5.5mm Association

The Malcolm Savage Archive

Talyllyn Railway

More 5½mm scale models from
the 'Gwynant Valley' layout

by Malcolm Savage

Photographs by the author.

Railway Modeller - August 1986

Reproduced courtesy of Railway Modeller

Talyllyn heading down to the station on a passenger train.

Unlike other early quarry lines in North Wales, the Talyllyn Railway, which opened in 1866, was steam worked from the start. The railway was built and run by the owners of the Bryn Eglwys Quarries, situated in the hills above Abergynolwyn. Traffic was never very heavy and the original locomotives and rolling stock were all that the railway ever required.

Talyllyn, built by Fletcher Jennings, was the first locomotive, delivered in 1865 as an 0-4-0 saddle tank. As an 0-4-0 it was unsatisfactory. A lengthy overhang at the rear caused excessive vertical oscillation which was corrected in the second locomotive, Dolgoch also built by Fletcher Jennings, by placing the rear axle behind the firebox. As soon as Dolgoch was delivered, Talyllyn was returned for alterations, principally the addition of a pair of trailing wheels. It is possible that the cab was fitted at this time. Originally both locomotives were supplied without cabs. Talyllyn and Dolgoch survived to be taken over by the preservation society in 1951, Dolgoch still with its original boiler and firebox. Both have since undergone extensive rebuilding.

The railway was originally supplied with three four-wheeled coaches and a brake van built by Brown Marshall in 1866-7. About 1870 another four-wheeled coach was acquired from the Lancaster Wagon Co. The coaches, although built with doors on both sides, had those on the south (non-platform) side fastened up and the droplights barred. As passengers were not supposed to see the south side of the coaches, they were neither lined nor lettered.

The Talyllyn Railway owned about 120 wagons of which 100 were slatted slate wagons. The remainder were iron or wooden bodied open wagons, covered vans, gunpowder vans and special sloping side wagons for removing rubbish from Abergynolwyn up the village incline and on to the railway.

The Models
Dolgoch is the third locomotive built from a GEM kit on the Gwynant Valley Railway. The only improvements that have been made to the model are the addition of various bits of plumbing. The paintwork has been deteriorating now for a number of years. Each time some paint chips, or rubs off, I have touched in the offending area with rust colour. A full repaint has not been contemplated as I intend replacing the model with a scratchbuilt one that will match better the model of Talyllyn.

Talyllyn is at present the only rigid framed locomotive on the model railway that has a trailing axle. The brass frames were narrowed at the rear end and the trailing wheels are able to move laterally and vertically, although the vertical movement is restricted by a light spring that holds the wheels down onto the track. Jackson's wheels are used again, 12mm for the drivers and 9mm on the trailing axle. Spoked inserts are fitted; filed up from brass discs. The first attempt at motorising this model involved the use of an Eggerbahn motor driving the rear axle through a train of watch wheels.

Running through Malcolm's distinctive 'real moss' scenery.

This was done to hide the motor as much as possible, but it was totally unsuccessful, so an immediate change was made to a K's Mk II driving the rear axle through the same unidentified gears used in Blanche and Charles. The model now runs very smoothly, slowly and quietly. The saddle tank, smokebox and firebox are made from sections of polystyrene syringes enlarged to the correct diameter with layers of Plasticard. The distinctive cab was laminated from four layers of 10 thou Plasticard. A little distortion has taken place which fortunately is only detectable on close examination. All fittings, including the buffers, were turned from brass. The buffers were turned by hand and uniformity was achieved by continually matching them against a template during the turning process. In the case of brass domes a lot of hand filing is necessary to form the flare and fit the dome to the boiler, but where the dome is painted I make the flare from solder. A disc of thin brass is shaped to fit the curve of the boiler exactly. This is then soldered to the bottom of the dome which has already been shaped but finished with straight sides.

Superstructure of Talyllyn is built from styrene sheet and sections.

A screwed rod is inserted into the previously drilled and tapped dome and is locked into place with a nut. Using the screwed rod as a mandrel the disc is turned to the correct diameter. Solder is then run around the join while slowly turning the workpiece by hand. By careful application of the solder very little filing is necessary to achieve the desired effect. Chimneys are treated in the same manner.

The coaches are of simple Plasticard construction. The two Brown Marshall coaches were built together but the Lancaster coach and the brake van, because of their different constructions, were built separately. Although not strictly correct I have used 4mm scale coach buffers for these vehicles. These four passenger vehicles and the two locomotives have been fitted with my usual chopper couplings even though the Talyllyn used side buffers and screw couplings. Slight variations in livery have been applied to the coaches which unfortunately are unseen at exhibitions because the lined sides face away from the public.

The fourteen Talyllyn wagons represent the largest number of vehicles that I have made in one batch. Built almost entirely from Plasticard, the only features worth mentioning are the laths of the slate wagons. Rather than try to drill holes through the thickness of each lath, each one was made in two halves. Parallel grooves were scribed across a sheet of 15 thou Plasticard at the correct pitch for the vertical rods. Parallel cuts were then made at right angles to the scribed lines and each piece was broken off to form half a lath. The strips were then welded face to face with Mek-Pak, so that the grooves formed holes. After being left to set each lath was cleaned up with a file so that the join became invisible. All the wagons are finished in light grey with black iron-work.

Dolgoch and freight train approaching the second bridge.