Fear not, this is not an announcement that the McRats have been converted from DCC to run on ethanol (although this remains the preferred fuel of the layout’s operators). Instead it is a recognition that after 13 years on the exhibition circuit, Portchullin was getting a little faded and even battered. The colours of the vegetation were fading and the woodwork was showing all the miles they have been lugged about in the back of a van – all in all it was looking like 1970s BR, just not in the right way.
We reached the conclusion that something needed to be done about it and in anticipation of an April exhibition invite, the gang arranged a session on the layout to give it a spring refresh. Sadly the show had become a covid casualty by the time we met up but we convened anyway and even the stone-cold hearted Pete was showing emotion at seeing us all again by insisting on greeting us all with a hug!
So out came the static grass machine, modge podge and various scenic materials and away we went…….
We ended up making quite a lot of difference in only a short while, but adding the dwarf bushes and other vegetation then took a lot of time and I am still thinking it needs more attention.
There remains a lot to do, including a revamp of all of the woodshell and lighting gantry, but the layout is looking a lot fresher.
The other main task in hand is a complete rewire. Too often we (well I, the others will have nothing to do with my wiring) have had heads under the baseboard trying to sort out either point-motors or errant wiring, it has to change!
Portchullin is just back from a fun weekend attending the Brighton Model Railway Club’s annual exhibition – its thirty seventh show. Despite efforts, some electrical gremlins were making themselves felt quite severely on Saturday morning such that yet another temporary fix became required to keep the layout operational!
This did lead to some contemplation as to how many more times the layout should go out going forward. As the photograph below illustrates, the layout has made it to some fairly far flung places – Glasgow to Utrecht via Barnstaple, Portsmouth, Newcastle and a fair number of places in between.
Whilst I have not yet made the decision to retire the layout, and will give it a fairly thorough rewiring to ensure that the issues experienced this weekend fare overcome, its retirement will come in time. Don’t worry if you wish to see it again, there are still a couple of confirmed bookings over the next two years (starting with Perth in June 2020) and a couple more are likely.
Glenmutchkin is progressing slowly and will eventually replace Portchullin but as a taster of things to come (with some compromises, I know the livery of the Jubilee is incompatible with the fully lined coaches!), here is a video of the new (if older) order.
The advantage of a railway company using standard building designs is that you can get to use them more than once. Thus Portchullin’s goods shed will be getting to have a new lease of life on Glenmutchkin.
I think my goods shed is the oldest model that I still have and over the years it is fair to say has suffered. Some of this is simply the thirty six shows that it has done with Portchullin (hell………thirty six shows…….!) and almost as many years, as I was about 17 when I made it. However the main issue was the manner in which I built it, with minimal bracing over the top of the entrances. This has lead to it breaking its back and despite several attempts at repair, these have never been long lasting. So it is time to do it properly to allow its reincarnation on Glenmutchkin.
The key to the repair was to introduce a metal skeleton frame inside the model to strengthen it – particularly across the rail doors. This is something I now tend to do at the outset with any largish building I build to contain warping. The frame is invisible from the exterior – the view above shows the frame that I made with the first side attached.
The frame was made with some 3mm square and oblong section brass, with gusset plates – there was a fair amount of metal so it got close to blacksmithing at one stage.
Once the frame was inserted, the model was given an overhaul to repair the other dinks and marks that it has acquired over the years. There were a fair few, as can be seen.
I also to the opportunity to install gutters and downpipes; something I had been meaning to do since I was 17………a bit of a shameful shortfall, given I am a chartered building surveyor!
I am pleased with the results and the model is now much more robust so it should do at least another 36 shows! Whether its owner can will be kept under review!
My goods shed is based on the Orbach drawings of the shed at Garve (the August 1952 edition of the Model Railway News). The prototype was swept away in the 1970s and whilst there are a pair of the smaller sheds still remaining (notably at Brora), there are no longer any of the standard Highland Goods sheds left. The last to go was in Golspie about two years ago and I did manage to both photograph and measure it before it went. Here are some views of it before it was demolished:
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.
Portchullin’s next exhibition may not be the furthest it has travelled but it will definitely be a first for the layout and indeed myself – an exhibition on the continent. In this case Modelspoor 2018 which takes place on the 23 – 25 February in the Euroteco Centre, Houten, near Utrecht in the Netherlands.
To the Anglo-Saxons amongst us, do not be put off by the website being written in Dutch. Basically almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks good English (embarrassingly perfect English typically) and it is a really easy country to travel around, engage with people and see what they have to offer. Although I have not been to Modelspoor before I have heard a lot about it – think Warley * 3 seems to be the gist of it (which may be a bit much in truth!). However, it has a core of “finescale” from across Europe to which I was very flattered to be invited and I hear is worth seeing in any case.
And of seeing Portchullin is a sufficient excuse to high-tail it over to Holland, coming in the van will also be Oly’s Six Quarters layout. In contrast to the fresh air of the west of Scotland, Six Quarters has air laced with Cumbrian coal dust and grime!
There are a number of other very good layouts there, including Jerry Clifford’s Highclere Colliery (under a new name I hear) and Gordon Gravett’s Arun Quay. Se even if you don’t fancy Portchullin or Six Quarters much (shame on you), it is still worth a visit.
So if anyone that reads this blog (well, either of you!) is over in Holland in a couple of weeks time, do pop over and say hello!
Portchullin’s next outing will be this forthcoming weekend at the St Neot’s show:
Come along and see some noisy diesels like this? I rather hope to have a type 1 make an appearance over the weekend and any HR enthusiasts might wish to see a Barney put in an appearance (still in brass, don’t get too excited!)
Don’t worry, it is not as dramatic as all that, I have not burnt it or anything……………………oh hang on a minute, I have – well a bit of it anyway!
One of Portchullin’s quaint little foibles was it did occassionally like to derail trains as they left the fiddleyards; especially the fiddle yard representing Kyle. There were various reasons for this; including some proper cr*p woodwork on my part, the hand shunting that occurred every time a train was turned around, the effects on thermal expansion that was not catered for and, something that I had not seen until recently, a bit of a dogleg at the baseboard joint. Add to this the rather Heath Robinson approach to the legs for the fiddle yard boards, electrical connections and facia support and it was fundementally a b*ggers muddle. So something had to be done and, a mere 8 years after the layout’s first exhibition, it now has!
So with lots of thanks to Tim and Julian at the Electric Loft Ladder Company again, we have a new fiddle yard at the Kyle end and redesigned legs at the Inverness end. The design adopted is an adaptation of the sector plate that was in use before but with a refinement that it uses cassettes for the locations that the loco arrives and departs at. The idea being that these are both storage points at the end of the fiddle yard roads but also the means to move/turn the locos ready for their next duty. This is a development of the system used by Simon Bendall on his layout Elcot Road, but with a rotating sector plate rather than a traverser.
Other halfway novel ideas are the use of the tray below the traverser as a storage tray for stock (and maybe tea!) and the projection of the sector plate beyond the end of the fixed board to make the ensemble smaller to transport. The facia also folds up rather niftily as well – photos of this will follow once I have taken them!
The new fiddle yard has not yet been tested but will very shortly get its chance to prove if it is a good’n. Portchullin will be out at the Barnstaple MRC’s show in Bear Street, Barnstaple – you can find details here. If you are in North Devon at the weekend, stop by and say hellow?
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!
I guess that it is pretty difficult for the RTR manufacturer to take a stab decent corridor connections because they have to design for toy train set curves and clumsey hands but it is a weakness of all proprietary coaches. Hornby’s buffet also seems to have overly skinny corridor connections and most noticeable they are mounted too low – they should finish at the meeting of the roof with the ends.
Whilst it is possible to simply slice off the connections off and move them up, I chose to remove the and them with some produced by Comet – as this is an LNER vehicle, you need the Pullman type. The core of the operation of the corridor connections are the bellows which are formed with a pair of sheets of fairly stiff paper. These have slots cut to half their width and are then folded into a concertina shape, with the slot between the folds. Two such pieces are then offered up to each other, with the slots opposing and these then slide over each other as shown in the first picture.
To create a concertina bellows like this.
Thereafter, the etched end plate is attached to one face. Whilst not provided in the kit, I formed a second plate from plasticard and affixed this to the other end. it is important to ensure that no glue gets on the concertina sections of the paper, as they need to be capable of compressing with minimal effort to correctly operate without derailing the carriage.
This is how Comet envisage that the completed connection should look like but I felt that the bellows did not look very realistic, especially from above where the crossing point is all too obvious. In practise, the top of these connections had a fabric roof and applying this dramatically improves the appearance of the connection and has the added advantage of providing some control to the operation of the connections which do tend to expand out and look rather flabby!
I dealt with this by putting the rain hood on the top of the connection, which is afterall prototypical (and makes a huge difference to the appearance as you can see). I did this in a manner that meant it acted as a restraint to the movement of the connection. I acheived this by only gluing it at the very back and front of the connection, so that the bellows could move unimpeeded but once they had moved to the required extent, the rain hood pulled tight and stopped them going any further. I found that doing this at the top was not sufficient as their movement continued at the bottom and they took on rather drunken appearance – however, this was solved by simply repeating this at the bottom.
Key to getting this to work was to use material for these restraints that was ultra flexible. I did think about trying silk but settled instead on the rather more mundale – plastic from a bin liner. This is remarkably thin but is still tough enough to hold the connections. A tiny dab of super glue at the front and back and then it can be laid onto. It is important not to sigh with releif for some time though – the stuff is so light that it blows away at the slightest. So this is what it looks like:
I think that I have still allowed the connections to be too big and if there were two together this would definitely be true but next to a rather skinny Bachmann corridor connection, I think they look pretty good (and a big improvement on the originals).
Portchullin is in the press!
Rail Express have for many years included a modelling section to what is otherwise a prototype magazine. This year (and going forward in future years I beleive), they are producing a yearbook which is dedicated to only modelling features. Portchullin is the leading article with a series of photos from Tim Easter – and it is no less than 13 pages long.
Here is a taster and if you want to get a copy, it can be obtained here: