Author Archives: highlandmiscellany
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?
Followers of this blog will have noted that various test builds of my artwork coming together and I am now able to offer a number of these for sale under the name of Miscellany Models.
First up is a Highland Railway/LMS/BR diagram 51 full brake – priced at £48.00 for a 4mm and is suitable for OO, EM or P4. These were the last generation of full brake produced by the Highland, built with both cupboard doors and sliding doors as well as alternative forms of guards duckets (all of these are included in the kit). The kit inclusive of fully sprung Fox bogies (see below), roof, corridor connections (also see below) but all castings and buffers will need to be sourced separately. The castings for the bogies are proposed, but are not presently available.
As was common with many pre-grouping coaches these vehicles utilised Fox Bogies (£16.00) and these are being made separately to the remainder of the kit, These bogies have been developed in conjunction with Justin at Rumney Models and are fully sprung, with both the axleboxes and the bolsters sprung. They really do glide across track and look as if they weigh many tons rather than a few grams! They need castings for your favoured axleboxes/springs and bolsters but do include the foot steps and all of the bogies sides, brakes and details. Suitable for oo, EM and P4.
The second coach kit is for a MR/LMS/BR: Dia 530 Passenger Brake – priced at £36.00 in 4mm scale (suitable for OO, EM and P4). This prototype was built in some numbers and by the 1920s they were spread extensively across the LMS system. The kit is for full etches covering the roof, body, underframe and footboards plus parts for the sliding central axle included. It needs axlebox/springs (available from Branchlines or Coopercraft), gas lamps, buffers, brake and gas cylinders.
On the wagon front, there is an etch to detail the NER/LNER/BR: Dia P7 Hopper Wagon – £13.50 4mm (sufficient for two wagons). They cater for a large number of the variants to this numerous and long lasting hopper wagon. Needs wheels and the Slaters kit P7 kit for the donor model. Variants that can be made include the end braked version, improved components for the Morton braked version, outside twin W irons and also the anti-friction wheel device.
All of these are available from my website https://miscellanymodels.com/ and in addition to this from the Rumney Models stand at the following shows – Scalefour North in April, Railex in May, Scalefourum in September and South Hants in November,
All of these have been extensively road tested by me with a couple of test builds for each of them. You can see this unfold on my blog and if you are interested in seeing how they go together do take a look!
Please remember that the availability of these models is an adjunct to my own hobby and this has to be accommodated within the constraints of my day job and general life! In particular I can’t get to post these orders until Saturdays so do please give me a little slack when it comes to getting the goods to you!
My working life involves visiting a fair amount of buildings across the UK. Typically these are fairly ordinary office blocks or distribution centres but sometimes something a bit more exotic comes along. I have just returned from the most exotic inspection that my career has yet presented – Colombo in Sri Lanka.
And obviously, if I am going to go to such a distant destination, it would be rude not to explore the country’s railways; especially as I was well aware that Sri Lanka’s railways are fabulous………….
Sri Lanka is not a small country; it has an area a touch less than Ireland’s but a population of nearly 22 million. Colombo is the largest city on the island by a margin but the remainder of the population is rather more dispersed than most countries; which means communications around the island are of some important. The bulk of the railways are centred on Colombo and originate from Colombo Fort; not perhaps as exotic as many Indian sub-continent’s stations but it was definitely a very bustling place!
As befits the principal station, most of the country’s locomotives and multiple unit sets can be seen at Colombo Fort. These have been accumulated from a variety of sources; these originate from 1968 (but have been rebuilt) from Henschel and is a diesel hydraulic.
These are much more recent, being built in 2000 by Alstom.
More short distance services were generally formed of multiple units, such as these Hyundai units from 1991.
And these class S10 from CSR in China.
My first journey was down the coast to Galle and then Matara. Portions of the trip were absolutely next to the Indian Ocean and one of the thrills of trains on the sub-continent for us in the the safety cossetted west is that there are a rather wider number of places to take in the view…………..
The rest of the journey is a short distance in from the coast through the jungle and fields.
Galle is a terminus station and as most of the trains proceed onwards, they have to tun around and reverse their direction; in this case behind a class M10 which are relatively recent being built in 2012 by the Diesel Locomotive Works in the USA.
There are local services (although the expresses stopped at the majority of the services, so the concept is relative!), here one is being prepared by a class Y shunter from Hunslet in the UK and then in the bay behind a class M7.
The present end of the line is at Matara, but the Sri Lankan government are in the process of extending the line a further 70km to Hambantota – maybe I’ll have to come back!
And to conclude this post, here are a couple of videos from this part of the trip. The first is of the train departing Aluthgama:
And the second one is the departure of the same train from Galle:
…………and the best bit of the journey was still to come……….
There is a well known phrase in this hobby which points out that if you want to make a small fortune out of model railways, it pays to start with a large one………. As I doubt that many proprietors of model shops even start with a large fortune, it is perhaps not all that surprising, in this modern era of the internet, that model shops are becoming more rare in most places.
For many years in my home town, Guildford in Surrey, there was an independent model shop. A fair amount of my money passed over this counter and I dare say the odd birthday or Christmas present idea germinated within its walls. Even after I left the area for the fleshpots of university and then the big smog to start my career, the model shop continued to operate even it was taken over by one of the chains. However, it must been almost twenty years since this closed down and quite a big area was left bereft of somewhere to buy bits or the latest ready to run offerings.
I was thus pleased to pick up from Graham Muz’s blog that in at least this location, there is to be a reversal of this trend. A well known and vigorous model shop – Kernow Model Rail Centre – is venturing forward to open their second branch in Guildford. Although I no longer live in close proximity, Guildford is only 45 minutes away and I will definitely seek to offer my support and get a tad of retail therapy before long after they open.
In a further twist to make this news even more personal to me, the shop will open in what is presently Guildford’s independent bicycle shop – Pedal Pushers. My other principal hobby when I lived in Guildford was cycling and this was my shop of choice; so many more pennies crossed this counter. Whilst I think this means that the bike shop is closing, there is a certain symmetry to Kernow’s taking on of the shop.
I wish them well and I do hope that it proves successful for them.
The pages of this blog have charted the development of a proposed kit to build the Highland Railways dia 51 full brake; well finally it is finished and we get to see them in the flesh and painted up.
The kit can produce, with a bit of modification, two variants of door and I have now build both of them. First up the cupboard door version painted in crimson lake and minus full footboards.
Second we have the sliding door version, this being modelled with full step boards and in Highland Olive green.
Apologies that the technicolor photos are a bit short on gloriousness; it is fair p*ssing down today and this is the most light that I could get to take any photos!
If you want to recap on the earlier blogs that show the development of the proposed kit, you can find them here:
I do now have a batch of these back from the etchers and I aim to conclude the instructions on Monday/Tuesday. I will then make a notification that they are available but at present I cannot provide the castings and those to the bogie are rather important. If you can scavenge from a Lochgorm kit some Iracier axleboes/springs, you will be able to complete the kit; if not then I am seeking to either source some of these castings or produce my own. So watch this space.
Most of the progress has been on the buildings including the centre piece which is the train shed and station building. As you can see, this is a pretty big structure as it consumes two full length coaches.
The view inside the trainshed is particularly impressive; I think you can smell the diesel fumes and sea air!
The builder in a characteristic pose, talking…………….
Although the layout is based on one of the proposed schemes to open up the north west of Scotland (of which there were a number) it is also firmly inspired by Oban as you can probably see, plus chunks of Kyle of Lochalsh including the goods shed and a bit Fort William with the train engine coming beyond the station and idling on the station approach.
Over the last few years I have acquired a few coaches painted by Larry Goddard. As you can seen below, these are beautifully painted and, particularly, lined coaches. Although he is not really building much any more, Larry’s work comes up from time to time on ebay and I have been nabbing a few of these. They are not particularly cheap, but then there is a fair amount of work in building an etched coach and in reality the price I am paying for them is hardly a fair reflection of this time.
Whilst I have been able to line fairly well in the dim distant past of my teenage years, I don’t think my lining was as good as this and, more importantly, I have misplaced my lining mojo. Although I have plans to try and rediscover the mojo, these coaches do provide a means to get a few very nice coaches to get the layout moving.
This particular coach is to the LMS’s diagram 1778 and originate from 1925 – 28. They were the first standard design for the LMS and will have been found throughout their system, including on the Highland section. My intent for the layout is to have a pair of through trains to Edinburgh/Glasgow with through coaches to London – this will form part of this.
Whilst the basic building and painting/lining of the coach is top notch, there are some issues that I have sought to deal with. First of these is that the bogies are fairly clunky and being assembled from components they are unlikely to be truly square. Thus, I have disassembled these and used them as cosmetic sides to some Bill Bedford sprung bogies.
The coach as built comes with some paper concertina corridor connections – all very 1970s in they look and as they are stretching, they look rather rubbish so off they came. In their place, I have built some of my etched ones – these are a spin off from the dia 51 full brake kit that I am working on. This shows them part built and I will be looking to do a posting on these in their own right once I am fully happy with them.
If mucking about and making the coaches for P4 is not sufficient to undermine the resale value of the coach, the final task to weather down the very glossy paintwork will. These were obviously predominantly aimed at collectors and are finished to showroom standards. The railways of the steam age were amazingly dirty places and a loco or coach in an ex-works condition would be pretty mucky by the end of its first run, let alone its first year.
Thus, it can not stay as clean and glossy as this, no matter how beautiful it looks. I have a weathering day planned for a couple of weeks time, and attacking this will be one of the tasks…………..