Portchullin is a cover girl again, as it features on the front cover of the DVD supplement that accompanies the just available (perversely February 2019) British Railway Modelling.
It features me blathering on about the inspiration for the layout, the origins of the real line and the prompting of its building. I even managed to remember to thank Peter for building the signal cabins this time, so hopefully he will not cold shoulder me for six months this time……………..
This DVD is only available with the subscription copy or if you take it in a digital format, so you can not rush down to WHSmiths to get it – I dare say that this is the publishers of BRM seeking to encourage you to take out a subscription!
In addition to this (and probably partially as a result), Portchullin has also got itself nominated into the BRM/RMweb’s 2018 British Railway Model Awards – click the banner at the head of their website here. It would be great to see the layout do well in the poll, so if anyone fancies doing a bit of voting, all contributions would be gratefully received!!
If you wish to see Portchullin in the flesh, its next outing is in May at ExpoEm in Bracknell. Look forward to seeing you there.
A long time ago, I showed that I had conceived a design for a pretty unusual vehicle in the Highland’s fleet, a cradle bolster. They gave this diagram no 25 and it has a square cradle that sits on the top of a fairly simple body. The cradle had four bolsters protruding from its corners and I anticipate it was used in conjunction with another bolster with the cradle rotating to allow the load to twist on curves. I presume it was conceived to support long but more flexible loads such as thin sheet steel/iron than a traditional bolster wagons could cater for.
As this was my first attempt at designing vehicles, it is fair to say it went through a fair few iterations (or was that irritations!) which does largely explain why it has taken so long to complete from the first build – but it is now done and it looks pretty smart I reckon! It is really small in reality – being dwarfed by other even relative moderate wagons!
The second main complication has been as a result of the need to source castings for the axlebox/springs. I have used the Highland Railway Society’s but these do not come with attached springs (by design, so that they can be combined with differing springs to suit different situations). They are also not conceived to accommodate bearings sliding up and down within them and need to be ground out from the rear to make a slot for this. This makes them a bu**er to attach and therefore I am in the process of sorting out my own masters to overcome this problem. Once these are complete and I have got some castings done, I will produce a run of these for sale. So watch this space! I am also taking a look at the realities of scaling this up to 7mm, so also watch this space (but probably for longer before you will see anything!).
The error that I have had pointed out to me is that the bolsters ought to be tapered and now that I know this they do jar somewhat, so the next one will need to have this sorted out. As they lasted into well into the LMS days, there will be a second one and the one shown here will appear from time to time on Benfieldside jostling amongst the NER stuff!
When I first embarked on this build, I thought that this was such an unusual subject that I was going to be building the first model example ever. A rather foolish notion that was upset by a visit to visit Buckingham a couple of years back where I see Peter Denny had modelled one (it is believed he was friends with Hutchinson, who had measured one up in the 1930/40s) – as you can see below. I have subsequently found out at least two others who have scratch built their own, so clearly I will need to search harder for originality!
Although not Highland vehicles, these full brakes have a strong association with the Highland’s branchlines in the post grouping years. Once the LMS took over the Highland’s system in 1923, they seemed to have been horrified by the state of the coaching stock that they inherited! Portions of the Highland’s fleet were speedily retired and large numbers of foreign company’s stock was drafted onto the system (especially the main line from Perth to Inverness, where the trains became fully corridor connected almost overnight).
When it came to the branchlines, the upgrade came primarily by the cascading of the better Highland stock onto these lines but there were exceptions. Although the Highland had full brakes, it was a line that had a lot of parcels/packages traffic, so it seemed that they needed even more and a batch of these Midland six wheeled full brakes were drafted in.
Many photographs of the Highland branchlines of the 1920s had one lurking in the background so I felt one should get to make appearances on Glenmutchkin. Simple, I thought, Slaters do a plastic kit for one and whilst it is no longer available, it is easy to pick up second hand and it should be a nice quick build. Unfortunately, I had not realised what a rubbish kit it was! It is too short and too narrow, most of the mastering is really crude and the panelling in particular would be a scale 6 inches deep. So the Slaters kit made it back on ebay only marginally quicker than it came off and I set about designing my own kit.
It has taken a couple of iterations and about three years, but finally I have got to the stage where I am happy with it but you can form your own view!
The first iteration used a cleminson chassis but in the light of the success I had with sliding axles on some of my other 6 wheeled stock, I redesigned it to include these and some sprung W-irons in the style of Bill Bedford’s.
This proved similarly successful and as you can see in the video, it trundles along quite nicely!
Other than the use of these sliding axles, the main unusual feature of the model is the arrangement of securing the roof. I have found that it is essential to bolt these in place to prevent the roof becoming adrift at some point in the future (which has happened to half my stock over time). Therefore, I designed a set of legs that allow the roof to be bolted through the floor from below and in the process also securing the separate chassis tight too. Broken down, the components look like this and having them separated does make painting a lot easier. It is definitely the route I will take in the future.
It is intended that this kit will be made available for sale as a 4mm/1ft model – albeit you will need to source the fittings/castings yourself. I have prepared some fairly extensive instructions (see link below) and this includes the details of what is required and where to get it from. I am waiting for a quote from the etching company to be able to work out the sensible cost for these; so an update post will follow when I list it on the Miscellany Models site.
In the meantime, here are a couple of additional views of the completed vehicle, awaiting its turn in the paintshop!
Don’t worry – this is not announcement of being turned to the dark side of modelling “Green With Rivets” (aka the GWR)! Instead it is a reference to a week’s trip to the extreme west of Cornwall to support my wife who was appearing in a musical that was running for a week at the Minack Theatre – more of this later……
As I was expecting to have a degree of time hanging around whilst the Mrs was on stage, I took a little modelling with me – in this case, a Jones era double deck sheep van. As can be seen in this George Washington Wilson photograph of Kyle – sheep traffic was an important source of traffic to the Highland Railway – the majority of the train in the platform are sheep vans and there is also a row of them in the foreground.
Ever with the eye to efficiency, the Highland developed a double deck van to double the number of sheep that could be transported in one vehicle. I believe that the Cambrian Railway and several railways in Ireland had similar vehicles, but otherwise these were characteristic of the Highland’s lines to the west coast and clearly I have to have a rake of them. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of effort in each one………….for example each side below is made up of five layers of laminate (and they are delicate too)!!
The highland had several versions of these vans, this time I chose the second era of van, which has a single door and diagonal bracing; I do have plans for some of the other diagrams so this is a topic we will revisit at some point! The starting point for this vehicle was an etched kit from the Lochgorm range (presently unavailable, but we are all hoping……) and as already hinted, it is not an easy one! This is mostly due to the delicacy of the parts and the multi-layering of the etches that take up a lot of care to line up with each other. It takes a fair few hours simply to get the sides made up and ready for assembly and then you still have the metal bracing to do!
There were a number of elements to the kit that did not work for me. The various tabs you see in the above image are to help locate the various floors with each other but in practise they are not correctly located and just get in the way – so I whipped them off! I also ditched the compensated suspension and instead used spring suspension instead with some trusty Bill Bedford sprung units.
However, I did not spot the biggest problem until it was too late. There is an error with the design of the kit ends where one of them is missing the top gap between slats. The correct end is as per the right hand picture and had I have spotted this prior to the assembly of the ends, I would have been able to insert the additional gap with a piercing saw. Having missed the problem until after I had built the van, I decided not to sweat the parts apart to cut in the slat. It only shows to those that know it is wrong; the problem is that I am one of them so it does niggle!
Contrary to the instructions, I did not loose lay the floors in place and instead created a cage arrangement by hanging the floors from rods that were secured to the roof. As can be seen below, this enables the roof and the floors to be released from the interior of the van. As with all my vans/coaches, this is secured in place with some bolts and nuts, so that the roof can be clamped tightly in place (I hate the cracks of doom that I see on otherwise fine models where roofs are not properly secured!). The detachable roof is necessary to both paint the vehicle but particularly populate it with the necessary sheep. You would be startled by how many sheep are required to fill one of these – around 50 and it costs a fair amount to populate each van. Thus, I have in mind casting some of my own in resin, although that is a story for another day.
The problems with the kit did not finish with the problems noted to date. The iron strapping was not quite right, the springs for the axleboxes are too big and the brake lever/shoe seemed excessively skinny. Thus, these were all adjusted or replaced with alternatives. All this effort and problems to solve meant that the van took a great deal longer to finish than the week that I had available – so it has taken until now to photograph it. This is what it looks like and rather dainty and different I think it is too!
And what of the Minack Theatre? Well, for any that do not know it this theatre’s setting is simply breath-taking, being set in the cliff side only three miles short of Land’s End. As you can see, vertigo is an issue for visitors and all of the set, props and costumes had to be carried down to the stage level – exhausting work that took us three hours! One of other downsides of the theatre is that the seals, dolphins and basking sharks can sometimes be seen over the shoulders of the cast – which is distracting as you can imagine!
Only my wife was on stage, my duties including the stage building and front of house duties but with 7 public performances in five days, plus rehearsals there wasn’t that much time for modelling!
The musical being performed was Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which follows the revenge that its namesake extracts on a corrupt judge and his beadle (with quite significant amounts of collateral!) for wrongly arranging for him to be transported. The most recent Hollywood version is pretty dark and definitely less watchable as a result – our version has just as death but with a great deal of humour too; especially as the leads had some pretty good comic timing to deliver it well.
The by-product of all these killings (ie bodies!) found its way into pies and one of the more jolly parts of the performance is where all the customers of these pies extol the virtues of their meaty dishes. So with apologies for my rather crude phone videoing; enjoy……………(I did, although strangely I had no taste for pasties whilst I was down in Cornwall!)………..
The stock for Glenmutchkin has a recent addition and a rather beautiful one too.
This is a Clyde Bogie; the prototype being designed by David Jones and delivered in 1886. Initially this was a top link locomotive of the line but as time went past it was relegated to lesser duties. On Glenmutchkin it will be one of the locomotives for the branch passenger trains – equivalent to what the real locomotive did at the end of its live. This particular example was the last in service and lasted until 1930 and, as you can see, it picked up the LMS’s first livery of fully lined Crimson Lake.
The model was built for me by John James from a Lochgorm Models etched kit. It is fair to say it was not an easy kit to master and John has cursed me a fair amount I believe for asking him to do this particular prototype…………… He would have cursed more if he also had to make the louvred chimney!
Since John has delivered it to me I have fitted a sound chip and some AJs. I need to fit some loco crew too before long. I suspect I am not going to find another sound fitted Clyde Bogie anytime soon as I have only ever seen one other built example so I can confidently say this is a first! I also seem to have disturbed the seating of the tender chassis as it is sitting rather low – a little task to attend to soon.
I have not been entirely idle whilst John has been busy and have been doing a number of little projects. Most of these will appear in future blogs but the pair of Wilsons & Clyde open wagons will not because this is effectively the same as the NB Jubilee Wagon I discussed previously. However, it is worth noting that Wilsons and Clyde were known to be one of the major providers of loco coal to the Highland so I am presuming these to be loco coal wagons.
And here is a picture of 14278 in action; albeit not at this point with sound fitted.
After the painting disaster, I have been working on the latest version of the Fox Bogies. The prototype utilised a patented design with pressed steel plates to form the sides and ends which produced a stiff and resilient frame, better than the other contemporary options. Thus these bogies were very common amongst the pre-grouping companies with most of using them to at least some degree.
Although there are several model manufacturers that produce Fox bogies, there are no versions that use springing which I now prefer. As they were the primary form of bogie used by the Highland Railway, I need a few of them and thus I have been putting some effort into getting a top notch solution. In this regard, I have been assisted greatly by Justin Newitt if Rumney Models whose design of sprung bogie has formed the basis of this.
The model has primary suspension on the pin points based on guitar wire springs,
In addition to this, the design has a sprung bolster, also based on a guitar string suspension.
The castings I have used on these are from Lochgorm Models and the design has been conceived to enable these to be used either retaining their dampers (the cylindrical appendage at the end of the leaf springs) or with replacements that are a little more defined.
The etch is also designed to be provided with full stepboards as below or with only a short section to one end – as they typically were converted to during their life.
There is full brake gear provided, with a little trick where they do not pass under the axle (remember this view is upside down!) – this enables the wheel to be removed if this is required.
This is not the first version of these (don’t accuse me of not test building my designs!) and they are very close to done. The final change is to adjust the primary spring hangers slightly so that they are not visible when they are depressed (you can just see it poking above the sides in line with the axlebox), The advantage of computer drawn artwork is that things like this can be changed relatively easily.
These, and indeed the rest of the dia 51 full brake, will be made available for sale quite soon.
Previous parts to the test build can be found here:
- part 1 – the main body shell of the cupboard door version
- part 2 – the underframe
- part 3 – the second one, the sliding door version
I am not one to fall behind trends (!!), so I am following the “wordless Wednesday” trend of many people’s blogs today.
However, my reason for not putting down many words is that the ones I would like to write ought not appear on a public blog.
Thus I will have to settle with “matting agent” and “where’s the paint stripper” as my words instead……….
The final installment of the test build sequence is a little further away than I had hoped!
Following my last post on sliding axles, I put the coach through its paces last weekend when Portchullin visited the Netherlands.
We I am pleased to say we did not have any bother with road holding it at all, even on Portchullin’s famously rubbish track – as long as you wait to the end of this clip you will see the proof of this. The axle has about 1mm play on the centre axle – 1/2mm either way – and this proved to be more than enough for the 4 foot curves on the layout. We did find it would be defeated by the rather tighter curves on Horselunges which was nearby but as these were down to around 2 feet radius, I don’t feel guilty!
The one issue I encountered was that as the axle slid over, the wheel rim would touch the side of the W iron and thus electrify it. This lead to some shorting issues if it came into contact with a vehicle of different polarity (I know it shouldn’t but well it seems to do for my stock!). Thus, for the next vehicle I will look to insert a layer of very thin copper clad paxolin below the W iron to isolate it.
So even with this issue I consider that the experiment to be a definite success and for relatively short bodied 6 wheeled coaches this will be my standard approach going forward. This suits the Jones shorter 6 wheeled vehicle of which Lochgorm and Microrail have examples. I think the jury is still out on longer 6 wheeled vehicles and a further experiment is going to he required as I am still a bit concerned there may not be enough side play.
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?!?!?
Fish was an important traffic to the Highland Railway and as a result fish trucks were one of their most numerous classes of wagons. Given that Glenmutchkin is conceived to be on the coast, fish traffic will also be an important feature on the model too. There is to be a line to an off-scene harbour, so that I can justify a significant traffic. I already have a shortish train of fish vehicles, mostly open trucks, but I definitely need more
Back in April, I reviewed the Mousa Models LNWR covered van, which I was generally impressed with. Buoyed with this I spent portions of the last couple of weekends making a pair of the same manufacturer’s HR Drummond Fish Trucks. The kit is arranged for the variant that had a centre drop door, but there was an alternative variant with full length drop sides and at least some acquired morton brakes during their life. Thus, there are a few modifications that can be made if you wish.
The above is a full drop side version of the fish truck at (I think) Kyle (AB McLeod, HRS Collection).
Having built a few Mousa Models kits and however regretful it is, I was not surprised to find there were no instructions included in the kit. This is a pain as there is enough going on with the model to justify some guidance and anyone who does not have my father’s book will struggle. Unfortunately, I did not take any mid way through photographs before I realised that some notes on its construction would be of assistance, but hopefully these notes and the pictures of the completed model will be helpful.
A first issue I discovered was that the resin casting was a touch distorted. The ends in particular bowed into the well of the wagon and the whole wagon had a slight twist to it. This is a common problem with resin kits but with care can easily be corrected. Put the body casting in hot water – as hot as you can tolerate with hands (so less than boiling – 40C is about right) and it softens sufficient to allow these to be corrected.
Although the resolution quality of the LNWR van was good, the quality of the prints that formed the masters for these resin castings was not nearly good enough. Significant portions of them looked as if they were sand castings and did not look real. The body sides were better and were capable of being improved to an acceptable standard with some work with wet and dry sand paper. The solebars were worse, possibly because they received less effort to tidy them up prior to being used as a master. I managed to tidy it up a bit more in the areas that were more free of rivet heads, but above the W irons this was not possible and will have to be masked with some weathering.
The roughness of the print is apparent to the solebar
The kit is conceived with sprung W-irons to Mousa Models normal design – details of the assembly of which can be found in my previous blog post. However, these need to be carefully lined up to the bolts on the outside of the solebars as the locating slots to the underside are oversized and allow too much slop. It is also necessary to use the Brassmasters axle spacing jig to ensure that the axles are parallel and correctly spaced.
As I noted previously, Mousa Models seem to wish to use resin parts for as much of their recent kits as possible. There were only a few parts where this was a problem on the LNWR van but the problem is rather worse on these fish trucks due to the additional elements of detail that they contain. Had some of the components been produced as etched parts, they would have been a lot more durable without compromising fidelity. I replaced the brake levers, coupling hooks, vacuum brake plunger and brake tie bars with etched components or wire but if I were doing any more of these, I would also swap the brake blocks/hangers because I have managed to damage two of these. Masokits do some that are suitable, although there may be others too that I do not know of.
Page 147 of the carriages and wagons book shows a drawing of how the Drummond patent brake levers operated. In this, it can be seen that there was a long lever running to the right hand end from the fulcrum of the “scotch brake”. This then met a smaller lever that operated in a cam arrangement on the long lever but also connected through a rod to the other side of the wagon. On this side, there was another short lever (so appeared on the left hand end on this side). In the kit, the brake lever is rather crude due to the need to beef it up so that it is durable but even then it is very vulnerable. Furthermore, there is a second long lever, which is not correct at all. Instead, I made up a rod from brass and utilised an etch from the Highland Railway Society.
The principal side to the wagons, showing the missing brake lever now provided by way of a Highland Railway Society etching.
The patent braking system was, however, found to be unsafe because one side could be operated without the user on the other realising it (it cost someone some fingers, I believe) and the Board of Trade banned them for new construction. Therefore, many wagons had their braking arrangements changed, either by the use of full length levers and a ratchet or even a full change to morton brakes. I converted one of my wagons to the former by the use of some etched levers from 51L and an extra V hanger from the scrapbox.
And now the subsidiary side to the wagons, showing the Drummond Patent Brake lever to the left hand vehicle and a replacement long lever on the right hand vehicle.
I also took the view that the buffers were too delicate to survive in use and therefore swapped them for Drummond buffers available from the Highland Railway Society. I also found it necessary to cram the whole of the underside of the chassis with lead, to get the wagon’s weight to a level that would operate the wagon’s springs.
The underside – the rod to the Drummond brake is visible to the left hand end of the top vehicle.
Although these will have been green with yellow lettering for much of their lives, I chose to do them in LMS crimson lake. Rather fine they look too! When carrying fish boxes, it is known that turfs were used to provide thermal insulation around the fish for the journey but my guess is that this was covered within tarpaulins. I have tended to find that the paper tarpulians (Smiths etc) are not that durable so I need to do some experimenting on alternatives – I do have something in mind. That will be for another post though!
Painted (well I seem to have missed the rims!) and awaiting weathering
All in all, these are quite attractive vehicles, very core to the required stock for Portchullin and the kits are a pretty good – but they could be better and easier to build if Mousa models had dealt with what are relatively obvious points.