Fairlight 2.0: This time I mean it

Or, the realisation you actually had the right idea ten years ago

When I came back to narrow gauge modelling in 2006, my first attempt at a new 009 layout was of a preservation-era railway built into a set of Ikea Ivar shelves in our flat in St Leonards. We’ll skip through the next decade of changed minds, false starts, family dramas and house moves because in the end the appeal of that idea has never really gone away.

The railway was (not originally, but later would become so) the High Weald Light Railway, a 2’6″-ish gauge replacement for the Kent & East Sussex Railway that – in the mind of Dave Holman, it’s original creator – ran from Rye on the south coast up to Headcorn and Maidstone with branches to Hawkhurst and Cranbrook. His O-16.5 layout of Hawkhurst was featured in the Railway Modeller in 1991 and formed one of my key modelling inspirations. He later built another, Cranbrook, which I came to own for a while but never really ‘got’ either 7mm scale or the idea of maintaining and modifying someone else’s layout.

But the concept of the HWLR stayed with me, and in 2013 I posted a plan for a “New HWLR” layout in 009 which would replace Cranbrook in the office I worked from at the time.

Planning again v1.2b

Needless to say zero progress was ever made and after a change in work focus I gave up that office and no longer had a suitable space for a permanent layout until we moved house in early 2016. Recently I’ve been planning what to do next, and it turns out that “next” looks a lot like the original plan…

Still 009. Still the preservation era HWLR. Back to something that can be mounted on Ivar shelving, although now upgraded to the deeper 50cm version which has proved to be a better fit for the storage crates for Narrow Planet (not a consideration in 2006!). In it’s current configuration the shelving gives me up to a 2.9m / 9’6″ run at around 1.2m height, split into three sections between the uprights. Although more on that in a moment.


Phase 1 is going to be the main terminus of the preserved railway, stretching over 83cm and 42cm shelf modules. Although the shelves are robust I’m anticipating building on a separate baseboard that sits on top of them – on the older type of Ivar the shelves simply lifted off the uprights, but have recently been redesigned to now clip on more securely and the force needed to dismantle them would risk damage to a integrally constructed layout.

The trackplan here is essentially the same layout as the 2013 plan, although the smaller space means the entrance over the road bridge has been lost and sidings have been added to give loco facilities suitable for an established terminus. Points on the loop are Peco 18″ radius, with 12″ in the yard. As we’re in the modern era there could potentially be a museum element to this although I also like the idea of showing something under construction.

I had thought there would be room for a town scene here too but on reflection I’m going to keep it fairly open and focussed on the railway – perhaps as if the site is slightly removed from the town the line originally served.


Moving to the left there are two further 83cm sections. The first (i.e. middle) has taller uprights and further shelving above so seems to fit as a fiddle yard, initially serving only Phase 1. It could eventually run through to a second terminus on the left-most shelf section, representing the ‘other’ end of the railway. I’ve drawn in a train turntable which would be useful for storage and for potentially running each end of the layout as separate operation.

This is because initially I thought about having Phase 2 as a pre-preservation scene, so it was planned with a shorter loop and tighter 12″ points. At this end the focus would be on the town, with places like Hawkhurst and Burwash in mind.


(All of the plans above can be viewed at a larger size by clicking through to their Flickr pages.)

However I found I wasn’t happy with the more cramped nature of the shorter length and, given there is room in the garage for a further 42cm module to balance the two halves, decided to draw up a potential longer version taking the overall length to 3.3m / 10′ 10″.

In this configuration I would set both ends in the modern day, with a transfer ramp sneaking in to show how visiting stock arrives at the railway, but the town behind could be fairly timeless and serve as a backdrop for vintage services as well. Operation can now more easily be ‘somewhere to somewhere’ which really appeals to me in a model railway.

Whether I actually get as far as the full train turntable or just opt for a simpler fiddle yard remains to be seen, but there are plenty of other things to do first including this pair of ex-Meridian Models Bagnall open wagons which were assembled today in a few spare ten minute breaks during the day job.

Meridian Models 8-ton Bagnall wagons (aka Bagwags)

* Incidentally the O-16.5 layout Cranbrook is still in good hands and I believe is due to be exhibited at the Narr-O exhibition in Merstham on April 22nd.

Posted in 009, fairlight, ideas, model railways, narrow gauge, planning, track plans | Comments Off on Fairlight 2.0: This time I mean it

And done

Completed RNAD crew van kit

By my standards, under a year from considering a project to it becoming a thing is some kind of speed record. Presenting the RNAD crew van, an 009 kit in 3d print and etched nickel silver. This has leapfrogged a couple of other projects because a) I liked it when I saw one at Corris Railway last April (and later worked out they are at other places including Amberley) and b) as it’s effectively a box on wheels would be fairly easy to design.

It is now listed at Narrow Planet and also available from Parkside Dundas and (when I have more stock to give them) the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways shop.

As for here, evidence from lack of posting is probably a good sign that I’m not much of a layout modeller of late. Not only lack of time but really coming round to the realisation that the bit of the hobby I really enjoy is designing and making things that are useful to other people. So I’m calling time on this blog. I have some work to do on the Narrow Planet website and when that is completed intend to switch to product development focussed updates there instead because that will give a lot more to talk about and it doesn’t feel right being so blatantly self-promotional in this format.

Thanks for all your comments and feedback over the years, and see you again soon!

Posted in 009, amberley, ego trips, kits, marketing, meta, model railways, narrow gauge, new products, preservation | 1 Comment

I accidentally all the kits

I went on the recent trip to Wales with a couple of specific items in mind to measure up and evaluate for potential Narrow Planet kits. As is often the case I came back with more than I bargained for.

RNAD van at Maespoeth

This utilitarian box, pictured at the Corris Railway at Maespoeth, is one of the crew vans built for RNAD Broughton Moor by Hudson in the mid 1980s. Perhaps not the most charming of narrow gauge vehicles, but a good companion for the Baguley-Drewry and it appeals to my industrial sensibilities. It was kind of on the radar before the trip, but a close up examination revealed how modellable it was.

And so.


And this is where I’m up to 009. It has a 3D printed chassis and bogies all printed in one piece, of which more shortly, with etched body and details. So far it seems to be fitting together rather well, and appears to be a usefully quick project to get something new to market.

Test build body

Posted in 009, industrial, kits, model railways, narrow gauge, new products | 2 Comments

Evidence of actual modelling

Cherish it, this doesn’t happen very often any more! I recently got hold of a job lot of old Nine Lines and Dundas Models (yes, that old) kits on eBay and this week have been working through them. Well, the first one. Okay, most of the first one.

W&L van brake gear

I decided to add the linkage rod to the brake gear, one of those little details that never really gets mentioned but makes a subtle visual difference without too much effort. Firstly, and carefully, drilling holes in the brake lever and the pip on the solebar representing the supporting bracket to suit the 0.5mm wire I had to hand. With the wire a firm fit into the brake lever I then worked out where the single brake hanger should be positioned, a packing piece of 0.75mm styrene was needed to get it down to the right height.

W&L van brake gear

Once everything was drilled and lined up, I glued the brake lever to the side of the van, and then spotted a little glue on the underside of the floor in line with the appropriate wheel and nudged the brake hanger into position. A spot of glue in the back of the hanger secured the wire and finally, once dry, I trimmed off the excess.

W&L van brake gear

Although its not particularly obvious once the van is the right way up I think it does add something, and the wire is also a useful support for the otherwise dangling end of the brake lever – a fragile piece on many kits.

Just weight, paint, couplings and roof to finish this one off now. I might even get on to the second in the batch this month…

Posted in 009, hacks, model railways, narrow gauge | Comments Off on Evidence of actual modelling


After taking the Narrow Planet sales stand to the 009 Society AGM at Rainford in Merseyside, Tom and I spent an enjoyable week with a couple of other friends in north Wales, staying in Llan Ffestiniog. Enjoyable, despite the rain, fog and cold weather which seem to have been standard so far this year across the country. And the endless roadworks on the A470. Because after all, as long as the narrow gauge trains are running then who cares?

Here’s a quick run-down of what we got up to.


Actually not too wet, and a drive over to Llanfair Caereinion for a ride on the W&L. Our train was hauled by Resita No. 19 which is looking and sounding good after some recent work.

Resita No 19 at Llanfair

At Welshpool we found that the sheds were open, allowing a close-up look at Monarch and Sir Drefaldwyn in storage. Quite a lot of ‘measurement by iPhone’ would go on during the week…

There was a lot of this


A ride on the Ffestiniog, the way up was fairly sunny but the clouds descended as soon as we were through Moelwyn tunnel and came back down with us all the way to Boston Lodge where we alighted for a pre-arranged tour of the works and sheds.

Taking water at Blaenau

Earl of Merioneth on shed

“Blodge” is a busy place and there was a lot to look at, and thanks to the FR for letting us look around.

The weather cleared up again later on, so on the way to visit John Wooden near Llanberis we stopped off for a walk around Dinorwic quarry. With tips and inclines looming out of the mists it was very atmospheric and made us want to return for a more in-depth exploration another time.

View over Llanberis lake


Another drive, this time down to Aberystwyth where we caught the morning departure on the Vale of Rheidol by the skin of our teeth. I hadn’t been on this railway for around 20 years and wasn’t sure what to expect, but the views were spectacular and lot of work is going into restoring the old halts along the line.

Prince of Wales at Devil's Bridge

Afterwards we met up with Neil Rushby at the Corris Railway, where he is part of the team working on beautiful replicas of the original railway’s carriages. He was kind enough to give us a tour of the works and planned extension at Maespoth, and the small museum at Corris itself.

Maespoeth yard on the Corris Railway


Staying local again, we first went to see the morning FR & WHR departures at Porthmadog Harbour before heading over to the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway for a good look around the museum.

Garratt 143 crossing Brittania Bridge

There’s a lot of stuff packed into Gelert’s Farm now, including some recently arrived stock from the sadly closed Abbey Light Railway, and plenty of measurements were taken for future projects.

ex-Abbey Light Railway McEwan-Pratt Baguley petrol loco at Gelert's Farm

In the afternoon, we were foolhardy enough to brave the semi-open coach on the Welsh Highland, travelling up the line as far as Rhyd Ddu to swap on to the return service. The weather meant the views weren’t up to much, and the experience through the long Aberglaslyn tunnel behind a Garratt in a coach with no windows was “interesting” to say the least.

Approaching Bryn-y-Felin

However the steak in Spooners afterwards made up for that!


Final day on the rails, and a visit to the Talyllyn Railway which was a first time for me. Not sure how its evaded me this long, as its a wonderful little line and very friendly. We had some Narrow Planet stock to drop off for the shop, and on the way back down alighted at Pendre for a visit to the sheds. Again thank you to the Talyllyn for their help and making us feel very welcome.

Edward Thomas runs round at Nant Gwernol

Midlander, Tom Rolt and No 10 in Pendre yard

We rounded the week off with a call in to Tan-y-Bwlch to see the last down train of the day, and then a pie and a pint in the Oakley Arms ahead of the long drive home the next morning.

Merddin in the woods above Tan-y-Bwlch

Posted in ffestiniog, narrow gauge, photos, preservation, welsh highland railway, wllr | 1 Comment