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.
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?
EASY ON THE GOODS
“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.
FLAT? FORGET IT
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.”
MADE FROM CHINA
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.
STICK TO YOUR ROOTS
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 resin houses in the housing estate are all Peedie Models’ 1970s detached houses (PMM85006).
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.
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.