Control Freak

I have been back onto the layout of late, with a view to get the first wheel turning on it before too long.  That means attacking the electrickery things, beginning with the control panel.

I made a start on this by drawing up a diagrammatic representation in MS Paint and then using this to get one of the online firms (Vistaprint) to print me up a poster board to form the basis of the control panel.  I am not sure I chose the right material as it turned up on a light weight foam board and I had to mount a sheet of aluminium behind for it to be stiff enough to be useable.  But it did look pretty smart I thought………….


The control panel deals with all of the signals and turnouts that the cabin will have controlled, with local ground frames (which will be located on the boards locally) to be used to control the goods yard and the MPD.  The latter will be arranged such that it can be located either to the front or the rear, to allow some flexibility in operation.

I have got to the point where the full extent of switches have been wired in and I am just completing the jumper leads.  I took a lot of care to plan the wiring prior to any construction – despite the locos being DCC controlled, there are an awful lot of wires.  This is because I have stuck with traditional control for the turnouts and signals.  There is further complication as a result of the desire to incorporate some bells and even a block instruments (well maybe, at the moment it is just the wires!).  So in all, there are 90 odd wires doing something or another on the layout.


Somewhat in contrast to Portchullin, I have sought to keep the wiring as tidy as possible; everything is neatly collour coded and even labelled (to be fair it was labelled on Portchullin, but in a non colourfast ink………..!).  I am hoping that this will make the wiring easier to debug at the start of the matter and repair if it does get damaged.

I am proposing to use a variety of connectors between boards and to the control panel, including this rather nifty varient of the D-sub range that is wired directly onot a cheeseblock wireless connector.  Available to a variety of types from ebay including from this seller.



Ospreys, Eagles and Amtrak

A bit belatedly back to the blog after exertions over the summer but I thought a few photos from my trip stateside might be worthwhile.  The main railway angle of the holiday was a journey on the Amtrak’s Cascades, starting at Seattle – which is a bit grander than my usual commute!


The Cascades service runs from Portland, through Seattle and concludes its journey in Vancouver.  Another grand station reflecting its importance as the terminal of a continental trunk route.


The route hugs Puget Sound and the Pacific coast for the entirity of the journey, for the greater part actually forming the sea wall.

Amtrack with Wikicommans

So not unsurprisingly, the views really are fabulous (so if you do it, make sure you are sat on the seaward side!).

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The route crosses a number of creeks and rivers, often on timber trestle bridges; where the train typically going at dead slow.  This is helpful as for an added treat, thrown in for free – thank you Amtrak, was a bird-spotting trip.  Calmly sitting on a post as the train rattled past was an Osprey.  Apparently this particular bird is a bit of a mascot for the line and seems to have become used to the rumble of a few tens of thousands of tons of machinary as itis regularly on view.


It is possible to see Ospreys in the UK, but you need to be either pretty lucky, persistant or go to one of the recognised locations such as Loch Garten.  But you can’t get to see bald headed eagles which was the next voyeur of the train going past that we got to see!


So all in all, this is a fabulous trip to do and it is fair to say both Seattle and Vancouver are great places to visit – both with a strong railway history!  If you are also able to make it further south, down to Sacramento, then the Californian State Railroad Museum is also worth a visit.  Sacramento was the birthplace of the Central Pacific, one of the partners in the first trans-continental railroad and therefore it feels it has something to say about the topic!  It is also close (in American terms) to the site of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad which held onto its very aged stock for a startlingly long time, meaning that a significant proportion has survived – some of which is in the museum.  If you think this feels just like those western movies that you watched as a child, you would be right.  The Virginia and Truckee’s stock was used extensively by the movie industry and it is very likely you have seen this very loco!


In addition to these early locos are a selection of F Units that I do rather like and a giant Southern Pacific Cab Forward.  These were built with the cab at the front to stop the staff suffocating from the exhaust smoke as it climbs up through the rockies which has numerous tunnels.  They are rather odd to behold though!


All things Amercian are really big, something quite alien and thrilling to a Brit!  Imagine that blasting up Shap or Drumochter…………………


Going Long – Part 2; Bogies Most of the Way There

As originally conceived by Barry Fleming, the floor was to be permanently attached to the body sides and so too were the lower roof sections.  The only access internally, therefore, was to be the clerestory roof/sides to the centre of the roof.  In addition to being very restricted, over time there was a little distortion of this section relative to the more chunky body, such that it has developed a bit of a bow – see the final picture of this post.  I have been building a few coaches of late and have arrived at the view that it is desirable to have the underframe detachable from the body and if at all possible the roof too.  In this case, I am going to give up making the roof detachable but will keep the underframe as a separate piece and arrange for the floor and interior to slide out of the body.  In order to provide a mount onto which I can secure the securing bolts to retain the two parts together, I came up with a metal bracket that has been glued into the coach vestibule where it is hidden as below.


With this completed, I turned my attention to the bogies.  These are based around the Bill Bedford sprung bogies, now supplied by Eileen’s Emporium – there is one with the right dimensions for the ECJS bogie.  These are only the sprung assembly and offer no detail of the real bogie at all and these were quite characteristic riveted plates.  I am not aware of any offerings from the trade for these, so I have had to create my own – out comes the CAD machine again!  Actually, they are quite easy to draft and there was a fairly good drawing available.  As with some of my other etch designs, I have used folding jigs to ensure that the layers come together correctly without bother.  In the photo below you can see the basic Bill Bedford sprung frame on the left upper, the basic etch to the bottom right and the finished side with the layers laminated to the bottom left.

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And this is a close up of the bogie sides fitted and some of the brake hangers fitted.


After searching around, I decided that the best means of making the axleboxes and springs was to use the Drummond pattern axlebox/spring assembly from Lochgorm Models. These are really nice but the springs are too long such that the hangers are a bit far out for the six wheeled bogie – hence I formed a hanger point as part of the etching, which you can see yet to be folded down on the above picture.  The intention will be to insert a brass rod through the hole in this and to then mount small washers on it to give the impression of the springs.  A similar rechnique is used on some of the 5522 models bogies and is quite effective.  With this representing the hangers, those to the casting could be cut away.

The axleboxes are rather nice, as you will see, and are of cast brass.  The bad news about this is that they are really hard and quite a lot of work is required with a dental burr to open out the rear to be free of the bearing.

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And a look at both bogies together, now with the bearing spring hangers in place along with the brake hangers and rods.

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A key feature of these bogies was the transverse bolster springs, which are apparent between the axle spacings.  I did come up with a scheme to form these but they have not proved to work.  I think I can cut and paste a pair of the bolsters from what I have produced (ie half the number I need) so I am going to have another bash and if not, it is back to the drawing board!  So whilst I work out how I am going to wrestle with this (I do have some ideas, I just need a bit of time to implement them!), lets at least admire what the coach looks like in its semi-complete state:


There are other things to do with the coach; the centre part of the roof has a bow, there is various detail missing from the underframe, roof and ends yet to go – but it does look the part doesn’t it?


In response to the first part of this blog, Bill Bedford did contact me to help with some prototype details.  He was able to tell me that the buffers that I used would only be correct for the brakes and that the udnerframe only had two trusses, not the four that I have modelled.  So some corrections will be required……………but first those transverse bolster springs and maybe give the carriage a bit of an outing (I will bring it to Scaleforum for that).

A New Ending (and Beginning) for Portchullin

Don’t worry, it is not as dramatic as all that, I have not burnt it or anything……………………oh hang on a minute, I have – well a bit of it anyway!

One of Portchullin’s quaint little foibles was it did occassionally like to derail trains as they left the fiddleyards; especially the fiddle yard representing Kyle.  There were various reasons for this; including some proper cr*p woodwork on my part, the hand shunting that occurred every time a train was turned around, the effects on thermal expansion that was not catered for and, something that I had not seen until recently, a bit of a dogleg at the baseboard joint.  Add to this the rather Heath Robinson approach to the legs for the fiddle yard boards, electrical connections and facia support and it was fundementally a b*ggers muddle.  So something had to be done and, a mere 8 years after the layout’s first exhibition, it now has!

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So with lots of thanks to Tim and Julian at the Electric Loft Ladder Company again, we have a new fiddle yard at the Kyle end and redesigned legs at the Inverness end.  The design adopted is an adaptation of the sector plate that was in use before but with a refinement that it uses cassettes for the locations that the loco arrives and departs at.  The idea being that these are both storage points at the end of the fiddle yard roads but also the means to move/turn the locos ready for their next duty.  This is a development of the system used by Simon Bendall on his layout Elcot Road, but with a rotating sector plate rather than a traverser.


Other halfway novel ideas are the use of the tray below the traverser as a storage tray for stock (and maybe tea!) and the projection of the sector plate beyond the end of the fixed board to make the ensemble smaller to transport.  The facia also folds up rather niftily as well – photos of this will follow once I have taken them!

The new fiddle yard has not yet been tested but will very shortly get its chance to prove if it is a good’n.  Portchullin will be out at the Barnstaple MRC’s show in Bear Street, Barnstaple – you can find details here. If you are in North Devon at the weekend, stop by and say hellow?

Benfieldside and her Signals

This weekend I braved the traffic heading to the Festival of Speed in order to complete the building of a replacement fiddle yard for Portchullin (of which more another day) with Tim & Julian.  Once complete, I stopped by to see how Benfieldside has been getting on and in particular what my signals looked like in thier proper home.

First up the gallows signal (which has dropped a bit low on its swing).

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And then the twin and three doll brackets.

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All the above signals were restorations (although not so much was retain on the two doll); the single posts below were made afresh.

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And having inspected the signals it was time for a play with the layout and take some pictures to share with you.  So here we go:

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The guys are still building up sufficent stock for it so it won’t be out on the road for a year yet but I understand that the layout should be at the South Hants MRC show in November 2017.  So hopefully I will see you there?

More Weathering Results

The class 24 skinhead was not the only output from the weathering day last weekend – indeed, it was a very busy day!


First up were some of my 1920’s rilling stock – both Highland, a timber truck from a Model Wagon Co whitemetal kit and a horsebox from a Lochgorm etched kit. Both are now close to finished – a load is requird for the former and some glass for the latter (and probably a light colour inside the groom’s compartment.

Neat vehicles though and I am pleased with them – less so than the brakevans that I managed to dislodge the lettering upon and may well need to be stripped – as you would imagine, no photos of these and nor any photo’s from today’s efforts with paintstripper!


But the main additional output was some more coaches for Portchullin.  I managed three and Peter Bond looked close to finishing his third as I left, so we had a proper little production line going!


The technique was essentially the same as I described for the class 24, although as you can see the model was broken down rather more (in part to populate the interior of the carriages – I do hate seeing trainloads of empty coaches on model railways!).  However, for the maroon coach, rather than using thinners to take back off the paint, T-Cut was used.  This is an abrasive so does not work in quite the same manner but acheives broadly the same effect except that it also polishes the paint.  I did not think this was right for the blue/grey coaches (they were finished in satin in reality) but the maroon coaches were in a gloss finish and the T-cut gives a slight sheen without actually getting to gloss.  I did eventually think it was a bit too shiny, so did waft over with the finest of sprays of the “gunk” again just to take it back a touch.



The Bachmann Mk 1s are very good models that have stood the test of time well.  They are a doddle to convert to P4; taking maybe 60-80 minutes a go.  There are a couple of things to look out for – firstly is that the side frames are a touch to tight for true guage wheels and need to be filed back.  The plastic is quite flexible and does create burrs fairly easily, so once the filing has been done some work with a sharp scalpel is required to clean this up.

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Mk 1 Bogie

The next caution is that the bogie mounts are not always parallel with the rail head, meaning that the bogie can lean forward or backward.  This is caused by the chassis being screwd a little over-hard onto the body, causing it to flex slightly.  You are just as likely to have done this as the manufacturers and I get around it by making it rock slightly with some thin (20 thou) strip like this.

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Arguably one of their weaknesses is the corridor connection which is a tad toy-train (well it is a toy train!).  A dodge that I have started to do is fit a few of my vehicles with some black foam in the door jambs.  Make this so that it sticks out 3-4mm and engages in the equivilent of the adjacent vehicle to block out the light.   A simple dodge that makes a big difference.  It does mean that the vehicles that are fitted thus have to be in the centre of the train (as the foam looks crude where it is exposed) but this can be done with care – for example a buffet would nearly always be in the centre of a train, so this is the vehicle of the two I fitted with this.


A Dirty Skinhead……….the SLW Class 24

A skinhead; what’s he on?   Well for the steam age people out there, a skinhead is the nickname for those BR built sulzer class 24s that did not have headcode boxes – as you can see below in Paul Winter’s photograph they did have a rather bald headed appearance and it is not difficult to see where the nickname came from.

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Whilst the bulk of the class that ran on the ex Highland lines had the headcode box, for a long time one or two skinheads were allocated at Inverness and visited both the far north and Kyle lines.  Given that they do look quite different I could hardly resist getting one to offer a bit of variety on the layout.  I had been plotting getting one for a time, having bought the Bachmann version and even converted it to P4 but I had not quite got to enhancing or weathering it so it did not ever make it out onto the layout.

There are failings in the Bachmann model that have annimated many; the worse being the slope of the cab front which is too steep.  Whilst I feel it is close to invisible when the Bachmann model is used as a doner for conversion to a headcode fitted version (see my article in the Highland Railway Journal, issues 96 & 97) it is more apparent without the headcodes, simply because they act as a bit of a counterpose to the slope.  This was one of the reasons that my skinhead was languishing in its box (although, doing other things was the real reason!).  Although I am aware that a recast of the model has been in the offing for a while I did not know that a new manufacturer, Sutton Locomotive Works, was in the process of producing one until it simply appeared at the turn of the year.


It is fair to say I was a little sceptical initially, partly due to the pretty punchy cost of the model but also due to the amount of airwaves noise it was eliciting.  However, they were at one of the shows that Portchullin was at and of course I went over to have a gander……….  What I found was that it was really a cut above the Bachmann version, both in terms of correcting the cab and also with the quality of detailing but more than that, it had an onboard sound system that was significantly better too (and tellingly, more controllable).  An added bonus is that the model can be supplied, at a small additional cost, with your choice of EM and P4 wheels, thus making it the first true ready to run P4 loco.

Initially the model was available as one of the first batch in a “just built” form in green  and as 24 081 in blue, as it now is in preservation.  A bit of hunting about prototype information – notably Derby Sulzers – showed me that no’s 5113 & 5114 were transferred to Inverness for the last couple of years of their life (which coincide’s with Portchullin’s era) and that these were pretty close in form to the 24 081 form of the model.  That decided it; off went a cheque and back came the model – in a spectacularly substantial amount of box and glinting clean like a museum piece!


A look over the model proved to me that it was really very good, but not perfect.  The worst problem, by far, is the glazing that suffers from the moulding lines no less severely than Bachmann/Hornby models – apparently, short of putting in individual pieces of glazing, this problem is insurmountable.  Good news for Shawplan and their glass replacement kits – if Brian is not going to do a set for this model (are you Brian?).  It will repay doing them by hand no matter how hard this is if Shawplan don’t do them.  The other problem was a lot less than crisp junction between the yellow ends and the blue sides – most visible in the fianl photograph.  I did make this a little better with some 1200 grade wet & dry, but it is still not all that I would wish it to be.

It is fair to say that the good bits are very good indeed.  It runs perfectly (although some others have muttered about theirs) and all of the detail is very delicate – compare the door grabrails with the other models or prototype for example.  I understand that the number of seperately applied parts is exceptionally high and I can beleive that, it really does look quite a lot better than the alternatives even after the “supe-ing up” that I gave the two headcode box fitted versions I have.  There are a lot of detail variations between the vehicles and care is needed to chose wisely if you have a specific example in mind – time for a good book!


Sutton Locomotive Works approach is to release relatively short runs of differing varients, their second and third batch has already been released (see their website).  They are not saying, but I suspect some Highland Sulzers will be inevitable before too long – I am saving up anyway!

But the model is way too clean; although Inverness did not allow their locos to get too decrepit looking and they clearly saw the inside of the washer plant pretty regularly, they did take on a careworn appearance especially given that they were knocling on 20 years old by the time I am modeling them.  So, some subtle weathering was required – do I have the subtly of skill to do this – not really was my conclusion, not on my own anyway!  So some help was enlisted from OTMC who I share occassional modelling days with and yesterday we had a weathering day instead.


Prior to starting the weathering, the number was removed with 1200 grade wet and dry and replaced with Fox transfers, protected by some brushed on matt varnish.  The dirty-ing of the model then started with the creation of some “gunk” – a mix darkish grey with a tad of brown mix – Tamiya acrylics.  Whilst this was a relatively thick mix, it was brush painted over the more extreme coloured sections of the model – the lifting points, axle boxes and coloured pipework to the bogie and drawbar.  Then the gunk was diluted to a wash and sprayed onto the model; heavily on the underframe/bogies and more lightly on the body side.  An acrylic solvent was used and this evaporated almost immediately and once the paint was on, efforts were taken to remove it from the sides.  Cotten buds and make up buds (similar but with a flat head) dipped in acrylic thinners were dragged downwards on the sides and ends.  This removes the majority of the paint, leaving only that which gets into the nocks and crannies and can not readily be reached by the buds.  If the paint gets a bit stubborn (which it did, especially on the ends) then the process is repeated using enamel thinners which is much more vigerous and takes the acrylic off almost immediately but acheives the same effect.


I did encounter a couple of problems.  The first was not of my making in that it proved very difficult getting the wash out from behind the grab handles to the front of the cab – eventually this was fixed with the use of cocktail sticks.  The second was firmly of my making in that I used some meths to clean of some grease stains from my fingers right at the end.  It would appear that meths is pretty effecitive at removing both the wash and also lightening significantly the original blue paint on the model – aghhhhh!  Ultimately, I have had to repeat the wash effect a couple of times on the side that I did this on and it does not look nearly as subtle as it did before – so do as I say, not as I do!!!


The wash was then darkened a bit and used on the roof.  Initially this applied without masking to the centre and then subsequently with some masking.  The masking was applied such that the edge of the tape was at the line of the roof with the cab front yellow and pressed home.  However, along the sides the tape projected 5mm above the cant rail but not pressed home (so it sort of flaps above the edge of the roof).  This gives a soft boundary between where the spray goes and the protected surface below and neatly mimics the effect of the washing brushes failing to reach the roof as it slopes away.

The grilles were picked out with a black wash effect that has a touch of gloss in it.  The same was then used at the axleboxes and around the fuel filler points to mimic spilt fuel oil.  The while of the underframe and boigie then had stone colour mig powders dabbed on them.  As with the wash, once it is on, take it off with a brush – in this case it tends to attach itself to those parts that the brush presses it home on.  So it tends to catch more the projections than the recesses and neatly highlights the detail on the underframe/bogies.  Not done yet, but I will apply some break dust powders around the brake blocks and wheels to finish the full effect.

Portchullin’s next outing will be down in the west country – 30 July 2016 in Barnstaple.  Come and see the new engine – hopefully it looks a bit like this?5113garve73ry

In the light of all the excitement that tresspassing to see the Flying Scotsman is presently giving Network Rail, I wonder what they might have made of this – and then there are the flairs to consider………….  Chris Longley, is that you – I know you were on this particular tour!

Going Long…….Part 1; the Underframe.

In comparison to the coaches that I use on Portchullin, most coaches from the 1920s (my chosen period for Glenmutchkin) are shorter and in many cases, even without considering the six wheeled vehicles, a lot shorter.  This was driven by the technology and in particular the materials available to the railways of the time.  There were exceptions though, and my present build is dealing with one of these – an East Coast Joint Stock 12 wheeler.

In the early 1890’s, the journey north was all about speed and culminated in the Railway Races to the North where the rival east and west coast companies competed to get their services to Aberdeen first.  This came to an abrupt end in July 1896 when a west coast train took curves too fast at Preston and left the rails.  Although the loss of life was relatively limited (for the time), excessive speed as a result of the desire to “speed to the north” was firmly blamed.  As a result, the competing companies agreed no longer to race each other and instead sought to compete on the basis of the quality of their service and the luxury of their trains.

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A GNR small altlantic hauling an ECJS express at the turn of the 19th Century made up predominantly of 12 wheeled stock

One product of this competition were some really fine 12 wheel coaches built for the East Cost Joint Stock Company (which was a joint company with the GNR, NER & NB contributing to the cost for trans-company trains).  Built from 1896 onwards, these were several different lengths (this particular example was 66’11″) but all were long, seeking to use length and mass to iron out any track irregularity.  To support this length of coach, six wheeled bogies were used, although these were rather infant in their design and used big transverse leaf springs as bolsters.  In addition to being really characteristic and obvious – so they need to be modelled – I suspect they gave a somewhat bouncy ride!

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Barry Fleming’s scratchbuilt body and part completed roof

I have been given a big headstart on this build by virtue of being given a nearly complete body/roof for a luggage composite (diagram 6 for those in the know).  This was scratchbuilt by the late Barry Fleming in the 1980s and is a class bit of modelling!  Barry gave it to my father, along with a couple of other coaches, to complete but as he has not managed to get this particular one, he has passed it to me to have a bash!


My etchings back from PPD

One of the reasons that this model was put to the back of the queue previously was that almost none of the parts required to complete it – in particular the bogies – were available, so it was all going to be a scratchbuild.  As I was pouring over the drawings and pictures in the bible on things ECJS it dawned on me that the missing parts would be best dealt with as an etch and given my developing skills in etch designing, I might was well have a go.  This is the product, an underframe, some cosmetic bogie sidesand some underframe details fresh back from the etchers.


The basic underframe has fold up solebars and buffer beams.  Each of these also has integral fold over layers to laminate on the cosmetic exterior.  This just about worked for the solbars but definitely did not for the buffer beams which distorted due to their thinness.  I will make these seperate pieces next time, but might use folding jigs.

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Coaches of this era tended to have four truss rods, each with a pair of queen posts.  Stealing an idea from Alistair Wright’s designs, I made the queen posts up by a long etch that has a half etch length to wrap around the wire used for the tie rod.  By folding this over the wire and then laminating the two parts together, a robust and simple post can be created.  As it is two layers soldered together, it has the strength to allow it to be filed to a round shape to create the appearance of the original.


Although originally gas lit, by the time I will be modelling this vehicle it was electrically lit.  Whilst I probably could have bought cast batter boxes, I decided to include them in the etch and very pleased I am too – they have come out much more crisp than any of the castings I have seen and were really easy to both draw and make.  The remainder of the fittings seen here were bought in castings though, typically from Comet Models (now distributed by Wizard Models).



And this is where the underframe has presently progressed to.

I will describe the building of the bogies in the next installment, they are not for the faint-hearted!




New Shoes for Some Old Friends

Over the last few weeks, I have been revisiting a number of model coaches that I have built in the past, typically quite some time in the past as most of these have been around since either my teens or twentys!

Over the years techniques have changed and I undoubtedly would not build most of them in the manner that I originally built them if I was confronted with doing them again.  Having said this, on the whole my handiwork – especially in respect of the painting and lining was really quite good.  I seem to have lost my lining mojo in particular, so I am not sure I could line as well as this now.  This is something that I really must get to grips with this, as I still have a lot to do!

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a pair of full brakes, the one to the left is a West Coast Joint Stock (from a London Road Models kit) and that to the right is straight LNWR (from a Microrail kit)

But the biggest area of difficulty with the coaches is that the bogies were generally formed around beam compensation units.  These are OK for a couple of coaches behind a branch train but they impart far too much friction for a full main-line train as I aspire too.  This is impossible to overcome whilst retaining the compensation units, the bar is the cause of the problem and it has to go!

To overcome this, Bill Bedford sprung boiges are being retro-fitting to all of my existing stock.  These rely on separate hornblocks that secure a pin-point bearing in them – so rolling resistance is significantly reduced.  The hornblocks are held in place by way of guitar wire and the effect is that they glide around the trackwork.  They thus give the impression of weight and inertia that is much better than compensation (it is possible to get compensation that does not use the rocking beams that are the cause of the fritchion I am complaining about).


A Midland & North British luggage composite (from a PC Models kit) and a LMS (ex Midland) dining car (from a 5522 Models kit).

The Bill Bedford units are only an inner bogie and they still need to have some form of detailing on the outside.  Some of these have entirely cosmetic outers, either of plastic or white metal but the two Midland coaches and the Highland TPO have something slightly different.  On these, I utilised the original etched bogie sides and laminated them onto the Bill Bedford inners.  This is very successful as it improves the Bill Bedfords notably by making them a lot stiffer and you get the crispness of the etching process.

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This is one of my fathers, so I can’t claim credit for anything but the bogies.  A Highland Railway TP (fully scratchbuilt).  Obviously, no painting has as yet been done, so it does rather look like a ganster with gold teeth!

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It is rather challenging to see how the Bed Bedford sprining unit sites inside the outer skins (from a Lochgorm kit) – so I will write up the process in a future blog – but this is what it looks like from the outside.

If, by the way you fancy some Fox Pressed Steel bogies that are neatly sprung and look the part – and almost all pre-group modellers ought to – keep watching the space. Subject to a test build or two, there will shortly be one available on the market.

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To test them, I took them and a few other coaches to ExpoEM to use their test track.  Here we see a Barney with eight on – albeit a rather od mix for the train and there is a fair amount of painting and lining still to be done.

And to prove that they really do work and also to allow you to see how they glide, a quick youtube video:




The Far North Line

In my last visit to the Highlands, I took my father up to almost the extremity or our island to Thurso.  The purpose of doing so was to mooch around portions of the Highland Railway north of Dingwall but also to drop in on Richard Doake.  Richard is a fellow follower of the Highland Railway and has a rather nice layout depicting a pair of the Far North line’s more interesting stations; Helmsdale and Thurso.

Although Richard has sought to use a large degree of ready to run stock, most of the infrastructure on his model has been scrachbuilt so that it captures the Highland flavour.  This includes signal boxes, goods sheds, water tanks and the like – the combined effect works as this is one of the most authentic feeling Highland layouts I have seen.

Richard high level Thurso

An overall view of the main part of Thurso.

Richard Black 5 at Thurso

The train shed is a reduced liength version of the real thing (which is still there for those that don’t know).  This view would have been a daily occurance in the late 1950s as a hiker concludes its long journey from Inverness with the Thurso portion of a Far North train.

Richard Thurso cabin

The signal cabin at the station throat.

Wee Ben at Thurso

A small ben, Ben Wyvis, does some shunting in Thurso’s yard.  This has been converted from a Hornby T9 with a replacement tender.  The wheels are in reality 6 inchs to big and the boiler is consequently too high, but I bet the Highland fans that read this didn’t notice until I told you?


Brn Wyvis’ sister, Ben Clebrig acting as station pilot at Thurso.

Richard Helmsdale Black 5

The other station is Helmsdale and here we have the Hiker once again returning south. passing a typical Highland goods shed.

Black 5 Helmsdale

Richard Helmsdale shed

A Pickersgill on shed at Helmsdale, along with a pannier.  A pair of panniers were regularly found at Helmsdale in 1962 as they worked the Dornoch branch at this time following the failure of the last operational Highland locomotives, some small tanks.

Richard Passenger Tank Helmsdale

And here is an example of this tank – aptly named Passenger tanks as they specialised on lightly loaded trains on the short branchlines the Highland had a number of in their region.

Richard Clan off to the sunset

Like on the Kyle line, van traffic was a big feature of the line and here we see a clan pull out northwards with a train of vans and non-passenger stock.  The eagle eyed will notice that the clan is in BR livery where in reality they did not last long enough to carry this.  Richard is quire relaxed about this as it enables him to include locos he fancies!

Black 5 heading south

And a similar working heading south with the almost enivitable (for the real thing) black 5.

So thank you Richard for entertaining us and also for the use of your photographs – rather better than my own!


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