Bere Banks – a west country gem

April 30, 2016

Hot sunshine and deep blue skies greeted me at Bere Banks when I arrived to photograph a procession of trains typical of the west country in the 1970s. Bere Banks is the creation of Keith Sully and it made its exhibition debut at Model Rail Glasgow earlier this year – a very popular exhibit by all accounts and that comes as no surprise.


The layout has been photographed for Hornby Magazine. This quartet of images did not make the cut of those I submitted to the editor. They clearly show why Bere Banks is a most unusual OO gauge layout modelled to a very high standard. It will undoubtedly become a very popular layout on the Scottish circuit. It has a late summer feel to it with light warm colours and a dusty atmosphere as if there’s been little rain over a long and warm summer.

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Although I am too young to have been line-siding the west country railways in the 1970s, the layout did bring back memories of doing the same in the 1980s – Class 31/4s, 45/1s 47/4s, 50s and the like – oh happy days. Pity, as a youngster, I could not afford film and camera to document what I saw at the time.


Exhibition managers can find more details about the layout here:
My thanks to Keith Sully for taking time out of his busy schedule to prepare the layout for photography and making me welcome. I have developed a liking for the 1970s BR blue era based in the west country after building my Wheal Annah layout and Bere Banks hits the spot, making a really delightful change from a diet of BR Scottish Region layouts.



A distraction…Loch Dhu Distillery

April 26, 2016

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A OO gauge micro-layout has become a welcome distraction from Folkestone East and Dudley Heath. Measuring four by two-foot in size plus a small fiddle yard, it has two scenic sides to it. First to be developed to the scenery stage is a ‘mainline’ to distillery branch line interchange – a deceptively simple track layout that is challenging to operate. The distillery and yard will follow – on the opposite side of this scene.

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The picture above was taken shortly after the fascia and back drops were fitted. Dividing the layout into two separate scenes linked by the fiddle yard increases the operating potential but makes the scenes narrower and more challenging to finish.

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When this late 1960s BR Scottish region layout is completed, I intend to finish off Folkestone East completely. As it stands, this little layout may not go to an exhibition unless as a display unit part of a modelling clinic or something like that. It is designed for an hour or so of simple operation with a handful of wagons in an evening after work; not a full-blown two-days’ worth of ops at a model railway exhibition – it would drive you mad by the end of the first day! Nonetheless, it has been fitted with lighting boxes, one of which is seen in the picture above. It has the potential to be extended and this has been factored in with the wiring and the way in which the baseboard end boards have been fitted. Note that the neutral grey paint applied to the fascia is still wet in this picture! Now this will explain my sudden interest in Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST locos of all sizes!

Cromarty – a Moray Firth gem.

April 23, 2016

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The Moray Firth coast is littered with small villages and towns associated with fishing and the sea. Cromarty stands out with some fine Georgian architecture, the summer-only ferry to Nigg and a lovely selection of places to eat and shop – the perfect place for a day out in the fresh air. To travel there from  Nairn, we have to drive 37 miles to the Kessock bridge; up the A9 to Tore and then east along the length of the Black Isle; in effect a long loop. As the sea gull flies, Cromarty cannot be more than nine miles from Nairn as it is located almost exactly opposite Nairn across the Moray Firth.

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Birthplace of Geologist Hugh Miller – there is a museum dedicated to his life run by the National Trust for Scotland.

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There is a small harbour with some First World War structures remaining intact. The Cromarty-Nigg ferry runs during the summer months.

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The ever-present evidence of North Sea hydrocarbon exploration and extraction in the Cromarty Firth. The rigs are mothballed test drilling rigs currently between exploration projects.

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Looking back towards the town from the harbour. A great deal of sea life can be observed from Cromarty and the light house and associated buildings are a field station for Aberdeen University where research into the effects of man-made structures impacts on marine mammals and birds.

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Shopping and eating: thres several cafes and restaurants in the town including a particular favourite of mine: Sutors Creek. Advance booking is advised! There’s crafting, gift shops (such as Ingrids House) and the Cromarty Pottery too. Nature lovers can indulge in sea life boat trips with Ecoventures. Yep, it’s a firm favourite!


Spring has arrived – The Royal Scotsman hits the rails once again.

April 19, 2016

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The 2016 season sees a new traction provider for The Royal Scotsman. After a long, but not particularly cold winter on the inner Moray coast, the return of The Royal Scotsman is a welcome sign of better weather to come.

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GB Railfreight has replaced West Coast Railways as traction provider for the service. Class 66 No. 66 746 has been dragged away from its coal train duties to work one of Scotland’s prestige trains.

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Departing Nairn this morning (19th April) with the Keith to Kyle of Lochalsh (1H80) working. And on the rear…

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Spring has arrived…

April 12, 2016

When the Brodie Castle daffodils come into flower.

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Brodie Castle is just a few miles from our home here on the inner Moray Firth. Sarah and I will make at least one visit to see the daffodils which is an important part of Brodie Castle history. The collection is vast; part of the National Collection and under the stewardship of the the National Trust for Scotland. They are being carefully recovered, catalogued and the surviving varieties carefully conserved.

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The walled garden is being used to cultivate Brodie daffodil varieties to ensure their survival. The tunnel in the background contains a selection of the varieties to ensure they are isolated from known pests just in case there’s a problem with those being grown in the open that could threaten the survival of one or more rare varieties.

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Brodie Castle itself is open to the public and has a famed daffodil walk which is to be held on the 23rd and 24th of April this year.

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The beauty of daffodils is that they have a long flowering season – different varieties flower at different times during April and even into early May in this part of the world. One can visit Brodie numerous times in Spring and there will always be something flowering and in number too. Conservation and recovery continues  – a long term NTS project which is showing signs of success. For more information on the history of daffodil breeding at Brodie Castle, the following article is worth a read:

National Trust for Scotland Maintains Century Old
Narcissi Breeds by Margaret Wood.