Sunday 30 January 2022

Port Eden... Part Three

Well, I kind of felt like I'd put the Port Eden concept to bed with the original competition layout/diorama, and then the kiosks... right up until Hornby announced a seaside-themed layout building competition.  The idea was that they set dimensions and a trackplan, and people would come up with a layout concept, on a holiday theme.  Having all the bits and pieces from the other builds, it occurred to me that whilst I might struggle with a 00 layout, I could re-visit Port Eden one last time.

Of course, from the relative peace and quiet of July, the September deadline looked a comfortable way off...

First things first, try and work out what scale to do it to.

The design sketch, with the trackplan.  This being rather simple, I split the scene in two halves with a central raised section; this was to hide the hinges I needed to incorporate to make the layout fold.  A small house with three children is a tricky space to squeeze a 00 gauge layout into, so this had to be made as compact as possible, within the bounds of the rules.  I also planned loads of over bridges, under bridges, and so on, to give as much visual interest as possible.

I struggled with getting hold of decent quality wood (poor supplies in the big DIY sheds) so ended up sacrificing some MDF sheets I'd been hanging onto, then also ended up using some leftover thick ply beams from the loft boarding-out exercise.  The downside of it was that consequently this layout would end up weighting an utter ton.

Still, it folded up nicely.

Test-fitting components to try and see if everything would go together.

I'd been worried that working in 00 scale would leave me too much space to fill, but if anything, the larger scales would leave too little space for everything I wanted to fit.


I needed a bridge for the layout (actually needed a fair few), and I wanted to recreate the scene of the old iron bridge over the paddling pool from the competition layout back in Part One.  As mentioned in said post, I did the bridge on the laser cutter, and it was based on the structure above.  This is the Cambrian Coast Line between Barmouth and Harlech, it's actually one of those formative spots in my railway enthusiasm history, as we used to camp right near here, so me and my sisters would spend a lot of time playing by this bridge.  The above shot was our return visit, with my own foster-children, summer 2021.  It seemed very fitting for a project that was all about nostalgia.

Annoyingly I'd run out of black acrylic, and it was in short supply at my usual stockist.  I had some offcuts of white and yellow though.

The width of the track bed from the original design was to accommodate G-gauge track for the garden line, but it would give enough room for a curve of 00.  I quite liked the idea that in the real world the miniature line had been built over an abandoned standard-gauge structure.

It was (somewhat hastily) dry-brushed with browns and orange to give a rust effect, though I wasn't as happy with is as I was with the one on the earlier competition layout.


To try and make the scene a bit bigger, and to make the train appear to be diving in and out of the scenery, I knew I needed a tunnel.

This is Fairbourne, one of the primary inspirations for the look of the line.  The tunnel here is a fake, technically, being more of a shelter in the dunes built from brick, blockwork, and reinforced concrete.  The portal above is a little utilitarian...

... but the other end is a bit more exciting, from a design point of view.

Given it was a Hornby-run competition, I wanted to try and incorporate some of their structure kits and models, even though it was a layout being built in a larger scale than 00.  The above viaduct was second-hand when I got it about 12 years ago for the Steampunk Saltaire project, and has been used many times since.

Suitably chopped about, with some flagstone-effect plasticard to represent the breeze-block construction, I hoped it would give the impression of the Fairbourne structure.

Set into the scene, it would end up being a bit more essential than the Fairbourne one as the dunes climb up behind it, but hopefully it would give the right impression.

Probably not terrifically in line with health and safety playing up there on top of it, but based on observational evidence of Fairbourne.  All it's missing on the model (because Hornby is a family company) is a representation of the Camper-Life Millennial idiot going into the tunnel to use it as a toilet, ten minutes before the train was due, witnessed at the time of the research visit.


The flat water of the estuary was my usual trick of black and brown painted board, under a sheet of acrylic from a dead picture frame.  Far quicker than mucking about with varnish.

Having made the boards stupidly heavy, I tried to make the landforms as light as I could, using packing materials and spray foam.  

I slightly despair when the layout is at this stage, as it's a mess and it doesn't look like it will ever be finished.  To be fair, as the summer sped by, with other work and family holidays, it did run the risk of not hitting the deadline, and my morale was a bit low at this point.


OK so this is the derelict part of the Fairbourne line, but for a neglected miniature railway on the way to closure, it looks the part.

Buried in sand and flock materials, it didn't do much for the running quality (more on that problem anon) but it was fun doing some of the details, like the footprints alongside the track.


For the paths around the Lido, on the earlier layout I used Peco platform edging.  For this one, partly because of the Hornby theme, and partly for time, I acquired a ton of 00 gauge platforms off eBay to carve up and use.

As with the earlier lido, the tiled surface was etched with the laser cutter, with the custom-designed logo, and covered with a sheet of clear acrylic.  The huts were placeholders pinched from another project until I could build the proper ones.


The platform for the station was etched ply sheet; I'd have preferred something less textured, but it was getting really difficult getting hold of wood at this point.

There was a need for a building at one end, an arcade type building.  I had a stash of Playmobil components for the Vet Surgery in a box of second-hand odds and ends I'd bought online, so built a suitable frontage.

The kiosks from the earlier projects were revisited, having been re-scaled for G.  I did quite a few, so I could have some kiosks, some pedestrian shelters, and a station, though in the end the scenery developed so I didn't need them all.  Some would be going on the garden railway instead.

I took them as a kit of parts on holiday... it was quite relaxing gluing them together whilst sat outside after a day on the beach.

Still needing some detail painting, the shelters for the station.

The seaside tat stall, reusing some of the props from the earlier layout.

The railing design also saw another use, though I deliberately had more ornate railings on the other side of the central raised path, to make it look like two completely distinct scenes.


Raiding the second-hand boxes at Frizinghall Models gave me a load of cheap Triang UK-outline, and US-outline, stock to play with.  These older models are pretty good for representing miniature railway items, on the basis that they tend to be simple, with less fiddly details, that look like mass-produced caricature vehicles common to many real miniature lines.

I designed some simple seats and cut them from brightly coloured scrap acrylic...

...and converted the carriages and wagons by the simple process of removing the roof of each vehicle, and cutting some access points in the sides.


The layout was finished just before the deadline; so tight in fact, that the paint and glue was still drying on some of the final details.  Complicating matters somewhat was the poor weather (I'd hoped to shoot it outside in natural light), and the fact I had Covid.  Trying to do the photographs whilst feeling like utter stink was not something I want to repeat.

So yeah, lighting wasn't brilliant, shooting indoors.  I did put on a playlist of summery, clubbing music, to try and get the right vibe mindyou.  I might have to start a feature on the blog with the music playing in the background whilst I'm working.

Still, it must have done the trick, as Hornby were very taken with the build, to the point where I found out that it won the 16+ year old category of the competition.


Of course, the competition win wasn't to be the end of it.  I've done quite a bit of writing over the last few years for Phil Parker, editor of Garden Rail Magazine, and he also writes for British Railway Modelling.  The long and the short of it was that he was happy to feature the layout in BRM, and also an online virtual model railway show.  One complicating factor was that he wanted it filming.

Now a problem (apart from the fact I'm no film-maker) was that none of the existing locomotives were terribly reliable at slow-running, so I set about very hastily, and with no budget, knocking-up some suitable locomotives.

It was very much a throw-it-together-from-the-scrap-box job, but I ended up with three new machines for the filming.  I thought I'd also take the opportunity to do some more stills shots too.

I'd taken the layout over to the in-laws, in the hope it would be nice enough weather to shoot some pics in their garden (which is rather bigger than our postage-stamp), but alas, once again, I combined it with poor weather.  So I set it up in a spare room, lit with yellow light bulbs.

Being about the highest-detailed (not to say most expensive) of all the figures, these three ended up featuring a fair bit in the photographs. 

Two of the newer locomotives.

And so here it is, looking pretty damned good (thanks to the designers and type-setters at the mag), in the British Railway Modelling mag for March 2022.

Really happy with how it's come out, and my second mag article of the year.

And so that, in theory, is that.  A theme (seaside miniature railway) which somewhat dominated 2021 through effectively three separate projects.  Whilst I rather feel like I needed some nostalgia and seaside imagery during what was a very dark and miserable year, and it was wonderful winning the competition, I think I've got it out of my system now, and it's time to move on to something else.  It was fun to do though, aside from the distractions caused by work and health problems (I really wouldn't recommend trying to complete a deadline-specific project whilst under the influence of Covid), and I think I've achieved what I set out to do with it all.

Yep, Daleks next time, a shoot from New Years 2021...


No comments:

Post a Comment