Pengwynn Crossing depicts a desolate branch line winding through the Cornish countryside. The unstaffed station platform looks as though the years have taken their toll. There are no station buildings and very few facilities. The only luxuries provided for the occasional passenger who might wander off the Cornish moors are two benches and two lamps. So why has such a remote branch line survived to the present day? The answer becomes clear when you realise that Pengwynn Crossing exists to serve the needs of the china clay industry. The extraction of china clay remains a major part of the Cornish economy and the only effective means of transporting the mineral from remote locations is by rail. The layout is dominated by the Wheal Mannidge china clay works which dispatches its product by rail to many parts of the country. China clay is messy stuff and it gets everywhere so white is very much the dominant colour on this corner of the layout. Stand around here for too long and your hair is likely to turn prematurely grey. The other industry served by the railway is a fertiliser works which is kept remarkably busy. Further freight workings serve the coal yard and engineers sidings.
Despite its authentic Cornish flavour, Pengwynn Crossing was built on the other side of the country by Essex-based modeller Ian Metcalfe. The layout was inspired by a holiday in Devon, during which Ian watched a variety of freight traffic emanating from Cornwall, and a book entitled 'A History of China Clay Trains'. Pengwynn Crossing is built on six baseboards, four for the scenic section and two for the main fiddle yard. Although the front of each board is parallel to the back, the ends are not at right angles. The overall effect is that when the boards are joined together the entire layout gently curves from one end to the other.
We have given up trying to explain the exact shape of the layout to exhibition managers. We simply ask for a rectangular space 21' long and 6' deep and say that somehow we will fit the layout into that! Despite the difficulties such an approach may present, the effect is both realistic and pleasing. Real railways aren't built into rectangular blocks of the countryside, so there is no good reason layouts should be. Operating the layout is also made interesting by the fact that the control panel is inside a gentle curve, so drivers get a good view of the entire layout. Trackwork used on the layout is Code 100 Peco Streamline, which Ian has ballasted and weathered so well that people have often asked if the track gauge is EM.
Since aquiring the layout we've made no major scenic changes other than adding backscenes and enclosing the fiddle yards. Operationally we've motorised the points and rewired to dual cab control with more electrical sections. The number of roads in the fiddle yards has been expanded, consequently the 'new' control panel is now too small. Also the CDU is going to need beefing up a bit and some of the redone wiring could benefit from redoing. The relaying the fiddle yards was been done with a mind to one day linking Pengwynn Crossing to Combe Bay but since that layout has been disposed it will be a while before any true through running is seen.
More recently Dave and Rob have been giving the scenery an thorough overhaul to restore the ravages of time and enhance one or two areas so as to breathe a little new life into the layout. As Dave has an interest in the1950/60s British Rail steam to diesel transition era the layout has also made some public appearances using his rolling stock to wind back the clock.
As of July 2008 there's been a small flurry of activity on the layout: