Port Dinorwic Micro Layout

It started with a pint…

It all started over a pint… I have been judging the Great Model Railway Challenge with Steve Flint, the editor of Railway Modeller, the largest circulation UK model railway magazine.

He asked me to do a series of articles on scenery etc and I was looking for the next theme for my YouTube videos so the two are fitting together perfectly!

I was planning to do a slate quarry layout next but that doesn’t have a huge variety of scenery so wouldn’t be best suited to a series of articles as well.  We talked about brickworks, potato or other industrial private railways but I still had my heart set on slate.  I started looking at Port Dinorwic, where the Dinorwic quarry shipped their slate abroad.  It’s a fascinating location.  What caught my attention was a photo with the 1ft 10 3/4′ narrow gauge crossing a standard gauge line – modelling heaven!


Further research entailed with help from Steve – he put me on to the 25″ to a mile Ordnance Survey maps held on line by the Scottish Library.  You can see the area I’m looking on here.  Thankfully I do have the plan as photos of Port Dinorwic, now Y Felinheli, are not that common.  I’ve picked up a lot of books in the last year but still not a huge amount of resources out there.  I’m planning a visit later in the year although there’s very little left apart from one building.  It’s a nice building to model though!

I have been reading Cameo Layouts by Iain Rice which has been inspirational.  I started drawing up plans on a track planning software but could not get it to fit in 4′ by 2′, the maximum I want to go to.  I decided to go in and purchased a Bachmann Jinty, sound chip and 4 shock wagons (thanks to Steve for identifying those in a picture).  I found a video which shows the last standard gauge train in Port Dinorwic – you can see it here – start at 10 minutes in. That is the era I’m going to try and capture – the end of the line so to speak.

Rolling Stock

I already had two Shapeways printed OO9 slate wagons.  Seeing the stock has made me feel much happier that I can fit everything that I want in.  Rather than relying on the computer, I’m going old school with laying it out on paper.

My first thoughts on buying my first ready to run UK models in 10 years is that the couplers are still a pain – they didn’t use anything like the Kadees I’m used to and no one seems to have nailed a really good UK option.  Thankfully this train will remain connected all the time as I won’t have space to put in any siding for it.

Also, US wagons normally come in multiple numbers but these are all the same so I’ll need to renumber them.  Some decals needed but at least Bachmann lettering comes off easily.

Doesn’t the Shapeways printed OO9 look titchy!  I can loads of those wagons in and have another 10 currently printing.  I’ve not got the wheels yet but am thinking of using double flanged so I might design and print those myself – I just don’t have time to design the whole slate wagon when this one looks so good and is relatively cheap.  I do have a Ruston and a Port Class Hunslet coming from Shapeways too with some eBay bought N-scale chassis.  Neither is spot on but in this scale, they’ll do for now.

The decoder is going to be a real challenge to fit in but comes with Jinty sounds pre-loaded from Digitrains.  They’ve already fitted a stay alive capacitor and speaker for me – what service!  Now I’ve just to get it in with perhaps a front lantern too!

The track is going to be a real challenge but more on that later.

Anyway, I’ve escaped tidying for long enough so back to cleaning out my layout room ready for a visitor, Charlie Conway from MRVP, next week.  I’ve just bought a tonne of boxes from Hobbycraft to put everything away in…

7 thoughts on “Port Dinorwic Micro Layout”

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this one, the port area is rarely modelled, although it has been in the back of my mind to try something at some date in the future after obtaining an 009 Penrhyn Port class loco a few months ago. That’s a long way ahead though.

    One word of advice, if the slate wagons you’re using are the TeBee “009 Dinorwic wooden slate wagons” (I can’t tell for certain from the picture), then I found that the recommended fox valley wheels had flanges which were too fine for such a small lightweight model. They repeatedly fell of the track, especially when shunting to the extent that they were unusable. I suspect they would be OK on a layout with gentle curves and minimal shunting, but not on my quarry layout which has frequent shunting and 9″ radius curves.

    I don’t have this problem with my other quarry stock which has wheels with deeper flanges. So I swapped all of the wheels on my Dinorwig wagons for the Atheann ATH90676 wheelsets, which fit perfectly have deeper flanges and are far less prone to jumping off the track. The Shapeways listing was updated by TeBee to list these wheels as an alternative after my experiences, but that was only a few weeks ago so you might have missed this.

  2. Tim

    Thanks for that great advice. I’m undecided on the wheels so you comment was really helpful.

    I’m actually wondering about using double flange wheels.

    The port trackage is probably going to be Peco OO9 track but I might do the stub points that the prototype has. If I do that, I’ll need to use pivoting frogs which is interesting to model. All quite small in OO9!

    I’m still weighing up weighting the empties and couplers.

    Port Penrhyn is another fascinating area. Hopefully you’ll get there soon.


    1. Tim

      One further thought on wheels. These wagons didn’t have through axles. I’d forgotten that but they had to fit over the transporter car wheels so have these little stubby axles. Hard in OO9!


  3. Two articles you might want to find, firstly Model railway Journal No. 37 from 1990 has an article on Pete Wilson’s 4mm scale, 8mm gauge masterpiece which was based on the Dinorwig quarry, he had working stub points, so clearly it can be done. I met Pete at ExpoNG in 2016, he was exhibiting an 0-16.5 micro quarry layout with a single working stub point. Sadly, he told me that very little of his big 4mm scale layout remained, but it was still fascinating to discuss.

    The second source that might be of use is an MRC article from 1967, “Modelling Padarn and Pehrhyn”, there is a PDF of this available here: http://www.jaggers-heritage.com/resources/MRC%201967%20Padarn%20%26%20Penrhyn%20article.pdf . There is a good diagram of a stub point at the end of the article and lots of other useful information.

    Good luck if you give the stub points a go, I thought about trying to make some (or a single bladed point) to go at the bottom of one of my incline models, but in the end I 3D printed a transfer table, which was approximately based on the one used for the restored Vivian incline.

    1. Hi Tim

      I’d found the Jaggers article online which is what had triggered the stub points thoughts. I’ve not seen the other article so will have a search for it. Thank you.

      I’ve done stub points a couple of times before but in On30. They’re easy enough to do and I used frog juicers to throw the frog on my last attempt. These have pivoting frogs which are more of an engineering conundrum but the real thing uses point rodding so I will too. OO9 is going to be a real challenge!

      The real challenge is the portable rail crossing that they use to get the narrow gauge over the standard gauge. Hmmm. More pivoting rails perhaps.

      I’d love to see how your 3D printed transfer table turned out.


  4. I’ll look forward to the 009 stub point, it sounds like you’re already well on the way to having that worked out.

    There is a picture of my “No. 2 Incline” with transfer table on my personal website (http://www.my-place.org.uk/mymodels/bryn-tegid/), but it doesn’t show the transfer table close up. The entire incline design was a retro-fit since I moved the incline model that was intended for the space to my quarry layout and built something different instead. The transfer table is a basic design which was aimed at making something which could operate like the original (if I’m feeling very enthusiastic) rather than being a fine detail model of the actual thing. I’m going to be building a second “copy” at some point for a permanent public display, that will probably have some more realistic features added since the transfer table will be static.

    Bryn Tegid is due for a “photoshoot” at some point soon, it’s had a lot of work done since the current set of pictures were uploaded. I’ve already re-shot Chwarel Tegid, but Bryn Tegid is currently packed away will have to wait.

    Bryn Tegid will be at the 009 West Midlands group show on 18th August and Statfold Barn on 8th September if you want to see the No. 2 incline in person.

    I had a (very hot) walk around the upper levels of the Dinorwig quarries last weekend, primarily to investigate how the Blondins worked at the top (which has never been properly documented). However, there are still quite a few stub points in place in various states of disrepair. Most were buried in the turf, but there was one that was fully visible and almost complete. The main feature I noted was that it was built using steel sleepers and flat bottom rails as a complete unit, just like full size set track. Whether they were all like that, I can’t say, the turf obscured the detail of the others. Some parts of the quarry were using chaired rail, but I don’t recall if any of the other exactant points had chaired rail. Of course the port might have been different since there was less need for track to be easily moveable.

    1. Tim

      There’s so much to work out still on the stub turnouts from motors to frogs. Still mulling it all over.

      Thanks for the link to your layout. Lovely! I was at Stafold in April so won’t be back again this year. I’ll have to see whether I can fit the 18th in.

      Thanks for the info on the stub turnouts. The port has some slight differences in its own turnouts so nothing is simple!

      I found a great diagram on how a blinding works in one of my books. I think that will be a major feature on my 16mm micro layout. OO9 is just too small!



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