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:
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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?
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.
A float inside the tank was used to transmit the water level to this gauge on the exterior.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The view inside the trainshed is particularly impressive; I think you can smell the diesel fumes and sea air!
The builder in a characteristic pose, talking…………….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Some of the bay assemblies and the bay largely completed:
The real value of etching the components can be seen in the shopfront – I at least can’t get plasticard to look like this!
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.
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………..).
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!
Just because the layout was big does not detract from how good the modelling was, as these pictures show.
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 ……..
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!
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!
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.
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.
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…….
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)…….
Rest in peace, Richard.
Thanks to Jim Summers, Danny Cockling and Alan Aitken for the use of some of their photographs.
The Dingwall & Skye Railway – A Pictorial Record of the line to Kyle of Lochalsh.
For those of you that are aware of my main exhibition layout you will be aware that it is based very firmly on the Dingwall & Skye Railway, which is the name of the line we now call either the Kyle line or occassionally the line to Skye.
I have to confess that the layout is heavily influenced by my memories of family holidays to the line in the early 1970s – we were dragged up there by my father and I at least (it all appears to be lost on my brother!) picked up a bug for the railways west of Inverness. This bug seemed to have been passed to me by my father and he was in turn infected in the late 1950s when he first made his visits to the area.
Based on his love of the line to Kyle of Lochalsh, my father’s latest book is upon the line. It does not seek to be a strict history of the line (Rails to Kyle of Lochalsh does this) but is instead a review of the line on a station by station basis. It is full of photographs (literally hundreds of them) and also a substantial number of drawings of the engineering and architectural infrastructure apparent on the line as well as around it. This covers station buildings, water tanks, bridges, sheds, signals, water columns, water tanks, cattle docks and indeed many other aspects of the line. There are historical reviews of aspects of the operation of the line, the exploration of alternative schemes that did not come to pass and some of the quirky storys of the past.
It is thus for those that like a coffee table picture book, a historical review of the highland railway, those that are interesting in modelling tbe line and those that simply are caught up in the nostalgia of the “line to Skye”…..
The Dingwall & Skye Railway – a pictorial record of the line to Kyle of Lochalsh, by Peter Tatlow ISBN 978 1906 537463 @ £27.95 by Crecy Publishing Ltd. For those of you who are members of the Highland Railway Society, you will find that your membership entitles you to a significant discount if you buy from the society. Thus if you are waivering about joining the society, you will be do well to do so if only to buy this book!
The bridge is in fact modelled on the one at Killiecrankie, but there were very similar ones at The Mound, Kyle of Lochalsh, Keith amongst others. Heres a picture of the Kyle one:
The advantage of using the Killiecrankie bridge is that I had previously modelled one for a layout of this station and whilst the abutments are still firmly attached to some mothballed boards, the deck could be reused. The deck has a nice skew to it to make it a bit more interesting and utilises lattice girders; which few seem to bother modelling. This is what it looks like:
In terms of abutments, most Highland (and indeed this is common to most scottish lines) had bridges with curved wingwalls swept back from the face of the abutment. To give the layout some locational character, this was something I wished to produce. This is where we are at presently with the abutments:Typically, the random or dressed stone ranges from Wills are my favoured mediums but seeing Andy G making a good go utilising Slaters 7mm coursed stone I thought I would have an experiement with this. This is because many of the later bridges on the Highland used the same coarsely dressed stone; like this one at Dalwhinnie:
And these show the bridge deck on the abutments as they stand:
_________________ Mark Tatlow