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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.

Golden July for the Highland

A little bit like buses, you wait for a long time for some interesting articles on the Highland Railway and all of a sudden we get two or three come along in the same issue – in this case the July edition of the Railway Modeller.  It is a veritable Highland-fest and is well worth buying as a result (no apologies for bias offered!).

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First up the layout of the month is Howard Geddes’ Blair Atholl and Druimuachdar.  His layout is a representation of Blair Atholl station along with its approach from the south and the line over the big hill (Druimuachdar as Howard describes it or present day Drumochter).   It is liberally illustrated with photographs of the layout and numerous Highland locos – these cover many of the Highland’s locos and also those of the LMS era.   Howard has written notes for each of the photographs to illustrate the historical context of the train, the loco of the scene to make this a bit more interesting than the average article in the model railway press.

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So to emulate Howard, I can tell you that this is a Loch Class, number 127 Loch Garry taking water in front of Blair Atholl’s shed.  When built, these were the front line express engines but on the building of later locomotives, they were relegated to slightly less important tasks.  So this may well have come off a Blair Atholl local (the all stations stopping services from Perth terminated at Blair) or has just returned from piloting a train up the hill.

The other article of interest for the modeller of the Highland was by Peter Fletcher and was a review of his locomotive fleet for his EM gauge layout Croich (which is based on Tain shed).  As he says himself, the layout is really a vehicle to show off his loco fleet and it is fair to say it is fairly extensive  and covers the majority of the Highland types in existence in 1920.  The article also includes a reprint of a drawing for the small ben class of loco; hopefully a few people may be provoked into

Perhaps the most pleasant part of the two articles is how all but a couple of the locomotives have actually been built!   Oh that we see a bit more of this in the mainstream model railway press!

I don’t have any pictures of Peter’s layout so you will need to refer to July’s edition of the Railway Modeller or the March 2018 for the whole layout.  Howard has however provided me with a number of photographs of Blair Atholl that weren’t in the magazine to act as a tempter………..

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Wee Ben, no 14413, Ben Alligan crossing Howard’s model of Altnaslanach Viaduct (from just north of Moy, and still there albeit in structural terms now merely decoration to a steel replacement that is inserted within it).  It is the Highland’s locos in the LMS first livery that float my boat, so this is as good as it gets for me!

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HR’s no 99 Glentromie, one of David Jones’ Strath class with some sheep and cattle wagons at the head of a mix freight train.

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The premier locomotives on the Highland mainline between 1928 and the arrival of the Black 5s in 1934 were the Hughes Crab class – a locomotive that I find the brutishness of which very appealing (I have a couple in progress).  Here we have them hauling a freight train through the Druimuachdar portion of Howard’s layout – representing the summit of the line going through the wildness of the Grampian Mountains.  I was looking down on the scene only a fortnight ago from one of the adjacent munros looking at the really short HST sets now in use on the mainline!

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The Hughes crabs again on a more normal passenger travelling in the opposite (northwards) direction.

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A vista across the MPD area of Blair Atholl with Loch Garry now taking a breather waiting for its next roster.

The final of the three buses is the announcement of the release of a Highland signal cabin by Peco, as per my previous post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peco Announce a Highland Signal Cabin

I had not expected to ever say this, but I can write a post on Highland Miscellany about a forthcoming Highland Railway product from one of the mainstream manufacturers!

In this case this is going to be from Peco and it is based on the cabin at Helmsdale (Helmsdale South).  This is still existent and has been out of use for some time but has been recently refurbished.  It is in 4mm only at present (but who knows about the future?) and seems to represent its present condition.  As I understand it, it is going to be a laser cut kit and is due to be released later this year.

When it comes out, I will certainly buy one and review it here but in the meantime here are some photographs of the initial prototype courtesy of Paul Marshall Potter.

And here are a few pictures of the real thing from a few years back.

Best Work Trip Ever – Signals and a Sad Reprise

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:

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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!

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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!

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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………).

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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.

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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………….

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Best Work Trip Ever – now in the Hill Country

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.

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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.

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Sometimes tea pickets were visible and so too were tea factories, such as these ones.

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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!).

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?

Best Work Gig Ever!

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!

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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.

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These are much more recent, being built in 2000 by Alstom.

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More short distance services were generally formed of multiple units, such as these Hyundai units from 1991.

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And these class S10 from CSR in China.

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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…………..

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The rest of the journey is a short distance in from the coast through the jungle and fields.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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……….

 

My Home Town and its Model Shops

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.

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Its only a hobby………..

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!

Rannoch Moor

Railway Cranes – Volume 3

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!).

Roger Farnworth

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