Monthly Archives: January 2017

A Return Ticket to Buckingham – Part 3, the Automatic Crispin

Peter Denny’s Buckingham branch was very much an operational layout; for many years Peter’s children – Stephen and Crispin – were his chief assistant operators.  However, as his children grew up they weren’t always available and Peter found himself operating short-handed.   He found this frustrating as the need to cover the missing person interfered with the remainder of the operators.

This provoked the creation of the Automatic Crispin, one of the more famous parts of the layout.  Long before the use of DCC, micro-processors or automatic shuttles, this was an electromechanical computer – and very ingenious (and mind bogglingly complicated) it is too.  This was designed by Peter’s other son – Stephen – and took the place of Crispin to operate a portion of the layout automaticaly, in response to requests and commands from the other operators.

The heart of the system are a pair of disks and a paper chart with holes in it; all powered by motors and the enivitable mechano!  The disks contain a series of metal studs or runners, each of which is connected to either the bell, the block instrument, the track or turnout relays.  Running across these were a series of wiper blades of brass that connected power to the studs or runner as required.

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The operation of the disk was initiated by Grandborough Jct’s signalman.  As he sends a bell code, this sends a pulse of power to initiate the motor to rotate the disks or the paper chart on one segment; this first segment sends power to activate a bell code reply (each stud giving a ping).  When this is answered by Grandborough Jct, in addition to acknowledging the offering forward of a train with a further bell code, it sets the block instrument.  The acknowledgement of the latter being the next command to operate the correct route into the fiddle yard and power up the track in order to allow the train to arrive.  The arriving train would hit a dead portion of track at the end of the fiddle yard to stop it running away, but in the process would send the “train out of section” bell code back to Grandborough Jct to allow the line to be cleared.

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The story always told by Peter was that the Automatic Crispin was required when the real Crispin went to University but I think it is time to share with the world that this was a white lie.  Crispin’s more prosaic explanation was that he had discovered girls at the time and all of a sudden, playing with Daddy’s trainset didn’t seem quite so interesting…….

As can be seen in the pictures, at present the Automatic Crispin is presently in bits, but is all beleived to be complete.  It is part of Tony’s master plan to reassemble this; its orignator Stephen is apparently up for assisting to, so who knows?

To conclude the last of these three posts on Buckingham Central, a few photographs and to give you a chance to see the Automatic Crispen in action, take a look at this link to the BBC News article on Peter’s death and some video from circa 1980 of the layout – enjoy!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cornwall/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8700000/8700293.stm

It is fair to say that Peter Bond and myself were not as proficient as Peter and his sons in this, sounds like we need some more practise Peter……..

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A Return Ticket to Buckingham – Part 2; Peter Denny’s Modelling

When I was still in my shorts, I used to peruse my father’s extensive collection of railway magazines for hours on end – the Railway Modeller, Model Railway News and the Model Railway Constructor.  I even marked in pen articles I particularly liked (not for long, the old man soon warned me off that approach!).  My memories from this period of Buckingham were not about its operational possibilities but for its modelling.

Whilst the years have passed and there are now a fair number of fine layouts that have eclipsed Buckingham, back in the 1970s (when I was leafing through these magazines) these were not common and going back to when the articles were being written 10 or 15 years before, only a very few even got close to the standard of Peter’s modelling.  So this post will illustrate what state of the art 1960s scenic modelling looked like.

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As can be expected of a layout that is 50+ years old, wear is showing in places and prior to his death, Peter Denny did have a programme of repair and improvement underway.  One of the aspects to be dealt with was the trees made of sprigs of lichen on trunks made of wire or heather – these had not faired well.

Tony had been mulling over what to do about this and consulted with Peter’s children who still have an interest in their father’s layout and seem to act as “non-exec directors” to the board.  The conclusion was “do as Peter would have done” and as a result little upgrades and repairs are being completed to Buckingham, so the layout will still develop.  In the case of the trees, replacements will be made of sea moss and ground foam.

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One story that Tony was able to share with us, which I do not think is widely known, is why Peter selected the Great Central for his modelling.  Apparently, he initially started modelling the Great Western but soon found that there were a few too many people that knew a too much about the GW.  He was concerned any incorrect details would be found out and so he sought out a rather lesser known prototype.  He settled on the GC because he wanted a prototype that had wooden post signals (he could not work out how to make lattice posts); he liked the brown and cream full coach livery that the GW & the GC shared and he did not want a company that used outside valve gear because he was concerned whether he could model it!

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The layout contains a number of quite clever little cameos, often segregated from one another with a bridge or a blocking building.  This means that there are quite a number of such scenes within close to each other without it looking too crowded.

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Beyond the buffer stops of Buckingham, a market square and a pair of streets were modelled.  Obviously, it is market day to generate a couple of extra trains – you can’t call this a cliche, because it was essentially the first example so every other example is the cliche!

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In the final part, I will take a last look at the layout and also one of its more iconic features – the Automatic Crispen; with a shock horror revelation………..

 

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