Sunday 11 February 2024

Along the Breakwater; Holyhead in 00 gauge

Back when I was doing more of the freelancing with model railway mags, I went through a bit of a phase of trying to do layout planning.  I was coming at it from the point of view of beginners/returnees to the hobby, starting with train sets and low budgets, and I had a bit of success with a piece inspired by Damems on the Worth Valley.  For the follow up piece, I looked at Holyhead...

The Holyhead Breakwater Tramway was a slightly unusual, isolated, industrial line, running from an inland quarry to the breakwater itself.  It led a pretty uneventful existence, gaining a bit of interest from enthusiasts towards the end, when it passed into British Rail control, operated by an ancient little diesel shunter.  Long closed now, there are bits of surviving infrastructure, the old quarry is a lovely country park, and you can walk out along the breakwater.

I've family on Anglesey, and it was a logical spot to explore for an article.  A nice sunny day for it too.

An afternoon was spent strolling around, photographing as much as possible, in readiness for the article.  There were a few relics of the railway still visible, a nice surprise given it closed four decades ago.

I didn't have the space to actually build myself a layout, but thought that I could stretch to a small diorama to accompany the plan I'd be drawing for the article.  A quick mock-up was produced to see how a plank layout, set at the breakwater end, might look.  The overhead crane was the only thing I'd be purchasing for this build, as I didn't have the time (or materials) to scratchbuild it.  In any case the idea was a starter/returnee using commercially available products.

In order to draw up the plan of the full size layout, I gathered up whatever bits I had to hand in order to make a scale mock-up.

The trackwork for the diorama was fairly old (from my childhood 00 layout in fact), the age and condition of it would be hidden under scenic treatment.  The rear wall was made from scrap ply.

A bit more advanced; rails laid for the overhead crane, and stone-printed paper for the rear sea wall.

The main sea wall was made using some more upcycled components (used as set dressing all the way back on the Jabberwock project), with scrunched-up stone paper laid over the top of some irregular bits of mountboard, to give it some texture.

Rather than mess around with the tracks inset into flagstones, I thought it would be easier to set it all in sand and ballast, which to be fair a lot of the real breakwater line seems to have been.

I wanted to get some photographs of the set, and had planned for a shoot in Holyhead on location during a summer trip to see my family, but then the summer Lockdowns came into effect, and I was stuck with having to stay within a few miles of the house.  Looking for somewhere with a large expanse of water, I settled for a reservoir up the valley from us.  Typical rather poor weather, but beggars couldn't be choosers.

The layout in somewhat precarious position...

...with Middle Child hanging onto everything to stop it toppling over.

Still, showed the effect I was after (with the repainted Hornby 06 shunter, the nearest I could get to the Class 01 which really worked the line, and which is only available as a brass kit).  The poor weather annoyed me though, so I thought I'd try and come back on a less manky, windy day.

Back again a little while later.  It's all luxury, these shoots..

Still, brighter weather.

Shame about the trees, it was a bit tricky trying to get them out of shot...

I was quite happy with the second shoot; in the absence of photographs of the real Holyhead Breakwater Tramway in service, it gave me something for the article.

And here's the finished piece; Railway Modeller added some historical shots from their archives, and redrew my layout plan into their house style.  Nice to see it in print, anyway.

I don't have the space to store much, and the breakwater got upcycled into the miniature railway diorama for the Port Eden project.  Much to my surprise though, it ended up getting picked up again for a rewritten and expanded piece for the Hornby Collectors Club, so it had to be rebuilt again back into Holyhead Breakwater, but more on that in a future blog post...

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