A little bit like buses, you wait for a long time for some interesting articles on the Highland Railway and all of a sudden we get two or three come along in the same issue – in this case the July edition of the Railway Modeller. It is a veritable Highland-fest and is well worth buying as a result (no apologies for bias offered!).
First up the layout of the month is Howard Geddes’ Blair Atholl and Druimuachdar. His layout is a representation of Blair Atholl station along with its approach from the south and the line over the big hill (Druimuachdar as Howard describes it or present day Drumochter). It is liberally illustrated with photographs of the layout and numerous Highland locos – these cover many of the Highland’s locos and also those of the LMS era. Howard has written notes for each of the photographs to illustrate the historical context of the train, the loco of the scene to make this a bit more interesting than the average article in the model railway press.
So to emulate Howard, I can tell you that this is a Loch Class, number 127 Loch Garry taking water in front of Blair Atholl’s shed. When built, these were the front line express engines but on the building of later locomotives, they were relegated to slightly less important tasks. So this may well have come off a Blair Atholl local (the all stations stopping services from Perth terminated at Blair) or has just returned from piloting a train up the hill.
The other article of interest for the modeller of the Highland was by Peter Fletcher and was a review of his locomotive fleet for his EM gauge layout Croich (which is based on Tain shed). As he says himself, the layout is really a vehicle to show off his loco fleet and it is fair to say it is fairly extensive and covers the majority of the Highland types in existence in 1920. The article also includes a reprint of a drawing for the small ben class of loco; hopefully a few people may be provoked into
Perhaps the most pleasant part of the two articles is how all but a couple of the locomotives have actually been built! Oh that we see a bit more of this in the mainstream model railway press!
I don’t have any pictures of Peter’s layout so you will need to refer to July’s edition of the Railway Modeller or the March 2018 for the whole layout. Howard has however provided me with a number of photographs of Blair Atholl that weren’t in the magazine to act as a tempter………..
Wee Ben, no 14413, Ben Alligan crossing Howard’s model of Altnaslanach Viaduct (from just north of Moy, and still there albeit in structural terms now merely decoration to a steel replacement that is inserted within it). It is the Highland’s locos in the LMS first livery that float my boat, so this is as good as it gets for me!
HR’s no 99 Glentromie, one of David Jones’ Strath class with some sheep and cattle wagons at the head of a mix freight train.
The premier locomotives on the Highland mainline between 1928 and the arrival of the Black 5s in 1934 were the Hughes Crab class – a locomotive that I find the brutishness of which very appealing (I have a couple in progress). Here we have them hauling a freight train through the Druimuachdar portion of Howard’s layout – representing the summit of the line going through the wildness of the Grampian Mountains. I was looking down on the scene only a fortnight ago from one of the adjacent munros looking at the really short HST sets now in use on the mainline!
The Hughes crabs again on a more normal passenger travelling in the opposite (northwards) direction.
A vista across the MPD area of Blair Atholl with Loch Garry now taking a breather waiting for its next roster.
The final of the three buses is the announcement of the release of a Highland signal cabin by Peco, as per my previous post.
One of the worst parts of Portchullin is the lack of thought I gave to transporting the layout about. One of its attractions is the curve which makes it unusual but this makes the boards big, cumbersome and above all awkwardly shaped to transport. It also made them difficult to create packing solutions for and the limited solutions that I adopted have never been good enough which has plagued the layout throughout its life.
It was a mistake I am anxious not to repeat with Glenmutchkin and now that it is beginning to accumulate some finished elements, it is definitely time to deal with this and create some cases to enclose the boards when they are either stored or transported. My requirements for these were that they provide rugged protection to allow the layout to be transported without risk of being damaged. I also wanted them to be easier to move, in particular on my own, and to pack away themselves without taking up significant amounts of space.
There are (presently, there are plans……) six scenic boards and the crate for the first two – for the smallest boards – is now complete. The concept I came up with is to use end pieces that secure the two boards on top of each other, face to face. To this, I have added larger panels to close in the sides and prevent these exposed parts from damage. To try and speed up assembly and also reduce the space that they need, each end is hinged to and end piece but conceived such that they fold onto each other so that they pack into the minimum possible space.
One of the other features I included was nicked from the St Merryn team was to introduce packing pieces to make sure that the ends stand clear of the rail ends. A simple feature that I had not seen described before.
To make the combined case and boards easier to transport I have introduced some trolley wheels – the operating crew are pretty excited with this and can hardly believe how much they are going to be spoilt! The other little trick I am please to have employed is to introduce slight feet to enable fingers to get below the box to lift it.
I have concluded that only the two smallest boards can be paired up in this manner as they are already quite heavy and will get more so as I add the remainder of the features to their topsides. Thus the remaining board cases will be slightly different.
Portchullin’s next outing will be this forthcoming weekend; 18/19 May at Bracknell Leisure Centre, Bracknell, RG12 9SE.
We’ll be taking you back to the 1970’s where blue and grey ruled in the western highlands, with the odd stray green one………….
Pop by and say hello?
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.
Taking a layout to shows is a surprisingly tense experience. There is the joy of the Friday traffic which typically adds 30% to the journey time (or rather more if the M6 is closed as I experienced once!). But it is the setting a layout up at a show is always a tense moment; typically there is always something that needs a bit of TLC and at Portchullin’s last show (last weekend at Spalding) quite a large dose of TLC became necessary due to these little blighters…..
Innocent looking isn’t?
It probably costs a tiny fraction of a penny but without it the layout is hamstrung because they are essential to the operation of the turnout motors. Portchullin uses Fulgerex point motors and this is a spring that activates micro-switches in these that change the crossing polarity and act as limit switches to the motor’s travel.
The frailty of the design is that these are only secured in place by their own tension and they are prone to bouncing out. A long journey in a van is just the type of thing to dislodging them – which is just what happened over the weekend, Indeed, it has happened before and has occasioned a number of the upside down sessions under the layout that Oly delights in telling you about.
We have now reached the stage where three of the five turnouts have crossing polarity controlled by separate switches. This creates some excitement for the operators as they have to remember to change both the turnout and the polarity – so much show that they refused to do so for the show!!
So, my fulgerex point motors, your days are numbered………………………….
My last post recounted the difficulties that I was encountering correctly wiring up a slip and the technique I had arrived at to overcome this, This precipitated various bits of advice including an alternative approach provided by Richard.
Richard’s solution is certainly a little easier than my approach to wire and does not need an additional point motor to run the extra switching required. It is, however, slightly less idiotproof in use than my version – this is because once the approach turnout is set for the branch in my version, the whole of the run was also set electrically. On Richard’s version, it is also necessary to decide whether the main line to yard is to be set for the yard.
This is what it looks like as a wiring diagram and it is important to note that the approach turnout (A) is also operating one of the slip’s switches too.
I need to fire up the soldering iron now and undertake the correction, so that we can play with trains!
Well, that’s true of the top side, where nothing visible has happened of late but there is progress when you look underneath.
I have spent more than a few hours soldering dropper wires on about half of the track that has so far been laid. All is neatly colour coded (hopefully).
Another development in comparison to Portchullin is the painting of the entirity of the underside of the layout white. This is to make everything clearer and will, hopefully, make it easier to deal with issues with the layout set up – although I am hopeing for less issues!
Even more hours (weekends even!) have been spent making up jumper connections, so hopefully the wiring will speed up in the coming weekends! I have spent this time to work through the logic of the wiring across all boards and there is a full wiring schedule in place – none of the wonky logic on Portchullin this time!
In my travels, I have managed to blag an invite to see Bob How’s developing model of King’s Cross and portions of the Great Northern’s main line in north London. This is depicted in the mid 1950’s when the pacifics still reigned supreme and there was a full mix of locals, semi-fast and express passengers, along with a modicum of freight on the metropolitan widened lines.
It is hardly surprising, given the magnitude of the layout, that this is still a work in progress but what has been built is largely operational and therefore playing of trains is a regular feature in the How household. Given the location of the prototype, this means even the relatively short trains were 6 coaches in length and the full expresses upto 10. All this is in P4 and includes various gradients/curves to allow the lines to cross each other, so it tests the haulage power of loco’s upto prototype levels!
The more scenically finished portions of the layout are on the continuous run outer loop which comprises twin tracks to one side and four tracks to the other. This culminates in a very impressive junction where the main line to Kings Cross joins and a dive under to give access to the fiddle yard passes below.
As can be seen, there is still lots of work to do to these areas, including the provision of signals but the impressive nature of the layout is immediately apparent. But the real magnitude of the endeavour becomes apparent once a look at the terminus is made.
Even without any meaningfully completed elements of scenery, this is unmistakably Kings Cross that no doubt all of us are familiar with either from personal experience or photographs. Just imagine what it will be like with the full trainshed and a batch of northbound trains waiting their due departure time?
Bob’s intentions are to model the full station, including the MPD, the suburban station and milk depot; although at present these last areas are sill to be started. It will be a monster when it is finished! As you can see, even the fiddle yard is somewhat of a giant, although Bob was close to admitting that it is rather too small for the layout!
Apologies for the grainy photos, the layout lighting is a task still to be confronted and photography was pushing the camera to its limit!
You have some catching up to do Mr Hanson………….
I have been back onto the layout of late, with a view to get the first wheel turning on it before too long. That means attacking the electrickery things, beginning with the control panel.
I made a start on this by drawing up a diagrammatic representation in MS Paint and then using this to get one of the online firms (Vistaprint) to print me up a poster board to form the basis of the control panel. I am not sure I chose the right material as it turned up on a light weight foam board and I had to mount a sheet of aluminium behind for it to be stiff enough to be useable. But it did look pretty smart I thought………….
The control panel deals with all of the signals and turnouts that the cabin will have controlled, with local ground frames (which will be located on the boards locally) to be used to control the goods yard and the MPD. The latter will be arranged such that it can be located either to the front or the rear, to allow some flexibility in operation.
I have got to the point where the full extent of switches have been wired in and I am just completing the jumper leads. I took a lot of care to plan the wiring prior to any construction – despite the locos being DCC controlled, there are an awful lot of wires. This is because I have stuck with traditional control for the turnouts and signals. There is further complication as a result of the desire to incorporate some bells and even a block instruments (well maybe, at the moment it is just the wires!). So in all, there are 90 odd wires doing something or another on the layout.
Somewhat in contrast to Portchullin, I have sought to keep the wiring as tidy as possible; everything is neatly collour coded and even labelled (to be fair it was labelled on Portchullin, but in a non colourfast ink………..!). I am hoping that this will make the wiring easier to debug at the start of the matter and repair if it does get damaged.
I am proposing to use a variety of connectors between boards and to the control panel, including this rather nifty varient of the D-sub range that is wired directly onot a cheeseblock wireless connector. Available to a variety of types from ebay including from this seller.
In my last visit to the Highlands, I took my father up to almost the extremity or our island to Thurso. The purpose of doing so was to mooch around portions of the Highland Railway north of Dingwall but also to drop in on Richard Doake. Richard is a fellow follower of the Highland Railway and has a rather nice layout depicting a pair of the Far North line’s more interesting stations; Helmsdale and Thurso.
Although Richard has sought to use a large degree of ready to run stock, most of the infrastructure on his model has been scrachbuilt so that it captures the Highland flavour. This includes signal boxes, goods sheds, water tanks and the like – the combined effect works as this is one of the most authentic feeling Highland layouts I have seen.
An overall view of the main part of Thurso.
The train shed is a reduced liength version of the real thing (which is still there for those that don’t know). This view would have been a daily occurance in the late 1950s as a hiker concludes its long journey from Inverness with the Thurso portion of a Far North train.
The signal cabin at the station throat.
A small ben, Ben Wyvis, does some shunting in Thurso’s yard. This has been converted from a Hornby T9 with a replacement tender. The wheels are in reality 6 inchs to big and the boiler is consequently too high, but I bet the Highland fans that read this didn’t notice until I told you?
Brn Wyvis’ sister, Ben Clebrig acting as station pilot at Thurso.
The other station is Helmsdale and here we have the Hiker once again returning south. passing a typical Highland goods shed.
A Pickersgill on shed at Helmsdale, along with a pannier. A pair of panniers were regularly found at Helmsdale in 1962 as they worked the Dornoch branch at this time following the failure of the last operational Highland locomotives, some small tanks.
And here is an example of this tank – aptly named Passenger tanks as they specialised on lightly loaded trains on the short branchlines the Highland had a number of in their region.
Like on the Kyle line, van traffic was a big feature of the line and here we see a clan pull out northwards with a train of vans and non-passenger stock. The eagle eyed will notice that the clan is in BR livery where in reality they did not last long enough to carry this. Richard is quire relaxed about this as it enables him to include locos he fancies!
And a similar working heading south with the almost enivitable (for the real thing) black 5.
So thank you Richard for entertaining us and also for the use of your photographs – rather better than my own!