For those who ask…

April 13, 2014

Nairnshire sign
When out and about with Nairnshire Modelling Supplies, I am asked about the name ‘Nairnshire’ and its origins. Is it made up? Does Nairnshire really exist? Where is it? And most disappointingly of all is the comment, ‘Nairnshire IS made up, it cannot possibly exist…etc.’ we hear from the experts.

With that in mind, I have done something I have intended to do for a while – photograph one of the signs that greets us when entering Nairnshire. This one is on a minor road which crosses Dava Moor to the south of Nairn, just about in sight of the Cairngorm mountains. For the record, Nairnshire is part of the Highland Region of Scotland and is located on the south side of the inner Moray Firth. Our post code is IV12 and the nearest city of any size is the fast-growing and vibrant Inverness. So now you know!

Quietly getting on with some modelling…

April 8, 2014

Wheal Annah-1
‘Wheal Annah’ is a quickie N gauge layout project constructed as relief to working on my large layout projects. The layout theme is based on Cornish china clay operations on a down-at-heel branch line, inspired by the Carbis branch. Built as a shunting layout, it is compact with the senic part only 40 inches in length. Costs are kept to a minimum by utilising one base board frame, wire and other materials recovered from old layouts. The track is Peco Code 55 and and the turnouts were bought second hand. For good shunting operations, Electrofrog turnouts are used with a simple modification to improve their reliability with DCC power.

Wheal Annah-4
Here’s the frame – recovered from my abandoned EM gauge Dudley Heath Yard project and repaired, strengthened and ready for its new role. Given the rising cost of even poor quality timber and plywood, saving solid and stable baseboard frames is a good idea! Avoid using glue when fitting a new top to the frames. Use only screws which should help with removing tops without damaging the frames when a layout finally meets its end.

Wheal Annah-5
A small shelf to one end provides a safe place for the control equipment. The other end used the fiddle stick borrowed from my more successful N gauge Dudley Heath layout.

Wheal Annah-3
To date, the track is in, hard standing and ballast in place and initial testing complete. The building mock-ups are taped together from old shoe boxes. Point control is ‘wire in tube and the operation will be ‘one engine in steam’. The old platform is likely to be modelled in abandoned condition with the occasional staff or inspection train consisting of the Class 122 making a run up the branch.

Wheal Annah-2
Looking towards the end of the branch and more cardboard building mock-ups. The clay works buildings are angled in relation to the back drop for greater visual interest. The branch line also angles across the baseboard to provide a little more room for the passing loop. The layout will have two operating eras: BR Sectorisation and Pre-1980s. It seems the the Kernow Model Rail Centre special edition clay hoods have come along at just the right time!


Rockvilla Goods – OO gauge.

April 4, 2014

A little gem of a layout hit the exhibition circuit last November at the Falkirk show. Rockvilla Goods (OO gauge) is the creation of Joe Loftus who is a member of the 12AD Model Railway Group. The layout is out and about on the Scottish circuit and is of Scottish flavour too – the Class 26 is a dead giveaway. It was photographed for BRM in the last week and the quality of the layout, which artfully fits a great deal of railway and structures into a small space, speaks for itself. It is distinctly urban and industrial without being too grimy!

Rockvilla Goods
Much of the rolling stock is kit-built with a good variety of heavily modified parcels vans too – very appealing indeed! Tall industrial buildings add drama to the scene. Particularly attractive is the modelling of the BR green to Rail blue transition. Joe has some part completed Rail blue parcels vans tucked away – unfortunately not complete enough to photograph, but not far off finished.

Rockvilla 2

Rockvilla 3
It’s a layout I thoroughly enjoyed photographing and my thanks to Joe, Bill and Spencer for their company at the weekend. Oh, as an aside, I left the slug out!


A new season…

April 3, 2014

As the beautiful spring weather continues, the outdoor camera has been dusted down, the sensor cleaned and a debut made on the 2014 season. It promises to be an interesting one with new locos appearing on the scene and likely traffic pattern changes too. First loco to present itself to my camera in 2014 is DRS Class 66, 66 303 working the southbound Inverness – Mossend intermodal – nice and ordinary. Photographed just after 13.30hrs; it is just starting its long journey south. The Nairn Viaduct can be seen in the back ground – it crosses the River Nairn. The date is March 24th and that sun is already warm for the time of year!

Blyth & Tyne network today

November 17, 2013
Blyth and Tyne_1

GBRf Class 66, No. 66 748 crosses the public road at Cambois to enter Port of Blyth Battleship Wharf to load imported coal.

It’s been quite a number of years since I visited the Blyth & Tyne rail network. In fact, apart from the odd shuttle between the aluminium smelter and Cambois, I have had little luck photographing trains in the area. Today, the smelter at Lynemouth is closed, the colliery gone and the mining complex at Ashington just a memory, although the power station at Lynemouth remains and takes coal by train. There’s no coal export from Port of Blyth, the coal staithes have gone too and Cambois depot has gone the way of the majority of its Class 56s. Even when I last dropped in on the area in the early 1990s, the network was a shadow of its former self, with virtually all of the collieries and rail served industries, together with their branches closed, disconnected, mothballed or removed.

So, why revisit the area? Well, I was curious to see if the network had changed at all in the last 20-odd years. After all that time together with the speed of rationalisation of the rail network under Network Rail, the semaphore signals should have gone the way of the collieries. The signal boxes may have been long removed in favour of a much rationalised single track railway with nothing of note to photograph at all.

What I did find was encouraging. Despite the loss of key online industries (did I mention the huge Cambois power station, now derelict industrial land?), I found semaphores, mechanical signal boxes and was able to photograph a handful of coal trains (Freightliner and GBRf) working to and from Battleship Wharf. I saw more whilst driving between locations including one heading towards Lynemouth power station north of Seaton.

Blyth and Tyne
Examples of photographically interesting locations includes a manually worked level crossing on a public road at Cambois. The line leads to the alumina loading terminal which still sees trains to and from Fort William and Battleship Wharf.

Blyth and Tyne_6
The crew of GBRf Class 66 No. 66 720 receive instruction following coal loading at Battleship Wharf. There is talk of a biomass power station to replace Cambois power station and a biomass loading terminal at this location.

Blyth and Tyne_4
Freemans Signal box which controlled at lot of track at one time. It guards the level crossing and controls the entry and exit from the single track north Blyth line. Gone are the connections to Cambois power station, the coal staithes and Cambois depot.

Blyth and Tyne_7
A nice looking box (Winning) with semaphores controlling Winning  junction which is one side of the triangular junction accessing the Bedlington РAshington line.

Blyth and Tyne_2
At the north end of the triangular Junction is Marcheys House signal box. It interfaces with Winning and Bedlington North box at the opposite ends of the junction together with North Seaton gate box to the north on the line to Ashington.

Blyth and Tyne_8
Semaphores at Marcheys House.

Blyth and Tyne_5
Bedlington North Signal box which links into Bedlington South, Winning and Marcheys House. It controls the junction at Bedlington North where the line to Morpeth diverges from the Bedlington – Ashington line.

Blyth and Tyne_9Bedlington Station, Bedlington North signal box and the junction as seen from the public level crossing at Bedlington South signal box. Some nice sharp curves for the modeller to observe too.

Blyth and Tyne_10
Bedlington South signal box.

Blyth and Tyne_3
North Seaton gate box.

Unfortunately, limited time prevented me from looking in on Ashington signal box together with the remains of the Butterwell line, which is now closed, together with Newsham South (still active). Needless to say, the modelling potential of this area is not insignificant and I will visit the area again in the future to see how things progress! If signal boxes and semaphores are your thing, given the pace of change on the rail network, don’t let too much time pass before visiting the area. It may all disappear in a matter of days in favour of LED signals – efficient but sterile!

2mm scale masterpieces

November 3, 2013

Fence houses-1
Whilst I enjoy working on my N gauge Dudley Heath layout, those modellers working in 2mm scale fine scale are to be admired for their fine work and patience. Recently, I have photographed two superb 2mm scale layouts, both of which are models of prototype railways in completely different parts of the UK. The superb Fence Houses (Leamside Line) is a show-stopper layout belonging to Bob Jones. It has been photographed for BRM magazine. The Victoria Viaduct and River Wear scene at one end of the layout is a master piece whilst the care and attention to detail is evident right along its length.

Fence houses-2
No less impressive is the 2mm fine scale layout called ‘Banff’ which was built by Ian Noble. It too is a prototype based model beautifully portraying the windswept north coast of the outer Moray Firth (Banffshire) – a world apart from the Leamside line. The layout has been extended in recent times to include Knock station and the adjacent Knockdhu distillery, adding much to its appeal. Ian very kindly allowed me to photograph it for a Hornby Magazine feature.

There is no doubt that Ian has captured the character of the line to Banff Harbour, the line closing in 1964, before I was born. To research and build a model of a long gone railway is always a challenge and Ian has done a great job of the model. The layout is portable and has made several exhibition appearances including Perth, Aberdeen and Model Rail Scotland.


My thanks to both Ian and Bob for allowing me to photograph their creations.

Layout photography portfolio expands

September 30, 2013
Grangemouth (OO gauge) of the Falkirk MRC.

Grangemouth (OO gauge) built by members of Falkirk MRC.

I had the pleasure in photographing two Scottish based layouts for BRM recently: Grangemouth (OO Gauge) which belongs to Falkirk MRC, and Teesside Steel (O Gauge) which is exhibited regularly with RAF Kinloss MRC. They are quite different in style and theme but full of atmosphere and character. My thanks to the owners and clubs for allowing me to photograph them. They will be featured in British Railway Modelling in the near future.

A diesle scene on Grangemouth: the layout was inspired by the real location.

A diesel scene on Grangemouth. The layout was inspired by the real location and includes the wonderfully named Fouldubs Junction and signal box.

Teesside Steel-2

Teesside Steel is an industrial layout inspired by the steel industry on the Tees. Modelled in O gauge, it is highly detailed with many cameo scenes.

Teesside Steel-1

The layout was a pleasure to photograph, with its carefully toned down colours, interesting corners, nooks and crannies!

As a foot note, I am looking for more quality layouts (both privately owned and club layouts) to photograph for BRM, located in the north and Scotland. Contact:


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