March 26, 2017
After mothballing the layout for 18 months whilst I worked on other projects, I have finally flung the dust covers off the layout and started to deal with some problems with it (I admit to making a pig’s ear of some aspects of the layout, ears which now need to be rectified). Operating wrinkles also needed to be ironed out too.
The first job involves the original laser cut turnouts which made up the curved cross-over at the Ashford end of the layout. This junction, which provides access to the harbour branch turn-back roads and yard, is the most critical on the layout. Using laser-cut turnout bases and glued chairs is a good technique and looks great too except for one thing: they are not durable enough for a heavy duty main line hosting a frequent train frequency. As a facing pair of turnouts on the main line, they were becoming badly damaged by the heaviest locos in the fleet, namely my Heljan Class 47s. At nearly 750g each, they were knocking six shades of hell out of that cross-over to the point they no longer worked properly and repairs were impracticable. New ones of more durable soldered construction (see above) were built at the work bench and installed in January.
A plan to remodel the unsuccessful western end of the layout was in mind anyway, so turnout replacement fitted well with the building of some flats based loosely on Lawrence Court just off the Dover Road together with remodelling the scenery and modifying the back drop to make room for the partial low relief buildings.
During the 18 month period of storage, further information regarding a row of brown-brick buildings (predominantly hidden behind weed trees on the line side) became available, buildings which turned out to be the Lawrence Court flats. Winter-time images with trees bare of leaves revealed how dominant these low-rise flats actually are at this location. Whilst the real main line on which this layout is inspired is dead straight in this location, I have to live with a curve as it is located at the end of the room! There’s no extending the layout through the wall and into my neighbour’s field without objections from the sheep and other practical difficulties! The flats were nearly complete by the time I found the time to write this blog entry. They fit on the curve of the layout quite well, being partial low-relief buildings. Ideally, they should be set a little further back from the line, but the curve in the track makes placing the buildings tricky. Once the landscaping around and to the rear of the flats is complete, trees will be added to the line side once again partially concealing them.
The Up platform will be reinstated and track work reballasted and fitted with conductor rails once again. As part of this project, the signal box project has made a giant leap forward. Some adjustment to the back drop by moving it back by 3 inches and changing its shape a little has provided more room for the signal box (as well as the flats) which is moved east a little further to better position it in relation to the prototype location. Oh, yes, I must mot mention the retiring of the faithful Heljan 47s in favour of Bachmann ones (less damaging to the track) and the introduction of Dapol Class 73s (one picture above) which are gradually replacing my venerable Lima ones. More of the signal box, remodelling and the commissioning of the Class 73s later!
November 23, 2016
The tricky business of converting old Graham Farish Mark 2 coaches into a Class 310 EMU has reached the testing stage. The model is being built using Electra Railway Graphics self-adhesive overlays onto heavily modified clear-sided Mark 2 coach bodies. The result, I hope, will be a respectable representation of a 3-car Regional Railways Class 310/1 (No. 310106) which was a common sight in the West Midlands at one time and a signature model for the layout.
The conversion is not the easiest one I have done in N gauge so far – the 3D printed cabs being far from satisfactory and having a distinctly grainy texture to them which is not simple to remove. In fact, the printed material is so hard, wet and dry paper struggled to smooth the grittiness down to any degree. On reflection, scratch building from styrene card may have produced a better result. Weeks after completing the main part of the conversion, the unit is finally being tested on the layout with bar couplings and new gangways designed to close up the gap between the coaches. As you can see, I was far from happy with the join between the cab roof and the main roof moulding. Considerably more finishing work (and patience) was put into making this area of the model as satisfactory as possible together with a final coat of dark grey paint for the roof.
Having filed the cab ends to more or less the right shape, re-profiled the cab windows and removed the bowed ends from the Mark 2 coach body moulding, replacing them with a flat suburban stock end with the gangway extension unique to Class 310 and Class 312 EMUs, the model was relatively simple to finish with the vinyl sides. The centre coach has pantograph well cut in it, fitted with insulators cut from 10BA brass screws and a Dapol ‘pan’. Cab painting was made awkward by the coarse printed texture, making smooth clean lines difficult to achieve.
The model will be more or less complete for an outing to the Falkirk exhibition this weekend, together with the Class 90 I have been working on recently. No. 90 033 requires a little more finishing to the roof, pantograph well and to disguise that Digitrax DZ126 decoder which can be seen through the cab windows! Despite the challenges and sometimes frustrations of working on older N gauge models, both are a welcome additions to the 25kV fleet. A Class 323 is the next EMU project – also a signature EMU for the West Midlands area.
Dudley Heath will be attending the Falkirk MRC model railway exhibition this weekend (26th and 27th November 2016) being held at the Forth Valley College in Falkirk. Electric stock will be featured including Dapol Class 86s.
The Falkirk exhibition is the last major show in the Scottish exhibition circuit calendar and is held annually at the Forth Valley College in Grangemouth Road, Falkirk, FK2 9AD. It’s usually quite an event; much more laid back than a certain other model railway show being staged this weekend at the NEC and a lot of fun.
September 14, 2016
Landscaping, scenery and detailing of the Loch Dhu Siding side of my double-sided OO gauge micro-layout (the distillery is on the opposite side of the backdrop) has been completed (more or less) in recent weeks. A few things remain to be added at this time including the addition of a handful of small details, a road vehicle and a tidying up of the back drop area. Some grass tufts remain to be planted in one or two areas.
Whilst working on this scene, I have managed to get my hands on another ARC Models kit, this time for the smaller version of the Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST locomotive and in pre-war condition. No need to do any back-dating as was done to the larger version I built previously as a freelance distillery pug, named Loch Dhu No.1. This second distillery ‘Pug’ loco will be modelled as Dailuaine No.1 in 1968 condition.
The layout is operational, but only has the two locos so far: the Bachmann Class 20 and the Pug as seen above. The layout awaits the Bachmann Class 24/1 model which is some time away as yet. A Class 27 is a possibility as is one of the Heljan rail buses – maybe – perhaps. Also, I plan to build a Ruston 48DS for the distillery branch – just for the hell of it! It will be a challenge to fit it out for DCC. – the Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST was interesting enough. Hard to believe that there is a TCS decoder together with a TCS ‘Keep Alive’ device in the saddle tank of that loco!
September 8, 2016
Mark Darragh’s lovely OO gauge ‘Rannoch Moor’ layout made it onto the cover of Hornby Magazine as the cover story for this month (Issue 112, October 2016). I photographed the layout earlier in the summer with some lovely results – a great layout – so I would have to be in truly glaikit form to make a mess of such fine work. It’s beautifully modelled with just the right level of detail and neutral space making it appear larger than it really is. The layout is based on the West Highland line in 2006 or thereabouts.
Here’s a selection of pictures that did not make the magazine cut:
Very fine work from Mark Darragh. I am always searching for quality home or exhibition layouts to feature in magazine work. They have to be based in Scotland and N gauge is particularly in demand. As you can see from the pictures above, I aim to achieve the best possible image quality. A photo-shoot typically takes four to five hours and does not need the whole layout to be assembled at once – they can be photographed in sections. I need to see some simple images of the layout before proposing it to a magazine editor. I do the images, you write the article. Simple!
August 21, 2016
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.
Loch Einich in October 2012.
Walking up the hill on really pleasant conditions. They soon changed however, and very quickly too.
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.
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…
Summit cairn of Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir. No views on this day!
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.
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!
May 2, 2016
…the other side of the layout:
With only four by two to play with, the operating potential of this Scottish-based distillery themed micro-layout is doubled by dividing it into two scenes – at the cost of narrower scenes. I featured a ‘mainline’ to private branch interchange in a previous post. It occupies one side of the layout – the narrower side – which is hidden from view in the picture above. The distillery yard at the end of the branch occupies the opposite side to the interchange as seen in the image above.
The back drop board separating the distillery yard is angled, hence the lighting box fitted to the interchange side appears to be out of true. It’s not, honest! A hole is cut into the base of the back drop to give the loco shed spur a little more length. it will be hidden by the shed itself id due course.
The last photo of this sequence shows the relationship of the two sides and the back drop separating them. A small fiddle yard is attached to this end of the layout and that is equipped with a simple sector plate to connect one side of the layout to the other. Separate cassettes are used to introduce or remove stock from the layout when operations require it. Work has started on the distillery buildings, including a small loco shed for the distillery pug. Shunting this layout will be fun and challenging!
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.
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: http://www.scottishmodellers.co.uk/BereBanks.pdf
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.