Morfa is the latest incarnation of my lifelong interest in trains. It's based on the real life location of Morfa Mawddach, but includes numerous deviations that I thought would be an improvement on real life. Hopefully the character and atmosphere remain. These days I'm less interested in reading accounts of how individuals build their models than I am about why they do. Though I'm always up for pertinent questions, I'd like to step away from the norm and concentrate on the reasons behind the choices and the motivation to model. I'll try my hardest to avoid sounding like a pretentious twerp but there's a risk I may not succeed.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Fits and starts

If you've read the few sentences directly under the heading photo you'll realise that this blog is focussed on why things happen rather than how things happen. Nothing succeeds in pumping up the motivation like a bit of success, conversely failure can spark off a downward spiral. Both phenomena have conspired to scupper recent progress on Morfa. The good news is that I appear to be developing mild competency in the business of resin casting, so far the subjects tackled have been narrow gauge in nature. Sticking with the small railway theme I've also been very pleased with the way my whimsical essay in 009 is turning out. For me this is good, but looking at Morfa in isolation it's led to a concentration of efforts in the successful areas. 

Compounding this is a failure with my first attempt at the Abertafol embankment. I was attempting to replicate stone with Das clay over card formers. I'm off the opinion that the card wasn't beefy enough and the Das not applied thickly enough as when scribing stonework I quickly hit the card sub layer which gave a fluffy look to the pointing. 

It's not all doom and gloom as I scored a result with a zero cost conversion of a four pound, Hatchette part work, carriage to EM gauge and in my favoured blue and grey livery. 

It's successes like this in different spheres of the layouts development that keep me plugging away at the problems until a satisfactory conclusion is reached.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Practicalities and fantasy

It's obvious that Morfa's scenery is at an early stage of development. I prefer to get all the nasty, functional, nuts and bolts jobs out of the way before making things pretty. Though simple in nature Morfa is a pretty big train set, being an 18' x 12' kidney shape.Previously all my other layouts could be grouped under the category of 'micro'. It's the sheer extra work, coupled with interests which veer off target, that has been responsible for the basics taking 'till now to reach completion. The last phase of work has seen the branch line which penetrates the backscene finished, the points made operational and the wiring completed. Here's a sketch of the station area which should explain what's in front and what's to the rear of the backscene, and how it fits with the geographical reality.

Here's what really happens once the model world fades from 3-D to 2-D behind an artfully placed clump of trees.

If we zoom in it's possible to see better the workings off stage.

However to keep up the lie that my version of Morfa is real it's necessary to also hold in ones mind the earlier plan.

Thursday 25 July 2013


Generally I believe that backscenes are good, unfortunately the shape, size and orientation of Morfa mean that only two and a bit sides are covered by them. A good proportion of the layout can be viewed from both inside the squished oval shape and from outside. Looking out on the bits devoid of backscene one has to filter out the rest of my playroom clutter, but looking in I hoped to be able to borrow the backscene from the far side of the layout. Take a look at the photo, it shows how the principle works.

The train is a foot or so away from the camera, the backscene about fourteen feet. In an ideal world I'd have used the whole height available to me, but practicalities forced a two foot high backscene, leading to the letterbox cropping of the shot. However the mind is a wonderful thing and when watching trains pass here, the white wall above the backscene fades out.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Friendship 2

Though they may not know it there's much of my friends in Morfa. Earlier I've credited them as a motivating force, but they have an influence that goes far beyond this. Good company and conversation set off so many ideas, many of which have made it into the model or will at a later date. Friends also populate the altered reality that is Morfa. Many of the manifestations exist only in my mind, as things to do once the layouts scenery develops, some are works in progress, just one nears completion. 

You may remember Jones Motors of Arthog pictured some time ago. As the layout is close to the stage where I can get on with the scenery proper, I thought it would be fun to build the garage scene as a module which would be set in scene when the landforms go down. Jones Motors (in my mind) is run by a friend of the same name who works in the trade and has the cross of  Imp enthusiasm to bear. He's a natural salesman, I can imagine the world being his lobster, his word being his euro-bond.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Perfectionism versus Character

‘If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all’ goes the saying. Other strategies are available; amongst the most common is the use of ‘characterful’ to describe work that may fall short of what the viewer would expect. There is in our hobby an unspoken undercurrent of encouragement, or pressure, to raise one’s game.  More detail, more accuracy, sharper model making is the name of the game. I’m pretty convinced that these goals are the wrong ones. 

There are some model makers at the very top end of the skull and ability range who produce stuff close to perfection that leaves me cold. Even if exquisitely painted and weathered these paragons somehow mange to be devoid of life, while the imperfect lives and breathes. I’ve spent some time wondering why this should be so, my intuition (ok guesswork) tells me that it’s something to do with approach; the models being planned, measured, practised and crafted with nothing left to chance. The best materials and tools are brought to bear; skills are honed in attempt to guarantee success. 

Real life isn’t like that, imperfections abound. Even engineers accept imperfection in the tolerances specified and permitted, and that’s before nature wreaks havoc in its attempt to reclaim its own. There’s a randomness about the real world that perfectionism in a model fights against. Sterility lies not too far down the honed and perfected route. Real life, character and atmosphere are found in allowing the happy accident to flourish. Embrace the unplanned that adds to the model, take chances and remember it’s the art rather than the engineering that impresses.

Wednesday 24 October 2012


It's easy to deduce from the frequency of postings that stagnation had settled on Morfa. Whilst in essence this was correct I had completed the woodwork for the staging sidings over the summer, a not hugely demanding shelf bracketed out from the layout edge behind the high ground of Barmouth and Abertafol. A half-hearted start had been made on the entry pointwork, a left, right and diamond combo. As a consequence of such indolence the layout itself had been co-opted to serve as shelf and storage, until an e-mail fixed up visits from friends on two successive weekends. For the first visit I concentrated on tidying up, all that should not have been on the layout was put away and the rails cleaned.

Unfortunately what had till then run reliably well, started to stutter and fail. I was disappointed and resolved to sort out as much as I could before the next weekend. Realising that temporarily tacked down track can't be properly fettled, I took to adjusting, sticking and ballasting the Abertafol curve. While the pva went off, the entry pointwork to the staging sidings was finished, gapped and had its tie bars fitted.

By the second weekend reliability returned along with my motivation. In the weeks since, the remaining staging siding points have been built and will be shortly fitted. very little of the temporary tracks remain, just a yard or so to the bridge and the bridge itself. Completion of the dull but necessary parts of the layout lie tantalisingly close. Better stop typing and start track laying.

Monday 12 March 2012

The hills are alive ...

Pictures being worth a thousand words this should tell you pretty much all you need to know about what I've been up to the last couple of days. What it won't say is how close to disaster the whole thing came. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with backscenes. I prefer to paint them, it gives a more coherent look having all parts of the layout made by the same hands but there's ever present possibility of unintended cock up snookering the whole show. At least the other difficult bits can be assembled as discrete units away from the trainset, only being applied if all is well. Backscenes are a bit too 'do or die' to allow for a happily relaxed approach.