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!



Detailing takes time…

December 24, 2017

…and a little Dullcote will be needed to kill the slight shine from acrylic paints…

Small details are being added to the Loch Dhu Distillery buildings. They include a representation of yard lighting, wall braces and window bars for security. It is a distillery after all!
The revenue man’s office now has windows, doors and security bars. One door is ajar – a figure representing the head revenue man himself, the very model of taxation bureaucracy, surveying all that goes on around him, will be added looking out of the door. Will Angus MacGallbladder get his way and apply duty on the angel’s share?

There’s just room between the 12t vans and the building to get the doors open for unloading sacks of barley for the maltings. As the buildings are completed, the low relief ones will be fixed in place and the bases finished to blend them with the ground.

The yard will soon be filled with stored empty casks…

Progress has been made on the engine shed, a part relief building which just fits the distillery scene. Remember, the scene is barely 14 inches wide!

The buildings need a little more detail painting and some touch-up here and there before being sprayed with Dullcote together with the yard surface. Otherwise, they have come a treat after a long period of construction and painting. Loch Dhu Distillery, despite some ‘evolutionary’ changes to improve some of earlier work, is nearing completion. The exchange siding side of the layout is being revised slightly and the recent acquisition of a suitable railbus has encouraged the building of a small fiddle stick to complete the main line run – all 40 inches of it. A big layout indeed!


In the hour before dawn…Kingussie.

November 26, 2017

The station is not a quiet as you might think – local passengers are waiting for the north bound Caledonian Sleeper to use it as a convenient early morning service for Inverness.

Class 67s are back on the Sleepers and have been for a while on the Highland line. With all respect to the plucky Class 73s, they were never built for this sort of railway.

No. 67 012 – one of the locos allocated to Wrexham & Shropshire services and latterly Chiltern Railways. Now lost its nameplates.

New stock for the sleepers is due soon…

If you wish to photograph the last remaining Mark 2 air-con stock on sleeper services, you don’t have much time left.

LED lighting has improved low light photography on many Scottish stations – so much better balanced.

Dawn at last…the signal box at Kingussie. Like mark 2 and 3 stock on the sleepers, you do not have much time to photograph this sort of infrastructure on the Highland line.

Images taken of the north bound 1S25 Euston-Inverness Caledonian Sleeper service on the morning of Saturday 25th November 2017. In the snow!


Distillery progress

November 19, 2017

I did say that I wished to make some significant progress on Loch Dhu Distillery – the aim is to complete the layout to exhibition standard by the end of the year (2017). I have other projects to progress and the reality is that Loch Dhu is really becoming a bit of a log jam in the studio. So, the Lifecolour paints came out to create stone colours and to weather the yard pavement and the buildings prior to fitting windows and other details.

It’s a fun little layout with some nooks and crannies in the track plan to make the scenes appear larger than they really are. The colour blending work with rust colours, grime, dirty black and various other shades from the Lifecolour range has been interesting to do. The Lifecolour paints are durable and quite subtle when thinned around 4:1 with thinner and applied with an airbrush.

The over bridge located in the distillery yard was built up of individual stone blocks cut from South Eastern Finecast embossed random stone sheet and laid in courses varying slightly in width. Some blocks were smoothed over with a little Squadron Putty before being rubbed down and painted. The iron oxide staining of some of the stone is from the Lifecolour ‘Rust and Dust’ set which is a very useful set of layout finishing colours. It looks far better than the Wills material used in the exchange siding scene.

The stone work in the exchange siding scene was built up from Wills materials which at the time looked fine. Having experimented with making my own dressed stone courses in the yard over bridge, I am considering reworking the walls in this part of the layout – but not for some time. There’s too much detailing and scenery to complete including wagon weathering (those Bachmann 12t/13t opens in the front of this view are far too clean!) and detailing the distillery yard. This little layout has certainly taken on a life of its own!

Not much layout work this last year…

November 12, 2017

Layout work has been in hibernation during the summer and Autumn of this year – a little burn-out perhaps? Or plenty of outdoor stuff to do. Whatever the reason, I have been busy (distracted) with other stuff until recently when I restarted work in a determined effort to complete Loch Dhu Distillery; both the siding scene and the distillery yard itself. Last year, the yard looked something like this:

Progress on buildings over the course of last winter saw this:

Recent activity in the distillery yard scene has seen this emerge – the usual and fun layout building activity – organised, tidy and very well defined and planned activity:

The engine shed together with a low relief building representing a second kiln house have appeared among the pieces of styrene off-cuts – the model is based on the one at Dailuaine Distillery which still exists today.

The front of the yard scene is tidied up with a retaining wall and culvert. The kiln house pagoda top was reworked too.

Buildings are currently being painted and detailed with more doors, windows, ventilators, chimney pots and other fittings. Missing details are added such as rain water goods. The yard surface is concrete with wooden boarding together with cobbles in places. That had to be painted and finished at the time this picture was taken. So, even though the layout is considered to be a micro or diorama layout which would comfortably travel on the back seat of my classic Mini Cooper, there is a huge amount of work to do to finish it – the level of detail required to create the scene is quite surprising!


Kelpies at night.

November 29, 2016

Pictures – nothing more needs to be said…























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.