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A Return Ticket to Buckingham – Part 2; Peter Denny’s Modelling

When I was still in my shorts, I used to peruse my father’s extensive collection of railway magazines for hours on end – the Railway Modeller, Model Railway News and the Model Railway Constructor.  I even marked in pen articles I particularly liked (not for long, the old man soon warned me off that approach!).  My memories from this period of Buckingham were not about its operational possibilities but for its modelling.

Whilst the years have passed and there are now a fair number of fine layouts that have eclipsed Buckingham, back in the 1970s (when I was leafing through these magazines) these were not common and going back to when the articles were being written 10 or 15 years before, only a very few even got close to the standard of Peter’s modelling.  So this post will illustrate what state of the art 1960s scenic modelling looked like.

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As can be expected of a layout that is 50+ years old, wear is showing in places and prior to his death, Peter Denny did have a programme of repair and improvement underway.  One of the aspects to be dealt with was the trees made of sprigs of lichen on trunks made of wire or heather – these had not faired well.

Tony had been mulling over what to do about this and consulted with Peter’s children who still have an interest in their father’s layout and seem to act as “non-exec directors” to the board.  The conclusion was “do as Peter would have done” and as a result little upgrades and repairs are being completed to Buckingham, so the layout will still develop.  In the case of the trees, replacements will be made of sea moss and ground foam.

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One story that Tony was able to share with us, which I do not think is widely known, is why Peter selected the Great Central for his modelling.  Apparently, he initially started modelling the Great Western but soon found that there were a few too many people that knew a too much about the GW.  He was concerned any incorrect details would be found out and so he sought out a rather lesser known prototype.  He settled on the GC because he wanted a prototype that had wooden post signals (he could not work out how to make lattice posts); he liked the brown and cream full coach livery that the GW & the GC shared and he did not want a company that used outside valve gear because he was concerned whether he could model it!

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The layout contains a number of quite clever little cameos, often segregated from one another with a bridge or a blocking building.  This means that there are quite a number of such scenes within close to each other without it looking too crowded.

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Beyond the buffer stops of Buckingham, a market square and a pair of streets were modelled.  Obviously, it is market day to generate a couple of extra trains – you can’t call this a cliche, because it was essentially the first example so every other example is the cliche!

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In the final part, I will take a last look at the layout and also one of its more iconic features – the Automatic Crispen; with a shock horror revelation………..

 

A Return ticket to Buckingham – Part 1; A Running Day

For my 100th post we ought to choose an interesting topic, so it is fortunate that I recently  wangled a return invite to visit Peter Denny’s Buckingham Great Central on a journey back home from the north east!

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I was accompanied on the visit by Peter Bond and although perhaps not initially intended, this turned into quite a long operating session.  Fortunately, there were several cameras on hand; so there are plenty of photographs – sufficient to split this posting into two or even three, so look out for further installments in a couple of days time!

Pete managed to blag command of Buckingham’s control panel; which is the most complicated of them – so he did regret his decision at times!  Here he is looking suitably perplexed!

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Perhaps with good reason…………..this is the control panel:

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And this is the signal diagram:

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All platforms have calling on arms, all lines have inner/outer homes and the platforms operate to receive and deliver!  So, there are a fair number of signals to contend with – all (well, nearly all if we are honest!) of which work and need to be complied with.  Here for example is the main home gantry………….

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On this occasion, I operated Grandborough Jct, which has a less exacting timetable but even so, its control panel has a few idiosyncrasies.  It (like that to Buckingham) is entirely handbuilt including its switches so some of them need to be coaxed across, others need to be pushed firmly and a few – most of the signals – do not yet work.  There were also hand made block instruments and some signal bells to contend with.

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Buckingham operates to a careful conceived timetable, that plots a “day in the life” of a busy market town station, not so inconveniently located for travel to London.  There is a variety of fast and semi-fast commuter trains to London; a pair of pick up goods trains; local services services and a couple of services that come off the Leighton Buzzard branch which continue through Grandborough Jct to terminate in Buckingham, such as this one just coming to a stop at Bourton Halt and disturbing a hunt:

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Even with over three hours at the regulator, we managed less than 20% of the day’s timetable; so we were going at around 120% of real time.   Peter originally had a speeded up clock to keep the pace moving (which Tony, the layout’s now owner has on the wall but does not use).  Apparently, you needed an experienced team to keep up with the clock and – just like the real thing – if you started to fall behind the whole system quickly becomes bunged up!

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The timetable contains just over a hundred train movements.  It starts in the morning with newspaper and milk trains, getting the town ready for the day.  Then the early morning commuter trains start, along with connecting local services.  A little later, the London expresses start, timed a little faster for the city suits to use (and pay for, they are posh coaches!).  Here is one waiting for the right of way.

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Once the morning rush is out of the way, a more settled period starts and the freight trains move around the layout interspersed with local passenger trains.  However, towards the end of the day the reverse happens with the returning commuters.  By the end of the evening, Buckingham is chock-a-block with trains, as you can see here:

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But this is not the end of the day, because all of the locos need to be released and sent to the sheds, the trains remarshalled and made ready for the next day (which was great, because Grandborough Jct had no moves so I could go and poke Pete for all the errors he was making…………).

And here are the day’s operating crew!

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So thanks for joining me on this blog; we are a minnow by some standards with around 40,000 hits but I hope there are things in here that interest you and maybe even some sources of inspiration!

Chequebook Modelling – a Wee Ben

I don’t know whether this is a serious admission or not, but I have been doing some chequebook modelling – and my crime is rather more serious than the latest Hornby offering………………

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………and it cost rather more than an offering from Margate too!

I commissioned John James to build this about two years ago (that is how long a pro builder’s waiting list is if they are any good) and this was delivered a couple of weeks ago.  14413; Ben Alligan – constructed as she was in the mid 1920’s so in the fully lined crimson lake and jolly fine she looks to I am sure you will agree.

But, there is a problem with her…………………..she has names.  The LMS perpetuated nearly all of the Highland’s names that were still applied to the locos at the grouping (I can think of only one exception – Lochgorm) and continued to paint them on the splashers.  We hunted around for a sensible letting and did not manage to find any where the font had the right serifs and slightly unusual massing of the down stroke of the leters, so John omitted the names of this and another that he built for my father (Ben Clebrig if that is of interest to you).  That has meant that I have been fighting with CAD again and I think I have got close enough for my purposes (in 4mm, these are less than 2mm high!).

So once I have sorted out the right radius for the name (I think the Ben Slioch below is on a slightly too shallow an arc); then I will have a go at printing my own transfers.  I have the appropriate paper, so lets see how we do!

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One of the fun things with the Bens is choosing names for mountains that I really enjoyed climbing; Ben Alligan was probably around my 30th Munro and is a fabulous climb.  If you do it, you have to do the full circuit and finish on the Horns of Alligan – a bit of a mild scramble, not as airy as Aonach Eagach (which I have done) or the Cuillin (which I have not!); but still a jolly fine climb.  Oh and on a clear day you can see clearly to the outer Hebrides – fabulous in the blue sky.

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The Horns of Alligan looking east.

Glenmutchkin Part 4 – Inspiration

Glenmutchkin’s main source of inspiration is Wick or its slightly more slimline cousin, Thurso.  These are very similar in layout except for their MPD’s; where Wick’s was quite a lot larger.

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An overall view of Thurso in the 1970’s, with thank to Richard Oaks

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Wick in 1983; photograph by Peter Whatley with Creatives Commons Licence

However, rather than a facsimile of either (hey Ben Alder/Richard Oaks has nabbed that idea anyway!), I am proposing to use the same arrangement of MPD as at Kyle of Lochalsh’s shed area, with the access road leading to a turntable and then the shed roads coming back off this.  Due to the way that the layout will sit in its home, I have had to do a mirror of the shed at Kyle but otherwise it will be the same.

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A rather fab photo of Kyle shed with a superheater goods (which were the mainstay of the line from about 1930 through to just after the war) on shed.  It is also a fine view of the signal here – one that I wish to model.  Photo with thanks to Jim Payne and available at www.throughtheireyes2.co.uk

All of the lines to the west coast of Scotland; both built by the Highland or any of its rival companies or projected come late in the 19th century – partly as a result of Prof Aytoun’s story that I have paraphrased in part 2.  Wick and Thurso however were built rather before this and are stylistically rather different as a result.  The main differences are the way that the platforms were arranged and the use of a stone built station building/train shed.  However, having decided that the Glenmutchkin was much earlier than this, I felt that I could assume that the terminus was built before any of the other lines to the west coast were achieved and thus use the older style of station.  In practise I have done so because I wish to model the overall roof – probably the building at Wick as its screen to the end of the train shed is very attractive.

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Photo of the road side of the main station building at Wick (that at Thurso is a bit smaller).  Copyright held by Peter Whatley and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Another feature of Kyle that I will take is the overbridge splitting the station from the shed area.  Being the son of a bridge engineer, I guess I need to get some proper civils into the model and the latticework is quite attractive. I will go for a single span bridge, rather than the twin span seen here at Kyle.

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Copyright held by Ben Brookshank and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence

Those cattle pens will appear at some point too!

Glenmutchkin: Part 1 – Have summer house, will build……..

Much of 2012’s modelling time was devoted to the building or a summer house; at least that is what we told the planning authority it was.

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In reality, it was a better storage home for Portchullin that formerly had to be carted up two flights of stairs to the loft to live and also somewhere to get some of my “railway stuff” out of the house.  At least the domestic authorities knew that it would provoke me into scheming my next layout……..

I used to spend literally hours scheming up layout plans; is it not as much fun as actually making them?  But I have never had this much room – a heady 16 feet for the scenic section and, as I have arranged the summer house to have a set of doors at one end, the fiddle yard can be erected for operating sessions through the door so can be in addition to this dimension.  After much playing, this is what I have come up:

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There is a lot of working up still to do on this, but it shows the basic concept that I’ll be working too.  I’ll explain more as to its concept another day, but it draws its inspiration from a couple of the Highland’s termini so hopefully you can see a little of some fairly well known stations in the plans.

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