I researched collieries a lot using the internet but the most useful reference was the book "Modelling Aspectsof the Coal Industry" by Rob Johnson. It had photos drawings and explanations of how collieries work, how they are arranged, and many articles on locomotives, buildings, modelling tips, coal trains - in fact all you need to know about collieries!
Above you can see the model of Gwynraven Colliery. From left to right are:
A scratchbuilt engine house which hides a 12 volt electric motor so I can motorise the sheaves (pithead wheels) later on. Below that is a water tank for locomotives, they were often built from old boilers and I had a spare Bachmann one (sold as loads for well wagons). I made the plinths from balsa and plasticard and added various bits of scrap pipe and wire.
There is a Classix NCB van at the headgear, perhaps on a maintenance visit? The headgear is the metal tower that fits into the building with the curved roof. Behind the headgear is a washery tower, it is not really in the correct place but was added because it shouts "Colliery" based on all the pictures I have seen. It was built from a kitchen funnel (thanks sweetheart!), card, balsa and some wire! The building on the far right is the coal screens. It is here that coal is graded/sized and dropped into the wagons below. This is a card, balsa, plasticard and plastruct girder construction.
The whole colliery is built onto a a detachable diorama. This is simply placed into it's space on the baseboard. Many welsh collieries were squeezed into the steep sides of valleys and were quite cramped and this is the effect I was hoping to acheive.
I used the Bachmann Scenecraft Colliery, seen here on the right, as the basis for the model but adapted it. It wasn't cheap at £20 but it is a very strong model which is what I needed for a removable scenic item. My attempt was too flimsy in plastic and I baulked at soldering up a brass one.
I took off the front legs (the angled ones) and the crude entrance to the shaft. I then mounted the headgear onto a scratchbuilt building to give it some extra height. That covers the pit itself and was scratchbuilt using cereal packets and plasticard stone, corrugated iron and brick overlays.I did this because these things are really tall and the Bachmann one just looked too small. I added new legs from Plastruct and steps and ladders from the same company. I painted the whole thing grey and weatered it lightly. The coal "tubs" wagons are built from plasticard and the wheels are also plastic being punched using an office hole punch!
This engine or winding house was built from scratch using cereal packets. I wanted it to look a bit like a Cornish Beam Engine House. The huge windows each use three Metcalfe ones glued together! Originally these buildings were steam powered using massive banks of Lancashire Boilers but at the period I am modelling, they had been converted to electricity. I retained the Chimney stack as a point of interest. The building lifts off to reveal a 12 volt motor and gearbox to motorise the sheaves in the future. The building looks a little plain and I will add pipework and wall supports in the future.
Collieries are generally huge! I have allowed myself only 12 inches by 24 inches on a tapering site for the colliery itself and the coal drops and tracks. This is over ambitious but, I will only be modelling the important features and the tracks are the very minimum that I need to run trains into and out of the colliery site.
Tricks I have used are inspired by Iain Rice and Barry Norman. The house is a view blocker to disguide the fact that the line to the lower level just vanishes under the road. Only the front of the Coal Screens/Drops are modelled, the NCB shunter will position wagons and pull them clear as required.
Gwynraven station will be only a platform with a run round loop. Not typical of a branch terminus but there is such a prototype in South Wales. A retaining wall behind the station will cover the far end of the exchange sidings, hopefully giving the impression that they are part of a much larger facility.