Bucks Hill

Sepia Postcard

My good friend David Lane put my name down to do a demonstration at the Railex 2011 two day event at the Stoke Mandeville stadium and went on to explain that during these ‘demos’ all you actually do is to chinwag all day and not get any work done at all!  So it was that Kevin Wilson & Chris Gates came and took an interest, as they had an idea to add a backdrop landscape to the fabulous Bucks Hill 7mm scale layout.  Kevin invited me to visit and have a look to see what could be done, and I gladly did just that as soon as I had finished the Spitfire wing commission.



The character station building, with some of the passengers reading while they wait. The quiet ambient sound loop provides atmosphere as the birds sing in the trees of Callow Hill Wood opposite the entrance. This section required quite a slim profile, and the meadow just visible between the road and the woodland had to be made nearly vertical.

My job was to produce quite a high painted landscape around and behind the existing undulating scenic surface of the layout.  Arranging a contour into the lower part of the panel allowed us to blend Kevin’s and Chris’ miles of existing scenery into the backdrop, thus avoiding any obvious transition from 3D model to 2D painting. To allow the backing to visually ‘work’ the panels needed to become extensions to the layout itself.  Each panel was to be supported on a welded steel frame, clipped to the layout baseboards with an 0.8mm thick aluminium sheet rivetted to it.  A few of the photographs are mine, but most are details taken from Barry Norman’s views.

Trees med res

The up line to the north east of Pontrilas has a row of lineside trees, and this is the sort of view you would have had briefly from a carriage window in the summertime. There are a good many more wooded areas at certain points along the lineside, and these were made of multi strand battery cable, superglued for strength. The foliage material was colour mixed very slightly different for each of the many trees that went onto the backscene near Kenderchurch.  The Golden Valley branch line can be seen diverting away from the main lines at this point, and I had a bit of room to play with alongside this slightly narrower section of the layout, just a pleasant place to relax and watch the trains go by. At Bucks Hill you never know what is coming along next, which is part of the fun.

Click to play a movie from the Railex exhibition at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.

The original footage is by Black & Deckerboy

Bucks Hill Yard

View of the yard entrance, with occupied sidings.


Many very fine visiting locomotives take occasional turns at Bucks Hill and here an L.M.S. Coronation class Streamlined pacific No 6244 ‘King George VI’ takes a turn. The locomotive had originally been ‘City of Leeds’ until 1941, when it was patriotically re-named. The streamlined casings with their ‘speed whisker’ lining were removed in 1946/7 bringing the class back to conventional appearance, but fitted with smoke deflectors. Richard Chetland.


Every detail of this railway is very carefully considered & studied, and so the landscape had to reflect the same level of attention. The middle distance and horizon wouldn’t really have looked convincing as an endless linear depiction of fields and old hedgerows, as this part of Herefordshire did show all the signs of a busy rural community in the 1930s. Typical features e.g. farms, roads, barns, etc had to be represented, but not in such a way that they attract any attention from the layout viewer.


A fine Brassmasters ‘City of Truro’ in monogram livery, with a rake of L.N.W.R. Carriages on the up main. Richard Chetland.


This inset view is the longest rear panel, with a village aspect, and a diffused light source on behind it, Chris’s forced perspective hedge in the foreground is done at about 6mm scale, and the layer behind that is again relatively smaller and so on. The far horizon is broken by the tree line in the centre which is probably something like 0.6mm scale. When you do backscenes in 3D, the reference images dictate the relative sizes of the relief models.


Un-named Brittania Pacific No 70047 rounds the down main, leaning slightly on the curve. Richard Chetland

Barrys view

The tiny stone hill church of St Mary at Kenderchurch on the backscene, with view blockers to either side. Even the backscene took up a serious amount of ground cover material, never mind the miles of it on the scale layout itself. The chapel survives to this day, and appears quite clearly on the horizon in many photographs of Pontrilas station at the turn of the last century.  Seen here through a gap between some of the larger trees, it had already started to disappear from view by the thirties. This representation was made in semi relief within a forced perspective grid.

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Dean Single No 3065 ‘Duke of Connaught piloting train engine 2-4-0 No 3242. Chris Nevard

Sweetie pie

An overview of the yard, with the main line platforms in the foreground. There is a fair bit of activity taking place, but the scene somehow still retains an air of stillness and quiet.  An open cab pannier buffers up to a van in the goods shed, the yard crane is in use loading a flat trailer, and a steam roller has arrived with a horse drawn water tank. The panels had to be very close to the model here because the width of the baseboards would overbalance the lighting supports.


Some stretches of the main lines to the east of Pontrilas are relatively featureless, others have more local interest. From Swindon’s third batch in 1932, No 5015 Kingswear Castle was allocated to Cardiff Canton during the early to mid thirties, moving to Shrewsbury in mid December 1938. Having just passed through the platforms onto the low embankment, this is the up main towards Hereford. The down main, and goods loop can be seen in the foreground. The model was built by Kevin, from a Malcolm Mitchell kit, with some JLTRT superdetailing components, full inside motion and a Ron Chaplin motor/g box with a Soundtraxx chip. The loco was painted & lined out by Dave Studley.

arm latest

Recently built by Kevin from an MOK kit, this Armstrong 4-4-0 was painted and lined by Alan Brackenborough. A study in sepia of one of the most elegant GWR designs just for the joy of it.

Barry B&W WOW

Re-numbered in the 1912 scheme, this curved frame Bulldog was built in 1900 as No 3343. With its combined name/number plate on the cabside, No 3331 “Pegasus” now has a No 2 taper boiler with Belpaire firebox, but retains its original Dean bogie. Built in the late nineties by Kevin from a Martin Finney kit, the loco has full inside motion and uses a Portescap/ABC combination. John Hayes painted and weathered this workhorse, which features Carl Legg etched cabside plates. At the head of the Cardiff Breakdown train, Pegasus has just entered the scenic section of Bucks Hill and is about to round the short curving embankment to the south west of the station. The tired looking post & wire fencing denotes the railway land boundary, as it winds its way around the tunnel mouth. A fixed distant arm guards the down main, and a tumbledown barn appears nearly surrounded by trees on the hillside behind.

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No 5818 was permanently on hand to run the daily branch line duties up and down the Golden Valley line until its eventual closure. The Collett 0-4-2T was built in August 1933 and arrived for work at Pontypool Road few months later. It soon became the favourite of the resident driver Charlie Smith who had a habit of taking photos of the day to day activity up and down the line with his black & white camera. The main lines are behind us in this view, and following the prototype, the trackbed of the branch diverted away a few yards to the north east of the signal box. It then rounded a curve at Kenderchurch to pass its own tiny corrugated sheet engine shed, and ‘The Dump’, a network of Royal Ordnance sidings, with the next station being Abbeydore a little over two miles to the north west. 5818 heads a typical hourly passenger service returning from Hay-on Wye, with it’s junction onto the Hereford to Brecon line. The model was built by Kevin in 2005 from a Modern Outline kit with the usual refinements of detail, using a Zimmo sound chip. John Hayes then applied his painting skills for the finishing touch.

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Heading home, a Churchward 43xx Mogul No 4318 crosses the occupation bridge on the down main heading for Abergavenny, to the south west. No 4318 was outshopped in October 1911 and by the mid thirties period it had been allocated to Ebbw Junction. The model was built and painted 10 years ago by John Hayes from a Malcolm Mitchell kit and uses an ABC/Maxon combination drive.


A Steam Roller, with a it’s horse drawn water tank is shunted into the yard at Bucks Hill.


The baseboard width at the station left us with a certain space limitation, but as the lines and sidings converge further along, we found a little more room for some backscene features. John Cooke’s ramshackle forge stands at the roadside, surrounded by the usual clutter of broken farm implements, buckets and bedsteads, William Prosser’s cart from nearby Kentchurch (not to be confused with Kenderchurch) is being repaired, while a sturdy ploughing horse is re shod at the post. The forge is fully detailed inside & out, the hearth glows red and all the tools are hung up around the walls.


A fine Drummond M7 class 0-4-4T with Westinghouse auto train equipment. Richard Chetland

Forge Cottage BW

Mrs Cooke was a dressmaker and the family of five lived in the little stone cottage alongside, with a climbing rose around the porch. were made from self adhesive labels, rolled up tight. Petals cut & eased out with the tip of a blade. A blob of superglue gel fixes the flower in position.

4 4 0 3405

Crossing the border!   A straight framed 1904 Dean Bulldog rounds the curve on the down main towards Abergavenny. No 3405 “Empire of India” has also had its parallel boiler replaced by a Swindon No 2. These were originally known as the ‘Camel’ class when outshopped, now with the later splasher mounted nameplate, and the number plate separate on the cabside. Within a few years, the 4-4-0 would be rebuilt as ‘Earl of Eldon’ No 3212 and sent to Oswestry with a larger 3500 gallon tender. Scratchbuilt in nickel silver by Tony Reynalds with fully detailed piston rods, crank axle and Stephenson inside motion, it appears in the un-lined early 1930s livery, gently weathered by Martyn Welch. This is one still in the queue to have a sound chip fitted. The short section of embankment is broken once by a small stone built occupation bridge, which is modelled as being permanently muddy underfoot as it would also have acted as a drainage culvert for the steeply sloping meadow behind the line.

2 8 0T

Llantrisant’s 4208 emerges from the gloom with Crocodile well wagons and Macaw B flats. The short haul 2-8-0T was completed at Swindon in February 1912, with nearly all the class set to work on the South Wales coal traffic. The trailing driving wheelsets were designed with sideplay, with spherical joints in the connecting rods allowing the movement. They earned the nickname ‘Water Carts’ because of their high consumption and small tanks, with very few of them straying east of Severn Tunnel Junction. The model was built by Kevin from a nickel silver David Andrews kit, an ABC/Maxon setup provides power via a soundtraxx chip and Ron Chaplin pickups.


A Churchward 57’ toplight seven compartment corridor third passes the down loop bracket signal on the up main. Hereford would have been the next stop for this train, the junction for Shrewsbury via Leominster to the north, and Worcester and the Midlands to the west. No 7745 was built by John Petcher using Trevor Charlton etched sides.

barry sepia sweetie

A clerestory brake third tails a mixed train at the down main platform. Some finely scratchbuilt detail here, with wooden fencing, and lamp post and Peter Brady figure.

Barry night owl BW

An express goods heads away north west, with the second of the nine 47xx 2-8-0s at the head. This was to be Churchward’s final design for the GW, and No 4701 began work in January 1922. With well over 30,000 lbs of tractive effort and a good turn of speed the class were equally at home with passenger duties. Often rostered on overnight long distance goods work, this fine looking class were soon nicknamed ‘night owls’. Bucks Hill’s resident example was built and painted by John Hayes from a Martin Finney kit using a Portescap/ABC drive, and a soundtraxx chip.