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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.
Although I try to model at a good standard, I do try and keep it in perspective and it does frustrate me when others don’t. You particularly see this on the forums but the converse of this is that I have picked up many good tips from these same forums and, occasionally, they make me chuckle.
Whilst watching a film over the Christmas break, I was a reminded of one of these, a wonderful send up of those that can’t quite see that we are only, ultimately, playing with toy trains! So as a little reminder not to take ourselves too seriously, I thought I would share it – click here,
There will be some followers of this blog that are not close enough to the specifics to understand the references in this video. So for those that don’t P4 is the true scale version of 4mm modelling and EM is a compromise to make it a little easier to model. The Model Railway Journal is the magazine of choice for the finescale modeller and in this particular issue there is an article (by a follower of this blog) about using the compromise on the true scale gauge. This should give you enough to understand the video.
Happy modelling all in 2019 (and the tiny bit of 2018 that is left!) and something more serious to follow soon!
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!).
After Oly’s somewhat mischievous description of our trip to the Rail 2018 Modelspoor in Utrecht, I thought it might be worth taking a slightly more serious look at some of the layouts that will be unknown to most of the readers of this blog. Thus, even though there were some fine UK based layouts, I won’t include pictures of these as I am presuming more will be familiar with them (and if you are not, get out there and visit them at a show!).
First up was a model of Montherme station in N gauge. The real station is in the Ardennes and the railway really does come out of a tunnel, through a small station, across a river and back into another tunnel. The builders have used N gauge to its full effect, the hillsides rise up 3 feet (although this does make the layout excessively low) and it is very much a layout in a landscape which I like. It is based in northern France and the operators are very friendly, so if there are any brave show managers in the UK it could be realistically invited.
Regrettably I did not get the name of the following layout and ordinarily I don’t particularly like the steelworks/chemical works type of layouts as I find they are a bit contrived and consequently fake. However, I thought this one was a rather nice example and when you homed in on the detail, rather than let yourself get overwhelmed by the whole there were some really nice touches to it.
The next layout was a very fine rendition of a small Dutch village scene with a tram running through it. It was called Halt Tombroekstadt and whilst perhaps a little too neat, it was wonderfully modelled with lots of careful observations. It was automated and this could be worked on as the tram was either one or off!
Last up was my favourite – a layout called Pocahontas Mining Co built by a group from Dusseldorf. It was huge by most people’s standards and this enabled them to get full length coal trains on it without this looking silly – on occasions they had a double headed Norfolk & Western mallet with a similar banker at the back and that really was impressive to watch. You could imagine the houses in the foreground literally shaking on their foundations as a the whole train trundled by,
A few years back, I harboured desires to do something Canadian Pacific and regularly used to peruse Model Railroader. Pocahontas Mining reminded me of a number of the big basement layouts that so many Americans seemed to have – boy was I envious (indeed I still am!).
The layout had a number of great examples of modelling, just capturing the mundane and reminded me lots of O Winston Link’s photographs.
There were other very good layouts at the show but being one operator down and suffering from the tendency of my operators to either take the sit back form of management or engage any willing recipient into an in depth analysis of Scottish geography, there wasn’t time to photograph them all!
I am not quite sure why I am reblogging this given the grief I get within it but here is a not quite complete story of our trip to Holland with both Portchullin and Six Quarters………….
All that needs adding to the story is to add that the last we saw of Oly at the end of the weekend was his very worried face as he was in the Customs Shed at Dover whilst surrounded by several large burly men putting on rubber gloves in the search for HO scale contraband and assuring him that it would not hurt a bit…………
It all started with sound logic. The plan made perfect sense, Mark Tatlow had been invited to “Rail 2018” in Utrecht, Holland. Mark has always, religiously, hired a van around 10 times larger than required. This van was usually a classic long wheel base Sprinter, in which Portchullin had received many a war wound on the motorways of Great Britain by being allowed to slide around freely in the rear while the vehicle was driven like it had been stolen by a middle class mad man from Sussex.
Portchullin requires around 5 operators, 1 to operate and 4 to spend the weekend fixing it, so to make the proposition of 5 of us on the beer in Holland more appealing the spare space in the van would be taken up by SQ. So a sort of free layout for the exhibition manager.
That was where all logic ended.
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Portchullin’s next exhibition may not be the furthest it has travelled but it will definitely be a first for the layout and indeed myself – an exhibition on the continent. In this case Modelspoor 2018 which takes place on the 23 – 25 February in the Euroteco Centre, Houten, near Utrecht in the Netherlands.
To the Anglo-Saxons amongst us, do not be put off by the website being written in Dutch. Basically almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks good English (embarrassingly perfect English typically) and it is a really easy country to travel around, engage with people and see what they have to offer. Although I have not been to Modelspoor before I have heard a lot about it – think Warley * 3 seems to be the gist of it (which may be a bit much in truth!). However, it has a core of “finescale” from across Europe to which I was very flattered to be invited and I hear is worth seeing in any case.
And of seeing Portchullin is a sufficient excuse to high-tail it over to Holland, coming in the van will also be Oly’s Six Quarters layout. In contrast to the fresh air of the west of Scotland, Six Quarters has air laced with Cumbrian coal dust and grime!
There are a number of other very good layouts there, including Jerry Clifford’s Highclere Colliery (under a new name I hear) and Gordon Gravett’s Arun Quay. Se even if you don’t fancy Portchullin or Six Quarters much (shame on you), it is still worth a visit.
So if anyone that reads this blog (well, either of you!) is over in Holland in a couple of weeks time, do pop over and say hello!
With portions of the country suffering from a bit too much of the white stuff of late and with some trains embedded in both snow and mud blockages, I thought it might be fun to look back at the problems that snow caused one part of the Highland Railway’s system in the past.
Even though it was not as high as many other parts of the Highland’s system, its northerly position and exposure to winds makes the Far North line prone to drifting snow; especially where the line rises across the flow country between Forsinard and Scotscalder. This has long been a sore to the Highland Railway and there are a number of fine photographs of snow ploughs in action. Here are a few of them.
Believed to be near Scotscalder Station; what looks like a Barney in the rear and a Medium Goods to the middle – there is a further loco lost behind the plume of snow! Photo courtesy of the GNSRA.
Potentially the same train with a pair of Medium Goods and a Barney look to have a lot of trouble with a significant drift at the County March Summit (a bit to the south of Altnabreac). You can see plenty of evidence that the ploughs could not clear the line on their own in the top photograph – note the sides to the “cutting” have lots of shovel sized depressions.
And proof that a lot of digging was required! Both photographs are the NRM’s.
Snow is still a big problem in these lines; in the mid 1970’s a full train was stuck for a couple of days and needed to be supplied from the air (if anyone has any pictures of this I could use, could you let me know?).
The picture below was taken in 2010 where some DRS class 37’s had obviously been hard at work. Photo from Outpost North RSPB.
And after the exertions of clearing the line, this Barney looks as if it needs some attention if only to remove the snow. Remember, this will have been in steam yet is still has snow on its boiler! Photo of a Barney at Helmsdale from the HRS.
All of the ploughs shown in the HR era are of the medium size. There was a bigger one which begs the question of what size drifts were these used on?!?!?
As mentioned in my last post on my visit to Zimbabwe, due to the kindness of Alan Crotty and Fabrice Lanoue, I have access to a number of other great pictures of steam on Zimbabwe’s railways. It is a shame not to share them………..
I my last blog-post, I mentioned that the only time I had seen steam engines earning their keep was in Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately father felt rather slighted by this comment. He felt that the readers of a blog like this would consider him a very poor father if he had not insisted that his young son was dragged to see the dying days of steam on BR if he could.
To prove that he is not a poor father, here is a picture of a very little (I was 18 months old at the time) lad being lifted up by his mother to see steam roar past. In this case, a rebuilt West Country No 34004, Yeovil appearing from bridge under the Basingstoke Canal at Deepcut on the 10 June 1967.
Sorry, Dad, not accusing you of being a poor father I just don’t remember it!
Mind you, I do remember going to the Longmoor Military Railway in October 1969 and being plucked away from operating a crane with a promise that we would come back another day – that was cheating because it was the final day of operation ever!
Zimbabwe has been in the news a fair amount of late I do hope it makes a turn for the better as it is one of the most stunning countries in the world and with some of the friendliest and gentlest people too. This news prompted me to remember my visit there, in 1989 immediately after leaving university and before entering the big bad world of work.
The railways of southern Africa had some extensive systems but were with long distances on lightly laid track and heavy loads, the railway companies were confronted a difficult reality – how do you get a sufficiently powerful locomotive without making it too heavy for the line. Making a long locomotive with many wheels would have worked, only they would not have coped with the sinuous curves required to snake through the countryside. The solution came in the form of an articulated locomotive – essentially two locomotives with a single boiler slung between them. First patented by the Manchester firm Beyer Peacock these locomotives were synonymous with the railways of Africa, although they were found around the world.
The railway snaking around the contours was very much part of the railways of Zimbabwe and the need for an articulated locomotive is easy to see. It is the only time I have seen steam trains truly earning their keep – something that I will probably never see again as I understand that even the Chinese have withdrawn almost all of their locomotives.
As can be seen in the photograph, the railways of Zimbabwe do not use standard gauge track. They, along with pretty much all of the railways of southern Africa, use 3’6″ gauge – to the point where it is nicknamed “cape gauge”.
Due to the sanctions placed against Rhodesia and the economic condition of Zimbabwe, steam lingered on for a long time and has not totally faded out even as I write this; although I believe that the last remaining couple of steam locomotives are really pets and are largely wheeled out for tourists. I suspect that there are a lot of rusting hulks still in the country though and perhaps if the country settles down we will see a really proper number of them put back into use as the tourist trade picks up. It really is a wonderful country, so is worth a visit and I would love to do the journey again.
In putting this blogpost together I was conscious that most of my pictures were taken at relatively close quarters to the trains, because I was travelling on them. Therefore, to supplement my photographs, I contacted a few people who had posted their Zimbabwean railway photographs online. I am therefore I am indebted to Alan Crotty and Fabrice Lanoue for the use of their photographs in illustrating this blog – all rights to these photographs are retained by them. The good news, if you have liked the pictures, is that John and Fabrice were not the only ones who were prepared to let me use their photographs – therefore, there will be a part 2 to this blog post soon!