009 Exhibition layout by Richard Holder

A brief background story of Launceston Steam Railway

Railways have been operating in Launceston since 1865. Originally there were two stations, one operated by the Great Western Railway and the other by the London and South Western Railway. Although the stations were adjacent to each other, the lines were quite separate until a connection was made during the Second World War. Many towns across the UK, including Launceston, lost their railways in the 1960’s as a result of Dr Beeching’s  ‘Axe’, but in 1983, Nigel and Kay Bowman opened a narrow gauge line on part of the original standard gauge track-bed..

In the 1970’s Nigel had a dream to build and run his own railway. The full story of the development of the railway is told on a charming DVD available from the Launceston Steam Railway (LSR) shop, entitled “Building a Dream”. There is also a full description of the building of the railway on the LSR website –

Nigel visited the North Wales Penryn Slate Quarry in 1963 and discovered the narrow gauge Hunslet loco “LILIAN” in a line of derelict engines waiting to be scrapped. He managesd to buy the loco for only £60.

Over time, Nigel gradually restored the engine to working order and bought a section of the standard gauge track-bed at Launceston and the site of an old gas works where their station now operates. The site of one of the original stations is on the far side of the road bridge where the LSR car-park now stands. The redundant shunting yard and track bed was developed into a business park. Starting in Launceston, both Kay and Nigel began building the narrow gauge line heading west. The original rails and sleepers were sourced from a quarry on the coast of Anglesey, but later more were bought from the Royal Naval Armaments Depot (R.N.A.D.) at Saltash that was closing. After building a simple coach in the workshops they were ready to open to the public in 1983 with half a mile of track. They now have two and a half miles of track, extensive workshops, a station building, café, museum and shop. They would like to extend the line as far as Egloskerry, but there are still some difficulties to overcome.

Since 1983, the number of locomotives at Launceston has increased. “COVERTCOAT”, another Quarry Hunslet, arrived in 1984. Nigel and Kay’s friend James Evans  bought his own Quarry Hunslet named “VELINHELI” to the LSR where it still operates. James has commented that  “The track has been here for 28 years, but it looks as been here for 100 years. Many holiday makers who visit the railway find it hard to believe that you used to be able to travel through here on a direct train from London.” Tenders for “LILIAN” and “COVERTCOAT” were constructed by Nigel and Kay in their extensive workshops at the railway.

In recent years Kay also bought and restored her own engine from a completely derelict state. Now “DOROTHEA” is the fourth loco that regularly operates at the railway.

There are four carriages, all built at Launceston. They regularly carry passengers along the Kelsey Valley to the present terminus at New Mills, where there is a farm park and a children’s play area. It is also a good starting point for walks.

Paul Lewin, General Manager of the Ffestiniog Railway commented, “I have the privilege of being allowed to drive the engines at Launceston and so I have been involved in their operation. It is wonderful. They have created an atmosphere there that is one couple’s vision of what the railway should be, and it’s fantastic. They have recreated a scene, particularly the little ramp going up into the engine shed, which is always a bit overgrown and then there is the rambling rose climbing over the LAUNCESTON sign. It really is something quite special.”

The model

I have regularly visited Launceston Steam Railway for several years, so when I was considering what I should build for my next 009 exhibition layout, it was not a difficult decision. Once I had spoken to Nigel and Kay and explained what I was hoping to do, they were so welcoming and helpful. I was taken up the line on the footplate of “COVERTCOAT” at my next visit and given permission to photograph and measure structures and rolling stock.

We were moving house in 2015, and although I usually start with the baseboards when building a new layout, it was better to start by building the locos, followed by rolling stock and buildings. I started the baseboards and track-laying once we were settled in our new home in Somerset.

Whilst I greatly admire those modellers who aim to create an exact scale model of an actual location, I aim to create a likeness that may not be accurate in every detail, but I hope it is immediately recognisable to those who know Launceston station and the immediate surroundings.


The first loco I built was “COVERTCOAT”. This is an adapted Brian Madge kit, partly brass etch with some white metal parts. This is a small loco, as they all are, and required a great deal of patience to construct, since so many of the parts are tiny. The loco is just 5cm long and 2.3cm wide. The motor is cleverly concealed inside the tank. The tiny 3-pole motors do not have much torque at low speed, but can be run at a high speed. High gear ratios are used to achieve useable torque at low running speed. Brian provides belt drives in his kits which were designed and developed by Nigel Lawton. The loco has been adapted from a kit for “BRITOMART”, which is based at the Ffestiniog Railway. The kit was available at the Ffestiniog Shop at Harbour Station in Porthmadog. “BRITOMART” has a full cab but the cab sides are a close match to those on “COVERTCOAT”, so it was a good starting point for my model. I created a tender from brass sheet mounted on a Parkside Dundas bogie chassis. The loco and tender were hand-painted and lined using decals from Fox Transfers.

I then progressed to “DOROTHEA”. This was another Brian Madge kit, built following the instructions. The full-size loco has now been lined out in red and white, but I have modelled it in the condition it first entered service in 2012. “VELINHELI” was next, again built from the Brian Madge set of parts. I gave a lot of thought to the model of “LILIAN” as I could not see how I could adapt the basic Madge kit as this is a slightly larger engine with a lowered footplate. However, after contacting Brian Madge, he told me that he was hoping to release a kit of the Port Class Hunslet at some time in the future. He was able to provide me with a set of parts that could be used as a basis for the model.  This was a rather more of a challenging process, but I am pleased with the result. I created a tender using the same techniques as those used with “COVERTCOAT”. All four locos were finished using name and works plates commissioned from Narrow Planet.

Nigel built a heavy duty inspection trolley, constructed on the chassis of a Baguley open carriage (ex. Alton Towers) in 2004. It is named “THE DILLY”. Originally powered by a portable generator, a Kubota engine was delivered and fitted in the Autumn of 2004. “THE DILLY” was built so it can provide a power source for use on the railway away from mains power – this enables welding and other maintenance tasks to be achieved more easily than before. My model “DILLY” was built using bits and pieces and spare parts from other kits. It is not powered but I have paired it up with a little van which has a motorised chassis which I picked up from The 009 Society Sales Stand at a Group Open Day.

Coaches and other rolling stock

The open coach, No.1, was mainly scratch built, but I did use some parts from the Parkside Dundas kit of the Welsh Highland Railway ‘Bro Madog Eisteddfod’ Bogie Coach. It is not an accurate model of the original which Nigel built at the LSR, which was based on a Manx Electric Railway trailer car of 1893, but I created a reasonable likeness. Nigel and Kay seemed to think so when I showed them.

Carriage No. 67 is a replica of the carriage that once ran on the Torrington & Marland 3′ gauge railway in Devon. It was originally a four wheeled carriage, but now runs on a pair of bogies. I created a model to resemble this  using a Worsley Works scratch aid brass etch of a Reading tram  that ran on my model of the Wantage Tramway (the subject of my second exhibition layout – see Railway Modeller September 2013.) The roof and floor were extended and some specially etched railings were produced for me in brass by Narrow Planet. Each of these coaches runs on a Kato N-Gauge bogie freight chassis.

The larger enclosed coach was always going to be quite a challenge. Nigel built the original in the workshops at the railway. Carriage No. 4 is a replica of the closed coach that ran on the Plynlimon & Hafan Tramway, and entered service on the LSR at the end of 1993. I considered scratch-building a model of this carriage, but in the end decided it was too demanding for my skills.  I had written to Nigel to enquire about any scale drawings that he used for his construction. I was surprised by his reply. He told me that he had used only the sketches and photos that were in E.A.Wade’s book on the Plynlimon and Hafan Tramway. I obtained a copy of the book from an online retailer, and I approached Allen Doherty at Worsley Works to see if he would be able and willing to create a brass etch in 4mm scale using the same photos and drawings from the book. I was delighted that Allen agreed, and soon the finished etches arrived by post. The body was soldered together and I used the seats from the Parkside Dundas Welsh Highland Railway ‘Bro Madog Eisteddfod’ Bogie Coach kit for the interior. These were not used in the model of coach No.1. I simplified the lining on the coach sides using water-slide decals from Fox Transfers. Handrails were created from brass wire.

The only other coach to be modelled was Carriage No. 3. The full size coach was built at the LSR along the same lines as carriage No. 1 but incorporated modifications to improve the design. Rather than spend time scratch-building a second open coach, I decided to cheat and used a modified 3D print of a Manx Electric Tramcar available from CWR Railways. The resulting model is not a perfect replica of Launceston’s Carriage No. 3, but as it sits at the end of the line most of the time, and is only used at busy periods when all four coaches are required, I am quite happy to live with it.

Nigel and Kay use a mini-excavator for various maintenance jobs at the LSR. When I visited in 2014, the excavator was standing on a pair of flat-bed wagons outside the small engine shed. I decided to recreate this little scene and I have made a model using two of the RNAD wagon kits produced by the 009 Society and a Wiking HO scale mini excavator, which I have detailed and repainted. It is not an exact scale model of the LSR JCB, but provides a reasonable representation.

Another rather unusual item of rolling stock that Nigel built at the LSR is a old slate wagon that has been converted into a mobile scaffolding tower. This is used for tree cutting and other jobs along the line where it is necessary to reach up high. Nigel’s was built using a complex wooden frame which supports the platform. The edge of the platform is surrounded by safety rails. The model is based on a 3-ton slate wagon available from Parkside Dundas, with added wooden strip, brass sheet and wire. It is coupled to a Hudson wooden-sided wagon, also available from Parkside.

There are many other items of rolling stock around the site at Launceston, including a number of R.N.A.D. vans. The 009 Society recently produced some exclusive kits of this prototype, so I have built two in restored condition and one in derelict condition. There are several slate wagons of various kinds; a Simplex and a vertical boiler loco “PERSEVERANCE” and an Electric Dilly!  Nigel is currently building a railcar that can be used in the winter so that the season may be extended for visitors. Their aim is to produce a railcar and control trailer to provides comfortable, heated accommodation for out of season passengers. The development of the railcar is now progressing well. By the time you read this, it may well be running up and down the line, but it will never replace the usual steam hauled trains that run regularly during the spring, summer and autumn seasons when the line is open to visitors.

There will be many opportunities to add more items to the complete layout as Nigel and Kay keep expanding the stock at Launceston.

The red and black Austin 7, parked near the entrance to the museum, is a model of the car owned by the friend of Nigel’s who regularly acts as guard on the trains. He uses it to commute daily from his home in Bodmin. You will often see it parked in this position if you visit the site.

Buildings and scenery

The buildings have been built using mainly card or foam board with plastic or etched brass windows and doors. For the first time, I used “Redutex” self-adhesive embossed sheets for a number of surfaces, including brick, stone, tiles, corrugated iron, etc. The sheets are quite expensive, but they are easy to use. They are all pre-coloured reducing the amount of painting required, although I have weathered most of the surfaces. The station canopy is an adapted Wills kit with supports from Langley Models. The interesting two-storey building near the road overbridge at the end of the line, with the wooden planked upper storey and the corrugated iron roof, may soon only be in existence in model form. When I visited the site in November 2016 to take a few more photographs, I noticed that there was a planning notice attached to the building, stating that it was to be partially demolished and replaced by two houses.

The ground has been built up using Celotex. This is an insulation material used in the building trade. It is light-weight and very easy to cut with a kitchen knife, does not make the same mess as polystyrene, and can be stuck down with simple PVA glue. Ground cover is a mixture of static grass from Green Scene, and various scatter materials from a number of different manufacturers. Trees and bushes are mainly built from Woodland Scenics materials. Other greenery was obtained from the Polish manufacturer Polak.

There are a few essential compromises regarding the position and size of some of the buildings. For example, the old gas works office, which is now houses the visitors’ toilets, has been placed a little further away from the café to avoid the building straddling a baseboard joint. I have greatly reduced the width of the large engine shed at the top of the ramp (known as “Toad Hall” at the LSR), in order to fit it onto the width of the baseboard. I have also slightly changed the layout of the track leading up to the engine shed/workshop for the same reason. The stone wall that separates the 3D modelling from the back-scene near ‘Toad Hall’ is also not an accurate depiction of the real location.

The LSR continues to develop and change. The small engine shed was extended during the winter of 2016/7, but I have modelled it in its original condition.

I have used Peco Mainline track and a selection of Peco 009 points, some ‘mainline’, but the majority are the live frog 12 inch radius types. Seep Point motors are used, powered from a Gaugemaster Capacitor Discharge unit. All point motors are wired to include a frog polarity switch so that I do not have to rely on the point blades to conduct current. All the rolling stock is fitted with Greenwich couplings with a ‘loop’ at one end only. Automatic uncoupling is achieved by using electromagnets fitted below the baseboard which were obtained from Gaugemaster.

A photographic back-scene, produced by Art has been used with some of my own photos taken on site superimposed on top. This may not be an ideal solution, so may, one day, be replaced by a more appropriate scene photographed in the area.

On all my previous layouts I have built the base-boards from scratch using mainly plywood with softwood frames. This time I decided to save time and obtained kits of baseboard parts produced by Model Railway Solutions of Poole, Dorset. I found the staff there very helpful and the kit of baseboard parts were very accurately cut and easy to assemble. There are four 4 foot by 2ft boards arranged in an L-shape.


I would like to thank Nigel and Kay Bowman who have been very helpful over a number of years as the layout has progressed. If you are a fan of narrow gauge, you must make an effort to visit this charming little railway. I would also like to thank my wife Linda who is always supportive and encouraging. She helped by making the baseboard curtains for the layout, as she has done for both of my previous exhibition layouts. She also helped me by editing and proof-reading this article.

Launceston made its first exhibition appearance at Narrow Gauge South West at Shepton Mallet on 18 February. The layout performed really well and was enthusiastically welcomed by the many visitors. It is already booked for a number of exhibitions, including the Warley Club’s event at the NEC in November of this year.

More photos and videos of this layout and my other exhibition layouts can be found at Many thanks to Stuart Taylor, a friend and fellow OO9 Society member, for the construction and maintenance of the website.

It is an exciting time to model 009 with a number of manufacturers including Peco, Heljan and Bachmann, producing some high quality ready-to-run stock. I would recommend anyone who is considering modelling in this scale to join the OO9 Society. I have been a member for a number of years and through the Society and their Area Groups, I have made many new friends and learned so much from fellow modellers. Their website address is included below.


Useful Websites:

The OO9 Society :

Launceston Steam Railway:

Worsley Works scratch aid brass etches:

Brian Madge Kits:

Nigel Lawton 009 kits :

Narrow Planet –

The Ffestiniog Railway Shop –

Baseboards –

Back-scenes –

Water-slide transfers –

Useful reference books:

The Pynlimon and Hafod Tramway by E.A.Wade,
published by Twelveheads Press – ISBN 090629438 – X

Quarry Hunslets of North Wales by Cliff Thomas,
published by The Oakwood Press – ISBN 0-85361-575 – 6