Making a MQR Postcard

I had a lot of fun putting together this homage to the Penrhyn Quarry Railway.

It all started when I found an online scan of this old postcard while searching for images of the Penrhyn Quarry Railway:

I don’t have a good idea of when the post card was made, but I suspect it would be some time between 1910 and 1950.

I built the MQR version up in PowerPoint, using some photos I had of my Marchlyn rolling stock.


  • Penrhyn Railway Red: R:242, G:68, B: 79
  • Penrhyn Railway Dark Gray: R:83, G:78, B:78
  • Penrhyn Railway Green: R:151, G:211, B:183

The toughest part to recreate was the logo. In the end, I decided to just do a simple two-colour logo with just the Marchlyn Railway name.

MQR Design – Revised Again

I continue to tweak and adjust the plans for the MQR, more recently focusing on the benchwork. A recent post in the Model Railroad Hobbyist forums that led me to a pdf put together by Richard Smith back in the late 2000’s: “Evolution of the Port Orford Coast Railroad: An Experiment in Raised Platform Garden Railroading“. Looking through my hard drive, I found I had downloaded a copy of it back in 2009 but had forgotten about it.

The design keeps the track layout of Version 5 (Piko R3 radius curves with a single passing track) but replaces the deck construction with a simpler 2×4 frame covered with hardware cloth and landscape cloth. The frame is then edged with a 2×4 “fascia”. Roadbed is formed from splines cut from cedar 2×6’s. I am thinking of using foundation screws to anchor the legs in the ground rather than digging holes and using concrete.

What I like about this benchwork method is that it is more more scenic than a deck and it is possible to grow some small plants on the layout proper.

The MQR at a Glance

Scale: 7/8″ or 1:13.7 (45 mm gauge track as 2-foot gauge)
Prototypes: Penrhyn Quarry Railway & Talyllyn Railway
Locale: Wales
Time Period: late 1950’s
Size: 10 x 14 feet
Layout Style: Loop
Layout Height: 48″
Benchwork: Raised Platform (pressure-treated wood) 
Roadbed: Cedar splines
Track: Peco
Minimum Radius: 6′
Maximum Grade: none

Here’s a rough visualization of what it would look like:

MQR Design – Simplified

Since I wrote the post “MQR Design by Vignettes” back in 2019, I’ve given a lot of thought of the time investment needed to make these designs a success. And I’ve come to the realization that the complexity of construction would mean a year or two of building before I was able to run trains.

So I’ve decided to pivot to a more simple design that I can complete rather quickly while still working full time.

The concept of the layout construction comes from the Family Garden Trains website: Building a Raised Platform Garden Railroad. The final design is based around using Piko R3 radius curves (6′ in diameter), requiring an 8’x13′ raised platform:

It is a simple loop with one passing siding which would allow one train to run while another train is being prepped. This allows me to run a couple of trains or to host some small steam-ups in the future.

I’ve ordered the track I need and will lay it out to test-fit things before designing the final details of the deck.

MQR Slab Cars – Part 1

Way back in 2013, I purchased a number of 7/8″ scale car kits from Acme Engineering in the UK. Here it is late 2019, and only now have I had the time and space to start working on them. I purchased three slab and ten slate car kits so I thought I would start with the slab cars.

I purchased the kits with the Penrhyn-style buffers, but after reading many of Chris Bird’s articles on rolling stock (like this one on his build of the Acme slate cars), I’ve decided to go with dumb buffers for all of the MQR rolling stock going forward.

I purchased some dimensional wood from the local Michaels and ran it through my table router in which I mounted a tall ogee bit. This gave me nice wide-radius curves for the front of the buffer. I then glued the new buffers to the ends of the slab cars.

I decided to cover the face of the buffer with some plastic strip I had stored away for another long-forgotten project. And to finish it off, I used some brass pins to represent bolts holding the plastic “metal” buffer facing. Below is a photo of the buffers under construction; they still need to have the plastic and brass pins epoxied to the wood.

Slab Car Buffers in Construction

My least favorite part of the original slab car kit was the decking and so I decided to replace the decking that came with the kit with popsicle sticks to make a more interesting deck; something more like this:

Photographed at the National Slate Museum (2014)

Here is the proof of concept:

Slab Car with Popsicle Stick Decking (Proof of Concept)

More to come…

2019 SE Lounge Swap

After some thinking, I decided to build the small shelter for the swap project. Its design is not intended for extended exposure to the outdoors; rather, I built it as a display model for photography or for an afternoon steamup.

I started out by gathering my supplies back in May and picked away at the construction over the summer. I decided to build a plywood substructure and panel it with the popiscle sticks; I read that others were having issues with warping when using just the sticks.

Other than the plywood and some dimensional lumber, I had all of the other materials on hand: popiscle sticks (my wife Robin uses them for her garden), some 30 year old stripwood I had stashed away and some plastic vegetable garden markers for the hardware.

The following gallery shows the various steps of the project:

I spray-painted the main structure with Rustoleum Flat Red Oxide primer and then did a few washes of diluted Polly-S Grimy Black. The support timbers were painted from a 30-year old bottle of Floquil Grimy Black. The roofing material are Avery labels coloured with a wide black Sharpie marker.

I’m pretty happy about the way it turned out and hope the recipient feels the same.

MQR Design by Vignettes

After approaching layout design from a theoretical point of view, I started doodling around with some basic shapes. Taking Rich Chiodo’s railway design as a basis, I created a basic dogbone-shaped loop with a wye coming off one of the the loops in 3rd PlanIt. The basic footprint is 36 foot square. Every curve has a minimum radius of 60″ (5 feet) with spiral easements and all turnouts are #6’s.

The MQR at a Glance

Scale: 7/8″ or 1:13.7 (45 mm gauge track as 2-foot gauge)
Prototypes: Penrhyn Quarry Railway & Talyllyn Railway
Locale: Wales
Time Period: late 1950’s
Size: 36 x 36 feet
Layout Style: Point to loop
Layout Height: 24″
Benchwork: Retaining wall (Celtik system for example) 
Roadbed: Trex splines
Track: Handlaid Code 215 on cedar ties
Turnouts: #6 stub turnouts with 60″ radius curves
Minimum Radius: 60″ with spiral easements
Maximum Grade: none

With the basic design in place, I then started to think about what scenes for the two prototype railways would fit the design.

MQR using PQR Vignettes

MQR in the style of the Penrhyn Quarry Railway
MQR in the style of the Penrhyn Quarry Railway

Overlaying the PQR on the basic design, I found that, outside of Felin Fawr, there weren’t as many well-known scenes to model.

MQR using Talyllyn Vignettes

MQR in the style of Talyllyn Railway
MQR in the style of Talyllyn Railway

The Talyllyn key scenes are a much better fit for this design and I can easily see how things would work here. At the moment, this would be the design I would build.

Popsicle Stick Models

The SE Lounge, my favourite source of inspiration in 7/8″ scale, has traditionally done a yearly swap where people build a 7/8″ scale model and send it to another swapper. They in turn receive a model from yet another swapper. The swap give people a good opportunity to try new techniques as well as build camaraderie within the group.

For 2019, there is a proposal to do a swap but also to constrain it more than previous years: the bulk of the construction should be made from Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors and coffee stir sticks. The idea is that this would keep the costs to participate low. Now that I have a workshop, I decided to participate, should it go forward.

I am using this thread to capture ideas for swap items.

Idea 1 – Shipping Crate

This would be the simplest build. Shipping crates have been around for a long time and would be relatively straightforward to build. Labeling them is probably the way to personalize them for the swappee.

Idea 2 – Covered Van

I’m not sure I’d swap this, but for my own purposes, converting an Acme Slate Slab Car into a covered van like those used on the Talyllyn Railway up to the 1940’s looks like a fun project.

Talyllyn Covered Van circa 1930

Idea 3 – Shelter Box

This would be the most complicated build. I don’t remember where I found the jpg of the drawing but as soon as I saw it, I squirreled it away. A simple shelter based on this English prototype could be purposed for many applications around a narrow gauge railway.

Line Drawing of MS&L Railway's Fogman's Permanent Shelter Box
Shelter Box Plan circa 1895

IDea 4 – B&SR Coal SHeds

A number of swappers model the Maine two-footers. A search around the Internet found some drawings for B&SR coal sheds which look rough enough for building with Popsicle sticks.

The downside is that they are large structures. I may have to selectively compress it for the swap.