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Stags, Steam and Steel (Lots of Steel…….)

Being a little alternative (a.k.a. railway enthusiast), when it comes to preparing for a friend’s nuptials, the flesh pots of some poor unsuspecting city do not come up to scratch. Instead, when Chris (of OTCM) decides to have a stag trip, he chooses to go around a grimy steelworks – well you wouldn’t you?

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In this case, we went to Scunthorpe Steelworks where there is not only a substantial private railway (the largest in the UK, I beleive) but also an active preservation movement that operates on the system.  This is the Appleby Frodingham Railway Preservation Society and they operate public services many weekends during the summer months and also charter trains throughout the year.  For quite a moderate sum of money (if there are 15+ of you), you can have a private train take you around the majority of the network.

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As you can see, first class is not an option for the tour but then it really would not have been fun if it were.  Foolishly, we felt it was not right to fire up the stove in the van; the others in their van did and given how chilly it was they were the smart ones!

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Our steed for the day was an Avonside 0-6-0 T which was one of two steam locos “in ticket” at present; the other being a rather pretty little Peckett, although its ticket runs out early next year so get there quick if you do want to see it in action.

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The society also have a number diesels including this rather claggy Yorkshire Engine Co Janus which fumed us out when we were allowed to open the throttle in the shed, as you can see!

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However, when out on the steelworks lines, these have to dodge the steel company’s quite numerous trains which are typically hauled by these – ex Norwegian Di 8’s.  These had been delivered to NSB in the mid 1990’s but found to be under-powered and a little prone to catching fire.  So when their traffic flows changed, they were sold for use at the steelworks her in the UK.  Most are still in use, although a couple have been cannibalised for spares to the number is reducing.

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The system is most extensive, amounting to over 100 miles of track and winds its way around furnaces, rolling mills, a coking plant, slag heaps and very extensive sidings.  There was enough route mileage to keep us amused for the greater part of the day.

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A steelworks is not the sort of place that is on my day to day circuit, so it was fascinating to see such iconic structures as the blast furnaces.  There are four at Scunthorpe, all named after english queens, although presently only two are in production.

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The steelworks is very much still in production – evidenced by how hot the torpedo slag wagons or those that were carrying fresh ingots.  The heat haze coming off them does not show in the pictures but you could really warm your hands as you passed them at 40 feet away!

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The trip is well worth the effort to do; even if you don’t have a stag to take along with you.

And besides, Scunnie is not too far from Sheffield were there are the city flesh pots if you want a combined outing – and if we did, that isn’t going to make it onto this blog!

 

 

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Togs, Trains and Slartibartfast’s Award

The interruption in fresh posts has been caused, in part, by a recent trip to Norway – a country with some particularly fine railways (why else would we go there – well actually there are a fairly good number of reasons!).

The trains (or Togs in Norwegian) start almost immediately – this is the rather brutal looking “airport express” – or flytoget in Norway.

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But the real trains are reserved for the Norwegian Intercity trains – this is the train engine for the Bergen Express:

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And the suburban stock looks like this (at Bergen – top and Voss – bottom)

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The Bergen line was the first of the highlights of the trips; the line initially skirts Oslo Fjords (lots of tunnels and no views) before winding through some very pretty farmland interspersed with lakes,

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As the line gets higher the landscape gets starts to get harsher and the gradient steepens (you can see it climbing up the mountain in the background in this view):

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By the time it gets near the top, the bulk of the line plunges into snow shelters – some 30 miles of them and there is even a station within one at the top.

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If the snow sheds weren’t a sufficient clue that they have a touch of bother with snow up on the line, the collection of (preserved in this case) snow blowers left you in no doubt:

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The other railway highlight of the trip was the Flam line which is a truly stupendous (if amazingly tourist) line.  It rises no less than 2,831ft in only 12.6 miles – it has a maximum gradient of 1:18 which is an appreciable gradient on foot, let alone a natural adhesion railway!  To deal with this level of gradient and fairly long trains, each train is top and tailed by a pair of locos, as can be seen.

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The extent of the gradient can be seen in this (slightly murky) view, the line right at the top is the line leaving the junction with the Bergen line at Myrdal, it can be seen in a snowshed in the middle and we are in a further snow shed only a short way further down the line.

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The line goes right down to sea level the surrounding land ceases to be quite so harsh and there is even a deep sea berth at the end of the sea fjord – convenient for cruise liners (of which Norway has rather more than its fair share!).

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The rather beefy electric locomotives (class E.18 I think) have a very modern feel to them but I rather preferred their predecessors the E.17 class as they felt so much more “continental”:

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Whilst that finished the railways for the trip, mention of Slartibartfast’s prize winning designs really does need mentioning.  For those of you who don’t know what I am going on about, Slartibartfast was a figment of Douglas Adams’ imagination.  Douglas Adams is the creator of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and he was a Magrathean – a designer of planets.  His prize winning designs were the fjords of Norway – he was so well regarded he was going to be allowed to do the whole of Africa when earth MkII is recreated once it has been destroyed to make a bypass.

So here are a few fjord pictures just to go ohh and aghh to:

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It is fair to say, you can get a bit fjorded out as fabulous views are not really good enough when there are so many really fabulous and really really fabulous views out there!  I think old Slarti deserved his award, don’t you?

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Dia 51 Test Build – Part 2: Nearly There

I no longer affix roofs firmly to the body of my coaches as makes both the building and the painting much easier.  The downside of this is that there is the challenge of keeping the roof on tight without there being any visible joint between the two as this looks terrible.  The solution I now use is to clamp this to the floor with 10BA bolts by way of brackets as can be seen in the photograph below.

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As built, these coaches had full length step boards but they lost most of these through their life.  They were electric fitted from the outset.  The chassis below is close to finished except I have run out of vacuum cylinders so these will need to be added, along with the vacuum pipes.

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The bogies are also a key part of the proposed kit and are something that I have been working on with Justin Newitt of Rumney Models – the idea being to combine the sprung bogie design that he has prepared with cosmetic etches for the sides and then the castings from Lochgorm Models or perhaps our own in due course.  The bogie is quite sophisticated with both primary and secondary springing – the latter is on the bolster and is as below.

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The primary springing is on the axleboxes and has bearing carriers, much like the Bill Bedford sprung W-irons.  There are still some wrinkles to iron out so it is not there yet but they do make up into some pretty neat bogies; don’t you think?

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The only area of the first test build that truly did not work was the corridor connections and it is going to be a case of back to the drawing board for these but other than the final few bits to be completed, the build is finished and I think the vehicle is handsome.

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So, off to the paint shops soon, but there is a bit of a holiday to squeeze in first!

Dirty Models……..

Now, I wonder if that heading will gather a few extra viewings………..?

As I have mentioned before on this blog, every few months I catch up with a group of mates to have a joint modelling session.  The general gist of these is a combination of banter, a bit of modelling, more banter, a visit to the pub, even banter, a bit more modelling and all nicely rounded off with some more banter.

Last week  saw us on the south coast to do some weathering – or rather some of us.  One of our number was preparing for their imminent marriage whereas Oly (one half of OTCM) felt his budding TV stardoom was a sufficient excuse to hang up his airbrush.   We do fear that Oly may not return to the fold; preferring instead to do his modelling with Brad, Leonardo and Denzil once he makes his silver screen debut in the autumn – don’t forget your roots Oly……….

We were all concentrating on different things; Peter constructed the better part of a bridge for his Aultbea layout and Chris was weathering some rather neat little shunters. For my part, I concentrated on weathering some of the stock that I have been building lately (and sometimes not so lately!):

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First up is a pair of horseboxes.  On the right is my HR version based on a Microrail kit – still in need of some glazing.  On the left is the Caledonian’s equivalent based on a kit from by Spratt & Winkle.  Both are in their pre-group livery as can be seen.  As such stock was used in passenger trains, I have sought to give them an aged but largely cleaned feel – with the dirt largely present around ironwork and difficult to clean spots.

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Having mucked up the weathering of some brake vans at the previous weathering session, I was also keen to get these corrected.  This is where I have got with them.

As can be seen, I do not follow the school of thought that the pre-group or 1920’s era stock was constantly pristine.  If you bother to look at contemporary photographs, little is clean and some of it is downright grubby.  Railways in the steam era were very dirty places; it is inevitable where so much coal, ash and smoke prevail.  Furthermore, I can not see even the most houseproud of railway companies regularly (or probably ever) cleaning their goods stock and most of these show stock that is care worn and soiled.  This is the feel I am seeking to capture; not the utterly neglected and on its last legs look of the final days of steam but of railway materials that earn a living the hard way.

The pair of brake vans above are to HR diagram 39 from 1922 and are from a Lochgorm Models kit.  There is some doubt whether they were delivered in 1922, as there are no known pictures of any of them in HR livery.  However, I applying the “its my trainset rule” a number of modellers have painted them in Highland colours; including Paul Bannerman whose example is below.

The other highland brake van I weathered was the diagram 38 brake van.  This originates from a Microrail kit and may well still be available from David Geen occasionally at shows as he does own the rights to the artwork.  I have modified this with the early pattern roof look outs.  These allowed the guard to look over the train around the twisting curves that characterised parts of the Highland’s system.  However, there were complaints about whacked heads as the guards came up and down the steps to look onto the lookouts and as a result they were modified with approach cutouts on the roof – take a look at the Lochgorm’s page above to see an example.

Next up on the weathering front were some wagons and NPCS.  The first pictures being the weathering to a couple of the items I have described in the pages here – the Oxford Rail NB jubilee wagon and the Mousa Models LNWR van.

And then some rather more ancient models of mine, a Highland Railway meat van from a Sutherland Castings kit and a GC van from another Mousa Models kit.

Finally, a group of wagons for Benfieldside.  The hoppers have been seen before and the brake van we will hear more of another day.

 

 

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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