Author Archives: highlandmiscellany
Taking a layout to shows is a surprisingly tense experience. There is the joy of the Friday traffic which typically adds 30% to the journey time (or rather more if the M6 is closed as I experienced once!). But it is the setting a layout up at a show is always a tense moment; typically there is always something that needs a bit of TLC and at Portchullin’s last show (last weekend at Spalding) quite a large dose of TLC became necessary due to these little blighters…..
Innocent looking isn’t?
It probably costs a tiny fraction of a penny but without it the layout is hamstrung because they are essential to the operation of the turnout motors. Portchullin uses Fulgerex point motors and this is a spring that activates micro-switches in these that change the crossing polarity and act as limit switches to the motor’s travel.
The frailty of the design is that these are only secured in place by their own tension and they are prone to bouncing out. A long journey in a van is just the type of thing to dislodging them – which is just what happened over the weekend, Indeed, it has happened before and has occasioned a number of the upside down sessions under the layout that Oly delights in telling you about.
We have now reached the stage where three of the five turnouts have crossing polarity controlled by separate switches. This creates some excitement for the operators as they have to remember to change both the turnout and the polarity – so much show that they refused to do so for the show!!
So, my fulgerex point motors, your days are numbered………………………….
Although not Highland vehicles, these full brakes have a strong association with the Highland’s branchlines in the post grouping years. Once the LMS took over the Highland’s system in 1923, they seemed to have been horrified by the state of the coaching stock that they inherited! Portions of the Highland’s fleet were speedily retired and large numbers of foreign company’s stock was drafted onto the system (especially the main line from Perth to Inverness, where the trains became fully corridor connected almost overnight).
When it came to the branchlines, the upgrade came primarily by the cascading of the better Highland stock onto these lines but there were exceptions. Although the Highland had full brakes, it was a line that had a lot of parcels/packages traffic, so it seemed that they needed even more and a batch of these Midland six wheeled full brakes were drafted in.
Many photographs of the Highland branchlines of the 1920s had one lurking in the background so I felt one should get to make appearances on Glenmutchkin. Simple, I thought, Slaters do a plastic kit for one and whilst it is no longer available, it is easy to pick up second hand and it should be a nice quick build. Unfortunately, I had not realised what a rubbish kit it was! It is too short and too narrow, most of the mastering is really crude and the panelling in particular would be a scale 6 inches deep. So the Slaters kit made it back on ebay only marginally quicker than it came off and I set about designing my own kit.
It has taken a couple of iterations and about three years, but finally I have got to the stage where I am happy with it but you can form your own view!
The first iteration used a cleminson chassis but in the light of the success I had with sliding axles on some of my other 6 wheeled stock, I redesigned it to include these and some sprung W-irons in the style of Bill Bedford’s.
This proved similarly successful and as you can see in the video, it trundles along quite nicely!
Other than the use of these sliding axles, the main unusual feature of the model is the arrangement of securing the roof. I have found that it is essential to bolt these in place to prevent the roof becoming adrift at some point in the future (which has happened to half my stock over time). Therefore, I designed a set of legs that allow the roof to be bolted through the floor from below and in the process also securing the separate chassis tight too. Broken down, the components look like this and having them separated does make painting a lot easier. It is definitely the route I will take in the future.
It is intended that this kit will be made available for sale as a 4mm/1ft model – albeit you will need to source the fittings/castings yourself. I have prepared some fairly extensive instructions (see link below) and this includes the details of what is required and where to get it from. I am waiting for a quote from the etching company to be able to work out the sensible cost for these; so an update post will follow when I list it on the Miscellany Models site.
In the meantime, here are a couple of additional views of the completed vehicle, awaiting its turn in the paintshop!
Don’t worry – this is not announcement of being turned to the dark side of modelling “Green With Rivets” (aka the GWR)! Instead it is a reference to a week’s trip to the extreme west of Cornwall to support my wife who was appearing in a musical that was running for a week at the Minack Theatre – more of this later……
As I was expecting to have a degree of time hanging around whilst the Mrs was on stage, I took a little modelling with me – in this case, a Jones era double deck sheep van. As can be seen in this George Washington Wilson photograph of Kyle – sheep traffic was an important source of traffic to the Highland Railway – the majority of the train in the platform are sheep vans and there is also a row of them in the foreground.
Ever with the eye to efficiency, the Highland developed a double deck van to double the number of sheep that could be transported in one vehicle. I believe that the Cambrian Railway and several railways in Ireland had similar vehicles, but otherwise these were characteristic of the Highland’s lines to the west coast and clearly I have to have a rake of them. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of effort in each one………….for example each side below is made up of five layers of laminate (and they are delicate too)!!
The highland had several versions of these vans, this time I chose the second era of van, which has a single door and diagonal bracing; I do have plans for some of the other diagrams so this is a topic we will revisit at some point! The starting point for this vehicle was an etched kit from the Lochgorm range (presently unavailable, but we are all hoping……) and as already hinted, it is not an easy one! This is mostly due to the delicacy of the parts and the multi-layering of the etches that take up a lot of care to line up with each other. It takes a fair few hours simply to get the sides made up and ready for assembly and then you still have the metal bracing to do!
There were a number of elements to the kit that did not work for me. The various tabs you see in the above image are to help locate the various floors with each other but in practise they are not correctly located and just get in the way – so I whipped them off! I also ditched the compensated suspension and instead used spring suspension instead with some trusty Bill Bedford sprung units.
However, I did not spot the biggest problem until it was too late. There is an error with the design of the kit ends where one of them is missing the top gap between slats. The correct end is as per the right hand picture and had I have spotted this prior to the assembly of the ends, I would have been able to insert the additional gap with a piercing saw. Having missed the problem until after I had built the van, I decided not to sweat the parts apart to cut in the slat. It only shows to those that know it is wrong; the problem is that I am one of them so it does niggle!
Contrary to the instructions, I did not loose lay the floors in place and instead created a cage arrangement by hanging the floors from rods that were secured to the roof. As can be seen below, this enables the roof and the floors to be released from the interior of the van. As with all my vans/coaches, this is secured in place with some bolts and nuts, so that the roof can be clamped tightly in place (I hate the cracks of doom that I see on otherwise fine models where roofs are not properly secured!). The detachable roof is necessary to both paint the vehicle but particularly populate it with the necessary sheep. You would be startled by how many sheep are required to fill one of these – around 50 and it costs a fair amount to populate each van. Thus, I have in mind casting some of my own in resin, although that is a story for another day.
The problems with the kit did not finish with the problems noted to date. The iron strapping was not quite right, the springs for the axleboxes are too big and the brake lever/shoe seemed excessively skinny. Thus, these were all adjusted or replaced with alternatives. All this effort and problems to solve meant that the van took a great deal longer to finish than the week that I had available – so it has taken until now to photograph it. This is what it looks like and rather dainty and different I think it is too!
And what of the Minack Theatre? Well, for any that do not know it this theatre’s setting is simply breath-taking, being set in the cliff side only three miles short of Land’s End. As you can see, vertigo is an issue for visitors and all of the set, props and costumes had to be carried down to the stage level – exhausting work that took us three hours! One of other downsides of the theatre is that the seals, dolphins and basking sharks can sometimes be seen over the shoulders of the cast – which is distracting as you can imagine!
Only my wife was on stage, my duties including the stage building and front of house duties but with 7 public performances in five days, plus rehearsals there wasn’t that much time for modelling!
The musical being performed was Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which follows the revenge that its namesake extracts on a corrupt judge and his beadle (with quite significant amounts of collateral!) for wrongly arranging for him to be transported. The most recent Hollywood version is pretty dark and definitely less watchable as a result – our version has just as death but with a great deal of humour too; especially as the leads had some pretty good comic timing to deliver it well.
The by-product of all these killings (ie bodies!) found its way into pies and one of the more jolly parts of the performance is where all the customers of these pies extol the virtues of their meaty dishes. So with apologies for my rather crude phone videoing; enjoy……………(I did, although strangely I had no taste for pasties whilst I was down in Cornwall!)………..
I am pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of volume 3 of my father’s series on railway cranes. This will be available from mid September and on the 23/24 September it will be formally launched at Scaleforum with my father in attendance if you want to speak to him. This will be on the Crecy book stand along with a selection of their books (including volume 1 if you haven’t got this, volume is out of print at present).
For this volume we move away from breakdown cranes to permanent way cranes. This is a big topic and has even less standardisation than breakdown cranes (and there ain’t much in that!). Thus the book is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all such cranes but rather more a review of the main types and development of them.
The book covers from the relatively early days (given the scarcity of material on early cranes, this is a slightly relative concept) upto the contemporary Kirov cranes.
If you can’t make it to Scaleforum, then it can be ordered via your preferred bookseller or direct from Crecy http://www.crecy.co.uk/railway-cranes-3.
The one book in the series that is still to be done is one of cranes mounted on engines. My father does not feel that he knows enough to write this one so if there are any that feel that they (or collectively) know sufficient, I know a publisher that would be interested………….. (PS this is not a mikey take, it would be great to finish the story!).
Progress with the Pharmacy building has continued and the roof is now nearing completion. I preferred using sheet metal (in this case nickle silver) for roofs as I find it is the easiest was to then include gutters. In this case, I designed the roof as a simple fold up etch and subsequently the gutters were formed by half round section from Eileen’s Emporium.
One of the pieces of artistic licence I went for relative to the real Kyle Pharmacy was to elongate the building slightly. This was partly because the prototype was a bit square and squat but also because I fancied including a decorative ridge piece. The Victorians and Edwardians did love a bit of decoration and this included the details to their buildings. There were numerous contemporary catalogues of architectural bits and pieces from which to choose from and I liked the idea of something pretty – especially given that this model will be right at the front of the layout. So I created a design of my own and etched it; along also with the characteristic sign that is so prominent in the photo in my last post.
Those that looked carefully at the prototype photograph in the last post will have noted that the roof slates were diamond shaped. These were, in fact, asbestos slates and were quite a common material for pre-fabricated and simple buildings such as the Kyle Pharmacy. Clearly they needed to be modelled but I did no fancy my chances of cutting the odd couple of thousand slates consistently. I toyed with getting some laser cut or cut on a silhouette machine but then had a brainwave – pinking shears.
For reasons I don’t quite know, dressmakers use these to create zigzag cuts and even better, my wife had a set. However, she spotted me taking a look at them which meant I had a very firm talking too and was immediately banned from using them!! Researching them on the internet showed that they come in a variety of pitches but be warned not all of them have 90º serrations. I did find a set with a 4mm pitch which was a bit less than the 5mm that I thought was scale for the Kyle Pharmacy but as this equates to a 12 inch slate, I thought it was plausible and not a bodge too far. As you can see below, they produce a neat and consistent serration.
I cut the slates from plain paper in strips which I then sprayed a mid-grey colour because I felt that asbestos tiles might be a bit lighter than normal welsh slates. I deliberately allowed a tiny bit of inconsistency of colour to creep in, to provide a little texture to the roof. However, painting them was not easy as the air of the airbrush sent them flying – so I had to create a cradle to mount them in for spraying.
Once painted, I secured them with spraymount and carefully set them out, with the point of the diamond to the row above meeting the apex of the one below.
It takes some time (around 2 hours for a fairly small roof!) but I think the effect is quite convincing. I find the the best effect to make it look natural is to lay the slates as consistently as possible – you don’t achieve perfect consistency and these small imperfections end up making it that little bit more. Deliberately introducing inconsistencies tends to look a little contrived; including in this case my slightly differing shades, however, this was expected and can be overcome.
The blend the colours together, I washed the slates with artist’s acrylic always ensuring that the brush stroke was down the roof to mimic the flow of the weather.
I also formed the ridge and hip flashings with cigarette paper which I had first sprayed with grey primer and then secured with more spraymount. This was laid over 0.6mm brass rod to give the central lead roll effect – this was secured in place with superglue. I initially tried to make the lead flashings in sections so that the correct laps between one piece and the other was achieved but I never got close to a neat or believable finish. Thus I ended up doing this in one piece per run.
The front signboard will need some more work yet (partly because I have damaged it!), which will feature in a future post as I am going to have a bash at producing transfers.
It is a fair time since I built my last building, so feeling that it was time that I rediscovered my mojo for architectural things I have made a crack at a building that will be a fairly key feature on Glenmutchkin – its pharmacy .
This is inspired, and largely a facsimile of, The Kyle Pharmacy that could be found on the approach to the ferry pier. Or at least it could until the 1970s when it was swept away to make a larger car holding pool for the ferry. In addition to being a characterful building, as you can see below, the real pharmacy at Kyle was a key part of the local community and I wanted to capture this feature in Glenmutchkin.
The pharmacy building is going to be located on the most prominent position at the front of the layout, so it definitely deserved some time being spent on it. Taking Peter Bond’s advice, it is going to be assembled in components which will make painting a great deal easier but rather than using plasticard throughout as he would have done, I have arranged to have the shop front and bay etched. I did so as I concluded that getting the slenderness and crispness of these was going to be key to get the feel of the model convincing. Peter is a professional architectural modeller and bending plasticard to his will is therefore his stock in trade – not quite so me!
So these are the basic etches back from PPD:
Some of the bay assemblies and the bay largely completed:
The real value of etching the components can be seen in the shopfront – I at least can’t get plasticard to look like this!
I have not managed to get any models to a stage which would make a worthwhile post for a couple of weeks; in a large part due to the disaster I had with the matting agent in my varnish.
This has meant that a number (oh yes, it wasn’t just the one I showed a picture of………) of models have had to get a coating of in nitromors. But nitromors is not enough to to properly clean the model and a lot of attention with a glass fibre scratch pen is required. So I have had an enjoyable weekend plucking glass fibres from my fingers! The models are now at the stage where they have been stripped back and the base coats have been renewed. It is pretty galling to find yourself back to were a month or two back!
It does, however, remind me of another of the tools that I find invaluable in my modelling – a ultrasonic bath. Now they don’t sound like a critical tool to a railway modeller but let me correct you. It is utterly startling how much grot and muck comes off even the most thoroughly cleaned model – you won’t believe me until you have experienced it!
This is the version I have, which is larger than most and is big enough to get a full length coach in it. It also has a heating element in it and the warm water helps the cleaning process. So too does this stuff; Shiny Sinks.
This is a very effective cleaner and does not leave a residual film (which washing up liquid does).
The really handy thing about this set of recommended tools is that they won’t get you in trouble with the domestic authorities. That is because this combination is excellent for cleaning jewellery so you can earn a few brownie points for giving these a spring clean!
I got mine from Maplins and it cost about £60. Given that they are going through their liquidation sale at the moment, you may be able to do better than me but they are available (at a higher cost) via Fleabay or Amazon – such as this one https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/JPL-ULTRA-8060-Ultrasonic-Cleaner-3-Litre/131291011406?epid=21015637893&hash=item1e918dd94e:g:byYAAOSwgQ9VkUcO
The stock for Glenmutchkin has a recent addition and a rather beautiful one too.
This is a Clyde Bogie; the prototype being designed by David Jones and delivered in 1886. Initially this was a top link locomotive of the line but as time went past it was relegated to lesser duties. On Glenmutchkin it will be one of the locomotives for the branch passenger trains – equivalent to what the real locomotive did at the end of its live. This particular example was the last in service and lasted until 1930 and, as you can see, it picked up the LMS’s first livery of fully lined Crimson Lake.
The model was built for me by John James from a Lochgorm Models etched kit. It is fair to say it was not an easy kit to master and John has cursed me a fair amount I believe for asking him to do this particular prototype…………… He would have cursed more if he also had to make the louvred chimney!
Since John has delivered it to me I have fitted a sound chip and some AJs. I need to fit some loco crew too before long. I suspect I am not going to find another sound fitted Clyde Bogie anytime soon as I have only ever seen one other built example so I can confidently say this is a first! I also seem to have disturbed the seating of the tender chassis as it is sitting rather low – a little task to attend to soon.
I have not been entirely idle whilst John has been busy and have been doing a number of little projects. Most of these will appear in future blogs but the pair of Wilsons & Clyde open wagons will not because this is effectively the same as the NB Jubilee Wagon I discussed previously. However, it is worth noting that Wilsons and Clyde were known to be one of the major providers of loco coal to the Highland so I am presuming these to be loco coal wagons.
And here is a picture of 14278 in action; albeit not at this point with sound fitted.