Remodelling and upgrading of the Folkestone East layout continues.

April 10, 2017

Thumpers take a spin over the layout. It is run as the real location would be run in both the BR Sectorisation and post-privatisation eras. It is also home to my EMU and DEMU fleet, whether they are suitable for the location being modelled or not!

Remodelling of my EM gauge Folkestone East is making progress, having reached that ‘nothing looks finished’ chaotic stage. To recap, the work commenced with rebuilding the key cross-over from the down line to the yard and branch turn-back sidings. This required the removal of the Up staff halt platform and signalling to allow room to work on the new track and to allow for the slight remodelling of the track at that location. No.6 curved turnouts were replaced with longer No. 8 turnouts making the track run in a smoother arc in the curves and through the turnouts. The new track can be seen in the image below.

The flats which can be seen at the Ashford end of the real location have been built and in the process of detailing – fitting windows etc. The buildings are loose fitted to the layout and will be removable once the scenery is complete to suit particular date and time stamps, so to speak. Furthermore, they will be partially screened by weed trees growing on the embankment. The actual structures are slightly smaller than scale  – the real ones being set a little further back from the lineside.

Two of the most challenging structures to build include Folkestone East signal box (above) and the electricity sub station (which will be located more or less opposite this scene). The box might appear to be of a simple design. However, there are elements of it that are quite challenging to work out, including the sun shields. The interior has been left clear to allow me to model the panel.

The box is situated on the old demolished Down platform of Folkestone East station. A short length of platform survives as a staff halt as it does on the Up side as mentioned above. Note how the box is set into the demolished platform with a low retaining wall.


The back drop has been pushed back about three inches to make room for some more low relief buildings including the end of the terrace houses on the street leading to the signal box. The end of an small industrial building is to be added too. Yes, the layout is seeing quite some remodelling, but I hope the extra effort will be worth it. The new cross-over track has already brought much benefit in improved running over what is already a pretty reliable layout. The signal box is reaching the painting and detailing stage. Already, I am eyeing up the construction of baseboards for the harbour branch.


Work restarts on Folkestone East

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!

Bulling up for ‘Lochnessring’ tour…with I.M.O.G.

September 17, 2016


A few hours were spent adding a further layer of polish to ‘The Min’. She is now all set for a circumnavigation of Loch Ness tomorrow (18th September) with the Inverness Mini Owners Group on its Harvester Run – known as the ‘lochnessring’ tour.


She was photographed whilst waiting for the polish to dry sufficiently to buff up the paint work to a high shine.


Loch Dhu Distillery progress pictures

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!

Next up for today: The GBRf 15 charter…

September 10, 2016


Class 20s this time! First time in a long time for Nairn. The GBRf 15 tour train was slightly late, messing up the cross with an east bound service train. It is part of the 15th anniversary celebrations marking the start of GBRf operations. Class 20, No. 20 097 leads the train past one of the restored Nairn signal boxes.





A Class 47 brings up the rear. The limited photo angle seen in the pictures above on what is normally a very easy station to take pictures on was due to the arrival of an Inverness-Aberdeen service consisting of a Class 158 and 170 which occupied virtually the full length of the Aberdeen side platform…blocking most of the view of the charter.

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!


Independence might be the only path open to Scotland…

July 12, 2016


The result of the EU referendum (Brexit) has caused one of the biggest crisis in recent times for the UK. In the early hours of Friday June 24th 2016, the United Kingdom effectively died as the poll results showed Scotland voting to remain in the EU by a considerable margin whilst England and Wales voted to leave. The overall result for the UK was for Brexit, triggering the nightmare scenario of Scotland being ‘dragged’ out of the EU against the will of its voters or its best interests (together with Gibraltar and Northern Ireland). Scotland is a very pro-European country, making this the worst possible scenario possible for its people and those EU citizens that have chosen to make Scotland their home.

The weekend following the referendum saw one of the most astounding situations in British political history that I have ever witnessed: The total lack of, well, anything really. A total power vacuum as senior government ministers vanished from sight. The very people that should have had a contingency plan ready to drop into place to calm the financial markets and reassure EU citizens living in the UK simply vanished without a murmur – for days.

Such a vacuum presented the Labour Party a golden opportunity to gain ground against the Conservative party – except – the Blairite side of the Parliamentary Labour Party chose the time to create a crisis of their own and challenge its leader with a vote of no confidence. As for the ‘Leave’ campaigners – they too managed to make a complete hash of their increasingly hollow victory with contradictory media statements.  Clearly, they too has made no plans of their own – not even anything written on the back of an envelope. This was topped by the effective abdication of responsibility by senior figures involved in the Leave campaign as they resigned or withdrew in droves (along with the England football team coach, but that’s another matter!).

There was certainly no plan A anywhere except in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her team had made contingency plans for a leave vote and quickly implemented it.  Ms Sturgeon outlined her determination to keep Scotland in the EU and would take all necessary steps to achieve that goal. IndyRef2 is firmly back on the table and she was keen to reassure EU citizens living in Scotland that their contribution was valued and they were always welcome.


At the time, retaining EU membership looked liked it would be an uphill struggle –  a serious struggle. However, the Scottish Government openend a charm offensive which saw Ms Sturgeon visit Brussels, organise meetings with the diplomatic corps and establish a team of experts to look at ways in which Scotland could remain in the EU after Brexit. One option on the table is the ‘reverse Greenland’ scenario where Scotland would retain EU membership whilst remaining in the UK. Ms Sturgeon has to consider that option in the light of those who voted ‘No’ in the 2014 independence referendum.

However, I suspect that the EU will have little time for that sort of option (Spain has objected alongside France). The ‘federal UK’ option being bandied about by unionist party leaders in Scotland won’t gain any traction either for a multitude of reasons. Europe won’t like anything that allows rUK to have a toe in the EU water after Brexit. It wants a clean break with the UK – no negotiations until Article 50 has been triggered. As far as some European leaders are concerned, should Scotland be part of the UK at the point of Brexit, Scotland leaves too, even though some are aware that than out-in for Scotland would be a preposterous situation and one that would prove costly and wasteful to both sides.


Many pro-UK media commentators have seen this as a snub to Scotland and have taken the stance that we should lump it and accept the EU referendum result as a nationwide poll. This ignores the fact that Scotland is a country and a nation even though it does not have statehood – something many UK citizens do not fully appreciate. This is a fact that is  being fast recognised by our fellow European citizens – that Scotland is not a region or shire county of England, but a separate country, with its own laws, culture and economy, and one that wants desperately to remain part of the family of EU nations.

In the week following the vote, Ms Sturgeon visited Brussels where she had meetings with senior EU leaders including Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. Contrary to what was reported in much of the UK media, it appears that Scotland is pushing against doors that are at least ajar, if not wide open. Ms Sturgeon was widely and warmly welcomed as EU officials came to realise that Scotland would be the post Brexit damage-limitation exercise they desperately needed. Scotland’s positive approach together with the market turmoil following the leave vote has silenced many eurosceptic voices throughout the continent. Scotland also has a great deal to offer Europe as a member state.


CmJRPBAWAAAYRoa.jpg_largeHowever, there is one over-riding feature of all the amazing encouragement that Scotland has received from Europe in the last two weeks. It is not difficult to see where Europe is going with its interaction with Scotland:

Guy Verhofstadt – Former Belgian prime minister and MEP: “No big obstacle to independent Scotland joining EU.”

Jean-Claude Juncker – President of the European Commission: “Scotland won their right to be heard in Brussels.”


Manfred Weber, a top MEP and key ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel: “Scotland and even Northern Ireland would be welcome to remain members of the EU.”

Gunther Krichbaum, a member of Angela Merkel’s conservatives and chairman of the European affairs committee in parliament, said an independent Scotland would be welcome to join the European Union. “The EU will still consist of 28 member states, as I expect a new independence referendum in Scotland, which will then be successful. We should respond quickly to an application for admission from this EU-friendly country”, he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil, the second largest party in the Republic of Ireland: “I and my party believe that it would be unacceptable for Scotland to be treated as a normal candidate country should it seek to remain as a member of the EU.  It currently implements all EU laws.  It manifestly would not need to be reviewed for its standards of governance and ability to implement EU laws.  It has a strong administration, a distinct legal system and an absolute commitment to European ideals. Scotland is strong enough to advocate for itself, but Ireland should be its friend and demand fair play should it seek to remain in the EU.”

Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia said his diplomats would help to negotiate an amicable separation modelled on the so-called velvet divorce that resulted in the break up of Czechoslovakia in 1993 if Scotland decides to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU. It appears that Lubomir Rehak, the Slovakian Ambassador to the UK has already engaged in talks with Scottish Government ministers.

Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg backs Scotland in EU:


Jean-Christophe Lagarde, president of the Union of Democrats and Independents, the third largest party in France: “The departure of Great Britain should be conducted and negotiated without delay so as not to open a long period of uncertainty which would cost us. At the same time, the EU must make clear that it remains open to the Scots and Northern Irish if they were to provide the means.”

So, where does this leave those voters who voted ‘No’ to remain in the UK in September 2014? Many, it appears, have decided to switch sides and that decision was probably made before the EU referendum, depending on the result. Others who voted ‘No’ in 2014 but ‘Remain’ in 2016 may be struggling with the notion that the UK union has probably self-destructed with the Brexit vote. Those voters need time to reconcile the apparent contradiction of having to support Scottish independence to remain in Europe and regain much needed stability against long held loyalties to the UK Union, the Union flag and Great British values – completely the opposite situation that existed in 2014. It will take some time for those voters to finally decide which they value more – the UK or the EU.
After all, many of those voters voted ‘No’ so Scotland would remain part of the EU following comments such as this one made during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign:

Ruth Davidson, Conservative MSP and prominent supporter of ‘Better Together’.

Of course, this is now seen in a very different light. It is becoming increasingly clear that the EU wants Scotland to remain in the UK but as an independent country – a member state. Independence looks as if it will be the only way forward making ‘IndyRef2’ more of a certainty than ever before, despite Ms Sturgeon stating that it is not her starting point regarding EU membership. The underlying question this time will be: “Do you want Scotland to remain in the UK or the EU?” I don’t think we will be able to do both. I know what I will choose.


This interesting article by Al Harron on the media perspective on Scotland’s EU membership is worth a read.

There’s more on my Facebook site too – this will be updated with relevant information as it becomes available.