Author Archives: highlandmiscellany
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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!
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:
Most of the track is laid and wired; much of it is also ballasted, although it still needs colouring.
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.
The principal bridge has been finished for a while, but it is looking a bit more “at home”.
…..especially with a fine loco to set it off.
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!).
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.
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………..
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!
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.
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!
The Hughes crabs again on a more normal passenger travelling in the opposite (northwards) direction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Portchullin’s next outing will be this forthcoming weekend; 18/19 May at Bracknell Leisure Centre, Bracknell, RG12 9SE.
We’ll be taking you back to the 1970’s where blue and grey ruled in the western highlands, with the odd stray green one………….
Pop by and say hello?
Following the tragic events in Sri Lanka recently, I pondered whether I would complete the intended final post of the series I had in mind. I have concluded that I would primarily because the experience that I had of Sri Lanka and its people was so friendly and felt so safe. So this post is my small bit of illustrating that Sri Lanka is not the country that was illustrated by the acts of a few deranged members of the population.
One of the joys of Sri Lanka’s railways is the retention of widespread railway relics from times past – in particular the signalling. Whilst there are modernised sections, substantial sections are still firmly in the first half of last century with full semaphore signals, tablets and block sections. Although a few arms have been removed, the bulk of the installations are still in situ and largely in use; so it is a bit of a cornucopia of signalling. Here are a few of the signals that I saw:
The signalling that I saw was all Saxby and Farmer – I only saw a couple of the lines in the country so it may be that there are other suppliers in evidence. The ground signals were quite similar to the McKenzie & Holland equivalents and tended to come in batches – looking like sentinels from an episode of Dr Who!
I thought the signal boxes looked decidedly home counties, although the rather shocking salmon pink wouldn’t have been found in Hertfordshire or Surrey I hazard!
With the exception of the signalman’s attire, the inside of the signal box was instantly recognisable to any UK railwayman of the last century of a half (well perhaps any UK railwayman of the last 40 years would be surprised to see so few white levers………).
This is the inside of Kandy’s signal box. Kandy is largely a terminus with the line from the Highlands and Columbo meeting here, along with a branch. With five platform faces and only moderate amounts of sidings, it struck me as a perfect modelling track plan if anyone wants to have a go! Here is the view from the steps of the box, along with the signalling diagram.
The approach to Kandy was in the process of being doubled when I visited, so I suspect that it will be resignalled with colour lights when this is done – so you had best get there soon if you want to see it like this………….
With plenty of justification, the most well known line in Sri Lanka is up into the hill country – from Kandy to either Elle or Badulla. The line was constructed during the colonial era to reach what was then Sri Lanka’s most important economic asset, tea. The hill country being famous for tea plantations – and there really are a lot of them! The views below genuinely representative of long stretches of the line.
The line twists and winds through the hills often crossing from one side of the hill side to the other through a large number of tunnels. At one portion, the line really was travelling along the top of a mountain ridge with steep slopes falling away to both sides.
Sometimes tea pickets were visible and so too were tea factories, such as these ones.
There was a fairly significant amount of traffic on the line; we crossed or overtook around seven trains. Some were headed by relatively modern sets such as the class S12 multiple unit set built in China that is in the video at the base of the post but there were also much older diesel units such as this class M5 dating from 1979 (and far from the oldest loco’s on the island!).
Besides the stunning scenery, probably the biggest thrill is the rather old fashioned (to a westerner anyway) attitude to riding on the trains. Getting the best view of the line by literally hanging on like this was quite normal and I did it for hours. Doing that in the UK would quite quickly get me a visit from the British Transport Police and a potentially a bit of a write up in the local paper!
Obviously, being in south asia, rules are largely there for breaking such as not bothering with the footbridge (or indeed road home). This lot were getting the station staff quite agitated, the reason being a train was already visible in the near distance!
Sri Lankan railway staff are clearly very proud of their railway; the fella below was not unrepresentative of the station masters that lined every station – very dapper!
The hill country is relatively cool (being why the colonials decamped there in the summer months) but the line drops significantly by the time it reaches Kandy. So much so, tea plantations give way to paddy fields and farm land – all still very lush, Sri Lanka being an island is notably more green than, say, nearby India.
The train journey is hardly fast = my journey (from Elle to Kandy, so not quite the end of the line) took seven and a half hours which is about twice the duration of the equivalent bus journey. But then, I would not have experienced one of the best train rides I have even had and all that for a heady £1.40 – plus I could have halved the cost if I had gone third class!
The modern DMUs are not nearly as exciting as the proper diesels (which do still appear on some trains, notably the overnight sleeper) and I wonder what it was like in the steam era?