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19 August 1870

This day, 150 years ago, was a significant one for the highlands and the western isles. It marked the opening of the first railway to reach the Atlantic north of Helensburgh. To understand how significant this was, take a look at a map and and see what proportion of the country this represents – its almost a third of the country.

The line at the time was called the Dingwall and Skye Railway but nowadays we know it a little better as the line to Kyle of Lochalsh. Given it is the primary inspiration for my layouts, I think this anniversary needs to be marked with a blog post!

The classic scene from the 1990s, class 37s in large logo livery passing on a winters day at Achnasheen. I really must get myself a large logo 37 for Portchullin, I have plenty of memories of them!

The original name of the line gives away the objective of the promoters – to bring communication to the western side of Scotland, in particular the islands such as the Isle of Skye. Given that even in the 19th century the centre of the country was very sparsely inhabited, the population was concentrated on the coastal fringes and on the islands. Prior to the arrival of the railway, to ship goods or travel to the islands from the lowlands would take days. These poor communications inhibited the development of these parts and the arrive of the railway was a major spur to the prosperity of the region.

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The original terminus at Strome Ferry on Loch Carron; salt water at last even if the open sea was still some distance away. Believed to be a George Washington Wilson photograph, probably dating from the 1870s.

Despite the value to the region, the line was not constructed with the support of the government, instead it come about entirely with private finance. Given the sparseness of population, this was a brave venture and the promoters did not have sufficient money to reach their ultimate destination – the Atlantic seaboard. Instead they only just managed to reach a long finger of a sea-loch, Loch Carron. This was only intended to be a temporary solution to allow some income to be generated before the final push for the eventual terminus to be made. As with the best of plans, it too a long time for this ambition to be realised as the line to the present terminus at Kyle of Lochalsh did not come to be for a further 27 years.

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A Skye Bogie resting at Dingwall shed; a colourised print by Stephen Arrandale. These locomotives were specifically built from 1882 to serve this line.

The line started from the route up the east cost of the northern part of Scotland from Ross & Cromarty’s county town, Dingwall. It was intended to run through a fairly significant spa town, Strathpeffer, but this plan was foiled by an obstinate landowner. Perversely, therefore, the line bypassed the most significant town on the route, which hardly helped its finances! Whilst the line then travelled through sparse countryside with few centres of population, there were a series of roadheads where glens branch off. A feature of the line until the 1980s were buses coming to meet each train to provide links to the other parts of the west.

Classic 1950s in the Highlands – a stanier black five (known as hikers on the ex HR system) and a neat train of blood & custard coaches paused at Achnasheen. Note the bus that has come to meet the train, as referred to in the text, this will be bound for Gairloch, Poolewe and Aultbea

The line is a remarkable survivor as it was chalked up for closure on several occasions. Its most significant saviour was the oil industry in the mid 1970s, when the country’s biggest dry dock was built not far away at Loch Kishorn and the prospect of increased traffic persuaded the government to refuse a closure request. This prompted the railway to make efficiency savings; for example the line was the first example to use a radio signalling system 40 years ago.

The line in the 1970s, with a class 26 passing Achnalt viaduct heading east.

The line survives to today in its extended form to Kyle of Lochalsh and (touch wood) seems to be safe for a long term future. Ok, it has a lot less charm as a railway than it used to but the scenery is still second to none and you still have the romance of heading to the wild west of Scotland – it justifies being seen as one of the worlds great railway journeys! If you have never done it, then it really needs to make your bucket list!

I couldn’t bring myself to include a photograph of a diesel multiple unit – hence lets have something a lot more attractive. An eastbound train paused at Achnasheen hauled by a superheated goods. These took over from the Skye bogies from the late 1920s. Judging by the livery and the use of corridor stock (of very mixed parentage) this looks to have been taken in the mid-1930s.

If you want to enjoy the charm of the line in the era that Porthcullin is set, this is a link to a fabulous video created by Ross & Cromarty council in 1972. This was deliberately rose tinted as it was a promotional tool to seek to convince the then government not to allow its closure – indeed, it was shown to parliament at the time and may even have had a hand in the saving of the line. After all, you don’t just arrive at magic, it has to be conjured…….

As an alternative, if you do want to find out more about the line there are a number of good books on the line; including one by my father I mentioned here.

Fuel for Thought

Obviously, where there is water in a locomotive yard, there really ought to be coal too.

The Highland, like many other railway companies of the time (certainly the Scottish ones), sought to stockpile coal. This was presumably insurance against coal strikes and allowed them to purchase coal at times when the price was favourable. Thus, quite substantial coal stacks where very much a feature of shed areas in the pre-grouping era. Typically, these were arranged in engineered stacks, with the sides formed in “dry-coal walling” and then loose coal behind. I can’t recall ever seeing this modelled, so I though I would change that!

Coal loading dock

The actual structure of the loading bank was formed in plasticard and Wills random stone sheets, but with the mortar courses softened as I described for the water towers. The shape of the coal stack was formed with a piece of house insulation left over from a DIY job and then real coal used to form the effect of…..err……real coal. Actually, real coal does not look quite like real coal without a bit of effort. It does shatter into angular but irregular lumps like real coal (especially if lignite coal is used) but its glossiness does not scale down. However, a vigorous brush with generous amounts of soot black weathering powder takes the gloss back and the whole becomes quite convincing. You do feel as if you are going to get pretty filthy if you go up onto the bank – and until the whole is fixed with matt varnish, you would!

Coal loading bank and coal hoist

Individual coal chunks were glued in place to form the wall structure. To get the effect, it is not enough to simply scatter the coal onto a bed of glue each chunk has to be laid individually with care taken to lock it into the course below – just like a real dry stone wall. Thus, the vertical walls of this took about a day to complete, scattered over about 8 stints because it is necessary to let the glue dry after every couple of courses to stop the layers collapsing. It is then possible to scatter the loose material behind the walls onto a layer of glue – the above picture shows the contrast in effects between the two methods.

Coal loading

But it is hard work shovelling coal into tenders, especially as the locos got larger and their tenders higher. As befitting such an important place as Glenmutchkin, it has all the modern amenities for coaling engines, a hand crane and a large bucket! In this case, I have fitted servos to this so that it operates – partly as a bit of fun and also to slow things down in the yard to a more realistic pace without it getting too boring for the viewer.

The underside of the crane, with the operating servos

The crane operation was achieved by way of three servos – one to rotate it and then one each for the front and rear of the coal bucket. These are all mounted onto a cradle that is rotated by the former – thus as the crane rotates so too do all the servos and there is a quadrant shaped slot in the base to the rear of the post (just visible in the picture above) that allows the cables to rotate too without snagging.

The base of the crane; the projecting rod telescopes into the actual crane (and there is a rod inside the crane post that telescopes into this too and appears below and onto which the servos clamp
The crane and its mount

The cradle is mounted to a solid rod that is in turn secured to the actual crane. This then slides into the rod that can be seen projecting from the base in the picture above. This means that there is limited strain on the crane or the mount as I had feared it might otherwise snap with any heavy-handedness on my part (something I am prone to!). The rest of the crane was made with brass hollow section and pulley wheels from Bill Bedford. A series of guides were made of small section tube on the pulley wheels, at the winding drum and across the jib to retain the operating cables.

The coal crane, bucket and operating servos

The bucket was fashioned from metal sheet and is filled with low melt solder to give it as much weight as possible. It is secured to the servo arms with invisible thread – which is a nylon seamstresses material used for making invisible stitches. It comes in both clear (which really is invisible) and black, I used the latter. It is much better than cotton thread as that has a furry finish that looks terrible after a time or if it is painted. It is, however, very fine and rather wriggly to knot, so using it involves a certain amount of cussing!

And this is what it looks like in operation…………

A little of the bouncing about of the bucket is caused by it sitting on my servo test rig, so the act of changing the switches imparts a little vibration. Hopefully, when mounted on the layout this will be less obvious.

I do still need to do the final detailing on this; tools, a bit of discarded debris and a couple of fellas from Modelu standing around doing nothing (because static people in animated poses look silly on a model layout!).

Let There be Water…….3 – Now There is!

More progress has been made with the pair of water tanks and they have now reached the stage where they are effectively finished.

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The stonework was painted by picking out each stone in different colours.  I think there is a real art to this as when I see others do this, I often think the colour differences are unrealistically abrupt.  I find the trick is to use a core of two colours that are close to the general colour that you want – in my case Humbrol Matt no 5 & 64.  Put these in separate palates on a mixing dish and dip into these to create a combination of the two.

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By selecting two relatively close colours, you can alternate from all one to all the other and any mix in between.  Adding very moderate amounts of a stronger colour difference, in my case Humbrol Matt 66 and 62 which are a darker grey and a leather brown adds a bit of variety but in each case they still need to be mixed in with the two core paints to keep the toning consistent.

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Even with this work the colours didn’t seem quite real, so I completed two additional steps.  The first was to use some matt varnish that I knew the matting agent was a bit gone on – this gives a slightly translucent milky effect over the whole and drew the colours together a bit.  The second was to use AK Abteilung 502 weathering powders – black smoke, ashes grey, gunmetal and rubble dust (primarily because these were the only colours I had!).  These need to be used with care, as it is easy to put way too much on and you can’t generally get it off again!  However, at low level and to the coal bank I have been pretty liberal with particularly the black smoke as such areas were far from clean!

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The weathering to the water tanks was dealt with slightly differently, although it also started with the use of the acrylic varnish with the defective matting agent (that’ll be how I found out it was defective!).  I then used a Humbrol dark grey was with downward brush strokes and then wiped off with a piece of kitchen roll, again with a downward stroke.  A few additional marks, especially to the panel joints, with AK Interactive weathering pencils.

The water effect was another accident flowing from the defective matting agent – the milking was far from desirable on the black base coat of paint.  Thus, I wiped it off once it was semi dry and I got most of it but where the remainder was still there, it added a bit of texture to the surface, as if there was a little disturbance to the water that affects part of the surface not the whole.

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By reference to the prototype, I made a heating stove flue and spigot for the water bag from brass rod.  To form the bends it was necessary to have a pair of additional tubes inside each other to stop the tube collapsing on the bend,  The canvas section of the leather bag was formed by a piece of heat shrink sleeving but with a little 5 minute araldite in the centre such that as this starts to cure a degree of shape can be put into it and once fully cured it will stay in this shape.

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The operating rod was based on that still largely apparent at Altnabreac and I have assumed this also had a ladder even if this has now gone.  There is no watering bag to the smaller of the two water tanks as I propose to have some water columns, but that is a story for another day!

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A further story for another day is the rather odd post sitting in the middle of the coaling bank; but that story will be fairly soon!

 

 

 

Let there be water (and coal too)……part 2

One of my pet hates on model railways are buildings that float a fraction above the ground because they have been plonked in situ, not bedded in.  For me, it completely destroys the illusion and I can get quite wound up about it when I see it (…..and it is pretty common, so this is fairly often!).

Occasionally, I actually do attach the building to the baseboard and “scenic in” the ground around them but more normally I construct a base into which the building sits.  This gets embedded permanently and then the building sits into a slot that is formed into it.  I have also seen the building being built in two parts, with the base being affixed to the ground and the building slotted onto them.  Peter Bond did this for me with the signal cabins for Portchullin.  This is the base for the larger water tank:

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The large water tank is more prominent as it is located closer to the baseboard edge and is to the rear of the main focus of the MPD area, the trackwork between the shed and the turntable.  It is also adjacent to the coaling bank and as a result I decided to make this now and as part of the base for the water tank.

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The smaller of the water tanks is designed to mask a baseboard joint in a rockface/embankment.  The base (below) will thus be split into two halves when it is fitted, each sitting on adjacent boards – a neat way of not having the San Andreas fault line running through a rock face!

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I have also started the painting of these, which had a fairly characteristic design with the border in a red/brown and a cream central panel.  It is important to recreate this and as it is fairly eye catching, errors will be instantly visible.

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The straight edges weren’t too difficult to achieve with masking tape; initially the horizontals and then the verticals a day later.  Peeling back the masking tape was a thrill to see if it worked!

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The scrolls at the corner was a concern throughout the construction of the water tanks but I did hit on an idea I think is rather nifty.  I sprayed the same red/brown on some transfer paper (thanks Chris!) and once it was dry, used a domestic hole punch to create disks of transfer.  I then cut them into segments that were a bit bigger than a quarter of the disk.  They were then applied as a transfer to each corner.

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Actually, it was pretty easy once I got going – I definitely spent longer thinking about it than I did doing it!  I am pretty pleased with the outcome, much neater than my hand could manage!

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The rather prominent hole in the coal bank will be the subject of a future post, as there is something a bit different planned for this!

 

Alnabreac Water Tower – the Prototype

The smaller of the two water towers I am building is a model of the tower that the Highland Railway built at Altnabreac.  Altnabreac is around 12 miles from the nearest paved road so even though it has not been used for approaching 60 years, it has proved too expensive to realise its scrap vale.

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What is possibly even more remarkable, you can see the paint – including the detailing at the corners – which probably dates from the LMS era; how much original pre-1948 paint is still out there?

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Being able to get up close to the tank, it can be seen that it is made out of sections; there are quarter segments for the corners and then straight panels for the sides.  They obviously came as a kit of parts and could be built to a size to suit the requirement.  Thus, I note that the Altnabreac is the same width wide as the Kyle tank was deep – so I can determine how many panels were used to make the Kyle version.  Whilst the lines are fient, they are there and I will replicate them with a hint of a score on the plasticard.

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A float inside the tank was used to transmit the water level to this gauge on the exterior.

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The tank as a whole is remarkably intact – the only elements I can positively identify is missing is the delivery bag which will have been of hessian and the wooden windows. However, I suspect there are two other elements that have now been removed.  There was probably an access ladder at one end to reach the interior of the tank but leaving it in situ would to be dangerous, hence its removal. Furthermore, there is no sign of any heating to the tank. Whilst the largish body of water will have taken a while to freeze, the region around Altnabreac is well-known for its cold temperatures so I suspect there is a boiler inside with a flue through the tank.  The outlet valve is controlled by a wheel at low level connected with a rod with a thread at its head. This connects to one end of a lever that has a threaded nut in order to transfer the movement into the interior of the tank where the valve is located.

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A drawing of the water tank can be found at this link: Altnabreac Water Tower  or if you are a member of the Highland Railway Society it will be in the next Journal and subsequently from their drawing service.

The other water tank I am building is a model of Kyle of Lochalsh’s water tank.  Eddie Bellis drew this and his drawing is in the November 1975 edition of the Railway Modeller.  There are couple of pictures of in LMS Engine Sheds: Volume 6 by the Oxford Publishing Co.  The only other Highland Railway water tower that has been drawn that I know of is Garves, which Henry Orbach drew – it is in a 1950s Model Railway Constructor or was reprinted in my fathers The Dingwall & Skye Railway.

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Let there be water……..part 1

Part of the concept of the back-story for Glenmutchkin is that it is at the end of a long line so that locos need to be serviced and it was also at the foot of a steep gradient, so trains need to be banked out of the station.  All this is creates a lot of thirsty locomotives that would have needed servicing and attention – so it will have a busy motive power depot.

The Highland Railway’s water tanks tended to be of a similar style with a tank made of sectional components and rounded head, base and corners.  There is nothing available from any of the manufacturers so it was obvious these need to be scratchbuilt.

There remains one tank of this type still in situ, at Altnabreac which I will describe in the next post.  In addition to this, there are drawings from Eddie Bellis of the Kyle’s water tower and also of Garve by Henry Orbach.  I have elected to build a pair – one of Kyle and one of Altnabreac (the latter being the smaller).

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Kyle’s water tank from the early post steam era.  Photograph with permission from Armstrong Railway Photographic Trust, JM Boyes collection.

Starting with the tanks, I laminated a series of strips of plasticard to the right height and then used a belt sander to put the chamfer on these before then making them up into a box.

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As with most of my stone buildings, I use Wills random stone plastic sheets; now available from Peco.  On far too many occasions I see this used with panels butted against each other; either on corners or even worse on the flat.  Unless the stones are toothed into each other, this screams as being incorrect even to a layman.  Therefore, it is best to form corners either from a sheet cut vertically and then chamfer the inside faces so that the coursing is retained for its full length even on the cut face.

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This means that courses line up from side to front without any silly jumps, as can be seen below.  This technique can not be used in all examples and sometimes it is necessary to actually tooth panels into each other by cutting corresponding dog teeth into adjacent panels.

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I find that the mortar courses on Wills sheets are a bit too deep and because lots of others use it its pattern is a little too obvious; so it looses its realism (or maybe I am just so sad that I can tell a material by its stone coursing!!).  I get over this by part filling the mortar courses with a plastic filler – which is basically dissolved plastic in a solvent carrier (lovely and smely!).  This tends to distort the sheets as it is only applied to one side so I first laminate the sheet to some thick (1.5 or 2mm plasticard).  Due to the volumes of solvent to be sloshed around in constructing buildings in this manner, it is important to allow for the solvent to escape – regretfully I have a number of coach roofs which many years later have mushy sections where the solvent has been trapped and has distorted the plastic in its efforts to cut through it and escape!  I thus drill regular holes or slots in the backing plasticard, which you can see here:

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Whilst the desire to mask the coursing pattern on the Wills sheet might seem a fair amount of bother given the need to reinforce the walls with an inner laimanate, I think the effect is worth the effort.  A blast of grey primer shows that the coursing and texture of the stone is retained but equaly it does not look like everyone else’s!

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The use of the laminations does give the advantage that slots for window frames and doors can be created.  These allow an etching to be slid in, either from below or behind.  They can be slid out again for painting and make this aspect a breeze to do.

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And this is where they have got to; the guts of both done but with a chunk of detailing and some basework still to be done.

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But lets sign this post off with a fine HC Casserley picture of a Superheated Goods using the MPD as a headshunt in the early 1950s.  This photograph is used with permission and is now part of Ernie Brack’s collection.  He has a substantial on line collection of photographs (including the JM Boyes collection) with a good proportion of them being of the Highland’s system – you can loose many an hour in his flickr site – this being a link to his Dingwall & Skye album.

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Aultbea Update

From time to time, we have dropped in to see progress on a layout being built by Peter Bond, called Aultbea.  As we dropped in to see him yesterday, I have some update photographs.

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Most of the progress has been on the buildings including the centre piece which is the train shed and station building.  As you can see, this is a pretty big structure as it consumes two full length coaches.

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The view inside the trainshed is particularly impressive; I think you can smell the diesel fumes and sea air!

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The builder in a characteristic pose, talking…………….

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Although the layout is based on one of the proposed schemes to open up the north west of Scotland (of which there were a number) it is also firmly inspired by Oban as you can probably see, plus chunks of Kyle of Lochalsh including the goods shed and a bit Fort William with the train engine coming beyond the station and idling on the station approach.

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The Glenmutchkin Pharmacy – Part 2; Beware Roofers!

Progress with the Pharmacy building has continued and the roof is now nearing completion.   I preferred using sheet metal (in this case nickle silver) for roofs as I find it is the easiest was to then include gutters.  In this case, I designed the roof as a simple fold up etch and subsequently the gutters were formed by half round section from Eileen’s Emporium.

One of the pieces of artistic licence I went for relative to the real Kyle Pharmacy was to elongate the building slightly.  This was partly because the prototype was a bit square and squat but also because I fancied including a decorative ridge piece.  The Victorians and Edwardians did love a bit of decoration and this included the details to their buildings.  There were numerous contemporary catalogues of architectural bits and pieces from which to choose from and I liked the idea of something pretty – especially given that this model will be right at the front of the layout.  So I created a design of my own and etched it; along also with the characteristic sign that is so prominent in the photo in my last post.

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Those that looked carefully at the prototype photograph in the last post will have noted that the roof slates were diamond shaped.  These were, in fact, asbestos slates and were quite a common material for pre-fabricated and simple buildings such as the Kyle Pharmacy.  Clearly they needed to be modelled but I did no fancy my chances of cutting the odd couple of thousand slates consistently.  I toyed with getting some laser cut or cut on a silhouette machine but then had a brainwave – pinking shears.

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For reasons I don’t quite know, dressmakers use these to create zigzag cuts and even better, my wife had a set.  However, she spotted me taking a look at them which meant I had a very firm talking too and was immediately banned from using them!!  Researching them on the internet showed that they come in a variety of pitches but be warned not all of them have 90º serrations.  I did find a set with a 4mm pitch which was a bit less than the 5mm that I thought was scale for the Kyle Pharmacy but as this equates to a 12 inch slate, I thought it was plausible and not a bodge too far.  As you can see below, they produce a neat and consistent serration.

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I cut the slates from plain paper in strips which I then sprayed a mid-grey colour because I felt that asbestos tiles might be a bit lighter than normal welsh slates.  I deliberately allowed a tiny bit of inconsistency of colour to creep in, to provide a little texture to the roof.  However, painting them was not easy as the air of the airbrush sent them flying – so I had to create a cradle to mount them in for spraying.

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Once painted, I secured them with spraymount and carefully set them out, with the point of the diamond to the row above meeting the apex of the one below.

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It takes some time (around 2 hours for a fairly small roof!) but I think the effect is quite convincing.  I find the the best effect to make it look natural is to lay the slates as consistently as possible – you don’t achieve perfect consistency and these small imperfections end up making it that little bit more.  Deliberately introducing inconsistencies tends to look a little contrived; including in this case my slightly differing shades, however, this was expected and can be overcome.

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The blend the colours together, I washed the slates with artist’s acrylic always ensuring that the brush stroke was down the roof to mimic the flow of the weather.

I also formed the ridge and hip flashings with cigarette paper which I had first sprayed with grey primer and then secured with more spraymount.  This was laid over 0.6mm brass rod to give the central lead roll effect – this was secured in place with superglue.  I initially tried to make the lead flashings in sections so that the correct laps between one piece and the other was achieved but I never got close to a neat or believable finish.  Thus I ended up doing this in one piece per run.

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The front signboard will need some more work yet (partly because I have damaged it!), which will feature in a future post as I am going to have a bash at producing transfers.

 

The Glenmutchkin Pharmacy – Part 1 The Etchings

It is a fair time since I built my last building, so feeling that it was time that I rediscovered my mojo for architectural things I have made a crack at a building that will be a fairly key feature on Glenmutchkin – its pharmacy .

This is inspired, and largely a facsimile of, The Kyle Pharmacy that could be found on the approach to the ferry pier.  Or at least it could until the 1970s when it was swept away to make a larger car holding pool for the ferry.  In addition to being a characterful building, as you can see below, the real pharmacy at Kyle was a key part of the local community and I wanted to capture this feature in Glenmutchkin.

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The pharmacy building is going to be located on the most prominent position at the front of the layout, so it definitely deserved some time being spent on it.  Taking Peter Bond’s advice, it is going to be assembled in components which will make painting a great deal easier but rather than using plasticard throughout as he would have done, I have arranged to have the shop front and bay etched.  I did so as I concluded that getting the slenderness and crispness of these was going to be key to get the feel of the model convincing.  Peter is a professional architectural modeller and bending plasticard to his will is therefore his stock in trade – not quite so me!

So these are the basic etches back from PPD:

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Some of the bay assemblies and the bay largely completed:

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The real value of etching the components can be seen in the shopfront – I at least can’t get plasticard to look like this!

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Richard Chown; 1941 – 2017

It is with great sadness that I advise that Richard Chown passed away last week.

Richard was a prolific modeller, typically of the somewhat unusual prototype and always in 7mm/1ft scale.  Not for him a debate between BR blood & custard or blue grey, instead he modelled unusual and quirky prototypes from Norway, Ireland or France – that always made his models interesting!

Although he did produce some smaller layouts, typically his layouts were somewhat on the large scale; tending from the substantial right up to a full size french viaduct where unless you were a basketball player you needed to stand on a box to reach rail height.  This layout was Allendenac, which was based on a French line a touch to the north of Clemont Ferrand.  The line was famous for the rather beautiful Rouzat Viaduct designed by Gustave Eiffel as a sort of trial run for the Eiffel Tower.

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A7=On the viaduct

All being made in 7mm/1ft made for a somewhat large layout and to give a sense of its scale, in the picture below, all but the person directly in front of the viaduct is standing on a box and in the view below that, you can see Richard at the rear someway up a ladder and still not to the full height of the layout (so you see Mrs T, I am not that bad really………..).

A12=At Telford

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With a layout of this size, access points to maintain (or build) the layout are important and here is Richard popping out of just such a hatch!

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Just because the layout was big does not detract from how good the modelling was, as these pictures show.

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Naturally, as he modelled the esoteric Richard had to scratch build everything for his layouts and he was a very talented modeller as you can see ……..

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This locomotive operated on one of Richard’s smaller layouts, Courcelle Part which was built for a Gauge O Guild layout competition.  It used some of the buildings from Allendenac and also its stock to create a more portable exhibition layout.  As I understand it, Courcelle Part had some cut outs to the rear within which to place the operator’s wine glasses – the wine was often local to the Courcelle and Allendenac region as Richard felt that it helped the operators get into the right sort of mindset to operate a sleepy french railway.  Now that is innovation in the field of model railways!

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Richard’s own website (which is operating now but will presumably be taken down in time) shows that he was already firmly into modelling as a teenager and contributed to several group layouts.

His first layout that I know anything about was when he modelled the Highland Railway and built a full sized model of Kyle of Lochalsh – weighing in at a mere 48ft.  Richard was, I suspect, inspired to follow the Highland by virtue of knowing Sir Eric Hutchinson and this interest brought him into contact with my father.  Although the layout was exhibited and fairly well developed as a model, Richard became conscious of some operating restrictions of the prototype (but only because he did not know that the engine shed was used as a headshunt!) and lost interest in it.  He disposed of it – apparently the under-bidder was none other than Roger Daltry!

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For me, however, Richard will best be associated with his layout Castle Rackrent; the name of which was inspired by a early 1970s property scandal.  The origins of the layout are very modest as a small (for 7mm) transportable exhibition layout but it proved a crush in his small bedsit of the time.  In an effort to find more room for the layout he found his employer accommodating (or perhaps unknowing) and erected it in a disused post office footbridge on Waverley station.

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Helped perhaps by handy access during lunch breaks and the better part of a mainline station to fit it, the layout reached (I think) 70m in length before BR decided that perhaps they would like their footbridge back…… Undeterred, Richard had a house built with a conveniently large (a.k.a. giant) basement to fit it and subsequently extended it to some eight stations such that it was an entire system.   The layout weaved around the room several times and even though the two stations below appeared next to each other, they were in fact nearly the length of the system apart.

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All this (or nearly all in the final incarnation) was single line and worked with bells as no station could see the adjacent station and the trains had to be driven to the signals and then handed over.  This made the operation of the layout somewhat unpredictable as I discovered at one stage when I had four of the six trains on the system within my station limits and a rather irate Slim Controller (you know who you are) sending urgent telegrams to discover the whereabouts of the hunt special…….

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There are rather more photographs of Castle Rackrent in my earlier blog posts – here and here.   The core of the layout – Castle Rackrent itself – was exhibited widely and on some occasions quite large parts of the system was transported to shows.  Here it can be seen at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra.

Castle Rackrent and Maeve at Cultlra 3

Richard’s final layout (that was completed, there were others in gestation) was Fangfoss which was built to Scale7 standards but of a 3’6″ gauge prototype in Norway.  The layout was not an exact model of any location but was inspired by the Randsfjord line that was a little outside of Oslo and was a means of portaging past a series of rapids – in this case the Fangfoss.

Fangfoss showing the Foss rock and falls - RC

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As can perhaps been seen throughout Richard’s layouts he was keenly interested in bridges, often being the key part of his models; as in Fangfoss from which this detail is taken.

Bridge on Fanfoss

At the other extreme to the size of Kyle, Castle Rackrent or Allendenac, Richard also produced some cameo layouts, typically aimed at being transportable by train (he apparently took a large chunk of the Castle Rackrent system from Edinburgh to Bristol by train – back in the days when there were luggage compartments…..).  Here is a small one called Port Lairge Wharf which was perceived as an extension of the Castle Rackrent lines (although I don’t think it was ever connected).

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For finescale modellers in the Lothian Region, and occasional visitors from further afar like me, would gather on a monthly basis to operate Castle Rackrent and Richard was always welcoming and encouraging.  He will be sorely missed by all and it is fair to say that I don’t think we will see the like of he in the hobby again…………….after all, who would try to model the tallest viaduct in the world in 7mm (even if sense did prevail on this one as it did not get completed)…….

Garden Layout 1971 from RModeller

Rest in peace, Richard.

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Thanks to Jim Summers, Danny Cockling and Alan Aitken for the use of some of their photographs.

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