Monthly Archives: October 2016

1955, somewhere in North London

In my travels, I have managed to blag an invite to see Bob How’s developing model of King’s Cross and portions of the Great Northern’s main line in north London.  This is depicted in the mid 1950’s when the pacifics still reigned supreme and there was a full mix of locals, semi-fast and express passengers, along with a modicum of freight on the metropolitan widened lines.

It is hardly surprising, given the magnitude of the layout, that this is still a work in progress but what has been built is largely operational and therefore playing of trains is a regular feature in the How household.  Given the location of the prototype, this means even the relatively short trains were 6 coaches in length and the full expresses upto 10.  All this is in P4 and includes various gradients/curves to allow the lines to cross each other, so it tests the haulage power of loco’s upto prototype levels!

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The more scenically finished portions of the layout are on the continuous run outer loop which comprises twin tracks to one side and four tracks to the other.  This culminates in a very impressive junction where the main line to Kings Cross joins and a dive under to give access to the fiddle yard passes below.

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As can be seen, there is still lots of work to do to these areas, including the provision of signals but the impressive nature of the layout is immediately apparent.  But the real magnitude of the endeavour becomes apparent once a look at the terminus is made.

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Even without any meaningfully completed elements of scenery, this is unmistakably Kings Cross that no doubt all of us are familiar with either from personal experience or photographs.  Just imagine what it will be like with the full trainshed and a batch of northbound trains waiting their due departure time?

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Bob’s intentions are to model the full station, including the MPD, the suburban station and milk depot; although at present these last areas are sill to be started.  It will be a monster when it is finished!  As you can see, even the fiddle yard is somewhat of a giant, although Bob was close to admitting that it is rather too small for the layout!

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Apologies for the grainy photos, the layout lighting is a task still to be confronted and photography was pushing the camera to its limit!

You have some catching up to do Mr Hanson………….

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………….

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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

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