Sunday, 11 July 2021

Loctern Quay featured in BRM

Loctern Quay is featured in the August issue of British Railway Modelling magazine.

My little 009 layout gets 8 pages, with lots of photographs including a double-page spread, and a little "thumbnail" on the cover.

I spent an afternoon in the garden taking a selection of photos in good light, and they have come out really well, so it is nice to see so many of them used. I think the BRM team have done a great job setting out the article. 


 

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Amberley Railway Gala - a step towards normality

The Amberley Railway Gala is a regular in the calendar of the Sussex Downs 009 Group, we always provide a 009 Society stand with the showcase and demonstrations, and often layouts too. Of course last year there was no Gala, but this year the event went ahead, albeit a little different to normal, and I went along today to help with our group stand. The exhibition was smaller than previous Galas, although the large railway shed allowed plenty of space for social distances and large doors for ventilation. With our group only recently having started meeting in person again after months of Zoom meetings, it was great to have the first railway event since March last year.


Our stand had more tables than usual to allow social distancing. As well as the showcase and demo layout, Simon brought a small "pizza" layout. It looks like he is wishing it had more operational interest!


Tim also brought a small layout, "The Old Quarry", which features a passing loop and some attractive scenery. Despite very tight curves the running was excellent. 


There were a few other layouts, mostly small like this O-16.5 shunting layout, although there was a larger modular American On30 layout too. 


Outside there was steam courtesy of Polar Bear, though the other steam loco Peter is undergoing overhaul. There were no visiting locos, miniature railways or traction engines though. 


Even so, the usual Gala intensive service was operated with the larger diesels helping with passenger trains, and the smaller i/c and battery locos running demonstration goods trains. The trains seemed reasonably well patronised, although it definitely seemed quieter than previous Gala weekends. 


The usual afternoon loco parade took place, and I'm sure the volunteers enjoyed getting all the toys out as much as the socially distanced crowd enjoyed seeing them all. 

There's a great collection of NG locos at Amberley, but it is nice to see a new restoration. This little Brush battery-electric was built for ammunition factory use in 1917. It's cute and delightfully simple, though the ancient motor (which fills all the space under the seat) is not very powerful, and I can report that the cab is more cramped than it looks!

So life may not be back to normal quite yet, but it this was an encouraging step along the way. 

Thursday, 8 July 2021

The East Kent Railway

The sub-title of this book on The East Kent Railway by John Scott-Morgan is The Line That Ran To Nowhere. That might explain why it is one of the lesser known Colonel Stephens lines, even though it possessed the key characteristics that give those railways such character - a eclectic collection of elderly locomotives and carriages, minimal station facilities and track layouts, and short trains with few passengers running through rather empty countryside. Indeed, the cover picture on the jacket of this hardback book beautifully captures that atmosphere.


This begs the question of why the railway was built? Well, the book opens with a short description of the Kent coalfield which was the justification for the railway, yet in the end delivered relatively little. There is then a brief history of the railway, which is sufficient to give a good background and context to the book, and includes a useful map of the surprisingly convoluted route. The line evolved from Shepherdswell to meet the developing coal mines nearby in the run up to the Great War, and during that war had a very light extension to Richborough Port constructed. However, most of the mines had little output (and one never opened), so the area didn't develop, leaving the line with sparse passenger and goods traffic, but enough coal traffic to keep it going until nationalisation, and a section operating to serve the biggest mine until 1961. The book also describes the current preservation project operating that last section of the line today.


It will probably be obvious from the landscape format of the book that the focus is on photographs rather than text though, and indeed the majority of the 200 pages are dedicated to a photo each. This allows for well-sized and consistently good reproduction photos, each with a detailed and informative caption. In this way the story of the line and its locos and stock is provided. This makes a change from the typical book about a minor railway line, and there are no drawings or track plans, while the brief history does not contain details of the railway's construction or operation. However, the format works very well as an introduction to this lesser known line, and inspiration to modellers. 


So, this isn't trying to be a definitive work on the history of this fascinating railway, but rather provide a good overview through well presented and informatively captioned pictures, and it does that very well. It's an easy book to read or just flick through, enjoying the photos and learning about the quaint and minimalist railway that once ran through a quiet corner of Kent. 

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

A bogie wagon coupling challenge

I've struggled to get into the modelling vibe recently, and a good way to get going again is to pick a simple short project - like a wagon kit. I had in the pile of unbuilt kits a Hudson Steel Dropside Bogie Open Wagon by Dundas; these were ex RAF wagons that have ended up being used on preserved railways for ballast duties, so this would be a good addition to a permanent-way train for Hexworthy.

Now there's a reason the kit has stayed in the pile - couplings. Sometimes my choice of Microtrains couplings poses a challenge when fitting them to stock, and stock with small bogies where the couplings cannot be fitted to the body (as with this wagon) are particularly difficult as there is nowhere to accommodate the relatively large draft box.


However, when I looked closely at the kit I found these bogies have a raised outer end giving more depth, and it already had a recess for a Bemo coupling. The recess needed to be widened, carefully as only about 0.5mm of plastic was left either side of the coupling. It was also too shallow and low, so I had to cut away the upper layer forming the raised end. This meant adding a new "top" layer to the raised end covering the couplings, from 20 thou black plasticard, shaped to match I think this will be barely noticeable once painted. Another piece of plasticard across the bottom of the recess formed a box into which the couplings would slide, and a hole drilled through top and bottom allowed a shortened Microtrains screw to self-tap through for a secure and relatively neat mounting. 


This only worked because a search of the modelling cupboard turned up some "underslung" couplers (type 2004). These have a slightly slimmer draft-box which is offset lower relative to the coupling (seen right) compared to a standard 1015/1016 coupling (seen left); this allows the coupling to be mounted lower than a standard coupling while matching the knuckle height. 

I had remembered to check the back-to-back measurements of the wheelsets before assembly, which you would think isn't necessary but all the kits I have had with Dundas wheels have the back-to-backs too tight to run reliably through Peco points. The rest of the wagon fell together in the way that excellent Dundas kits generally do, the wagon floor is a fraction of a mm too short (which I ignored) but otherwise fit is faultless I've attached a piece of lead under the floor for improved running, and the bogie retaining nuts will be fixed with a spot of glue after painting.


The completed wagon, shown here after a coat of primer (I struggle to get paint to cover plastic evenly without primer) being tested on Loctern Quay. I was worried about the slightly raised ends of the bogies fouling the body on tight corners, but with them filed to the profile of the bogie ends there seems to be plenty of space for the bogies to swing over 12" radius points. The coupling fitment was worked out rather neatly, although I will admit working out how to fit them and modifying the bogies took longer than assembling the rest of the kit! 

While it looks OK in primer grey I will have to paint it properly, I just need to decide on a colour scheme for my PW train. I had thought of grey with yellow ends - as applied to the digger wagons (below) - but I am wondering about something more interesting. Blue, perhaps? 






Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway - An Operating History

Having enjoyed the Locomotives of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway book I thought I should read the other book on the line by Anthony Dawson - The Liverpool and Manchester Railway - An Operating History.

As the title suggests this book details how the first public railway worked - organisation, carrying passengers,  goods, timetabling, controlling the trains, and safety matters. These are all activities for which there was no existing model and many of the practices adopted became established as the normal for other railways (and indeed some are today), while others were quickly evolved or changed. The railway was, of course, a success, with facilities such as stations and goods facilities as well as the trains having to be developed to cope with the traffic, especially after other railways were built and connected to the L&M. 

Contrary to my expectation, cotton was not a major traffic (and there were problems with the locos setting light to it!), but coal and livestock as well as general merchandise were, however it was the passenger service that was most profitable. These early passenger services were very much aimed at the higher social classes in keeping the the society of the day, and were split into express (mail and first class) and stopping (second class) services, although fares were too high for working class passengers. 

The original Manchester terminus of the line still exists, now incorporated into the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry. It is a surprisingly simple and unassuming structure but inside had the key features of railway stations until recent times - a booking hall and waiting rooms. Here's a photo from my visit in 2015.

I thought the section on rules and regulations particularly interesting despite the dull sounding title, as it covers how the safety practices developed. Trains were simply dispatched at time intervals with nothing other than a few men with flags or lamps to stop them crashing into each other - of course this wasn't altogether successful (especially given their lack of effective brakes) and accidents are listed. Accidents were also caused by mechanical failure, and indeed by passengers and public on the lines or alighting from moving trains, perhaps not realising the dangers of such large and fast moving vehicles. The rules and regulations developed became the basis of those of other railways although they were soon overtaken by signalling and other safety improvements; and all company employees had to carry a copy on them at all times even though some of them could not read!

As I had expected when reading the book about the locomotives, these two books are complimentary. While that book had little context about the line, this book provides most of that context. As well as the detail of the organisation and operation of the railway there is a map of the line, a number of contemporary engravings showing the railway's facilities, and a few modern photos too; these are contained within a 16-page glossy section of illustrations and are sharply reproduced. 


This is an excellent high quality book with lots detail, well researched and referenced. As you'd expect it's not a light read, I'm sure it will be a useful reference for researches, but it isn't a difficult read either being well written and clearly laid out. There is some assumption of basic railway knowledge around terminology and general operating practice but this is reasonable for the expected audience. It will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the development of the railways in general, as well as those interested in the L&M in particular or seeking to understand local history. 

Friday, 4 June 2021

Coincidence?

I came across Fair Price Models who have a small but interesting range of laser-cut wood building kits. What struck me is this low-relief stables/workshop kit (available in 4mm and 7mm scales)...



It looks familiar, because back in 2011 I built a remarkably similar building in 7mm scale for my O14  Landswood Park Farm box-file layout:


OK the height of the loft store is different, but otherwise the proportions and details are spot on, even the windows and doors. 

Now that layout was inspired by a visit to Tatton Park Farm, but this building was not based on a prototype but "freelanced" in a similar style to fit the scene, and the outline was evolved during planning. If there is a real building that looks like this I've not seen it, though I wouldn't be surprised as it was meant to look plausible.

So, coincidence or inspired? 

Friday, 28 May 2021

Health and safety

I am very considerate of my 1:76 scale railway employee's safety, and so I have added safety railings to the ground frames. Well, actually I thought it would add a subtle modern twist to the traditional looking station, reflecting the preservation era it is set in. 

At the station throat the 4-lever ground frame has a railing to protect the operator from passing railway vehicles. The railing is 1mm brass rod bent using round-nose pliers and given a waft of primer before being painted health-and-safety yellow, with a little dry-brushed rust and dirt. This was then glued into a couple of holes in the baseboard. 


 At the loco release point by the yard the railings are on the yard side to protect them and the rodding from road vehicles. I'm hoping they offer some real-life protection too, the plastic levers are vulnerable to knocks. With hindsight I should have fitted the levers after completing the scenery...