Thirty Seven for Portchullin……

Portchullin is just back from a fun weekend attending the Brighton Model Railway Club’s annual exhibition – its thirty seventh show.  Despite efforts, some electrical gremlins were making themselves felt quite severely on Saturday morning such that yet another temporary fix became required to keep the layout operational!

This did lead to some contemplation as to how many more times the layout should go out going forward.  As the photograph below illustrates, the layout has made it to some fairly far flung places – Glasgow to Utrecht via Barnstaple, Portsmouth, Newcastle and a fair number of places in between.

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Whilst I have not yet made the decision to retire the layout, and will give it a fairly thorough rewiring to ensure that the issues experienced this weekend fare overcome, its retirement will come in time.   Don’t worry if you wish to see it again, there are still a couple of confirmed bookings over the next two years (starting with Perth in June 2020) and a couple more are likely.  

Glenmutchkin is progressing slowly and will eventually replace Portchullin but as a taster of things to come (with some compromises, I know the livery of the Jubilee is incompatible with the fully lined coaches!), here is a video of the new (if older) order.

 

Slips, Moans and the Third Way

A while back I outlined the struggle (that may have been largely in my head!) with wiring the single slip into the MPD.  After some frantic reappraisal of this as the layout was being set up at Scaleforum (thanks Chris!), it was fully operational.

Given this is a further blog post on this slip, you can tell there is a but………..  In this case it was that route setting the turnout such that it was electrically correct was not intuitive.  The difficulty lay in the straight through route – to set it electrically for the route through on the main required a different arrangement of the switches to that for the straight run from the loop to the MPD.  This was even though the physical route setting could be exactly the same, so it become quite confusing!  Not having a power district breaker meant that the layout locked down rather too frequently as a result.

Although I don’t see it myself, the guys think that one of my main operating crew has a bit of a reputation for being a moaner when things aren’t as easy as they could be……  With this in mind, it is clear that I have to do something about this to keep the peace.  In addition to the use of LED route identification lights on the control panel, I have found a third way of powering the crossings on the slip.  Its thisTAM2

This is a frog juicer (apologies for the Americanism!) and is simply a device that detects a short-circuit when a vehicle hits the crossing.   Instead of tripping out (as a power district breaker would), it swaps the polarity.  This happens faster than a circuit breaker can trip or the locomotive motor react so can be relied upon to switch the crossing without any visible effect on operation.

The net impact of this is that my slip only needs to be set for the route that is being used.  The crossings will not be changed by this route setting, instead as the first wheel touches each crossing it gets switched to the correct polarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was the weekend that was….

Well the layout made it to and from Scaleforum – possibly I did too!

Last Friday, the inside of the hire van looked like this.  Whilst the cases worked a treat, the dismantling of the layout from being set up on my own took a long time – much longer than I had hoped or expected.

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Once at the venue, I was able to press gang some “volunteers” to erect the layout and this was much easier.

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Getting the beams levelled up was speedy even though none of my press team had any experience of my logic!  Indeed, with their help, it assembled itself quicker than Portchullin does although the jury is out in my mind as to whether this is simply because it as yet has rather less on it!

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The layout’s size quite quickly became apparent; especially its depth – as can be seen here with Chris in the background for a sense of sale!  Please don’t tell my wife this is actually quite big, I have been telling her it is pretty normally sized!

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I did not manage to get front side all that often so I have only fairly limited numbers of photographs.  Fortunately Samuel Bennett has come to my rescue and has provided a number of photographs to show what it looked like to the visitor.

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We only had three correct Highland locos chipped up (and one of these decided to sulk after a couple of hours!) so we did break out the blue diesels to make sure we had a fully operational layout.  Above there are a few of the locos awaiting chipping on shed and below we have the scene 50 years later!

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……..and below is simply confused!

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Although the layout did not operate perfectly, it did behave much better than I (and my operating team) had feared!  The two page list of faults and issues to resolve with the trackwork, wiring or stock is a fraction of the list that would have existed after Portchullin’s first outing (if I ever had one!).

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The signals received a lot of comment, even if there was one missing because I managed to damage it as I was packing the layout.  There’ll be another post on these soon.

Putting a Backbone into a Shed

The advantage of a railway company using standard building designs is that you can get to use them more than once.  Thus Portchullin’s goods shed will be getting to have a new lease of life on Glenmutchkin.

I think my goods shed is the oldest model that I still have and over the years it is fair to say has suffered.  Some of this is simply the thirty six shows that it has done with Portchullin (hell………thirty six shows…….!) and almost as many years, as I was about 17 when I made it.  However the main issue was the manner in which I built it, with minimal bracing over the top of the entrances.  This has lead to it breaking its back and despite several attempts at repair, these have never been long lasting.  So it is time to do it properly to allow its reincarnation on Glenmutchkin.

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The key to the repair was to introduce a metal skeleton frame inside the model to strengthen it – particularly across the rail doors.  This is something I now tend to do at the outset with any largish building I build to contain warping.  The frame is invisible from the exterior – the view above shows the frame that I made with the first side attached.

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The frame was made with some 3mm square and oblong section brass, with gusset plates – there was a fair amount of metal so it got close to blacksmithing at one stage.

Once the frame was inserted, the model was given an overhaul to repair the other dinks and marks that it has acquired over the years.  There were a fair few, as can be seen.

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I also to the opportunity to install gutters and downpipes; something I had been meaning to do since I was 17………a bit of a shameful shortfall, given I am a chartered building surveyor!

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I am pleased with the results and the model is now much more robust so it should do at least another 36 shows!  Whether its owner can will be kept under review!

My goods shed is based on the Orbach drawings of the shed at Garve (the August 1952 edition of the Model Railway News).  The prototype was swept away in the 1970s and whilst there are a pair of the smaller sheds still remaining (notably at Brora), there are no longer any of the standard Highland Goods sheds left.  The last to go was in Golspie about two years ago and I did manage to both photograph and measure it before it went.  Here are some views of it before it was demolished:

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Baseboards: Attention!

With the need to load the layout in the back of a van to get it to Scaleforum looming, I have been pressing ahead with the creation of travelling boxes for the boards.

Despite being pretty simple, they do take a long time to make but those for the main visible boards are at least all now complete – and here they are on parade!

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It Lives Igor; the Monster, It Lives……

Well, it is twitching quite a lot anyway……………..

A significant day in the life of Glenmutchkin over this weekend, as I have got a significant proportion of the trackwork which has been laid operational.  Admittedly I have an electrical issue in the branch bay (something is wired backwards!), the fiddle yard has not yet been linked to the layout and the single slip still has not be corrected but it works…………..

This is my Loghgorm Bogie (Clyde Bogie series)  built by John James.  The body is not quite sitting right on it, which is why there is a bit of bouncing; which is a bit worse when it runs faster as below.

Lots to do, but we are getting there!   There will be a working layout for Scaleforum!

 

 

Calming an Exhibition Manager’s Nerves…………

So with nine weeks to go (a couple of which will be lost with a summer holiday) to Glenmutchkin’s first outing at Scaleforum, the state of progress is at the forefront my mind!  It is probably rather more at the forefront of the exhibition manager’s mind! 

So help to calm the Scaleforum’s exhibition manager’s nerves, here is a progress report and update photographs to prove that even if I have not been providing many posts, progress is being made on a number of fronts:

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Most of the track is laid and wired; much of it is also ballasted, although it still needs colouring.

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Most of the signals are finished but not yet linked up (which explains some of the droopy angles of the arms!).  There will be more posts on this topic soon.

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The principal bridge has been finished for a while, but it is looking a bit more “at home”.

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…..especially with a fine loco to set it off.

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Golden July for the Highland

A little bit like buses, you wait for a long time for some interesting articles on the Highland Railway and all of a sudden we get two or three come along in the same issue – in this case the July edition of the Railway Modeller.  It is a veritable Highland-fest and is well worth buying as a result (no apologies for bias offered!).

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First up the layout of the month is Howard Geddes’ Blair Atholl and Druimuachdar.  His layout is a representation of Blair Atholl station along with its approach from the south and the line over the big hill (Druimuachdar as Howard describes it or present day Drumochter).   It is liberally illustrated with photographs of the layout and numerous Highland locos – these cover many of the Highland’s locos and also those of the LMS era.   Howard has written notes for each of the photographs to illustrate the historical context of the train, the loco of the scene to make this a bit more interesting than the average article in the model railway press.

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So to emulate Howard, I can tell you that this is a Loch Class, number 127 Loch Garry taking water in front of Blair Atholl’s shed.  When built, these were the front line express engines but on the building of later locomotives, they were relegated to slightly less important tasks.  So this may well have come off a Blair Atholl local (the all stations stopping services from Perth terminated at Blair) or has just returned from piloting a train up the hill.

The other article of interest for the modeller of the Highland was by Peter Fletcher and was a review of his locomotive fleet for his EM gauge layout Croich (which is based on Tain shed).  As he says himself, the layout is really a vehicle to show off his loco fleet and it is fair to say it is fairly extensive  and covers the majority of the Highland types in existence in 1920.  The article also includes a reprint of a drawing for the small ben class of loco; hopefully a few people may be provoked into

Perhaps the most pleasant part of the two articles is how all but a couple of the locomotives have actually been built!   Oh that we see a bit more of this in the mainstream model railway press!

I don’t have any pictures of Peter’s layout so you will need to refer to July’s edition of the Railway Modeller or the March 2018 for the whole layout.  Howard has however provided me with a number of photographs of Blair Atholl that weren’t in the magazine to act as a tempter………..

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Wee Ben, no 14413, Ben Alligan crossing Howard’s model of Altnaslanach Viaduct (from just north of Moy, and still there albeit in structural terms now merely decoration to a steel replacement that is inserted within it).  It is the Highland’s locos in the LMS first livery that float my boat, so this is as good as it gets for me!

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HR’s no 99 Glentromie, one of David Jones’ Strath class with some sheep and cattle wagons at the head of a mix freight train.

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The premier locomotives on the Highland mainline between 1928 and the arrival of the Black 5s in 1934 were the Hughes Crab class – a locomotive that I find the brutishness of which very appealing (I have a couple in progress).  Here we have them hauling a freight train through the Druimuachdar portion of Howard’s layout – representing the summit of the line going through the wildness of the Grampian Mountains.  I was looking down on the scene only a fortnight ago from one of the adjacent munros looking at the really short HST sets now in use on the mainline!

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The Hughes crabs again on a more normal passenger travelling in the opposite (northwards) direction.

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A vista across the MPD area of Blair Atholl with Loch Garry now taking a breather waiting for its next roster.

The final of the three buses is the announcement of the release of a Highland signal cabin by Peco, as per my previous post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peco Announce a Highland Signal Cabin

I had not expected to ever say this, but I can write a post on Highland Miscellany about a forthcoming Highland Railway product from one of the mainstream manufacturers!

In this case this is going to be from Peco and it is based on the cabin at Helmsdale (Helmsdale South).  This is still existent and has been out of use for some time but has been recently refurbished.  It is in 4mm only at present (but who knows about the future?) and seems to represent its present condition.  As I understand it, it is going to be a laser cut kit and is due to be released later this year.

When it comes out, I will certainly buy one and review it here but in the meantime here are some photographs of the initial prototype courtesy of Paul Marshall Potter.

And here are a few pictures of the real thing from a few years back.

Boxing Clever

One of the worst parts of Portchullin is the lack of thought I gave to transporting the layout about.  One of its attractions is the curve which makes it unusual but this makes the boards big, cumbersome and above all awkwardly shaped to transport.  It also made them difficult to create packing solutions for and the limited solutions that I adopted have never been good enough which has plagued the layout throughout its life.

It was a mistake I am anxious not to repeat with Glenmutchkin and now that it is beginning to accumulate some finished elements, it is definitely time to deal with this and create some cases to enclose the boards when they are either stored or transported.  My requirements for these were that they provide rugged protection to allow the layout to be transported without risk of being damaged.  I also wanted them to be easier to move, in particular on my own, and to pack away themselves without taking up significant amounts of space.

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There are (presently, there are plans……) six scenic boards and the crate for the first two – for the smallest boards – is now complete.  The concept I came up with is to use end pieces that secure the two boards on top of each other, face to face.  To this, I have added larger panels to close in the sides and prevent these exposed parts from damage.  To try and speed up assembly and also reduce the space that they need, each end is hinged to and end piece but conceived such that they fold onto each other so that they pack into the minimum possible space.

One of the other features I included was nicked from the St Merryn team was to introduce packing pieces to make sure that the ends stand clear of the rail ends.  A simple feature that I had not seen described before.

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To make the combined case and boards easier to transport I have introduced some trolley wheels – the operating crew are pretty excited with this and can hardly believe how much they are going to be spoilt!  The other little trick I am please to have employed is to introduce slight feet to enable fingers to get below the box to lift it.

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I have concluded that only the two smallest boards can be paired up in this manner as they are already quite heavy and will get more so as I add the remainder of the features to their topsides.  Thus the remaining board cases will be slightly different.

Roger Farnworth

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