effects in between. I’ve tried to replicate the mix of virulent weeds and hedges amongst dead grasses and a mixture of trees which typifi es The Morfas behind the station.Figures are from Bachmann, Modelscene and eBay. I’ve tried to position them so they look natural and free-fl owing rather than motion-captured which you see on some layouts. If they’re not moving they shouldn’t look like they are!

Virtually all the stock is from the current range of Graham Farish and Dapol, and most of it has been detailed and weathered by Pauline McKenna at Millfi elds Models. I learned early on that my abilities didn’t include the fi ner points of such skills so I decided to leave that side of things to the professionals. It’s been well worth the additional cost. All the passenger and freight rakes are prototypical, and I have photographs of the prototype of virtually every train run on the layout; this way I know I can’t get them wrong! The main focus for me has always been the trains themselves so I try to make sure all the details are included, including corridor doors and tail lamps on the end coach, or brown staining around the rusty hinges on the front of a Class 40 – these are the things which make the layout believable and give me the most pleasure in running the trains.

As well as railway modelling, I play bass guitar to professional standard and have a ‘nine to fi ve’ job in the Public Sector. I am also an Elder at Living Stones Evangelical Church where I play bass guitar and preach every Sunday, and am a father to two teenage daughters, so time is at a premium! It has taken me two years to bring Prestatyn to a stage where I am happy to lean back and watch the trains go by without feeling ‘I really must...’ but I’m sure there’ll be other bits to do as we go. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of building a layout based on a prototype, but know I couldn’t have done it without the invaluable help and encouragement of all those who contributed to the layout thread with suggestions, hints and tips along with expertise in so many areas that I simply couldn’t have sourced myself.

Looking to the future, I intend to re-wire the fiddleyard with IRDOT (infra-red sensor) technology to allow automated sequences to take place, but that may be some way off as I’m pretty useless at electronics! As well as fi nishing off Prestatyn I’m also hoping to build a model of Llangollen station in the present day, in OO this time - steam locomotives and old Mk 1s galore! The thread is already up on RMweb and I welcome all contributions. BRM

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Welcome to the interactive BRM Digital Edition! You get all of the great content that print readers get, with the added benefit of exclusive videos, extra images, a bonus layout article and 2 additional trackplans. We often throw-in a free magazine too! BRM prides itself on giving readers Britain’s best model railways, easy-to-follow expert modelling advice and the latest product news and reviews. To find out what’s inside each issue, together with what extra digital features can be found, simply read the content description. Enjoy…

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