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When I was still in my shorts, I used to peruse my father’s extensive collection of railway magazines for hours on end – the Railway Modeller, Model Railway News and the Model Railway Constructor. I even marked in pen articles I particularly liked (not for long, the old man soon warned me off that approach!). My memories from this period of Buckingham were not about its operational possibilities but for its modelling.
Whilst the years have passed and there are now a fair number of fine layouts that have eclipsed Buckingham, back in the 1970s (when I was leafing through these magazines) these were not common and going back to when the articles were being written 10 or 15 years before, only a very few even got close to the standard of Peter’s modelling. So this post will illustrate what state of the art 1960s scenic modelling looked like.
As can be expected of a layout that is 50+ years old, wear is showing in places and prior to his death, Peter Denny did have a programme of repair and improvement underway. One of the aspects to be dealt with was the trees made of sprigs of lichen on trunks made of wire or heather – these had not faired well.
Tony had been mulling over what to do about this and consulted with Peter’s children who still have an interest in their father’s layout and seem to act as “non-exec directors” to the board. The conclusion was “do as Peter would have done” and as a result little upgrades and repairs are being completed to Buckingham, so the layout will still develop. In the case of the trees, replacements will be made of sea moss and ground foam.
One story that Tony was able to share with us, which I do not think is widely known, is why Peter selected the Great Central for his modelling. Apparently, he initially started modelling the Great Western but soon found that there were a few too many people that knew a too much about the GW. He was concerned any incorrect details would be found out and so he sought out a rather lesser known prototype. He settled on the GC because he wanted a prototype that had wooden post signals (he could not work out how to make lattice posts); he liked the brown and cream full coach livery that the GW & the GC shared and he did not want a company that used outside valve gear because he was concerned whether he could model it!
The layout contains a number of quite clever little cameos, often segregated from one another with a bridge or a blocking building. This means that there are quite a number of such scenes within close to each other without it looking too crowded.
Beyond the buffer stops of Buckingham, a market square and a pair of streets were modelled. Obviously, it is market day to generate a couple of extra trains – you can’t call this a cliche, because it was essentially the first example so every other example is the cliche!
In the final part, I will take a last look at the layout and also one of its more iconic features – the Automatic Crispen; with a shock horror revelation………..
For my 100th post we ought to choose an interesting topic, so it is fortunate that I recently wangled a return invite to visit Peter Denny’s Buckingham Great Central on a journey back home from the north east!
I was accompanied on the visit by Peter Bond and although perhaps not initially intended, this turned into quite a long operating session. Fortunately, there were several cameras on hand; so there are plenty of photographs – sufficient to split this posting into two or even three, so look out for further installments in a couple of days time!
Pete managed to blag command of Buckingham’s control panel; which is the most complicated of them – so he did regret his decision at times! Here he is looking suitably perplexed!
Perhaps with good reason…………..this is the control panel:
And this is the signal diagram:
All platforms have calling on arms, all lines have inner/outer homes and the platforms operate to receive and deliver! So, there are a fair number of signals to contend with – all (well, nearly all if we are honest!) of which work and need to be complied with. Here for example is the main home gantry………….
On this occasion, I operated Grandborough Jct, which has a less exacting timetable but even so, its control panel has a few idiosyncrasies. It (like that to Buckingham) is entirely handbuilt including its switches so some of them need to be coaxed across, others need to be pushed firmly and a few – most of the signals – do not yet work. There were also hand made block instruments and some signal bells to contend with.
Buckingham operates to a careful conceived timetable, that plots a “day in the life” of a busy market town station, not so inconveniently located for travel to London. There is a variety of fast and semi-fast commuter trains to London; a pair of pick up goods trains; local services services and a couple of services that come off the Leighton Buzzard branch which continue through Grandborough Jct to terminate in Buckingham, such as this one just coming to a stop at Bourton Halt and disturbing a hunt:
Even with over three hours at the regulator, we managed less than 20% of the day’s timetable; so we were going at around 120% of real time. Peter originally had a speeded up clock to keep the pace moving (which Tony, the layout’s now owner has on the wall but does not use). Apparently, you needed an experienced team to keep up with the clock and – just like the real thing – if you started to fall behind the whole system quickly becomes bunged up!
The timetable contains just over a hundred train movements. It starts in the morning with newspaper and milk trains, getting the town ready for the day. Then the early morning commuter trains start, along with connecting local services. A little later, the London expresses start, timed a little faster for the city suits to use (and pay for, they are posh coaches!). Here is one waiting for the right of way.
Once the morning rush is out of the way, a more settled period starts and the freight trains move around the layout interspersed with local passenger trains. However, towards the end of the day the reverse happens with the returning commuters. By the end of the evening, Buckingham is chock-a-block with trains, as you can see here:
But this is not the end of the day, because all of the locos need to be released and sent to the sheds, the trains remarshalled and made ready for the next day (which was great, because Grandborough Jct had no moves so I could go and poke Pete for all the errors he was making…………).
And here are the day’s operating crew!
So thanks for joining me on this blog; we are a minnow by some standards with around 40,000 hits but I hope there are things in here that interest you and maybe even some sources of inspiration!
I have been back onto the layout of late, with a view to get the first wheel turning on it before too long. That means attacking the electrickery things, beginning with the control panel.
I made a start on this by drawing up a diagrammatic representation in MS Paint and then using this to get one of the online firms (Vistaprint) to print me up a poster board to form the basis of the control panel. I am not sure I chose the right material as it turned up on a light weight foam board and I had to mount a sheet of aluminium behind for it to be stiff enough to be useable. But it did look pretty smart I thought………….
The control panel deals with all of the signals and turnouts that the cabin will have controlled, with local ground frames (which will be located on the boards locally) to be used to control the goods yard and the MPD. The latter will be arranged such that it can be located either to the front or the rear, to allow some flexibility in operation.
I have got to the point where the full extent of switches have been wired in and I am just completing the jumper leads. I took a lot of care to plan the wiring prior to any construction – despite the locos being DCC controlled, there are an awful lot of wires. This is because I have stuck with traditional control for the turnouts and signals. There is further complication as a result of the desire to incorporate some bells and even a block instruments (well maybe, at the moment it is just the wires!). So in all, there are 90 odd wires doing something or another on the layout.
Somewhat in contrast to Portchullin, I have sought to keep the wiring as tidy as possible; everything is neatly collour coded and even labelled (to be fair it was labelled on Portchullin, but in a non colourfast ink………..!). I am hoping that this will make the wiring easier to debug at the start of the matter and repair if it does get damaged.
I am proposing to use a variety of connectors between boards and to the control panel, including this rather nifty varient of the D-sub range that is wired directly onot a cheeseblock wireless connector. Available to a variety of types from ebay including from this seller.
A bit belatedly back to the blog after exertions over the summer but I thought a few photos from my trip stateside might be worthwhile. The main railway angle of the holiday was a journey on the Amtrak’s Cascades, starting at Seattle – which is a bit grander than my usual commute!
The Cascades service runs from Portland, through Seattle and concludes its journey in Vancouver. Another grand station reflecting its importance as the terminal of a continental trunk route.
The route hugs Puget Sound and the Pacific coast for the entirity of the journey, for the greater part actually forming the sea wall.
So not unsurprisingly, the views really are fabulous (so if you do it, make sure you are sat on the seaward side!).
The route crosses a number of creeks and rivers, often on timber trestle bridges; where the train typically going at dead slow. This is helpful as for an added treat, thrown in for free – thank you Amtrak, was a bird-spotting trip. Calmly sitting on a post as the train rattled past was an Osprey. Apparently this particular bird is a bit of a mascot for the line and seems to have become used to the rumble of a few tens of thousands of tons of machinary as itis regularly on view.
It is possible to see Ospreys in the UK, but you need to be either pretty lucky, persistant or go to one of the recognised locations such as Loch Garten. But you can’t get to see bald headed eagles which was the next voyeur of the train going past that we got to see!
So all in all, this is a fabulous trip to do and it is fair to say both Seattle and Vancouver are great places to visit – both with a strong railway history! If you are also able to make it further south, down to Sacramento, then the Californian State Railroad Museum is also worth a visit. Sacramento was the birthplace of the Central Pacific, one of the partners in the first trans-continental railroad and therefore it feels it has something to say about the topic! It is also close (in American terms) to the site of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad which held onto its very aged stock for a startlingly long time, meaning that a significant proportion has survived – some of which is in the museum. If you think this feels just like those western movies that you watched as a child, you would be right. The Virginia and Truckee’s stock was used extensively by the movie industry and it is very likely you have seen this very loco!
In addition to these early locos are a selection of F Units that I do rather like and a giant Southern Pacific Cab Forward. These were built with the cab at the front to stop the staff suffocating from the exhaust smoke as it climbs up through the rockies which has numerous tunnels. They are rather odd to behold though!
All things Amercian are really big, something quite alien and thrilling to a Brit! Imagine that blasting up Shap or Drumochter…………………
In my last visit to the Highlands, I took my father up to almost the extremity or our island to Thurso. The purpose of doing so was to mooch around portions of the Highland Railway north of Dingwall but also to drop in on Richard Doake. Richard is a fellow follower of the Highland Railway and has a rather nice layout depicting a pair of the Far North line’s more interesting stations; Helmsdale and Thurso.
Although Richard has sought to use a large degree of ready to run stock, most of the infrastructure on his model has been scrachbuilt so that it captures the Highland flavour. This includes signal boxes, goods sheds, water tanks and the like – the combined effect works as this is one of the most authentic feeling Highland layouts I have seen.
An overall view of the main part of Thurso.
The train shed is a reduced liength version of the real thing (which is still there for those that don’t know). This view would have been a daily occurance in the late 1950s as a hiker concludes its long journey from Inverness with the Thurso portion of a Far North train.
The signal cabin at the station throat.
A small ben, Ben Wyvis, does some shunting in Thurso’s yard. This has been converted from a Hornby T9 with a replacement tender. The wheels are in reality 6 inchs to big and the boiler is consequently too high, but I bet the Highland fans that read this didn’t notice until I told you?
Brn Wyvis’ sister, Ben Clebrig acting as station pilot at Thurso.
The other station is Helmsdale and here we have the Hiker once again returning south. passing a typical Highland goods shed.
A Pickersgill on shed at Helmsdale, along with a pannier. A pair of panniers were regularly found at Helmsdale in 1962 as they worked the Dornoch branch at this time following the failure of the last operational Highland locomotives, some small tanks.
And here is an example of this tank – aptly named Passenger tanks as they specialised on lightly loaded trains on the short branchlines the Highland had a number of in their region.
Like on the Kyle line, van traffic was a big feature of the line and here we see a clan pull out northwards with a train of vans and non-passenger stock. The eagle eyed will notice that the clan is in BR livery where in reality they did not last long enough to carry this. Richard is quire relaxed about this as it enables him to include locos he fancies!
And a similar working heading south with the almost enivitable (for the real thing) black 5.
So thank you Richard for entertaining us and also for the use of your photographs – rather better than my own!
…..but, before it was counted as finished, it needs to be doing the job it was designed for – buffeting. And that means it needs to be populated with people.
Regrettably few modellers, even finescale modellers, actually put people in thier coaches (and sometimes in contrast to platforms which are stuffed with them!). This is a shame as they do make a difference to even a fairly casual viewer. At a show recently, a dad and his son who were probably not modellers spotted the people in my coaches instantly. I’ll take that as proof of the point!
As is common with rtr coaches, the seats are moulded in place such that there is no room for the little peoples legs, so some severe amupation is required! In the case of Hornby’s buffet, the seats are also modelled pushed tightly underneath the tables – which has meant that the backs to the seats or the lip of the table also needs to be hacked away a bit. As all of this surgery occurs below the waistline of the coach, it is not visible from outside so your Dr Crippins’ tendancies will go unnoticed!!
Next up was to paint the exterior where the new plastic was cut in and here I had some problems. I was warned by Brian of Shawplan that I should paint the whole side when I repainted the new sections but I decided not to follow this advice – something I now regret!! So having masked up theadjacent areas and sprayed in only the affected sections i found that the grey that Hornby used was notably bluer than that provided by Precision Paints. The first attempt at repainting had the colours sticking out like a sore thumb and even on the second attempt, with a dab of blue in the mix is not perfect but is just ok underneath the grime. So, if you are proposing to do follow this build follow Brian’s advice, not mine!
Once a couple of new windows were cut into the reshaped windows in the kitchen area of the buffet car, it was necessary to weather the vehicle. These buffet cars were notorious for being really tatty by the 1970’s; partly because the paint supposedly was prone to debonding from the underlying teak but also because the automatic washers were not good at getting into the corners of the panelling. After an overall spray of dirt to tone down the colours and another to represent the brake dust and track muck, I used two techniques to represent the weathering on the panelling. The first was to spray the whole coach with a mist and once it had started to dry a stiff artist’s brush was dipped in thinners was used to remove the bulk of the paint. The areas that it does not come away from are the nooks and crannies around the panelling; the same areas that would have retained the dirt in the real things. I to find, however, that the margine between where the paint has been removed and not can be a bit stark, so I used a second technique to both hramonise this and also acceptuate the effect. Using a heavily thinned dirty black paint, run a brush over the whole of the sides – the paint runs to the corners and achieves the same effect. It pays to be brave with this as the wetting effect of the thinners makes this initially look much darker until the thinners have dried off.
And this is what the finished article looks like………
So thanks Hornby for supplying the model in the first place and the inspiration to do some plastic surgery. Whilst this write up may have lasted some months, actually this was quite a quick conversion – the basic surgery on the side was only 4 hours – so why not have a go?
The Dingwall & Skye Railway – A Pictorial Record of the line to Kyle of Lochalsh.
For those of you that are aware of my main exhibition layout you will be aware that it is based very firmly on the Dingwall & Skye Railway, which is the name of the line we now call either the Kyle line or occassionally the line to Skye.
I have to confess that the layout is heavily influenced by my memories of family holidays to the line in the early 1970s – we were dragged up there by my father and I at least (it all appears to be lost on my brother!) picked up a bug for the railways west of Inverness. This bug seemed to have been passed to me by my father and he was in turn infected in the late 1950s when he first made his visits to the area.
Based on his love of the line to Kyle of Lochalsh, my father’s latest book is upon the line. It does not seek to be a strict history of the line (Rails to Kyle of Lochalsh does this) but is instead a review of the line on a station by station basis. It is full of photographs (literally hundreds of them) and also a substantial number of drawings of the engineering and architectural infrastructure apparent on the line as well as around it. This covers station buildings, water tanks, bridges, sheds, signals, water columns, water tanks, cattle docks and indeed many other aspects of the line. There are historical reviews of aspects of the operation of the line, the exploration of alternative schemes that did not come to pass and some of the quirky storys of the past.
It is thus for those that like a coffee table picture book, a historical review of the highland railway, those that are interesting in modelling tbe line and those that simply are caught up in the nostalgia of the “line to Skye”…..
The Dingwall & Skye Railway – a pictorial record of the line to Kyle of Lochalsh, by Peter Tatlow ISBN 978 1906 537463 @ £27.95 by Crecy Publishing Ltd. For those of you who are members of the Highland Railway Society, you will find that your membership entitles you to a significant discount if you buy from the society. Thus if you are waivering about joining the society, you will be do well to do so if only to buy this book!
Although it may be that there is a train in the yard as the shunt signal is off…… I suspect it will be one of the class 24s?
Portchullin is just back from a trip to the St Alban’s show and its next outing will be in Telford, for the Diesel & Electric Show on the 20-21 February.
With thanks to David Brandredth and Tim Venton for the cracking photo. Now my fav of the layout!
Today has proved to be a fairly big day, but not for modelling reasons.
Today I climbed Ben Klibreck, which is the second most northerly Munro in Scotland. Not in itself a hugely remarkable mountain, not particularly high or with any major technical challenges. Mind you it does (as you will see below) have stupendous views of the wildness of Sutherland from its top or approach ridge.
Ben Klibreck from the south west
Looking north west from the assent of the approach ridge to the mountain
and a panorama around the north.
And the reason why it is such a significant mountain; it marked the completion of my 100th Munro. All I have to do is crack the next 182 out now……………..
Although, maybe some modelling too……………but first a bath and bed!
One of the reasons I have not been doing quite as much modelling as I, or the gorilla, fancy lately is that I have been doing a spot of house restoration and redecoration. Worse than that, said house is some 650 miles from me so getting to it is not without its adventure………….
Unfortunately, this decision was partially provoked by a pair of bereavements which has kicked my wife and myself to do something that we had talked about in the past but then chickened out of. We have aquired a cottage for holiday letting, in this case located in Jemimaville in the Black Isle – which for those of you that don’t know is Inverness and then up a bit and right a bit.
Having spent a few weeks of our time now overcoming some of the issues we inherited and smartening it up; it is now available for letting. If anybody is fancying a Highland Holiday, here are its details and it remains largely available through the summer months of this year as it literally has only been listed in the last few days. If anybody was tempted, please contact me via here though – we can let to friends/family for certain amounts each year and can offer a significant discount (in part because the agents fees do make you wince!).
Don’t worry, there is a railway angle to the cottage. The former branch line to Cromarty runs through the bottom of the garden. In case any of you consult your old railway maps and conclude there never was a railway to Cromarty, well you are not quite right…………there was, but it was never finished so did not open but the first 6 miles or so were completed, including through Jemimaville. Here is a picture to prove it:
End if plug; normal service will be resumed soon – a Gresley dining car…………or maybe some trackwork for the Gorilla.