Fun in the Fannichs

August 28, 2016
Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich 27-08-2016OMWB

Panorama taken from Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich before the mist closed in. Loch Broom and Ullapool can be made out in the distance.

I could little resist the call of the mountains once again. Just over an hour from home are the Fannichs, easily accessible from the Ullapool road. I started the traverse of the long eastern ridge from Sgùrr Mòr to An Coileachan with a long walk-in from the top of Loch Glascarnoch. The first Munro of the day was Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich (954 Metres) accessed via a top called Creag Liath Fannaich. From there, one drops off the western side of Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich to a convenient saddle linking Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich with Sgùrr Mòr. The summit was reached by climbing up the shoulder of the mountain (in the mist) with due regard to the drop to the right!

Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich OMWB

Sgùrr Mòr is in the background of this image taken from Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich.

Opportunities for photography in these beautiful mountains were hampered by the low cloud and subsequent drizzle. The sheer drop off Sgùrr Mòr (1108 Metres) is no less impressive in not being able to see the bottom…

Sgurr Mor OMWB

Sgùrr Mòr summit cairn and the drop off to the left. Scottish mountains might not be the biggest in the world, but they are still dangerous.

Sgurr Mor_1 OMWB

Looking down into the cloud…

Careful navigation through the low cloud brought me to the top of the third Munro of the day: Meall Gorm (949 Metres), not the most impressive one in the Fannichs. However, it has a lovely shelter stone to the east of the cairn and I am sure the views are spectacular when there’s no cloud.

Meall Gorm shelter stone

Meall Gorm shelter stone – comfortable, especially when a foam sitting pad is used.

Meall Gorm cairn

Meall Gorm in the cloud…and drizzle.

With three down and time to spare, it was decided to go for the most southerly Munro of the range: An Coileachan (923 Metres). There were signs that the low cloud was lifting and sure enough, as the top was reached, it cleared sufficiently for photography.

An Coileachan Panorama 27-08-2106OMWB

An Coileachan summit and the view around the mountain. Loch Fannich can be seen from this summit and the saddle of land on the approach to the mountain from Meall Gorm SE Top

An Coileachan OMWB

An Coileachan cairn.

An Coileachan OMWB-3

Some sun light on An Coileachan. The weather window was not to last as higher cloud with rain on it was moving in from the south west.

An Coileachan OMWB-2

Loch Fannich in the distance.

The walk out was east, down the side of An Coileachan allowing superb views of Loch Gorm. It is a long, boggy and pathless route down to the river path.

Loch Gorm Panorama OMWB

Loch Gorm with Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich in the distance.

Loch Gorm OMWB

Loch Gorm with the top of Sgùrr Mòr behind.

It was a long traverse – four Munros covered in nine hours. The long walk out to the car was made much more pleasant by meeting a fellow wanderer, Roy, on the flanks of Meall Gorm.  He was grabbing as much mountain time as he could whilst on holiday from Sherborne in Dorset, although he was originally from Caithness. We had a good old blether!




57 Years since launch of the classic Mini.

August 26, 2016

The 'Min'

It is 57 years today since the launch of the classic Mini – the very day when the first and very wee-looking Mini made its debut. Little was it known in 1959 that the classic heritage Mini, in all its forms, would become such a cult car. Our Mini Cooper is not as old as that, but is fully serviceable, fully winter-proofed and still on the road – not a show car but one used virtually every day from May through to November. She is undergoing gradual upgrading with stainless steel components replacing the horrible-looking mild steel ones.

The Min 2 copy

We bought her new from a dealer in Swindon to replace an older Mini Sprite which was stolen (probably to order for shipping to Japan) – the Sprite had been in the family for years. This car still takes a little driving compared to modern cars.

So what has she got? Well, no power steering; no traction control; no electric windows, central locking, keyless entry, satnav, heated seats, dual climate control, ABS or gadgets of any kind. There’s an engine, clutch, four-speed gear box, throttle and brakes – and of course – me! It’s a car that has to be driven and a whole lot of fun she is too!


When the sun shines, which it does a lot on the Moray coast at this time of year, ‘The Min’ comes out to play. When early November arrives and the weather closes in, she is tucked up for the winter, snug and sound until the weather becomes Mini-friendly once again. So happy birthday to the classic heritage Mini! Only three years to go until the BIG 60!!

Modelling Class 150/0 No. 150002

August 26, 2016

150002_3 copy

Dudley Heath, the N gauge portable layout I built a couple of years’ ago (and still working on) needs a number of ‘signature’ trains to help reinforce the look and feel of a West Midlands location. Class 150s (Graham Farish) are part of a programme of stock construction/conversion which will include further Class 150s of various kinds in Centro livery, at least one Class 323 and a Class 310, a project which has was started last month.

The layout has two exhibitions to attend later this year: Aberdeen on October 29/30 and Falkirk on November 26/27. For that, I hope to complete the aforementioned Class 310 and two more Class 150s: 150002 (to go along side my current model of prototype Class 150/0 No. 150001) together with 150012, a Class 150/1 and 150/2 hybrid unit.

A Class 150/0 unit was introduced to the layout in mid 2014. The centre car was built from two spare bodies and one unpowered underframe using cut and shut modelling technique.

A model of one of the two prototype Class 150/0 units, No. 150001, was introduced to the layout in mid 2014. The centre car was built from two spare bodies and one unpowered underframe using cut and shut modelling techniques.

One of the challenges of modelling the second of the two prototype Class 150s is determining the size and position of the air-con units fitted to the roof of this unit when it was temporarily converted to a Class 154 – the test bed for the Class 158 programme.


150002_1 copy

The centre car of No. 150002 which was not externally modified, unlike the two driving cars. The spare body shell I acquired for this project had already been stripped by its previous owner.

Work starts on the cut and shut conversion of the centre car which can be completed using a second Graham Farish Class 150/1 – the un-needed toilet compartment must be converted to a normal passenger bay if using two Class 150 models as a basis for the conversion and remember, one of them has to be a Class 150/1! I was fortunate enough to find a spare body shell from a Class 150/1 without the toilet compartment making the centre car conversion easier than last time.

The join between the two body sections is made along the door line of one of the passenger entry door ways. There are several ways of cutting out the cab section of the donor vehicles to make the centre car. However, I prefer a straight cut across the body, just outside the cut line and file back to make the join. It is not as scary as it first appears!

150002_10 copy

150002_2 copy

The portion of the body to the left is discarded.


150002 copy

The join between the two inner end sections has to be filed back and carefully joined with the minimum of filler.

Filing the cut line so the body sections make a clean join takes time and care. When undertaking cut and shut conversions, the join must be totally square and true all round to avoid a new body shell. It is a three-dimensional object with the potential for a problem along three planes: a kink along its length which will show when viewed along the roof ribs; a twist at the join where the two sections are twisted relative to each other or a bow when viewed from the side. Any of these faults will prevent the underframe from fitting the model neatly.

150002_8 copy

Careful filing is needed for a clean join. Unlike my last Class 150/0 project, I had sufficient spare bodies to use two non-toilet compartment cars for the conversion, saving a great deal of time in not having to cut a new large window and removal of the toilet compartment roof hatch detail.

150002_9 copy

Tidying up…


Test formation of 150002 with the converted centre car. The outer vehicles are as yet unmodified Graham Farish Class 150/1 model.

150002_6 copy

Cab doors are changed from inward slam doors as fitted to Class 150/1s to a representation of the sliding power doors as fitted to Class 150/2s and the two prototypes.

With the roof vents fitted to the two outer driving cars, the body shells were cleaned up ready for a trip to the paint shop. Centro livery is one that I have painted before on two Class 150s already operational on the layout:

Centro Class 150 paint

In-progress picture of 150123, completed in 2014.

Class 150 complete 1

150001 during a test run on ‘Wheal Annah’ after being assembled following painting and finishing.

I know some modellers will say that I could use a centre car from a new Graham Farish Class 319 (shares same multiple unit body shell profile) for the Class 150/0 centre car when the 4-car dual voltage EMU is released at some point in the future. However, the likely cost of that model together with the difficulty of using the remaining trailers makes Class 150 cut and shut conversion with two Class 150 sets more economical. Also, one of the centre cars of the Class 319 will be a pantograph vehicle with an unusable roof as far as Class 150s are concerned. In the meantime, it’s a trip to the paint shop for No. 150002!


Class 150/0 prototype units (1984): 150001 and 150002.

Class 150/1 2-car production units (1985-6): 150101 – 150150.

Class 150/2 cab-gangwayed production units (1986-7): 150201 – 150285.

Class 150/0 hybrid 3-car sets made up of a Class 150/1 and a single Class 150/2 vehicle as a centre car: 150010-017.

Class 154: The temporary conversion of 150002 as a test bed for Class 158 development in 1986.

Sgòr Gaoith and Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir

August 21, 2016
Sgor Goiath panorama copy

Panoramic view from Sgòr Gaoith with south to the left in the picture looking towards Carn Bàn Mòr and Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir.

I returned to the mountains to the east side of Glen Feshie this weekend; to walk up Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir (1019 Metres) for the first time, a Munro which is located at the south end of Glen Feshie. I parked near Balachroick and climbed up to the long high and very exposed plateau between Sgòr Gaoith (1118 Metres) and Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir near a top called Carn Bàn Mòr (1052 Metres). I have been on top of the Munro Sgòr Gaoith before and this walk made it the third time I have had the pleasure of looking down on Loch Einich from this vantage point.

Sgor Gaoith panorama - 1 copy

Loch Einich in October 2012.

Sgor Gaoith_1

Walking up the hill on really pleasant conditions. They soon changed however, and very quickly too.

Sgor Gaoith_2

It was very windy this time, with a real blast of air screaming up the crags and over the summit of Sgòr Gaoith – in complete contrast to the mild conditions in Glen Feshie of earlier in the morning. The wind soon dragged a great deal of cloud over the plateau and its tops.

Sgor Gaoith

The craggy ‘tor’ at the summit of Sgòr Gaoith. The walk up the west side tail of the mountain does little to warn you of the sheer drop into Loch Einich on the east side.

I turned into the south-east gale and walked over Carn Bàn Mòr, skirting the deep Coire Garbhlach, to reach Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir, a Munro, but with a very unimpressive summit with barely a cairn to speak of. There are few rocks to make one on this top and with the weather closing in, care was needed to navigate to the summit as visibility closed down to a hundred yards or so.

Weather closes in...

Weather closes in…

Mullach Chlach a Bhlair summit OMWB

Summit cairn of Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir. No views on this day!

Mullach Clach a Bhlair_3

Looking over Coire Garbhlach and its waterfalls at Cadha na Coin Duibh. That’s a steep drop for the unwary…

One of the real pleasures of walking off Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir down the track past a small top called Meal nan Sleac is the chance of a view of the crags at Cadha na Coin Duibh overlooking the steep sided Coire Garbhlach.

Mullach Clach a Bhlair_2

Mullach Chlach a Bhlair panorama

Looking back up Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir from the small top called Meall nan Sleac with the Coire Garbhlach to the left. It had started to rain at this stage of the walk…

With rain closing in at low levels, I had little choice than to make my way down Glen Feshie past the farm at Achlean to return to the car. The complete circuit, including photographic stops and navigation took seven hours. Thankfully, the worst of the rain held off until after I completed the route and was sipping a much needed coffee back at the car!


More sleeper shots…

August 21, 2016

Aviemore 19-08-2016_1 copy copy

…taken on what was International Photography Day. The north bound 1S25 Euston-Inverness sleeper was bang on time at Aviemore with GBRf Class 66 No. 66 705 in charge, paired up with Class 73/9 No. 73 966. This is probably the only daily Class 66-hauled scheduled passenger train operating in the UK at this time – at least I am aware of. I must confess to liking this Class 66 plus 73/9 arrangement on the sleeper!

Aviemore 19-08-2016_2 copy copy

Aviemore 19-08-2016_3 copy copy

Aviemore 19-08-2016_4 copy copy

Aviemore 19-08-2016 copy copy

New project: N gauge Class 310.

August 8, 2016

Class 310_1 copy

I have a new project! With OHLE complete on my N gauge Dudley Heath layout, there’s every excuse to build some 25kV ac EMUs for the layout and one that fits the bill is the three-car Regional Railways Class 310. A handful survived for quite some time in the privatisation era, operated by Central Trains in Regional Railways colours as seen above. They rarely saw use except in peak periods and to cover for failed Class 323s. Class 310s were originally operated as four car sets and date back to the mid 1960s. They were an iconic EMU of the southern end of the West Coast main line until displaced by Class 321s (themselves latterly displaced by Class 350s). They were also commonly used on West Midlands suburban services alongside Class 304s.

Class 310 copy

It has to be the three-car Regional Railways version for Dudley Heath, representing the earliest end of the time era chosen for the layout. The vinyl overlays are by Electra Railway Graphics and some old Graham Farish Mark 2 coaches will provide the base models for what is an interesting conversion.

Class 310_2 copy

Old Poole-made Graham Farish Mark 2 air-con coaches have clear printed sides which makes this conversion very effective. The printing is removed to allow the sides to be added, eliminating a great deal of complex livery painting. Prior to that, the mechanism from a Class 150 is to be installed, the roof of three coaches modified with ventilators and a pantograph well. Cabs by N-Train are also to be used to build up the driving trailers, whilst the inner ends of the coaches will be modified with different gangway and end panel detail. Based on the success of the Trans-Pennine Express Class 350/4, this should be an interesting conversion to complete.

In the meantime, a Class 323 is also on the cards for Dudley Heath using Electra Railway Graphics overlays applied to a Graham Farish Class 158. Whilst the conversion is sound in principle, the lack of a cast or 3D-printed cab for Class 323s holds the project back at this time. Oh yes, in case you are wondering what will happen to the spare Class 150 bodies and parts…a Class 150/0 as 150002 together with one of the Class 150/1 and 150/2 hybrids will be the result.