The distillery (2003 - 2007)

Ted Polet

When Rae Bridge was being rebuilt in 2001-2003, soon the question arose how to set up the model of a whisky distillery that I had wanted for years. At the same time, the sharp curve in the main line behind the backscene had to be disguised. There was very limited space to make a likely-looking industrial site, so I started finding out how whisky is made and the kind of buildings needed for the process. Some searching on the Internet soon gave me enough information to make a first plan.

A complication was the main railway line which had to pass between the buildings. I therefore put the malting shed to the right hand side of the track. A footbridge over the track can carry a transporter belt or even barrows to the barley lift that feeds the kiln. The kiln is the pagoda-like structure in the centre. This has a perforated drying floor heated with a peat fire from below. The smoke gives the whisky its typical smoke taste. The footbridge was the perfect solution to cover up the fact that the track makes an unnatural turn to the left.

The production process is pictured in the plan. There is some similarity to the making of beer. The imaginary siding to the right of the plan serves to bring in the barley wagons. The malting shed has a large attic, where the barley is induced to germinate in dark and damp surroundings. From that moment it is known as malt, and it will be dried on the kiln floor - in fact it is lightly roasted before being put through the malt mill which flattens the particles to a cornflakes-like shape.

After roasting and flattening, the malt is tipped into a barrel filled with clear natural water, the 'mash tun'. The water quality is largely responsible for the eventual quality of the whisky. The mash will ferment for a period of time, so the sugar content in the malt converts to alcohol. Then the liquid is filtered from the mixture (the washback) and passed through the still. The residue is known as 'draff' and seems to be excellent cattle fodder. During distilling, only the middle fractions are kept and passed through the still another time. The resulting clear liquid is the raw whisky. This has to mature in old sherry vats which impart the yellow colour and more taste to the end product. In the end the whisky is bottled and shipped.

The buildings were made from styrene stone sheet, and fitted with card roofs and individually applied slates. The kiln interior which is open so the wagons of peat can pass inside, was made of card with a computer printed brick pattern facing. Finally, the white building to the left is the distillery manager's house and office, and in the foreground is a low peat store which is open to the front. Undoubtedly I made many errors, but at least I tried to represent an interesting production process with an excellent product!


In 2007 I finally completed the interior and the detail around the peat shed. I made balsa blocks, scored and with loose scraps of balsa glued on top, to represent piles of peat. The distillery also deals in coal on the side, as seen in front of the shed. And finally I added horsehair brambles and some of Reinier Hendriksen's Scale Link ferns all around the place.

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