Here’s a plan for one of the most enjoyable layouts I’ve built.
It’s 009/H0e layout that fits in a 6×2′ space (N gauge would also work on this size baseboard) and features an oval design, allowing for continuous running while also offering interesting shunting possibilities. The layout is based on a real narrow gauge railway and features six points (excluding the fiddle yard area) and uses first radius curves. These will be fine for the short locos and wagons used on narrow gauge railways but longer rolling stock may struggle with the right curves. In 2018/19, I built a layout using a close variant of this plan, and it remains one of my and my youngest son’s favourite layouts to this day.”
The plan is based on the single-track narrow gauge Pentewan and St Austell railway in Cornwall.
This railway followed the course of the St Austell River for roughly 4 miles from its mouth at Pentewan to St Austell town, carrying goods to and from mines in the hills above St Austell to ships in the harbour for onward transportation.
Although based on a real location and featuring landmarks and recognisable structures of the area – such as the harbour, St Austell River, engine shed and bridge/sluice gate (versions of which still exist to this day), I’ve taken some liberties.
Most notably, in my version, which was designed using Peco 009 track, I added a fictional half-station to the village that never existed in reality. There are documented stories of children from St Austell being taken by train on day trips to the lovely sandy beach at Pentewan. Moreover, Pentewan itself is a reasonably sized village with a pub, church, and shops, so it is not far-fetched to believe that a station could have existed if the line had continued in operation.
The core of the layout could be constructed as an end-to-end arrangement, suitable for a shelf or mini layout built using modular baseboards. However, for operating enjoyment, I designed it as an oval layout to allow for continuous operation. The rear of the oval (including the fiddle yard) and both ends are hidden behind a back scene at the rear and right-hand side, with hills on the left.
This results in another difference between the prototype and this plan, with a line running between the engine shed and the harbour siding on the left, as seen in the photo above. This addition did not exist in the prototype, but I included it so that trains can run around the oval.
Pentewan and this plan provide some interesting and varied modelling opportunities with hills, rivers, harbours, cottages and railway buildings all present. The village and harbour still exist and can be used as references, as does the sluice gate bridge through which ships would have passed on their way to the sea. Another sluice gate, which regulated the water supply from the river to the harbour, also still exists—it is now located on the edge of a nearby holiday park. There are also occasional remnants of rails visible throughout the area, as well as an engine shed, although these likely belong to later versions of the railway.
One fascinating aspect of the prototype railway is that the siding parallel to the harbour was raised on trestles to facilitate the loading and unloading of ships. Although I didn’t recreate this on my layout, it would be an interesting addition.
On the version I built, I kept the hills on the left, leading up to St Austell, simple with static grass laid down over gentle slopes but a tin mine could be credibly placed there.
Unfortunately, the layout I built based on this plan was dismantled when I moved houses a few years later but I still look back on it as one of the most enjoyable and will one day have a second bash at it. In the meantime, if you build a layout based on this plan or your own interpretation of Pentewan I’d love to hear about it.Subscribe to my free email newsletter for more track plans and inspiring layout ideas, plus the latest model train news and exclusive tips, tutorials and guides. It's free, you can unsubscribe at any point and i promise never to sell your information. Click here to subscribe now.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.