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Layout Planning North Kerry in N?



Although I have tried to be faithful to modelling Irish railways mainly GSR & CIE in 4mm scale, I had various flings with British, American and even freelance modelling in scale and had a long and sometimes stormy relationship with N American gauge.

I first tried N in the late 70s frustrated at trying to fit a OO gauge layout into a box room and even more so with my efforts to kitbash and scratchbuild Irish stock. A nice scenic N gauge layout with repainted or slightly modified rtr stock seemed a good idea and I even ended up with a reasonable U shaped shelf layout around the walls of my teenage bedroom with stations based on Ardfert and Foynes.

The layout was scrapped following a house move, in the late 80s I seriously caught the American modelling bug while living in the UK and built up a collection of American N gauge locos and stock to get something running quickly while I tackled kit building and modifying Irish 4mm stock.

Having a 17 X11 space available I thought I would look at a N gauge North Kerry layout based on American “walk around” principals.

Typical American style operation involves operators walking around with their trains crossing opposing trains and switching sidings and industries. Movements are usually controlled by a dispatcher or train controller sometimes in another room using radio or telephone communication, rather than a signal man at each block post typical of traditional UK & Irish operation.

I though it would be interesting to see if I could fit in an E shaped baseboard arrangement in combination with a looped 8 arrangement to achieve a maximum length of run. Given the available space I have planned for a minimum isle width of 700mm.

The main idea is to slow down the operation by a combination of maximising the milage between stations and operating the railway in accordance with the rule book. Visually the layout keeps to the idea of “sincere” design with only a single main line visible in most scenes with a view blocker down the middle of the peninsula and curved backscenes and layout fascias.

The Limerick & North Kerry section of the line between Barnagh and Abbeydorney appeared to be the best choice to model a section of the line in station order with two medium sized and two small but interesting stations.




The main potential drawback of the design is the length of hidden trackage and the use of hidden staging is more suitable for fixed formation train workings rather than traditional loose formation passenger and goods trains.

The goods loop at Barnagh was mainly used as a refuge to for the crossing of goods trains and to allow shunting to take place clear of the main line. Baragh was also a cumpulsary stop for pinning down the handbrakes of loose coupled goods trains before descending the bank to Abbeyfeale or Newcastle slowing down the pace of operation. I have squeezed in both Abbeyfeale and Listowel on the peninsula both stations are long and narrow and seem to have been reasonably busy with freight up to the early 70s. Up to the ending of through freight operation, goods traffic seems to have mainly between Listowel and intermediate stations to Limerick with lighter traffic westwards towards Tralee, with Listowel, Newcastle and Abbeyfeale most important in terms of traffic.

In GSR days Abbeyfeale was the terminus of a mid afternoon passenger working from Limerick and the terminus of a three times weekly pick-up goods from Tralee after the line over Barnagh closed to regular traffic. The distance between Abbeyfeale and Listowel could be extended by stopping a train in section between the two stations. Listowel was the most important intermediate station on the Western part of the line and one time junction with the Listowel and Ballybunnion monorail for someone wanting an extreme challenge. Shunting both station could be quite involved with in each one long siding used for all goods traffic. While the yard was not modernised as part of Railplan 80 block fertiliser trains operated from Tralee to Listowel and forklifts would have been used for unloading. Although regular passenger traffic was light and ended in 1963 specials operated for the Listowel Races, Knock specials and other events into the early 70s.

I have included Abbeydorney as I griced the station in 78, it was the terminus for beet train operation in the lines final year and used as the run round for Westbound traffic from Ardfert which did not have a run round loop. It might be possible to squeeze in a siding between Abbeydorney and Listowel to handle the tar traffic for the Kerry County Council depot at Lixnaw.


In order to maximise the length of run the main line is essentially a combination of the folded figure of 8 and dogbone, with a flyover arrangement with the line between the Tralee end of the hidden staging and Abbeydorney crossing over the Abbeydorney-Listowel section rather than by a grade crossing more typical of the American Mid West



While there are no rtr Irish N scale models reasonable 3D printed A, C & 141 diesels typically used on the north are available through Shapeways. The models appear to be designed to fit on the excellent Lifelike EMD Switcher and SD9 chassis, repainted BR Graham Farish or Peco rolling stock would pass muster for passenger and goods trains, personally I use Microtrains (Kadee) couplers in preference to the typical Rapido N gauge coupler though the conversion may be something of a mission given the size and amount of goods stock needed for a layout of this nature.

At this stage I am not sure whether or not I would opt to model an Irish railway in N, working in 21mm gauge a less ambitious scheme possible a small portable layout may be more realistic, though its mighty tempting to dust off the American N Gauge and use the basic layout plan for a railroad into some County in a remote part of upstate New York or New England with mill towns and lake resorts called Abbeyfeale and Listowel..


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I notice Abbeydorney station is flipped on your plan. If the design was adapted to a double deck layout with a helix and turn back curve between Abbeyfeale and Listowel both Abbeydorney and Listowel could be viewed from the West with the station buildings and goods stores against the backdrop which would be visually more appealing and the main line run could be increased.

Edited by patrick
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I had thought of designing/building a double deck layout, but did not work in as the mainly because you would need scaffold or a raised platform to operate the upper level as the layout is built on storage units 4' above the floor.


I switched Abbeydorney around to maximise the length of run between Listowel and Abbeydorney and reduce the length of the hidden run from the Tralee end of the storage yard to Abbeydorney. In the plant the line from Tralee crosses over the Listowel-Abbeydorney to re-create the summit section near Ardfert and Eastbound falling grade into Abbeydorney at the expense of leaving most of the Abbeydorney-Listowel section hidden and loosing Lixnaw & the Tar siding.


Abandoning the long hidden sections and using turnbacks at either end would be very interesting and challenging for lads who enjoy tail chasers.



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