16mm Projects

Alan Poxon : Penrhyn Open Carriages

On the 16th January 1880, a workmen's train began running along the Penrhyn Railway taking the quarrymen to and from their place of work. The service was not operated by the quarry management but by the Workmen's Train Society. This society owned the carriages and hired a locomotive and crew from the management. Each member of the society paid an initial cash deposit to support the service and a small annual fee.

The morning workmen's train started early from Port Penrhyn, originally calling at Llandegai, Pandy and Felin-Hen before arriving at the quarry in time for the men to start work. The start time varied according to the seasonal operating times of the quarry. Each designated stop on the line had a slab-built waiting shelter with a slate roof, although the trains rarely came to a complete stand-still at each location.

The workmen's carriages where less than 12 foot long, four-wheeled and open to the elements. There were three compartments in each carriage, but no doors, with wooden bench seating providing cramped accommodation for 24 quarrymen.

Sprung buffers were provided but no suspension, and a single  lever operating brakes on two wheels. Each open coach had an identification letter and compartment number, so that the quarrymen could find their allocated seat.

The purchase of the first carriages, A to H, was jointly funded by Lord Penrhyn and the Quarry Union. These were supplied by deWinton of Caernarfon who also built carriages I and J in 1880. The quarry workshops at Coed-y-Parc built carriages K to Q at various dates between 1902 and 1927. One difference between the two manufacturers was the planked seating in the deWinton carriages being replaced by slatted seats in the Coed-y-Parc carriages.

A full load for the Penrhyn mainline locomotives was eventually 13 loaded carriages which required liberal amounts of sanding on wet mornings with greasy rails. From 1904, extra accommodation was provided by running a second mixed train with empty slate wagons returning to the quarry. In later years, the maximum load was reduced to 12 loaded carriages in dry conditions.

The mixed train did not operate on Saturdays when there was no slate traffic on the Penrhyn mainline.

I chose a Wood Valley Works kit to model the workmen's carriage as I had been impressed their kits of Penrhyn coal wagons and the Penrhyn Sanford brakevan. The mdf kit includes Binnie curly-spoke wheels, brass bearings and 3d printed detail along with a working brake handle. Lines are cut into the bench seats to represent the slats used in the later open carriages that were produced at the Coed-y-Parc workshops.

Wood Valley Works Penrhyn quarrymen's coach kit.

The kit went together easily using the eleven pages of instructions that can be downloaded from the Wood Valley Works website. The dimensions of the model are true to the prototype but a buffing plate is substituted for sprung buffers.

Quarrymen's coach bodywork assembled.

The curly-spoke wheels are 24 mm in diameter that represent 18 inch diameter wheels rather than 20 mm wheels which would have represented the 15 inch wheels used on the prototype.

Coach running gear and brakes added.

The only addition to the model were rivets applied to the laser marked positions on the coach sides. NailArt 1 mm diameter resin half-moons were were applied using super glue.

Coach ready for painting.


After sealing with grey undercoat, the bench seats and floor were painted with Humbrol red brown acrylic. The axle boxes and sole bars were painted matt black and the wheels treated with RailMatch light rust. Slate grey weathering powder was used on the interior floor.

Quarrymen's coach in weathered Penrhyn livery.

Deciding on a exterior colour for the carriage sides was problematic. Restored and replica examples of Penrhyn quarrymen's coaches range in colour from bright red to dark brown. Contemporary observers describe the colour of the coaches as dark purple. The paint recommended in the 16mmNGM Association Penrhyn Quarry Railway Modeller's Guide is Farrow & Hall Brinjal No.222 and a 100 ml tester pot was duly obtained from a popular auction site.Once painted the coach was weathered with Humbrol black powder before finishing with a dusting of Humbrol matt acrylic varnish. Weight was added centrally between the sole bars of the finished model. There only remains to populate the carriage with 24 quarrymen and, of course, build another dozen carriages to make up the morning train behind my Roundhouse Charles.

While waiting for funds for this, I built the IP Engineering model of the Penrhyn overlooker's carriage.

IP Engineering overlooker's coach.

Only one example of the overlooker's carriage is known. This coach was used within the quarry for tours of inspection by the managers and probably dates from 1840. The carriage was originally horse-drawn as evidenced by the shape of the front with a notch for the reins. It was latterly moved by the Hunslet locomotives and, with all the seats facing forward, it could be hauled up and down the inclines.The overlooker's coach was just over eight feet long and only three feet two inches wide, with a wheelbase of two foot ten inches.

Main components stained dark brown.

The carriage consists of three compartments without doors. Each compartment had seating for two facing forwards, the occupant of the rear corner seat was in charge of the brake handle. The prototype ran on double-flanged wheels and has the appearance of chapel pews made from varnished dark-coloured wood.

Bodywork assembled.

The laser-cut wooden components from the IP Engineering kit were stained dark brown before assembly. Construction was straight-forward using super glue, with the slatted seats and brake lever as the final touches.

Seats and running gear added

NailArt rivets were applied to the positions marked on the sides and the carriage was lightly weathered using Humbrol black powder.

Overlooker's coach with rivets and light weathering.

A small amount of weight was added to help the coach run well behind my Accucraft Quarry Hunslet.



January 2024



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