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!
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?
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!
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.
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.
As befits an important station, there is a complicated station throat, controlled by quite complex signalling and a fine box over the line.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?).
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!
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!
I have now added a trackplan in an addition post here.
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).
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):
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:
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?