Tuesday 27 October 2015

Preparing Evaleight for EXPO

This coming Saturday is the EXPO-NG show, one of the highlights of the narrow gauge modeller's year. And the Sussex Downs 009 group have been busy preparing for some months...

The Upsand Downs and Evaleight Railway is an extensive layout built by members over several years, though it was largely completed some 10 year ago. It is a whole-system model with two termini, a couple of intermediate stations, a quarry and a brickworks which provide the reason for the line. It can be operated to a sequence which reflects the traffic on such a line, so trains run with a purpose.

It is modular in design so that each of the stations can be exhibited on it's own or with part or all of the rest of the layout, though it has only infrequently been exhibited in it's full form. The truth is it takes a lot of effort and a van (plus several cars) to transport to exhibitions, and a good turnout of operators to do it justice, so usually a small part of the layout is shown. But it's still difficult to exhibit and with fewer members able to dedicate the time needed to exhibit it, and our van-owning member trading it in for a car, the group is planning a new exhibition-friendly layout.

So EXPO-NG this year is being billed as the layout's final showing, although parts may get re-factored into a smaller layout this is the last time we'll be running the whole layout. Since it is rarely assembled completely we've spent the last few months checking it over and test-running. We've run through the whole sequence several times (serious stuff this, playing trains...!), and I've even brought my son to a couple of club-nights to train him up as an operator.

Having had no part in it's building I can say I think this is a cracking layout, superbly detailed, and there are few layouts seen at exhibitions that show a (near) complete railway system, so it is quite special. If you are at EXPO do look out for the layout (I believe we're in one of the squash courts off the main hall) and say hi.

Sunday 18 October 2015

A trip to Uckfield

In the peak of the exhibition season is the Uckfield show, one that stands out in my eyes as somewhat above average. And I don't just say that as I took Awngate there last year! The focus is on interesting layouts with good scenics and stock, in a variety of scales and themes, that are inspirational and enjoyable no matter what your particular interests are.

There were so many layouts I liked it was hard to narrow it down to a few favourites. One was Heybridge Wharf by Mike Corp, a 3mm scale (14.2mm gauge) light railway in Suffolk, it packed a lot into a small space and looked superb.

Oldshaw in P4 (Alan Bevan & Maggie Clark) shows that a "modern image" (well, 1980's) theme can have character and operational interest in a compact space. The appearance was just the right level of weathering and subtle tones without looking decrepit and depressing. And while I'm not usually taken with DCC sound the noise of that class 37 shunting reminded me of hearing ICI trains from my Geography lessons.

Obbekaer is a finescale HO (P87) layout by Geraint Hughes is based in Denmark, so a railway system I have no knowledge of. But again here is a simple concept of a passing station, beautifully executed with interesting details. This was my son's favourite, so to have captivated an 8-year old without fast exciting trains says a lot.

Rolvenden (Robin Gay) here modelled in P4 is a prototype that is well known, but not easy to model as convincingly as this. The fine trackwork of P4 really does add to the light-railway character, and the locos and stock recreate the quirky trains of the real line.

Now what scale would you guess this is? I'd be happy with a model of that quality in OO, but this one is 2mm finescale, and as you can see below the layout is tiny - the scenic area is about 2' 3" long - and was built to be carried in airline hand-luggage. On top of that the subject is a real place - or at least a small part of the Kyle of Lochalsh, the lighting and backscene really set the feel of a misty Scottish harbour.

I'd better stop there but really all the layouts were excellent, and there was good trade support too, the only problem being that it was rather crowded on Saturday morning! You can view more photos and more layouts at this link.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Taking a ride by model train

On Sunday afternoon we happened across the Worthing and District Society of Model Engineers running an open day for their 5" gauge railway. They hold public running days a couple of Sundays a month from April to October, and have a selection of nicely made and kept locos to give rides around the track.

These little locos are not only superbly detailed models, but surprisingly powerful too. As well as the 5" gauge there are rails for 3.5" and 2.5" gauge models.

The track is raised with carriages that passengers sit astride, and loops around the field twice in a folded figure-of-eight format. Going under the bridge (which is taken at speed ready for the gradient beyond) which has rather limited clearance was rather exciting for someone as tall as me! During our visit four trains were circulating, kept safe by a proper block signalling system with 3-aspect colour lights.

Good to see they have a sense of humour too. If you don't get this, it goes back a few years.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Awngate at the Croydon Show

So, how did it go? Well, the new fiddle yard did play up on the Saturday. After some confusing symptoms, I think the main issue was just the nut coming loose from the pivot bolt, which is also an electrical connection. It certainly worked fine on the Sunday, and was much easier to use under exhibition running than the cassettes it replaced.

The layout ran well though with little attention. The new locos got plenty of running, and other than some couplings playing up (despite extensive testing some will always misbehave) there were no stock issues.

The show was nice and friendly, with a good selection of layouts. I do like Portchullin by Mark Tatlow, the scenery is superb and it has real atmosphere, despite being a P4 standard gauge diesel DDC with sound layout!

Narrow gauge was well represented, with 5 layouts in total. Puero Pasco in On30 by Giles Barnabe is a little different, being based on an imaginary Caribbean island, making for rather busy operation.

John Thorne's 009 layout Bottle Kiln Lane is always popular at shows, and is packed with little details.

There are more pictures here.

Now with the layout back home and set up in the dining room I've reverted to the compact version of the cassette fiddle yard. I don't operate intensively at home, and my wife had made comments about the larger fiddle yard...