Author Archives: highlandmiscellany

A Ransome & Rapier Crane

Readers of this blog will recall that my father has a significant interest in breakdown cranes; he has published a series of books on them and is the honoury president of the Breakdown Crane Association.   As a result of this, a few years ago, he took a call from Bachmann when they started to research the possibility of filling a gap in the ready to run scene for a accurate breakdown crane.  He delighted in being sworn to secrecy on this until the model was announced and now, some five years later, it has finally arrived on the shelves.

So after a somewhat unsatisfactory retail experience with Rails of Sheffield (which I won’t be repeating, there are plenty of other retailers out there), an example of a Ransomes & Rapier 45 ton crane arrived not much more than a couple of hours spare so that it could be parcelled up in its Christmas wrapping for my father.  Now that it has reemerged, it is time to take a look at it.

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Prototype

The prototypes originate from the early years of the last world war and were initiated by the British Government; in part in anticipation of a lot of emergency repairs being required following enemy action and also for use on the continent once a toehold had been achieved.  Initially a total of six were made, going to the SR and GWR but subsequently a further order of nine were made, mostly for the military but with a couple for the LNER and another for the SR.  The example I bought being from the latter batch, being initially based in Gorton on the ex GCR system.

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There were detail differences, with many of the railway company vehicles utilising standard components from their eventual owners.   The valve chests for the cylinders moved to the exterior in the later batches and the operation of the loading of the relieving bogies became hydraulic latterly.  The biggest changes, however, related to the match wagons where there was both variety of arrangements of tool boxes at the time of building and generations of modifications thereafter.

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The cranes lasted until the mid 1980’s and a number of them survive in preservation, so if you want to see the real thing you might want to head to the Midhants Railway (on which the prototype photographs were taken and reproduced with kind permission of Carl Watson), the Bluebell Railway, the Great Central Railway, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway or the Swanage Railway.   Below is a link to a video of the Midhants crane in action:

Model

The first thing you notice with the model is that it is some way from the toy train end of the model train market.  The prototype is smothered in detail; with the fine bracing between the sides of the jib, the gear trains, axleboxes and flywheels all being a bit out of the ordinary for the ready to run market.  Bachmann have had a really good go at this and for the greater part they have got it right – very few could model a crane as well as this.  There are, however, several compromises made to enable them to be operable.  This particularly shows at the bearing points at the head of the jib (exposed metal when they shouldn’t be visible) and on the crankpin nuts to the flywheels (way too big and hexagonal).  I understand why this was done, but it sticks out to my eyes!  Some touching in of paintwork will help (but not be perfect) and the replacement of nuts with something more subtle should be possible.

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The detail is very delicate and the model needs to be handled very carefully as a result.  Even the most careful (and I don’t count myself in this group) are unlikely to keep all the detail in place on any model that does not merely sit in the display cabinet.  With a recommended retail price of £250, substantially more than any other product that is not filled with motors & electronics, it is doubtful that too many will end up in the hands of children – maybe that is just as well!

The model I bought, the early BR model in black – Bachmann ref SKU: 38-802, has a match truck without tool boxes.  This is correct for the specific crane post the early 1950s but what is not is the missing insides to the splashers.  This seems to be a compromise to accommodate OO wheelsets without making the splashers excessively deep.  It is easy enough to fill in the open spaces if you model in one of the wider gauges and it will make a big difference.

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The painting and livery is particularly fine on the model.  Even better there are some exquisitely delicate etched plates that can be applied on top of some of the plates.  I suspect I see the shadow of Mr Hanson on them.

Options

It looks realistic to get P4 wheels into the crane underframe and definitely so for the runners/match wagon.  I would, however, be concerned as to whether a four axle vehicle could survive all but perfect track in P4 and how many of us have that?  I suspect that it will all be very tight too, so some pretty large radius curves would be needed if a P4 model can get around them.  Of course I will have a go, but it is not high on the to do list at the moment!

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I think it is only a matter of time before someone looks at trying to motorise the crane.  I think I will say good luck to them!  Getting micromotors in might be possible for at least movement along the track but that still leaves slewing of the crane deck, raising of the jib and raising of the hook to go – getting another three in looks pretty difficult to me!  The model does include internal hand operated mechanisms for the latter two movements – there are access panels that pop out to reveal a socket to receive a hand wheel.   Thus, it is realistic to stage scenes, but not (in my eyes anyway – I really do look forward to someone having a go!) to make a fully operating model.

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What is a must though is to add the paraphernalia of clutter the real cranes acquired in operation.  Photographs show that they typically attracted lumber sections, jacks, chains and tarpaulins as if they were magnets.  Cranes, not being front line stock in the public eye, tended not to suffer repaints very frequently and as they stood outside, they did weather and pick up corrosion spots.   So any self respecting modeller needs to do something about how clean they look.

Although there is a very long in the tooth model crane from Hornby, it is somewhat of an uncomfortable marriage of several different cranes (the really old Hornby Doublo diecast version is better but quite crude), so does not cut the mustard.   There are a limited number of kits for other cranes – notably the D&S Models Cowen Sheldon 15 ton breakdown crane (an example of one might grace these pages eventually!) but these are full on kits.  Thus Bachmanns cranes are not only attractive models in their own right but they have a field fairly clear of competitors.

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If you want the book on the prototype you need volume 2 of my father’s book – at present it is out of print but it is hoped with a bit of pressure on the publishers, Crecy, they can be persuaded to do a further print run.

The Bachmann crane is presently available in an SR livery, a GWR livery and then a pair of BR liveries – the 1950s livery shown above and a later gulf red livery.  An example of the latter is below:

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Lining Things Up….

As usual, I set off over the festive break with plans to do all sorts of things and failed to do any of them fully.  One aspect that I did get moved forward though was the painting and lining of a couple of my six wheeled coaches.

Back in my youth, lining pens held no fear and I could genuinely dash off a fully lined coach in a few evenings.  Thirty years of pushing a computer keyboard has dulled my drawing skills to the point where I am close to terrified to pick up a bow pen and I have not had the nerve to line a coach for a long time.  I am confronting this fear in a couple of months by attending a class run by Ian Rathbone on painting and lining at Missenden Railway Modellers.  In the meantime, however, I can still line utilising transfers, in this case those provided by Fox Transfers.

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Being preformed in straight lines, these do work best for the square panelled beading of some of the Midland Clayton stock, like my dia 501 full brake.  I had taken care in designing this with beading sizes that were correct (and matched the Fox Transfers).  They thus work quite well I think.

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I deliberately left the handrails and door handles off at this stage to make the lining easier but the door hinges still created problems that I will need to touch in with acrylic paints; burnt ochre looks about right.  I also still need to block in the black to the head and foot of the sides plus where the lengths of transfer where they crossed – I will do this with a Roting pen as I still feel confident enought to wield this!

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So there is still plenty to do, but I am dead chuffed with this and it will soon be finished and ready for service.

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Second up is a Lochgorm Models third class saloon that has been waiting for its lining for rather longer.  It is a more difficult prospect to line as it has round corners to the panels and, over the doors and windows, shallow arcs.  These can’t be formed with transfers as these are straight.  I have thus used the transfers for the straight sections and then brush painted the curved sections with cadmium yellow acrylic paint.

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If all goes well, the Roting pen can then be used to infill the black to the centre and form the curves across the windows and doors.  Lets see!

Seasons Greetings

Compliments of the season to you all and picture of Rudolf battling through the snow to deliver all the Christmas packages – well sort of!

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I suspect this was taken near Altnabreac in 1895 as there are a series of photographs from there t this time, others of which I have posted before.  The photograph is in the NRM’s collection but given its date will be out of copyright,.

Catching up on a Tennant

Way back in the mist of time (well 2016), I made a start on one of Arthur Kimber’s kits for a NER 2-4-0; termed a Tennant.  After residing at the back of the cupboard for a bit too long (as is the way with my modelling, I do admire those that start something, see it neatly through to a finish before starting another……..!), I have made some more progress with it.

First up with the tender body which is close to finished except for some detailing around its front.

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There was a bit of irritation in the building of this; despite being quite a modern kit the rear panel was much to narrow, the buffer beam a bit flimsy and there were some missing details around the front of the tender.  Nothing someone raised on Jidenco’s kits can’t sort, but I rather hoped it wouldn’t happen with a modern design!

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I also found that the boiler was about 0.7mm too long; a degree of filing and fettling has got it fitted.   It is fair to say whilst there were these niggles, most of the rest of the kit is well designed and there are a number of neat facets to the kit, the flairs to the tender top for example are pre-rolled and they are very difficult to form without the right presses.

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Here she is with the boiler now fitted and the first of the boiler fittings being attached.  Something that grates with me on many people’s models is where these do not sit down tightly on the boiler or have overly thick flanges onto the boiler.  Given that these are castings, it is understandable that these sometimes happen but they do damage the reality of the model and it pays to address these issues.  For this reason, I prefer to solder them in place and am prepared to attack them with a file both before and after they have been fitted.

This does create a problem of soldering the parts in place; they are quite chunky so need a lot of heat to solder them in place and it is difficult to move them about to get them in the right place when they are so hot.  I have just started to address this by drilling out the base of the boiler fitting and tapping it to take a 10BA bolt + washer.  This allows the the fitting to be moved about until it is in the right place and held tight with the bolt so that it can then be soldered.  I am pleased with this little trick; it definitely repays the effort and for the white metal castings, saves the risk of returning them to a blob of metal with too much heat!

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One example of a Tennant is preserved, being situated at the Head of Steam Museum at North Road Darlington Station.  This has enabled me to take a good number of detailed shots but they are all rather close up they don’t really capture the prototype; so here is one from Neil Dimmer’s collection from the earlish 1920s, at (I think) York.  The thin nature of the flanges to the dome and chimney I comment on above can be seen in this.

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This view also illustrates how thin the boiler bands are.  Given that this will be painted in NER livery that has lining on the boiler bands I am going to rely on the thickness of the lining transfer to give the impression of the boiler band rather than represent them in metal.

Couldn’t Have Done It Without………3

Here is something that I have not seen anyone else singing the praises of; the cast brass version of Exactoscale’s fishplates.

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As can easily be seen, these are both cosmetic renditions of a real fishplate from the bullhead track era and can also be used to create a functional joint between rails.  These are not that strong and can’t really be relied upon to firmly hold one piece of track to the other.  However, what they are strong enough to do is hold one piece of track relative to the other.

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Therefore, they come into their own when track is being laid.  Once one piece of rail is glued in place, it is necessary to ensure that the next is exactly in line with it and this is actually not nearly so easy to do as it might seem; especially when we a P4 modeller such as myself is interested in fractions of a millimetre and then makes life difficult for myself by covering the additional piece of track is them covered with weights.  These are just perfect for this, they provide enough locational direction to ensure one piece flows to the next.

There is of course nothing new about using fishplates to join model train track together; it has been de-rigueur for Hornby & Peco since the dawn of time.  What has happened is that the finescale fraternity have forgotten their roots a little and ignored the simplicity of some of the toy train solutions such as this.

 

 

 

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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