Matting down…

December 30, 2017

After adding some debris in the distillery yard such as cask staves and rusty loops, matting down of all the surfaces was needed to remove the dull shine from acrylic paints before scenery could be completed. For that, I use Testors ‘Dullcote’ which removes 95% of the sheen. Some more stubborn areas need a little help with Tamiya matt varnish. After several very thin applications, the rails are carefully cleaned of varnish.

The same is dome to the hard pavements in the distillery itself, with the buildings removed. Once dry, the two low relief buildings such as the one at the end of the layout may be semi-permanently fitted in place with glue and the gap between the base of the building and pavement concealed with scenery material. Further weed planting and placing the pile of casks I have previously prepared will finish the scene.

Loch Dhu Distillery is nearing some state of completion apart from small details which may be added over time. Work on the rolling stock, to fit smaller ‘Spratt & Winkle’ couplings (TT gauge ones) and weathering will be completed over the next few months.  I can finalise a couple of simple modifications to the exchange siding side of the layout at the same time (prompted by the acquisition of a rail bus) and that will be it for a while whilst I turn my attention back to my EM gauge Folkestone East layout.

Folkestone East is undergoing a little bit of a revolution where I am ridding myself of all EWS, EW&S and GBRf equipment and related stock to concentrate on the mid 1990s period where there was a significant transition period involving sectors, TOCs and of course the overlap between the opening of the Channel Tunnel and closure of the Dover train ferry service. This will provide a tighter focus on what stock I buy and build for the layout. 2018 will be a year of tighter focus for my modelling!



Hornby Magazine cover story: Rannoch Moor

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!

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.

Image 32-berebanks-omwb

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.


Cover story – Maxwell Colliery Loading Point

February 12, 2016

Hornby mag March 2016 OMWB

Late last year, I photographed Max Fowler’s fascinating Maxwell Colliery Loading Point once again, this time for Hornby Magazine. The layout is set in the Ayrshire coal fields of Southwest Scotland and has been recently extended to include a further colliery branch and a connection with the main line – hence revisiting it once again.

I am delighted that the layout is the cover story of Hornby Magazine for March 2016 (HM105) and has been invited to The Great Electric Train Show this October.

The pleasure of photographing Rhyd once again.

August 15, 2015


Rhyd, the creation of master railway modeller David John, has to be one of my favourite layouts. I never tire of photographing it and this session, for Hornby Magazine, produced enough quality RAW images from which 46 publishable high resolution photographs were distilled – about 20 more than is really necessary for a full-blown magazine feature. Here’s a small selection of the overflow – images: No.s 41 to 47!







Is it strange that the layouts that most inspire me have little to do with my particular sphere of interest? Rhyd is 7mm scale Welsh narrow gauge running on analogue control – no fancy lighting or digital sound, just great-looking modelling.

Another layout which always draws me whenever I know it is at a show is Pempoul. I have never photographed it, so have no images to post here. The layout (built and exhibited by Gordon and Maggie Gravett) is everything I do not model – French steam, metre gauge and to 1:50 scale – brilliantly modelled and with that all-important feel of normal life – no whistles and bells on this layout to distract you either and indeed, it does not need them.

As if all that fine modelling on Rhyd was not enough; together with its beautifully finished back scene, proscenium arch and presentation, there’s an extension under construction which will represent the next station on the line which looks fabulous already. I look forward to pointing my camera at it in due course!

Out and about with the camera

April 21, 2015

Glendevon – Edinburgh and Lothians Miniature Railway Club.

Layout photography for Hornby Magazine and BRM has taken me away from home and modelling a few times in the last few weeks – a great distraction from the chaos in the layout room at this time as some changes are made to my Montana Rail Link layout. One veteran but good looking layout out on the Scottish circuit which found itself in front of my camera wass ‘Glendevon’ of the Edinburgh and Lothians Miniature Railway Club.

Milton Street-1

Milton Street MPD by Spencer Anderson.

Next project was Milton Street MPD, another steam-based layout, this time photographed for BRM. The layout is the creation of Spencer Anderson who is one of a trio of likely lads and very skilled modellers based in the East Kilbride area. You can see more of their work on the 12AD Model railway Group web site.


Kilbowie by Brian Thompson.

The ModelRail show last February turned up a couple of new layouts including Brian Thompson’s beautiful ‘Kilbowie’ which is inspired by Clyde Bank industries now long gone. I took a long but enjoyable trip to Gourock to photograph both Kilbowie and the Greenock MRC’s established exhibition layout ‘Inverboyndie’ layout for Hornby Magazine.

It’s one of those strange coincidences to find myself photographing two layouts with similar themes, if completely different interpretations and locations in fairly quick succession. Both layouts show the past industrial might of Scotland. Spencer Anderson’s Milton Street MPD layout is based on steam and heavy industry in North Lanarkshire whilst Brian opted for a very different area along the Clyde. Both are truly atmospheric and both superbly modelled. Photographing all this BR steam does raise a question – one which is frequently asked of me. Should I add smoke and steam effects to the pictures as I digitally develop them?




Model Rail Scotland

February 23, 2015
Squinty Bridge

Looking up the Clyde from the Bells Bridge towards the Squinty Bridge.

The annual jaunt to Glasgow for Model Rail Scotland is over for another year. Wheal Annah turned out to be an absorbing layout which was fun to operate. It was so busy that there was little time to get round the show with a camera.


Mark Chivers puts a shift in on ‘Wheal Annah’.

Mark Chivers was a great help with the layout, allowing me some time to pick up some supplies and some more wagons for the layout including a couple of Peco CDAs and some 5-plank open wagon kits. The latter will make the perfect stand-in for 1970s clay liner wagons after some details have been changed and detailing added including tarp covers. Layouts that did catch my eye included Scottish Modellers’ ‘Newlands Park’; Brian Thompson’s ‘Kilbowie’ and the massive extension to ‘The Maxwell Colliery Loading Point’ – the layout that never stops growing. Old favourites include ‘Outon Road’ and Ayr MRC’s ‘Perceton’. In all, a great weekend with a great cross-section of layouts to enjoy.