Saturday, 9 October 2021

The Great Electric Train Show - some layouts!

The star attraction at the Great Electric Train Show was Pete Waterman's Making Tracks model of the West Coast Main Line, built for display at Chester Cathedral earlier this summer, and I was keen to see it. I will admit I was slightly underwhelmed, although it was an excellent model that captured the look of the WCML the details were spread along its immense length, and so it was a little dull between trains, which whizzed by at mainline speeds! Impressive, but I guess not my kind of layout, and my photos all have blurred trains. Actually, quite a few of the layouts were large tail-chasers which I guess is what a lot of people want to see, but I'm attracted to more compact layouts with character. 

So I'll start with the only other narrow gauge layout present, the SM32 layout 4000 Yards by the Norfolk Model Railway Syndicate. Big scale and a modest layout size meant it was a little cramped, but the stock was nicely modelled and the available scenery well detailed and observed. The DCC sound was a bit loud though!

Foldham is a compact OO gauge layout shown by the Double O gauge association, which still had enough operational interest and scenery in its limited space to show what could be achieved in a small space. 

Humphrey Road Sidings (OO, Norman Raven) is unusually depicted in winter with snow, which was well done. The scenery included several Petite Properties - I was spotting those I used on Loctern Quay, albeit with quite different finishes. 

North Cornwall Brewery (OO, Malcolm Briggs) depicts a brewery railway, and has well modelled buildings. I found this detailed scene including building site and garage fascinating, even though there are no trains in this scene!

Models of engine sheds, or motive power depots, were also popular. I really liked New Kensal Green (OO, South coast model development group) which depicted a GWR mainline shed. Not only was the detailing excellent, the general colouring and dirty overcast atmosphere worked really well. 

I also liked Old Elm Park (O, Mark Pollard) because it included the inside of a roundhouse, as well as the outside yard tracks. However, while looking into the gloomy shadows was atmospheric, it did make getting a photograph very difficult....

The outside yard was a little easier to photograph. The layout is viewed at eye level, really adding to the depth. 

I did a double-take when I saw Portsea (3mm scale/TT, Paul Hopkins) since it is so recognisably Portsmouth Harbour station. The rest of the layout includes a portrayal of the Town station too, along with other local features - including elements of the naval dockyard - just not in the right places, hence the name change. All very nicely modelled in this nice scale (lots of scratch-building) - and some lovely boats too. 

The layout also hosts a visit from the Queen...

Arrowmouth (OO, Redditch model railway club) showed a mainline seaside station, I particularly liked the modelling of the town, including this riverside scene. 

Little Burford (O, Michael Hickling and Dan Evason) depicts a GWR branch line station, and although compact for the scale the modelling is rather fine, with trains and scenery to a consistent standard and subtly weathered. 

Whithorn (OO, Alisdair Macdonald) featured delightfully modelled scenery on deep baseboards with a well-painted backscene and effective presentation. It was another layout with a crowd all weekend!

That's just a snapshot of the many layouts, and there was loads of trade too - albeit little for the NG enthusiast. It was great to see a big exhibition again and the crowds suggested lots of others thought so too - lets hope other exhibitions are able to follow. 

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Exhibiting Loctern Quay and Slugworth - The Great Electric Train Show 2021


Back to exhibiting then - at the Great Electric Train Show, in Milton Keynes, organised by Hornby magazine. This claimed to be the biggest exhibition of this year, although to be fair the shows at the NEC and Alexandra Palace have been called off this year. It is certainly be biggest show I've ever exhibited one of my layouts at.

Here's the main hall shortly after opening - it got much busier, suggesting the modelling community were pleased to get back to exhibitions. There were some big layouts, and traders too. We were on the second floor balcony, where this photo was taken from, and which was less crowded, 

Our two layouts set up (definitely the smallest two layouts in the show!), Joshua ready to start running trains on his layout. To the right of Loctern Quay we had also brought the 009 Society showcase, banner, and leaflets, and had an (intermittent) demo, with the help of a couple of friends in the Sussex Downs 009 group who also provided relief operator duties. We set up Saturday morning, having driven up Friday night. 

Slugworth was placed on the end of the row, set at an angle to allow visitors to see both sides. This little layout proved very popular with families, the list of items to spot entertained children who were rewarded with a sweet, but many people liked the detail that Joshua managed to fit into such a small space.

Loctern Quay with its shunting puzzle display board. I invited visitors to select cards from the shuffled pack to make up a train, they then usually watched while the train was made up. It was nice to get lots of nice comments too. Other than the odd reluctant coupling and a wagon that occasionally decided to derail, the layout ran well. 

Loctern Quay also featured a photo in the program!

It was a great weekend, although tiring, and it was great to get back to exhibitions. I will share a few photos of other layouts when I've had time to check the camera...

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Returning to exhibiting

Big exhibitions are back. It's been a while, but since restrictions lifted over the summer there have been a few exhibitions. It was a bit of a surprise to be invited to a big show - The Great Electric Train show in Milton Keynes (2nd and 3rd October) - and with not one, but two layouts. I will be taking Loctern Quay, and my Son Joshua will bring his Slugworth & Co. layout too. 

The thought of exhibiting again brought realisation that some jobs needed doing. We've dusted and tested both layouts and their stock, although no need to clean track the graphite on the rails was touched up. A while ago Joshua bought a new loco at the 009 Society sales stand - this rather nice Lilliput 0-6-0 - which ran nicely but looked rather plasticky. Clearly it needed to look more realistic, but we had little time, so a touch-up and weathering was in order. I forgot to take a photo beforehand, but here's how it ended up:

In the end I painted the smokebox, chimney, roof, and footplate matt black (the boiler staying black plastic), the buffer beams in red (the front was black, the rear green), and dry-brushed some brass onto some of the pipes and fittings on the boiler. The valve gear was dry-brushed a mix of gunmetal and silver, with some graphite rubbed onto the moving parts. The whole loco (except moving parts) then got a very thin wash of dirty brown to dull down the plastic and add some relief as well as a hint of grime, followed by a dusting of brown weathering powders on the lower parts and black on the roof and boiler top. This didn't take very long, but has made a massive difference. 

My Minitrains Decauville was treated to the same weathering treatment. Further detailing may follow, but like the Lilliput it was mostly self-coloured plastic, and the toning down and extra relief from the weathering adds a lot of realism. 

The Decauville has a Microtrains coupling fitted to the rear, but I'd still not got around to changing the front coupling as it looked tricky. This is quite useful, as it can operate on Loctern Quay and Slugworth - since on both layouts locos only need a coupling on one end. The Lilliput is a touch large for Slugworth - the cab barely clears the scenery on the corners, and the rear overhang is rather large - but we found some stock it will pull coupled to the front. I also changed couplings on a couple of small coaches I found for Joshua to run, from one of my early layouts. 

As well as having spare locos I like to have spare controllers and power supplies for exhibitions, though I don't think I have ever had one fail. I have plenty of controllers, although one I'd picked up a year or so back still needed a plug fitting. I also have two power supply packs, but of course we will have two layouts, so a third could be useful. Slugworth & Co. only needs a controller input and a 16V supply for the lights, these are provided through a DIN plug, but with no point motors no CDU is required. I found an old Hornby 16V AC "wall-wart" transformer from Joshua's first train set, the rather nasty controller had failed but you never know when a transformer will come in useful!

It's not pretty but it works! The controller plugs in the DIN socket at the top (with the red marker), taking its 16V AC input from the transformer. The DIN plug at the bottom (with the blue marker) plugs into the layout, providing the controller input, and 16V AC for the lights (the same supply that drives the controller will be able to manage the lights too, it is rated 800mA). It's actually quite a handy compact power supply for my micro-layouts that don't have point motors. Sometime I can mount the terminal block into a suitable box rather than clingfilm, but time is tight and it works!

So all is ready for the show, if you are there do say hi!

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Target Railway

While on our family holiday near Okehampton in Devon, I met up with friend and fellow 009 modeller Tom Dauben, who lives in the area. Tom suggested we meet up a mile or so south of the town at a remote spot near Rowtor, on the edge of Dartmoor. This wasn't just so he could walk his dog, but because he'd discovered an interesting little narrow gauge railway...

What could be mistaken for an ancient burial mound from the rear, or a bunker or gun emplacement from the side, turns out to be a small 2-road loco shed, with narrow gauge tracks emerging to the barren moorland. This is not far from Okehampton Camp army base and the railway was built as a moving target...

I was aware such lines existed, as this little trolley preserved at Amberley was from another. Built by Wickham the low body covers a petrol engine and it is set running, carrying a plywood (replaceable) target on top. Clearly it is not meant to carry passengers. This link shows a similar trolley exists at the Rowtor railway. 

I suppose a bullet-proof engine shed is unusual? It may have been out of use for some years, but the doors show signs of maintenance, the right-hand doors having a fresh coat of primer by the look of it. Shining a light through a crack the frame of the trolley could just be made out, 

The track is of pre-fabricated steel type apparently ballasted with turf, according to the above link it is 2' 6" gauge. The points to the shed have levers although the turf seems to stop the blades moving now. 

The other track from the points curves around into a balloon or reversing loop, and there is a similar loop at the other end. Between the rails in the spur to the shed a piece of bent rail sticks up, I presume to activate a trip switch to stop the trolley. 

The balloon loop points at each end are sprung. 

Between the balloon loops the tracks run in a shallow cutting behind an embankment. The trolley would be protected by the embankment with the plywood tank visible above, for the squaddies to shoot at. 

The loop at the other end looks even more desolate than the one at the shed end. Tom's dog was more interested in his ball. 

The far end of the line curving behind the embankment, with Rowtor in the distance. It was a fine summer's evening and as you can see an absolutely stunning spot, as scenically spectacular as any narrow gauge railway. but it would be bleak in bad weather. The railway is small and there is little to see, but it's interesting, largely complete, and certainly unusual. Thanks Tom for showing me - and it was good to catch up!

Saturday, 4 September 2021

The Dart Valley

A couple of weeks ago we had a family holiday in Devon. Of course it was a great opportunity to visit Dartmoor and get some photos at Hexworthy to help with the scenery of my model. Here's the bridge over the West Dart river, taken from the upstream side. My imaginary station would be on the downstream side, on the left bank. 

Unfortunately the downstream side is heavily wooded on both banks, making photography difficult. I wanted to see the river and riverbanks; the river has a deep brown colour and is strewn with rocks and boulders. 

Later that day we took a ride on the South Devon Railway from Buckfastleigh. My imaginary line would have terminated in Buckfastleigh. It was nice to enjoy the steam train journey which follows the river Dart down to Totness, often running along the riverbank.

It's not easy to get good photographs when riding on the train or when it is in the station, and the Covid restrictions didn't help (e.g. limiting access to the platform before the train arrives and closing the footbridge). Still, the beautifully turned out pannier tank looked great.

Later in the holiday we ended up on the beach at Goodrington Sands, which is possibly one of the most interesting beaches for railway enthusiasts due to the Dartmouth Steam Railway which climbs an embankment right behind the beach huts. The periodic passage of trains - which work hard climbing the bank with a loaded train of tourists - really adds to the holiday atmosphere. 

There was also the occasional light-engine movement as locos ran around their trains, which seemed to be terminating here rather than at Paignton. Sadly no time to ride the line this time, though we have travelled on it before, the other end of the line is by the river Dart opposite to Dartmouth. 

I must point out that our family holiday was not all about trains...!

Monday, 16 August 2021

Farnham 009 Exhibition

Yesterday afternoon I visited the 009 exhibition put on by the Farnham & District Model Railway Club. Although a bit of a cross-country trek it was worth it for a good dose of 009 layouts, and of course the 009 Society sales stand which allowed me to replenish my stock of kits and projects! Here's a brief round-up of the layouts.

Somewhere in France II - Peter Capon. I'd not seen this layout before and while simple operationally the scenic work is excellent - the scenes really reminiscent of the pictures in Roy Link's book and a lot of attention has been paid to detail, such as in this scene of a ruined town with refugees and sniper. 

No trenches on this layout since the railways ran some distance back from the front, but did service the artillery, and guns are depicted under camouflage nets, with yellow flashes from the muzzles in sync with the ambient soundtrack. Note the mud and splintered tree trunk stumps. Excellent modelling of a really moving subject. 

Some detail of a loaded wagon, again as seen in Roy's book. The wooden props and duck-boards were used in the trenches.

Whimsey - David Harrington. And why not!

Coleford - John Wickes. A popular layout with great scenic work, fantastic trackwork, and real character, 

John also had his small challenge layout. 

Straight and Narrow - Farnham MRC. This is a club modular layout with each module built by different members, several were present filling the length of the hall. Just a couple of shots here showing some of the variety, from another WWI scene...

...To a setting closer to home. Trains ran through all the scenes.

Kaninchenbaul - Ian Morrison, holding up the Continental modelling scene with a rather fun double loop layout and impressive computer control. 

River Crane Mill - John Thorne. John's layouts are always delightful and I'd not seen this one before. It's a wooded scene which makes photography tricky, but here are some featuring interesting stock from John's extensive collection of locos and railcars. 

Ryedown Lane - Patrick Collins. This Colonel Stephens inspired model has a quiet, open feel that captures the atmosphere of his lines perfectly, and is a long-standing favourite of mine. 

Garreg Wen - Matthew Kean. Another atmospheric layout that is on my favourites list, not just for the understated scenic work and 19th century era, but the superbly modelled stock. 

Great to get back to a small narrow gauge show, here's hoping more exhibitions can return to something like normal in the not too distant future.