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Railway Modeller 


Railway of the Month

In the current February 2007 issue of Railway Modeller, the Railway of the Month is:

Weston-super-Mare WC&PR

Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway in 4mm scale EM gauge

This model of the Somerset Stephens outpost was built and described by ANDREW ULLYOTT.

Manning Wardle O-6-OT 'Weston' about to take on
water at Weston. The engine was scratchbuilt.

I have lived in Weston-super-Mare for most of my life and have always had an interest in local history, particularly concerning railways. When a few years back I decided to build an exhibition layout, I was determined to find an interesting local subject to model. The answer lay in the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway or WC&PR. This was a delightful little light railway that traversed the north Somerset countryside along the Bristol Channel coast between 1897 and 1940.

Now, mention the line to most people and it’s only a matter of time before its initials WC&P raise a smile. If the initials weren’t enough, some of the tales associated with it are infamous. By far the best known concerns a lady at Weston’s main GWR station who asked a porter for the fastest way to Clevedon. When the porter suggested that she try the WC&P, she reportedly hit him with her umbrella.

At first glance, the need for a line between the three towns seems unnecessary, as each was served by a branch from the main Bristol & Exeter Railway (later the Great Western and British Railways). Although each town was rail-connected, it still meant that anyone wishing to travel between the towns needed to make a lengthy inland detour and hange trains. The solution to this problem and the origins of the WC&PR was the Weston & Clevedon Tramway, which opened in 1897.

The original intent was to run from Weston seafront through the town’s streets and then across the sparsely-populated Somerset countryside to Clevedon, but a dispute with the local council caused the abandonment of street running and theWeston terminus to be built a mile inland at the junction of Milton Road and Ashcombe Road. Thetramway converted to a ‘Light Railway’ in 1899 andextended to Portishead in 1907, primarily to tap into the lucrative stone quarry traffic in the Gordano Valley.

The line was built on a shoestring and lost money from the start. Consequently, it spent most of its working life in the hands of the receivers and in 1911, they appointed one Colonel H.F. Stephens, with whom the line is most associated, as General Manager.

Despite the Colonel’s best efforts and those of his successorBill Austin, the fortunes of the line steadily declined and the receivers finally pulled the plug, the last passenger train running on 18 May 1940. It passed into the ownership of the GWR which used it to store coal wagons for a short time, but the cost of upgrading the infrastructure was prohibitively expensive and it was closed permanently in September of that year. Two of the line’s locos, both ‘Terriers’, passed into GWR ownership.

The fortunes of the towns’ former GWR branches have varied: Weston’s development as a major Victorian seaside resort saw its branch replaced with a loop line in 1887 which remains in use today. Clevedon’s branch closed in 1966 as did that to Portishead in 1973, though part of it remains in use for freight traffic to the docks at Portbury. Hopefully one day this will be extended into the town itself.

An in-depth biography of Colonel Stephens and his other railways is outside the remit of this article, but further details can be obtained from the Colonel Stephens Society, the website of which is:  

Additionally, there is a very good website devoted to theWC&P (and with which the author has no connection) at:

Layout planning
I chose to depict the Ashcombe Road terminus in Weston-super-Mare as it was in about 1935-6 before the south side of the line was developed. This period would enable me to run my favourite stock in combination and use the buildings in Milton Road behind as a natural backdrop. Checking 1:1250 scalemaps, I found that I could fit the station into a 12' x 2' footprint at 4mm scale by compressing the depth slightly but keeping the model to scale length.

I mentioned that the line was built on a shoestring and this is typified by the track. The WC&P initially used untreated half-round sleepers to save money, but these soon rotted and had to be replaced before the line opened. The solution was certainly innovative. Every third sleeper was conventional, whilst the two intermediate sleepers were replaced with a concrete pot with a wooden insert, rail being spiked rather than chaired in all cases.

I could not see the point of scratchbuilding track (and stock for that matter) in 16.5mm(00) gauge and didn’t trust myself to work to the perceived tighter tolerances of P4 (18.83mm) so chose EM (18.2mm) instead. I think I made the right choice at the time. After all, it’s my hobby, so I’ll do it my way thank you very much. As far as I see it, everybody has to compromise at some point in the process; it’s just a question of when.

You can get the same things wrong in coarse or fine scale, in 00, EM or P4. If it’s not quartered correctly, or aligned accurately, it won’t work properly regardless of how far apart or what profile the wheels are.

There is a great deal of information out there to help you make your models as accurately as you want to. I joined both the EM Gauge and Scale four societies, together with the Colonel Stephens Society and all have proved invaluable for prototype and line information.

I used an 8mm thick camping mat as a track base and to replicate the lightweight trackwork, used code 60 flat-bottomed Peco rail soldered to copper-clad sleepers/concrete pots. It was ballasted with granulated cork stuck down with PVA and has remained flexible. Conventional wiring and Tortoise point motors are used throughout and operation is via a hand-held Gaugemaster controller.

The layout is bordered on three sides by buildings. With the exception of the station building, all prototypes are still there today, soI was able to measure accurately each building for the layout. I used card as the shell for buildings generally, though thin ply was used for the station master’s house near the front of the layout. Brickwork is representedby Slater’s plasticard and the local limestone by DAS, thinly applied and scribed when dry to represent the random pattern.

Thankfully, the back of the buildings are a lot simpler than the fronts, which I decided not to model, though the two terraces have unusual reverse-hipped extensions which attract a lot of comments at exhibitions. Mostof the buildings use Wills pantiles and all buildings are bedded into the layout, thosewhich span baseboard joints being removable.

Buy this month's RM for a complete track layout and approx. ten detailed photographs.

Manning Wardle O-6-OT 'Weston' is powered by a
Mashima 1015 motor and flywheel.

Scenery also follows principles laid down by Barry Norman in his book; the field to the front of the layout is dyed surgical lint glued on to a painted foamboard base and then ripped up when dry. Patches of nettles and other weeds from Woodland Scenics add to the overall effect and finish the job off. The rhyne opposite the goods yard is Perspex with the underside painted a greeny/brown and has a pollarded willow on the bank. These are typical on the Somerset Levels and mine was made from strands of unwound fencing wire. Other trees are Sea Moss and scatterfrom Green Scene.

I deliberately didn’t model gardens in detail as I decided that it could not be seen from two feet away so I wouldn’t bother withevery last detail. Scatterings of Woodland/Green Scene foam and scatter provide an acceptable compromise for the time being.

Walls are either scribed DAS as per the buildings or Slater’s Plastikard, whilst fencing is scratchbuilt from Evergreen strip and fishing line.

Signals are from MSE, located with the aid of photographs though I am not sure that they were ever used beyond the original Board of Trade inspections. Point and signal rodding is from the Brassmasters etch whilst ground frames are scratchbuilt.

One of the charms of modelling light railways is the diverse nature of the rolling stock. However eclectic, there is one common thread; everything is so darn small. There is little proprietary stock for WC&P fans so scratchbuilding is the norm. I use Alex Jackson couplings as standard and find that they are reliable and virtually invisible.

2-4-0T No.1 Clevedon
The prototype was built by Dübs in Glasgow in 1879 for the Jersey Railway as The General Don. Bought in 1901 by the WC&P, it was fitted with a new cab by Avonside of Bristolin 1906 and refurbished in 1935 to a ‘midgreen’ livery. Never popular with the crews, the engine was mainly used for lightly loaded trains.

Like most of the WC&P’s stock, it is small which creates ‘challenges’ when trying to motorise. The chassis was scratchbuilt innickel silver whilst the bodywork is brass. Like most of my models, it took several attempts with stuttering forward and backward steps before it was completed. The chassis uses conventional Alan Gibson sprung horn blocks with a Mashima 9/16open-frame motor and Branchlines flywheel driving Sharman wheels through a 38:1 slim-line Branchlines motor mount. Troublesome running has seen the rear suspension soldered rigid.

With such a short wheelbase, the enginedoes not have spectacular hauling properties despite the lead crammed into the boiler butI like to think of the engine’s performance as prototypical rather than a defective result of my modelling abilities.

Some of the fittings are proprietary parts whilst the chimney and dome were turned for me by the late Bob Haskins.

A1X ‘Terrier’ 0-6-0T No.2 Portishead
The prototype was built in 1877 for the LBSCR as No.43 Gypsyhill. It was bought from the Southern Railway by the WC&P in 1925 to solve a motive power crisis at the time and remained on the line until closure in 1940. Itwas sold to the GWR which refurbished it, giving it No.5. It was used on the WC&P itself until September 1940, then as works shunter at Swindon and at Bridgwater until 1954. This was the first engine built for the layout; unsurprising since the body is Hornby. However, the body is wrong for the A1X and was modified with new splashers formed from plasticard. Like most of my engines, the final chassisis not the original. The first was a Perseverance chassis that I just could not get to work and met a grisly end one Sunday afternoon. The second was a more successful Branchlines effort and drives Gibson wheels through a High Level 108:1 Loadhauler gearbox.

0-6-0T No.3 Weston
This engine was built by Manning Wardle as a Class M in 1881, works number 731 for J.M. Smith of Bury. It saw subsequent service with Gabbutt & Owen of Huddersfield, the Yniscedwyn Colliery, and the Burry Port & Gwendraeth Railway before ending up at theAvonside Engineering Company in 1904. The loco was overhauled and fitted with an enlarged cab and an extended saddle tank and sold to the WC&PR in 1905. It was subsequently modified in the 1920s byPeckett of Bristol which moved the rear spectacle plate forward and fitted coal rails. It originally ran as an 0-4-2 with the rearcoupling rods removed to work the exchange siding at Clevedon. One of the better running engines, it was described as seriously ‘on the jiggle’ in the mid 1930s and was scrapped on closure of the line in 1940. LikeClevedon, this engine is scratchbuilt in nickel silver and brass, but with twin-beam compensation on the front two axles. A Mashima 1015 motor and flywheel drive the Gibson wheels through a High Level Loadhauler gearbox.

2-4-0T No.4 Hesperus
Built by Sharp Stewart in 1876 for theWatlington & Princes Risborough Railway ,it was acquired by the GWR and ran as No.1384 on the Culm Valley and Wrington Valelines. Bought in 1911 by the WC&P, she ran until withdrawal in 1937. The engine was involved in an incident in 1934 when abridge on the Wick St Lawrence wharf branch collapsed under the engine whilstshunting. Peter K produced a kit for this loco a few years ago. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of a complete kit so had to supply a few parts of my own to complete it. The chassis iscompensated as designed and is driven by a Mashima 1220 and flywheel through a High Level Loadhauler 108:1 gearbox.

Railcar No.1
The small railcar was built by the Drewry Car Co in 1921 specifically for the WC&P andhad a 30hp Baguley water-cooled engine.Itran extensively between Weston andClevedon offering an economical fuel consumption of 16 miles/gallon. The passenger capacity was only 30 persons so a trailer was purchased from Drewry in 1923 to provide additional 24 person capacity. It was also used to haul a milk trailer constructed by Cranes. It had three forward gears giving top speeds of 5/10/25 mph respectively and had a whistle driven through the engine exhaust which reputedly sounded like a 1970s trimphone. It had a roof rack for luggage accessed via a ladder at either end. The petrol tank was originally inside the passenger compartment but following problems with fumes (!), was moved externally and fitted over the buffer headstock. The railcar is a particular favourite because it looks like nothing else I’ve ever seen and attracts a lot of comments and smirks at exhibitions.

The railcar body was fretted out from a single sheet of nickel silver and folded up into a lidless box shape, before adding the roof. Panelling is from microstrip plasticard, stuck on with cyano. Motorising caused afew problems, since the prototype only had 2' diameter wheels and had no under-slung equipment behind which I could hide a motor. Sharman does an 8mm wheel and Branchlines a rather nifty 34:1 two-stage gearbox, designed for trams I believe. The final gear is small enough to fit on the axleand is driven through a layshaft with a neoprene joint from a Mashima 1015 motor and flywheel in the railcar body. Flat out, the railcar crawls along and makes a lovely racket. The front of the gearbox is hidden behind the large radiator grille whilst the small motor sits below the window.

The railcar’s trailer is manufactured in much the same way. I could not for the life of me find a way to fit Alex Jackson couplings so the railcar and trailer use screw-links.

Railcar No.5
The large railcar was built for the Southern Railway in 1928 by the Drewry Car Company and ran on a number of lines; Andover to Romsey, Reading to Blackwater, Appledore to New Romney/Dungeness and Fareham to Gosport. It was bought in 1934 by the WC&P, following the success of the small railcar. It had a 64hp Parsons M4 engine, a seating capacity of 26 and a separate luggage compartment.

The model was the first piece of rolling stock built for the layout and is an off-the-shelf Falcon Brass kit. It is motorised asinstructed through a Mashima open-framed9/16 motor sitting vertically in the luggage compartment. I compensated the non-driven axle using an inside bearing MJT wagon unit and added the plethora of pipes and control rods from brass.

Muir-Hill Tractor
Looking like a chicken shed on wheels, this oddity was essentially a Fordson tractor, built by Muir-Hill Service Equipment in 1926 as No.A137. It had solid 40" wheels and arrived cabless, this being purpose-built at Clevedon by one of the line’s fitters. The tractor only weighed 4 tons but had a haulage capacity of 75 tons. It was used to shunt wagons on the Wick St Lawrence wharf branch. The cab is scratchbuilt in plasticard whilst the chassis is a re-wheeled Tenshodo Spudmotor bogie. The roof is sheet lead in order to add weight.

Bogie coaches Nos.1, 2 & 4
These ‘American’ coaches were built by the Lancaster Carriage Co for the Argentine Republic Railway. The contract fell through and the WC&P bought six of them for the opening of the line in 1897. Originally painted red then dark brown, Nos.1,2 & 4 were re-furbished in 1935 and painted dark green. All three models were scratchbuilt in a batch from plasticard with a wood roof. Bogies were built from brass strip. An article on their construction appeared in issue 64 of The Colonel, the Colonel Stephens Society’s newsletter.

Nos.7, 8 & 13
These 4-wheel coaches were originally ‘Jubilee Stock’ built for the Metropolitan Railway in 1870 by Cravens of Sheffield. In total seven of these coaches were bought by the WC&P in 1907. No.7 was unique being a four-compartment ex-first. The others were all five-compartment ex-thirds permanently close-coupled in pairs with a guard’s compartment. The models are Bill Bedford kits and one has been modified to the original short wheelbase.

Nos.15 & 17
These 4- wheel coaches were originally family saloons built by the LSWR in 1877. Bought by the WC&P in 1925/6 along with No.16, these coaches formed the majority of services in the 1930s and ran either as a 3-coach set or with the middle coach missing. The models are scratchbuilt in plasticard following the principles laid down in David Jenkinson’s book on carriage modelling, published by Wild Swan.

Future plans
As and when time permits, I intend to build a second ‘Terrier’, No.4, acquired in 1938 and which the WC&P never named. Also coach No.16 to complete the LSWR rake and I hope No.18, an ex- Taff Vale 4-wheel coach.

These come from a mixture of sources but are mainly Slater’s. Dragon Models does a nice kit of the Clevedon Gas Workswagon, whilst Dapol née Mainline provides an RTR wagon for Black Rock Quarry at Portishead. Operation Exhibition operation is to a much more intensive timetable than ever existed in reality, but like most layouts it would be boring for both operator and viewing public if everything was by the book. Actually, the WC&P’s operation frequently bore absolutely no relation to the public timetable. I run as near to prototypical train formations as I can, though the Muir-Hill tractor makes appearances on block coal trains, whereas it only ever travelled from the WC&P’s wharf at Wick St Lawrence to Clevedon. The layout has generated considerable interest at local exhibitions and I have been fortunate to correspond with the son of one of the line’s original guards. He and a number of other people have recounted invaluable first-hand experiences of the line including its operation.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the way Weston has turned out, given that it is my first attempt at an exhibition layout and only took two years to build.

This is an abridged article from Railway Modeller magazine, where more details of the modelling products used can be found. Why not take out a regular subscription?


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