LAY­OUT: Molinnis

NICK DIBBEN re­sisted the urge to add too much de­tail. The re­sult is a con­tem­po­rary Cor­nish lay­out that ap­pears much big­ger than the mod­est space it oc­cu­pies.

Model Rail (UK) - - Content - Words: MIKE HAR­RIS

Nick Dibben re­sisted the urge to add too much de­tail, so his Cor­nish lay­out ap­pears much big­ger than it is.

Re­frain from jump­ing ahead to the track plan for a mo­ment, and es­ti­mate just how big you think ‘Molinnis’ re­ally is. Be­fore you do so, bear in mind that Nick Dibben’s con­tem­po­rary Cor­nish lay­out con­tains the fol­low­ing: the out­skirts of a town, a large fac­tory, a sec­tion of main line, part of a hous­ing es­tate, clumps of for­est, a seem­ingly vast ex­panse of coun­try­side (in­clud­ing a river) and a branch line flanked by a dis­used china clay dries. That’s a lot of stuff to fit on a large lay­out, but at 8ft by 3ft (in­clud­ing fid­dle­yard) ‘Molinnis’ isn’t par­tic­u­larly big, even if it’s built in 1:148 scale. But Nick’s mod­el­ling ge­nius doesn’t stop there. Not only has he man­aged to cram a lot on to his baseboard, he’s man­aged to cre­ate a real sense of space too. What I re­ferred to ear­lier as a vast ex­panse of coun­try­side isn’t ac­tu­ally that vast, but study a close-up pho­to­graph and it looks pos­i­tively huge! The ques­tion is, how on earth did Nick do it?


“I think it’s partly be­cause I haven’t gone over the top with the de­tail,” ex­plains Nick. “There isn’t as much de­tail as per­haps you think there is.” The re­sult is plenty of space in which to al­low the lay­out to breathe: noth­ing feels crammed in, or like it shouldn’t be there in the first place. Many of the de­tails are also sug­ges­tive: a row of hous­ing and a main road sig­nal the out­skirts of a town, and a cul-de-sac of eight mod­est houses is all that’s needed to con­vey a larger es­tate - imag­ined off-scene. Nick cites depth as a key rea­son for the wealth of space, too. “There isn’t a lot of track, but the scenic sec­tion is quite deep - the best part of 2ft in places,” he re­veals.


Although the track is flat, the rest of the baseboard isn’t. “The area at the front is low­ered by around 10mm,” says Nick. “The river it­self is low­ered by a fur­ther 10mm, and at the back it rises up again - by about 20mm to 30mm. I used sheets of 8mm-thick poly­styrene, which I found easy to con­tour with­out too much carv­ing and hack­ing.” ‘Molinnis’ is a free­lance lay­out, but is still heav­ily based on the Cor­nish main line and Newquay branch. Nick ex­plains why: “I took the oper­a­tion of the line - lo­cal ser­vices, through trains and a lit­tle freight, which makes it a be­liev­able sit­u­a­tion. Then you can be cre­ative. “The lay­out started life as Bu­gle sta­tion, but I imag­ined that there was an­other sta­tion on the line. Molinnis is a real Ham­let near Bu­gle, so that pro­vided plenty of in­spi­ra­tion. “You could as­sume that the plat­form is the other side of the backscene, just off the lay­out. I de­cided I wanted a pass­ing loop, a junc­tion for the branch line, and a sid­ing for a fac­tory. I then had to spend time fig­ur­ing out how I could fit all of these el­e­ments on to the baseboard.”


The china clay dries are based on the China Clay Coun­try Park mu­seum, near St Austell. Nick took pho­to­graphs

dur­ing a visit to help him scratch­build the model. “I used Scalescenes tex­tured pa­per for the stonework,” he re­veals. “The chim­ney [see be­low] was orig­i­nally a piece of plas­tic pip­ing, but it didn’t look right. I wanted it to ta­per, so a friend of mine turned a new one for me on a lathe.”

Be­hind the fac­tory, Nick has even recre­ated the set­tling ponds, where the clay is placed prior to dry­ing. Next to the dries is a pipe and girder ar­range­ment, which has been kit-bashed to par­tially hide the scenic break.


Nick is clear about where ‘Molinnis’ is based. Us­ing the in­fra­struc­ture and mo­tive power present on the Cor­nish main line and Newquay branch as in­spi­ra­tion, he’s freed up time to fo­cus on tai­lor­ing the track plan and scenery to his own mod­el­ling and op­er­a­tional needs. Time spent refin­ing the track plan and care­fully craft­ing the scenery is ev­i­dent in what might just be an al­most per­fect com­po­si­tion. A wealth of scenic el­e­ments com­bine to make ‘Molinnis’ an ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing lay­out to view, and clever uses of space al­low the model to breathe and seem larger than it re­ally is.

The track doesn’t run par­al­lel to the front of the baseboard - an ap­proach Nick be­lieves cre­ates more depth.

Like most mod­ellers, Nick has col­lected var­i­ous fig­ures over time. ‘Molinnis’ fea­tures fig­ures from Bach­mann, Faller, and Wood­land Scen­ics.

The resin houses in the hous­ing es­tate are all Peedie Mod­els’ 1970s de­tached houses (PMM85006).

Main: The branch line is re­served for freight only, such as this train of Sil­ver Bul­let China Clay slurry tanks, hauled by a Class 66.

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