16mm Projects

Alan Poxon : Sanford

Sanford was a Bagnall steam locomotive purchased by the Penrhyn Quarry in 1929 from Maenofferen Quarry. It was intended to work on the Ponc Garret and Ponc Twrch levels of Penrhyn that could not support the weight of a larger engine. Apart from a three months spell at Port Penrhyn, Sanford worked in the quarry until it was laid-up in 1935. It was recorded as stored in a semi-derelict condition in 1945.

W. G. Bagnall of Stafford completed Sanford, with Works Number 1571, in 1900. It was one of their standard design 0-4-0 saddle tanks that cost Maenofferen Quarry £370 and it was sold, in poor condition, almost thirty years later to Penrhyn Quarry for £28. Sanford was comparable in size and weight to the Penrhyn Small Quarry Hunslets but a substantial cab and a lowered footplate were striking visible differences.

In 1956, the remains of Sanford were converted into a brake van for use on the main line between the quarry and Port Penrhyn. The wheelbase was increased in an effort to provide a stable running platform and a water tank, from an unsuccessful 1940s brake van based on a Muirhead rail tractor, was mounted between the frames. The cab was retained, but cut down slightly, to provide weather protection for the brakesman.

The water tank fitted to Sanford did not have any baffles to restrict the movement of the water and so the ride was a very rough indeed. In 1957, the water tank was replaced by a lidded metal tray that was filled with scrap iron. This was subsequently replaced with a block of concrete fixed across the frames and the wheelbase was further lengthened. At the same time, one of the open cab sides was covered to provide additional weather protection for the brakesman.

In this final form, Sanford survived until the end of rail operations on the Penrhyn mainline in 1962. There has been some discussion as to whether a brake van was actually necessary. Before departing the quarry, brakes were pinned on the last three slate wagons to allow the locomotive crew to retain complete control of the the train for the whole journey to Port Penrhyn. That being said, Sanford was a unique, if somewhat ugly, narrow gauge brake van.

Wood Valley Works make a 16 mm kit of Sanford in the penultimate form with the lidded metal trays that contained scrap iron ballast. I had enjoyed building the early Penrhyn coal wagons from the same manufacturer and so I was looking forward to building this model. Comprehensive assembly instructions can be downloaded in four parts from the website, running to a total of 28 pages of instructions.

Wood Valley Works kit unpacked and ready to start.

The kit contains laser cut mdf parts in three thicknesses. Also included in the kit are 3D printed detailing parts, plastic rivet heads, bronze bearings, perspex window glazing. Swift Sixteen wheels and buffers with a coupling hook.

Sanford frames and ballast tanks complete.

Sanford went together easily and surprisingly quickly. As with with other Wood Valley Works kits that I have built, all of the parts fitted together perfectly, with no adjustment necessary.

Bodywork added ready for rivets and 3d printed detail.


Craft Critters 2 mm half moon nail art were substituted to represent the larger rivets on the buffer beams of the prototype.

Sanford ready for painting.


To make life easier, Sanford was painted prior to adding the wheels, cab roof and seat for the brakesman. A brake handle assembly was fabricated from scrap parts. The cab was painted in Penrhyn grey and the remainder of the ballast tanks and frames were painted matt black as was noted by a visitor at the time. RailMatch Light Rust was applied to the wheels.

Painted ready for final assembly.

The model ran well with the addition of some weight over the wheels in the ballast tank and between the frames. A plasticard roof was substituted for the wooden roof to avoid the visible tabs.

Cab detail

Sanford brake van in Penrhyn colours.

Sanford is a very good representation of the prototype brake van in the penultimate form. A nice kit  of a singular Welsh narrow gauge vehicle that saw service at both ends of Penrhyn slate trains..

February 2023




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