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?