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1955, somewhere in North London

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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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………….

Control Freak

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………….

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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.

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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.

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The Far North Line

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.

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An overall view of the main part of Thurso.

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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.

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The signal cabin at the station throat.

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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?

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Brn Wyvis’ sister, Ben Clebrig acting as station pilot at Thurso.

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The other station is Helmsdale and here we have the Hiker once again returning south. passing a typical Highland goods shed.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

A Quiet Day at Portchullin…………

Although it may be that there is a train in the yard as the shunt signal is off…… I suspect it will be one of the class 24s?

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Portchullin is just back from a trip to the St Alban’s show and its next outing will be in Telford, for the Diesel & Electric Show on the 20-21 February.

With thanks to David Brandredth and Tim Venton for the cracking photo.  Now my fav of the layout!

Buckingham Central

As we had to travel to Nottingham today to return my son to uni, we took the opportunity of accepting a fairly long standing offer to see Peter Denny’s Buckingham branch which now resides with Tony Gee.

Most of you will, I suspect, be aware that Buckingham was about the first EM gauge layout ever constructed (apparently, there was one other at about the same time) and can thus be said to be pretty much the daddy of the finescale model railway.

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The layout has origins that go back as far as 1947, so is approaching 70 years old.  There are a number of elements that go back to this era still on the layout, including the tank loco shown above which was built from the very earliest of plastics; I hope I look as good as that when I hit 70!

Whilst there have been several generations of layout, the core has always been an imaginary line to Buckingham from the Great Central mainline to London.  Buckingham is, of course, a much bigger town in this imaginary world and justifies a fairly significant service of commuter, local, parcels and goods trains.  In the view below, we see a “businessman’s express” for London readying for departure from Buckingham and then below that the peace and quiet of the station once it has gone.

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As befits an important station, there is a complicated station throat, controlled by quite complex signalling and a fine box over the line.

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The other principal station was Grandborough Junction (the third station, Leighton Buzzard Linslade, was dismantled at the time of our visit).  This was a busy junction and had a pair of branches going off it and crossing countryside.

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I particularly remember an article on “filling corners of your railway” – where he showed a gas works at one point and then an engine sheed – well here is that engine shed!  Mindful of my turntable sagas (see November posts), I was half disappointed that this one worked so well – although it did have a very fierce growl when it operated!

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Peter Denny was also a prolific writer so the layout adorned the pages of most of the british magazines – and even apparently a Japanese one!  Certainly, it was a layout that I regularly read about in my father’s collection of back issues so it was a happy chance to see something that had a formative impact on the early days of my hobby.  I still have a big book entitled Miniature and Model Railways – signed Happy Christmas Mark – from Gordon 1977! – that has a section on Buckingham which I perused before leaving to remind myself of the layout!

A lot of his articles were on building things for the layout – remember, this was built in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s and the alternative (when available which was rare) were tinplate.  Here are some examples of the quality of Peter’s modelling.

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The story as to why Peter Denny selected the Great Central Railway as his prototype is worthy of retelling too – as they made me chuckle. Apparently, he originally wished to model the Great Western and took his first completed model – a siphon (which is still on the layout) – to the Model Railway Club proudly one evening.  There it was met with both admiration but also the sucking of teeth as various prototype details were pointed out as being incorrect.  Now, woe betide me to say anything critical of Great Western followers but on the back of this, Peter decided he needed to find a prototype that less people knew about so that he would not get pulled up on technical details again!  He rather liked the brown and cream coaches, so he did a search and found that the Great Central had them too – so a swap of allegiances was promptly implemented!

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Resources were clearly a lot more challenged when Peter was modelling, most of the models make plentiful use of timber and card – it puts some of my efforts with much more sophisticated techniques!!  Peter even used CSBs (see wagon below – well, nearly CSBs any; what do you think of that Will/Russ?).

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But above all else, Buckingham is a layout for operating and is both very complex and quite simple at the same time.  There is a substantial amount of electrical logic such that lines only become electrically active when they are correctly signalled.  Even attempting to run a train in the opposite direction to that which is signalled is prohibited.  All this uses hand built switches, many of which are mechanically linked to the single or turnout.  As you would imagine, this creates a somewhat complex warren both above and below board!

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DCC anyone…………..

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Even now, Tony is not fully aware of what the layout can do and there are plenty of teasers that need to be overcome to get it to operate properly – “aghh yes, this lever needs to be pulled over really hard to make the contact” but the next time “don’t pull that one over fully, or it doesn’t quite work“.  It essentially needed to be caressed and humoured to operate –  but operate it did even for ham fisted Tatlow!

We spent a happy couple of hours playing with the trains; dealing with arrivals, sorting out loco’s for the return work and shunting the platforms and yard.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself – so thank you Tony and I’ll definitely come again!

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I have now added a trackplan in an addition post here.

Glenmutckin Shed Area

Glenmutchkin’s shed area is modelled on Kyle of Lochalsh’s (it is a mirror image) and I wanted to capture the typically cramped feel of the inspiration. This is the original OS map for the shed (ie old enough to be outside of copyright).

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Key to this is the way that the whole complex centres around the turntable and the first turnout is almost tight against the turntable’s wall as this photo extract shows (notice there is not even a buffer stop on the far side of the well):

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The first turnout is, you will see, a tandom and whilst it is not visible in this picture, almost certainly it was interlaced (as the Highland always seemed to always use interlaced turnouts). Well, interlacing gets quite crowded on a tandom turnout, as you can see:

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It takes a long time to do all of the sleepers as there are a lot of them but once it is done, it does look rather impressive don’t you think?

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_________________
Mark Tatlow

One for the Gorilla – tracklaying progress

Matters have been progressing with the layout on and off through the summer and a lot more of the track has now been laid.  We have both the main line and the full run around loop complete, along with most of the bay and its run around loop too.

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The line diverging in the foreground is going into the shed area, those visible below the bridge go to the bay (left) and yard (right).  A signalling trackplan can be found here.

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I quite like the sinuousness of the line, which can be seen here/  I have done this in order to give interest to the layoput but it is pretty typical (indeed characteristic) of the lines to the west coast as they wind through the mountainside.  I do have in mind some hills to justify this in the finished item.

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Already there is a sense of magnitude to the station forming, the platform face (which is not all in view in either of these views, comes in at about 7 feet – enough for an eight coach train of pre-grouping coaching stock.  Really, its length is defined by the length of the bay – this will become clearer when the train shed appears because the bay has to start clear of this..

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I have also placed into its approximate position the road overbridge that separates the shed from the main station area.  The construction of this can be seen in postings here and here.  The intention of hte bridge is to act as a scene blocker and thus to compel the watcher to view the layout from more than one location to appreciate it.

Day Return to Castle Rackrent

You will recall that approximately a year ago, I posted about my last visit to Castle Rackrent and I mentioned that the layout was about to undergo a significant reconfiguration.  A month ago I had a chance to revisit Richard Chown and see how it is getting on.

Here are some photographs from my visit (but only a few as I had difficulties with low light levels):

Castle Rackrent Station

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Storms above Castle Rackrent

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St Juliet Town

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As you can see, a number of stations are undergoing a rebuild.

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A lot of work remains, as large sections of the line remain simply track on bare track on boards and some fettling of the track will also be necessary but already there is a lot done.  Hopefully I will be able to visit again when things are a little more developed.

Also on view was Fangfoss which was in an even darker room, so no photos at all of the actual layout, but a few of the locos were elsewhere and here is a taster.

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You will be able to see Fangfoss for yourself (and it is worth I can assure you) at this year’s Scaleforum which will be held in Aylesbury on 19/20 September – details here .

See you there if you go!

No Point Hanging Around

Whilst I have not put any posts up showing progress with the boards for Glenmutchkin, progress is being made and the last two boards are essentially now finished.  I am hoping that with one more day’s work which will mostly be to build up a carrying box for the final two, they can all come home.

In anticipation of this, I have been building some turnouts and a bit of the basic trackwork.

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I am only able to do the turnouts which I am reasonably confident will not change shape when the track is finally laid out on the boards.  In essence this means the crossings in the bay, the main line and the goods yard.  I have also done one of the turnouts in the yard.  So seven down, twelve to go including a slip!

I have also developed my approach to TOU’s slightly from Portchullin.  As a finished article they look like this:

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You will see that relatively little of the TOU is exposed (and when it is painted it blend away further).  Equally it is much more durable than most of the other options out there because the switchblade is held by both a wire strip but also to some brass strip that is tight to the underside of both the switchrail and the switchblade.  By installing this strip in this location, the switchblade is held in a vertical plane much better than other solutions.  I think this leads to better running.

This is what it looks like as it is being assembled.  You will see that in essence is it is merely a bit of copper clad below the switchblades, but lowered somewhat further due to the use of the brass strip.  This allows the whole lot to be hidden below the boards.

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You will note the rather unusual arrangement of sleepers.  This is called interlacing and was very common on many pre-grouping lines, including the Highland.  I will expand on this in a future posting.

 

First Four Boards Complete!

Julian and I have been putting a bit more time in on the baseboards, to the point where the first four are complete with the exception of their varnishing/painting.

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You will also see in the pictures that the beams that support the boards have also been completed.  These span between the brackets that were shown here which in turn are supported by bolts that have been affixed to the builders trestles.  This means that each point of contact can be adjusted for both overall level and also cant.  The idea is that this is done prior to placing the boards on the beams, so that the whole thing can be levelled as one and the boards then just get plonked on.  So long as the floor is not too wonky (like that in Tim & Julian’s place!), this does not take long and it is very idiot-proof assembling the layout perfectly each time.

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Also visible in the views are the gallows brackets that will support the lighting and facia.  These are fairly meaty as they have to span over 1300mm from front to back, so the moment on them is quite high.  What we have just found is that they are a tad low due to the beans being a bit higher than I had expected.  A bit of adjustment will be required in due course; especially as the layout level is also a bit high.

But the acid test of the new boards is shown in this view.  On Portchullin one of the problems is that the boards rise up slightly at the joints – a problem I see a lot on layouts.  This is dead flat; so we won’t see the trains doing any Casey Jones runs over the mountain ranges!

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The next visit will get on with the last two boards, which will take up the rather obvious space where Julian is working.  These will only be a single width in size as the boards are tapering in to 700mm wide at the end on the left in the view below.  To give a sense of scale, the yellow spirit level is 1200mm and the dark one 750mm.  (see Mr Ullyot – two spirit levels now………..)

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So thanks again to Tim & Julian and if any of readers are looking at electric loft ladders; give them a call.  S&T Joinery.

 

 

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