A similarly thorough approach was taken to the scenery on the layout. Welsh hillside is hardly the most simplistic landscape to model, and once again the "if it looks right" approach was taken to chop some of the area’s features to our predetermined baseboard shape. Mod Roc was used to cover the chicken wire, secured over its insulation board formers, and the Artex ceiling plaster, coloured with brown powder paint, was further spread over the top.
This elaborate scheme carried many advantages. On previous layouts we had covered Mod Roc with household plaster and then painted it brown to represent the soil beneath; a precautionary measure lest any scatter was lost to the army of tiny fingers during exhibitions. If the layout received a knock however. With coloured Artex, which incidentally is far easier to use than plaster, any chips still show up brown.
Most of the spiral at Dduallt was built up on embankments or through cuttings, and as a consequence there is much exposed rock in the vicinity; either in the form of blasted rock faces or spoil that has yet to be fully engulfed by nature. Rather than mess about trying to create fake rock (an illusion to which our scenery won’t run) we resolved to use real rocks, bludgeoned to suitable sizes with a large hammer, which were pressed mosaic fashion into wet Artex mixture and have remained securely fastened ever since. We discovered that Merionethshire’s finest road dressing chips made very realistic rock spoil, although real slate from the Dduallt area looked too dark for a realistic blasted face. Rocks from the more southerly Rhinog mountains sufficed instead. With the amount of rock supported within the scenery , the advantage of heavyweight baseboards has been emphasised.
Penrhyn "Ladies" Linda and Blanche begin their climb round the spiral after passing a down service train in the station.
When Tackling the greenery we also went for a belt and braces approach. Initially the whole layout was covered in a basic, mid green, fine scatter. The long grass is represented by old style hairy carpet underlay cold dyed a light yellow/green, moor grass colour. This is an immensely user-friendly material and can be teased out to represent any area of longer wild grasses. Moreover, the scatter base gives the underlay fibres something more to grip to rather than the bare Artex, and gives the natural effect of a finer, deeper coloured grass, beneath. It can be secured with a watered down PVC mixture, and for the final touch, fully fixed with a liberal dose of hair lacquer. Bracken, another common Welsh feature, was represented with contrasting shades of Woodland Scenic foliage flock glued on top of the carpet underlay to give the effect of depth. All this made the scenery a very drawn out affair but I believe that cutting corners in this area will show as much as any where else, and as in landscape design, copying nature leads to a more natural effect. Using a mixture of greens, form yellow to dark green, can create a more complete and natural illusion on a layout if they’re used in the right way. Our acid test was to take the layout outside amongst real greenery, take eye level photographs, and see if we could spot where the layout ended.
It never really happens like this! Linda's down train descends round the spiral as Mountaineer and an up train pass beneath.
Trees and stone walls are also much in evidence around Dduallt, and cause their own headaches or the modeller. the spiral runs through mature woodlands behind Dduallt station and we decided at the outset that we would use manufactured tree kits rather than try to scratch build the large numbers required. This was undoubtedly a more expensive option but meant that all the trees would look vaguely alike and represent a convincing woodland scene, rather than the ragged, irregular collection our scratch built efforts would be. We took care to include variety in the shape, size and foliage colour in order to ensure that the trees represented a realistic woodland without looking too uniform or attracting attention to individual trees and thus spoiling the effect of the trains passing behind them.
Dry stone walls are a popular feature on the Festiniog with the trains running through the seemingly impossibly tight gaps. Our labour-intensive techniques was to roll tiny balls of Pymura fire cement and press them together between two blocks of wood to form walls to the desired height and length. If the wall is straight it can be fired in a warm domestic oven for half an hour or so to set. If however the wall is curved or is to go on a hillside it is strong and flexible enough to be placed "wet" and glued into position on the layout and allowed to dry out naturally. The wall can then be painted. We used enamel paints, although it should be noted that salty deposits will be secreted onto the outside for a couple of months and may need to be repainted until the cement fully dries out.
The push pull train enters Dduallt on its return from Porthmadog. Yes - the locomotive really does propel the train without derailment.
Harlech Castle with an engineering train from Glan y Pwll waits for a path to Tan y Bwich.
The few buildings at Dduallt, Rhoslyn cottage, a barn, temporary toilet block and the signal cabin, were all scratch built using the excellent Evergreen styrene strip and the sheet system. The stiles and gates were also built on jigs using styrene strips.
The working semaphore signalling is logic controlled in conjunction with the point relays, worked by adapted point motors connected to the signal mechanisms with threads. We built signals in much the same way as the FR did at Dduallt, using parts from signals of various origins, drawn from the Ratio range. Here again there was no substitute for research as each signal had to be studied and designed individually.
Dduallt is nominally set in the 1988/9 when the passing loop was still in situ, although not strictly timetabled for crossings and, furthermore, all the main line locomotives were in traffic. Since we started work on Dduallt though we’ve succumbed to the irresistible temptation to model beyond our set dates which explains the presence of Palmerston, Harlech Castle and the Push Pall set, to name a few, on the layout.
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Photographs courtesy of Railway Modeller