Peter Denny’s Buckingham branch was very much an operational layout; for many years Peter’s children – Stephen and Crispin – were his chief assistant operators. However, as his children grew up they weren’t always available and Peter found himself operating short-handed. He found this frustrating as the need to cover the missing person interfered with the remainder of the operators.
This provoked the creation of the Automatic Crispin, one of the more famous parts of the layout. Long before the use of DCC, micro-processors or automatic shuttles, this was an electromechanical computer – and very ingenious (and mind bogglingly complicated) it is too. This was designed by Peter’s other son – Stephen – and took the place of Crispin to operate a portion of the layout automaticaly, in response to requests and commands from the other operators.
The heart of the system are a pair of disks and a paper chart with holes in it; all powered by motors and the enivitable mechano! The disks contain a series of metal studs or runners, each of which is connected to either the bell, the block instrument, the track or turnout relays. Running across these were a series of wiper blades of brass that connected power to the studs or runner as required.
The operation of the disk was initiated by Grandborough Jct’s signalman. As he sends a bell code, this sends a pulse of power to initiate the motor to rotate the disks or the paper chart on one segment; this first segment sends power to activate a bell code reply (each stud giving a ping). When this is answered by Grandborough Jct, in addition to acknowledging the offering forward of a train with a further bell code, it sets the block instrument. The acknowledgement of the latter being the next command to operate the correct route into the fiddle yard and power up the track in order to allow the train to arrive. The arriving train would hit a dead portion of track at the end of the fiddle yard to stop it running away, but in the process would send the “train out of section” bell code back to Grandborough Jct to allow the line to be cleared.
The story always told by Peter was that the Automatic Crispin was required when the real Crispin went to University but I think it is time to share with the world that this was a white lie. Crispin’s more prosaic explanation was that he had discovered girls at the time and all of a sudden, playing with Daddy’s trainset didn’t seem quite so interesting…….
As can be seen in the pictures, at present the Automatic Crispin is presently in bits, but is all beleived to be complete. It is part of Tony’s master plan to reassemble this; its orignator Stephen is apparently up for assisting to, so who knows?
To conclude the last of these three posts on Buckingham Central, a few photographs and to give you a chance to see the Automatic Crispen in action, take a look at this link to the BBC News article on Peter’s death and some video from circa 1980 of the layout – enjoy!
It is fair to say that Peter Bond and myself were not as proficient as Peter and his sons in this, sounds like we need some more practise Peter……..
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!
As I mentioned in my previous post the Oxford Rail Jubilee wagon is a pretty good rendition of the original but it does have a few small issues and is fundamentally the wrong colour! Actually, these proved very simple to fix and the conversion to P4 was relatively painless; so within a couple of hours you can have a good rendition of this typically Scottish wagon.
First off was the conversion to P4 which is not possible to do with the existing underframe as it is too narrow. In an approach that I have not seen before, Oxford Models have created an underframe that slips between the solebars. Even better, this is not secured with glue and merely popping out the buffer shanks from their housings allows this to drop out. Neither the buffers nor the brake gear are secured with glue either and I elected to temporarily detach these from the model throughout to prevent any damage to them. Bill Bedford pre 1907 RCH sprung W irons were then used but it was necessary to scrape back about ½mm of the inside of each solebar to get these in. Checking the ride height against the buffer height gauge I found that the right height was achieved without the need for any packing.
Although the axleboxes that are provided as part of the model are a bit crude, I did not have any better ones available (although 51L do provide them) so sought to retain these. There is a fair amount of cutting required to remove the remains of the plastic W iron and open up the rear of the axle box to take even a waisted pin-point bearing. Definitely do this with a finger drill and not a powered one as you need to remove as much plastic as you can short of actually going through it. Cutting these rebates was the slowest part of the whole task.
The end stanchions were separate pieces and popped off without bother but the planking joints did not run behind them continuously. Therefore, whilst it was easy to reattach the stanchions with glue, I had to score the missing plank joints in first. The buffer shanks are a tad too long, more appropriate for NBR fitted wagons than unfitted but these were easy to deal with. The metal heads pop out easily and then a few strokes with a file takes off about ½mm to reduce the length. The fixing hole needs to be deepened slightly and then the head can be resecured with a dab of glue.
The missing ironwork to the solebar was from a left over etch; Mainly Trains do alternatives. I found that the bolt heads to the straps either side of the door had some of its bolts in impossible locations (in the joint between planks) and I therefore shaved these off prior to applying replacements with Archer transfer rivets. This is the first time I have actually used these and they are really easy to use; much quicker than any other method. The strapping to the inside of the wagon was missing, so this was added with microstrip and more Archer’s rivets. The hinge rings to the end door should be almost a full circle so these were replaced with pieces of bent wire to conclude the physical modifications.
The model comes fitted with scotch fulcrum brakes to both sides which is correct for some vehicles but I cut away one side as I wished to represent the more common variant that had these only to one side. The actual fulcrum and brake block detach from the underframe without difficulty and I found that I could reuse it, after first mounting them on a piece of plasticard secured to the underside of the floor. I did, however, change the brake lever which I thought to be a bit clunky with an etched replacement and added a fair amount of lead as the model is very light. I also attached a piece of scrap brass to the underside – as seen below – as a temporary means to hold the wagon whilst it is painted.
I chose to lightly abrade the surface of the existing lettering with a fine wet & dry paper as I was concerned that they might leave an impression through the new paint. Thereafter I painted them all over with Tamiya Paints, German Grey, picking out the ironwork to the solebar and below with black. The lettering was from PC Transfers sheet 20 but it will be partially lost below weathering; when I get it to this stage!
Here we can see the benefit of the brass strip to hold the model with during painting and weathering.
Until recently, there have never been any mainstream ready to run locomotives or stock suitable for the pre-group modeller of the Highland. Whilst there remains nothing that emanated out of Lochgorm, with the release by Oxford Rail of a NB 8 ton jubilee wagon we do at least have one that would have made it onto the system regularly!
The first of these wagons originated from 1887, the year of Victoria’s jubilee (hence their name) and the bulk were constructed at Cowlairs but with others from several outside contractors. The design was developed and eventually over 20,000 were constructed, forming the mainstay of the North British’s mineral fleet. The model represents an example of the diagram 16B wagons, built from 1896 and marginally longer than those that went before. Oxford Rail presently produce this in NB livery and five private owner liveries, recognising that many of the railway company’s vehicles were leased to collieries and took on their lessee’s branding.
Dimensionally, the model matches the prototype well and as a result the proportions capture the character of the prototype. One exception seems to be the stanchions to the fixed ends which are placed rather too close together. Although with such a large number of examples spread over many batches there may have had examples with this closer spacing, I have not been able to unearth any photographs to confirm this. This problem is not difficult to solve, as the end stanchions are separately applied with small spigots attaching them to the body – thus it is easy to prise them off and reattach them on fresh holes at the correct distance apart.
The model correctly incorporates scotch fulcrum brakes, although it provides one complete set per side. Although not wrong, it was more common for the wagon to be fitted with brakes to one side only and this variety can be provided by the relatively simple task of the removal of one set. In an approach that I have not seen before, the solebars are part of the body moulding with a separate chassis moulding that sits inside this. This does make the colour changes between the ironwork and the timber crisp but has resulted in the width between the W irons being narrower than usual – especially as the width over the solebars is a tad narrow. It is possible to convert the wagon to EM but it requires the shaving of a large degree of the inside of the W irons to take the increased width across the wheel faces. It is not possible to widen it further to accommodate P4 wheels, so to convert the wagon to P4 requires the replacement of the W irons in total. Few P4 modellers will be put off by this as with some carving away of some the inside of the solebars, Bill Bedford sprung W irons can readily be used. If the vehicle is to be kept as OO, the wheels can be retained as the correct split spoke wheels have been provided – a first I believe for a ready to run model.
The moulding is beautifully crisp throughout and the detail neatly incorporated. There are good amounts of separately added elements of detail – such as brake gear and buffers – assist in achieving a quality rendition of the prototype. They are also readily removed/reinstated, which is of assistance if you chose to enhance your model or convert it to one of the wider gauges. Rather peculiarly, a number of fairly obvious elements of ironwork to the solebar have been overlooked, including the crown plates. On the private owner variants these are visible so it appears to have been the intention to paint these on the model but this has not occurred in the North British liveried version for some reason. However, it is not particularly difficult to add these as they are available as etches from a number of sources. The most obvious issue with the model, however, is its colour; it is much too light for North British wagon grey and no amount of weathering will disguise this. This is a shame because the printing of its lettering is exquisite and any repaint will obliterate this.
Other points of detail that are not quite correct are the end hinges, part missing internal strapping, buffers that are too long for an unfitted wagon, overly skinny side door hinges and a few rivets that are in impossible positions. However, only the more fastidious modeller will want to change these (although this might include me!) and but for the colour this would be a “ready to plonk” model for most people. Helpfully, none of these points are insurmountable with a little effort and for those that want to improve the model, it will be a task of only a few hours.
So overall, I would commend this to the Scottish modeller of the pregroup or grouping era as it captures the look of these distinctively Scottish wagons even if it does really need a repaint. As I have hinted, I have attacked my wagon to correct these issues and convert it to P4; this will appear in the next blog post.
In my travels, I have managed to blag an invite to see Bob How’s developing model of King’s Cross and portions of the Great Northern’s main line in north London. This is depicted in the mid 1950’s when the pacifics still reigned supreme and there was a full mix of locals, semi-fast and express passengers, along with a modicum of freight on the metropolitan widened lines.
It is hardly surprising, given the magnitude of the layout, that this is still a work in progress but what has been built is largely operational and therefore playing of trains is a regular feature in the How household. Given the location of the prototype, this means even the relatively short trains were 6 coaches in length and the full expresses upto 10. All this is in P4 and includes various gradients/curves to allow the lines to cross each other, so it tests the haulage power of loco’s upto prototype levels!
The more scenically finished portions of the layout are on the continuous run outer loop which comprises twin tracks to one side and four tracks to the other. This culminates in a very impressive junction where the main line to Kings Cross joins and a dive under to give access to the fiddle yard passes below.
As can be seen, there is still lots of work to do to these areas, including the provision of signals but the impressive nature of the layout is immediately apparent. But the real magnitude of the endeavour becomes apparent once a look at the terminus is made.
Even without any meaningfully completed elements of scenery, this is unmistakably Kings Cross that no doubt all of us are familiar with either from personal experience or photographs. Just imagine what it will be like with the full trainshed and a batch of northbound trains waiting their due departure time?
Bob’s intentions are to model the full station, including the MPD, the suburban station and milk depot; although at present these last areas are sill to be started. It will be a monster when it is finished! As you can see, even the fiddle yard is somewhat of a giant, although Bob was close to admitting that it is rather too small for the layout!
Apologies for the grainy photos, the layout lighting is a task still to be confronted and photography was pushing the camera to its limit!
You have some catching up to do Mr Hanson………….
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…………………
As originally conceived by Barry Fleming, the floor was to be permanently attached to the body sides and so too were the lower roof sections. The only access internally, therefore, was to be the clerestory roof/sides to the centre of the roof. In addition to being very restricted, over time there was a little distortion of this section relative to the more chunky body, such that it has developed a bit of a bow – see the final picture of this post. I have been building a few coaches of late and have arrived at the view that it is desirable to have the underframe detachable from the body and if at all possible the roof too. In this case, I am going to give up making the roof detachable but will keep the underframe as a separate piece and arrange for the floor and interior to slide out of the body. In order to provide a mount onto which I can secure the securing bolts to retain the two parts together, I came up with a metal bracket that has been glued into the coach vestibule where it is hidden as below.
With this completed, I turned my attention to the bogies. These are based around the Bill Bedford sprung bogies, now supplied by Eileen’s Emporium – there is one with the right dimensions for the ECJS bogie. These are only the sprung assembly and offer no detail of the real bogie at all and these were quite characteristic riveted plates. I am not aware of any offerings from the trade for these, so I have had to create my own – out comes the CAD machine again! Actually, they are quite easy to draft and there was a fairly good drawing available. As with some of my other etch designs, I have used folding jigs to ensure that the layers come together correctly without bother. In the photo below you can see the basic Bill Bedford sprung frame on the left upper, the basic etch to the bottom right and the finished side with the layers laminated to the bottom left.
And this is a close up of the bogie sides fitted and some of the brake hangers fitted.
After searching around, I decided that the best means of making the axleboxes and springs was to use the Drummond pattern axlebox/spring assembly from Lochgorm Models. These are really nice but the springs are too long such that the hangers are a bit far out for the six wheeled bogie – hence I formed a hanger point as part of the etching, which you can see yet to be folded down on the above picture. The intention will be to insert a brass rod through the hole in this and to then mount small washers on it to give the impression of the springs. A similar rechnique is used on some of the 5522 models bogies and is quite effective. With this representing the hangers, those to the casting could be cut away.
The axleboxes are rather nice, as you will see, and are of cast brass. The bad news about this is that they are really hard and quite a lot of work is required with a dental burr to open out the rear to be free of the bearing.
And a look at both bogies together, now with the bearing spring hangers in place along with the brake hangers and rods.
A key feature of these bogies was the transverse bolster springs, which are apparent between the axle spacings. I did come up with a scheme to form these but they have not proved to work. I think I can cut and paste a pair of the bolsters from what I have produced (ie half the number I need) so I am going to have another bash and if not, it is back to the drawing board! So whilst I work out how I am going to wrestle with this (I do have some ideas, I just need a bit of time to implement them!), lets at least admire what the coach looks like in its semi-complete state:
There are other things to do with the coach; the centre part of the roof has a bow, there is various detail missing from the underframe, roof and ends yet to go – but it does look the part doesn’t it?
In response to the first part of this blog, Bill Bedford did contact me to help with some prototype details. He was able to tell me that the buffers that I used would only be correct for the brakes and that the udnerframe only had two trusses, not the four that I have modelled. So some corrections will be required……………but first those transverse bolster springs and maybe give the carriage a bit of an outing (I will bring it to Scaleforum for that).
Don’t worry, it is not as dramatic as all that, I have not burnt it or anything……………………oh hang on a minute, I have – well a bit of it anyway!
One of Portchullin’s quaint little foibles was it did occassionally like to derail trains as they left the fiddleyards; especially the fiddle yard representing Kyle. There were various reasons for this; including some proper cr*p woodwork on my part, the hand shunting that occurred every time a train was turned around, the effects on thermal expansion that was not catered for and, something that I had not seen until recently, a bit of a dogleg at the baseboard joint. Add to this the rather Heath Robinson approach to the legs for the fiddle yard boards, electrical connections and facia support and it was fundementally a b*ggers muddle. So something had to be done and, a mere 8 years after the layout’s first exhibition, it now has!
So with lots of thanks to Tim and Julian at the Electric Loft Ladder Company again, we have a new fiddle yard at the Kyle end and redesigned legs at the Inverness end. The design adopted is an adaptation of the sector plate that was in use before but with a refinement that it uses cassettes for the locations that the loco arrives and departs at. The idea being that these are both storage points at the end of the fiddle yard roads but also the means to move/turn the locos ready for their next duty. This is a development of the system used by Simon Bendall on his layout Elcot Road, but with a rotating sector plate rather than a traverser.
Other halfway novel ideas are the use of the tray below the traverser as a storage tray for stock (and maybe tea!) and the projection of the sector plate beyond the end of the fixed board to make the ensemble smaller to transport. The facia also folds up rather niftily as well – photos of this will follow once I have taken them!
The new fiddle yard has not yet been tested but will very shortly get its chance to prove if it is a good’n. Portchullin will be out at the Barnstaple MRC’s show in Bear Street, Barnstaple – you can find details here. If you are in North Devon at the weekend, stop by and say hellow?