By John Ely
Our holiday last year was situated near the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, and it was fascinating to see what has become of the buildings along the line. Although Parracombe was the only reasonable conurbation along the line, it only ever had a halt. It was well photographed because it was a regular watering point, and the diminutive Southern Railway-built halt was always evident in the background. It stands in a beautiful location but now has the indignity of facing a stable block in a front garden. Presumably its precast concrete construction has deterred demolition attempts.
I have always hesitated from building a model of this station, because I was unsure of capturing the character of a moulded concrete structure. In recent times I laid a new patio and was introduced to patio grout: this is a very fine resin/sand mix that is brushed between paving slab joints. What has become apparent is that it this is a very durable material, and looks a pleasing natural colour.
It struck me that if it could be poured into a mould I would have a chance of making a station that captures the desired effect. I cut out strips and panels in Plastikard and made moulds. This involved a double take when measuring, as everything was in reverse and it did get confusing.
Once assembled I brushed on silicone mould release and poured the grout mixture in, giving it a tap to compact it. After a day I released the panels from the moulds, and for the following week I kept an eye on the them. They were very pliable, but after a week they began to harden and now they are quite sturdy.
On reflection I think I would leave the moulds for a week: a day was premature, and I did lose some of the detail. However I discovered that repairs are easily effected by putting a mould up against a joint and pouring in material. This sticks very well to the original and you cannot see the join.
The remaining details were made in Plastikard and I glued all the components together with car filler. I am really pleased that I now have a realistic Parracombe Halt.