Category Archives: Heritage diesels

Expo time

This weekend brings ExpoEM North and for the second year, I have the pleasure of being amongst the range of demonstrators there, along with my good friends Brian Sunman and Ken Gibbons.  Anyone who’s been to an Expo will know the unique atmosphere they have, and we’re very much looking forward to being there and seeing what else Derek Evans has lined up.  Demoing is probably less tiring than showing a layout, but that said, it can be even more difficult to see the rest of the show!

The overall theme of our little bit will be BR period modelling, and Ken will be taking an eclectic mix of projects which echo back to the spirit of Modelling the British Rail Era. Steam, diesel and very probably electric, from the ’60s to the ’90s all have a chance of making an appearance.  Brian’s main focus will be on buildings for our under-construction Waverley route layout, but he will also have with him some of the Carflats that he’s been working on for the same project. This pic isn’t my best effort and the wagon needs some finishing work, but it should show the effectiveness of what is essentially a simple conversion – based on an LMS Period 1 coach underframe as so many of the prototypes were:


I shall be presiding over my usual random mix of modified RTR and kitbuilds, and will also be taking my paintbox.  One particular project I’ll be giving a coat of looking at is my small fleet of grain wagons based on the Trix/Lilliput model.


The methods we use are not specific to any particular prototype or period, but that said, we recognise it’s a finescale show and will obviously slant things that way.  We all have some experience in regauging locos and stock so if you’re curious about easy steps into EM, ask away. And the same goes for anything that’s on show, or even that isn’t.  We’re there to talk, and don’t be put off if we look ‘busy’ or already have somebody at the table – it’s usually a case of the more the merrier 🙂

More details on ExpoEM North can be found on the Society’s own website.

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Filed under Brakevans, Heritage diesels, Mineral wagons, Off the beaten track, Scottish railways, Uncategorized, Wagon kits, Wagon loads, Wagon weathering

Summer shortbread

This started out as another holding post, really, as things have been noticeably quiet on here. Partly this has been due to the usual pressures and diversions of life and to more pleasant things like holidays – and even with the summer we’ve had here, up until a couple of weeks ago, it’s hardly been the weather for working to deadlines.

But working to deadlines is mostly what oi aaarve been, for a commitment to take something resembling a layout to the excellent little  Thirsk show, which is held on a Sunday late in July.  After a slightly false start last year with thoughts on my Stoneferry Tramway project, this was to emerge as Blackhill Ferrya micro layout based on a single platform passing station, a genre which I’ve always been fascinated by the simplicity of.  The Stoneferry thing is still very much something I’d like to do, but for the future – it wasn’t long before I realised that the original micro concept as I’d envisaged it, at a mere 4’6 on its longest edge, would neither satisfy what I wanted from it nor do it justice.

They caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died…

Overbridge west of Portgordon looking towards Spey Bay, August 2011

So, thoughts turned back to what was still a relatively recent infatuation with the GNoSR system, and particularly the Moray Coast line from Elgin via Buckie to Cairnie Junction.  The only thing with this was that the Coast line, despite its almost ‘light railway’ character, isn’t actually well suited to minimum space interpretations!  – the original idea having been for a slightly larger layout but that had kinda lost its way.

Quite apart from the  rolling landscapes and seascapes, most of the trains in diesel days seem to be composed of a minimum of four corridor coaches, often with added bogie vans.   Previous Scottish inspiration though had included examples such as Ballachulish Ferry and Grandtully on the Aberfeldy branch, both being very simple single track passing stations, and eventually everything came together when plate 152 in George O’Hara’s wonderful BR Diesel Traction in Scotland, plate 152 showed the Moray Coast station of Portgordon in a way that definitely had that ‘something about that’ factor.  Possibly the significant factor here, albeit one that wasn’t instantly obvious in my tortured mind, was that the NBL type 2-hauled train was composed of just two coaches.  So from this, thoughts changed again, towards  the eventual interpretation being something of a pastiche, a Coast Line-ish location but with shorter train formations.

The layout as was seen at Thirsk was obviously very much a work in progress, a sort of ‘operational demo’ really, with suitable descriptions and illustrations of what it will all look like when it’s finished and shown again next year.

Twixt Lossiemouff and Bannth…?


Looking east into Portgordon, this view shows how the line sat between the village at just above sea level and the rising ground going inland.

I did long ago set up a standalone blog for Blackhill, partly as an experiment with the Blogger platform, but my original ideas for that and to back it up with other Scottish material have been altered by various factors over time.  And in any case, progress so far on Blackhill is not ideally suited to a blog, particularly as the concept is still evolving (which is a pretentious way of saying I’m making it up as I go along…).

Part of this ‘evolution’ is the supposed location.  At the moment, given the considerations of train length detailed above, I think I see Blackhill not as being on the Coast line proper, but as perhaps the last station before the terminus on a third branch off the Coast line.  That would render the short trains more plausible, and yet still redolent of the Scottish diesel era imagery that’s so prevalent in the common consciousness.  Not that I’m deliberately perpetuating any myths here of course, oh no, not me…

So anyhoo, I shall refer you to this thread here on Modellers  United  for associated further ramblings.  You can view MU without joining up as a member, although you wouldn’t be able to comment.  Future development will be posted possibly here, possibly there and possibly in other media, although the precise details are something I’m as yet undecided about.

In the meantime, thanks go to Peter Simmerson for accomodating the layout at Thirsk, to Ken Gibbons and Brian Sunman for assistance with pointwork, wiring and other practical tasks during the runup to the show, and all those who’ve shown general interest and support.  Also, the website of the Great North Of Scotland Railway Association is well worth a visit, being very probably one of the best of its type, and with the picture here being a large part of the inspiration for Blackhill.


Filed under Heritage diesels, Off the beaten track, Scottish railways

The next Bee Pee?


The ubiquitous MetCam has already been the subject of two RTR models, with a third one nearly upon us from Bachmann.  Is the Trans-Pennine waiting in the wings, or lost amongst the shadows?

To anyone of my generation, the current availability of 4mm scale RTR DMUs is  a far cry from the tokenism of the Hornby and Lima ranges in the 1980s.  There’s still a way to go of course, lots more classes and unexploited potential, but like all things you’d expect a natural limit to what’s sensible and viable.  For a while now though, I’ve been quietly amazed at just how often the Trans-Pennine, the eponymous unit of my username, crops up in the wishlists.

Now I literally grew up with these things;  I saw them almost daily, rasping in and out of Paragon or being serviced at Botanic Gardens depot, which was right at the end of the street.  I travelled on them as well of course, to Leeds and further afield, and generally we headed straight for the compartment accommodation in the MBS, which set them apart from lesser units.  I once absent-mindedly walked off and left a transistor radio in one of these, on the early train to Liverpool which stood at Leeds City for 45 minutes; we got back from our morning stroll round the concrete cavern to find it still playing away on the wee table under the window!  I remember the arrival of the mechanically-similar WR class 123s from the WR, the 1979 timetable recast that saw them formed into 17 ragbag hybrid units for services to Lancaster and via Sheffield to Manchester, and taking photos of them on the last weekend in 1984.

Despite this though, I would always have  classed them as a bit of a niche interest.  Whether rightly or wrongly, I get a tad proprietorial about them whenever I get that feeling (one that will be familiar to many at the thinking end of the hobby), when you sense somebody clearly doesn’t have the first idea what he’s wishing for!

There is logic though, of sorts, in the wishlist requests – if Bachmann eventually get around to the BRCW class 104, the viable short frame designs will have been exhausted and thereafter, long frame sets would appear to be the growth area.  The various Inter-City sets were a step up from the Cross Country units, generally similar in ambience and appointments but of stronger construction.  By the very nature of their specification and relative scarcity, they tended to be restricted largely to the routes for which they were built and one or two others.  Added to that, the early Inter-City sets were not known for their looks, whereas the ‘Pennines’ benefitted from the attention of the same designers that produced the Glasgow electric ‘Blue Trains’.  It was only the addition of gangways throughout that slightly marred the later class 123s in that respect, though at the same time it gave them a unique character of their own.

If long frame sets do appear, the smart money has always been on either a Cross Country set or a high density suburban set.  The former would almost certainly be the Swindon class 120, very widespread in usage over a longish career, with the tandem possibility of the GRCW 119 as the cherry on the cake.  As to the suburban units, all too often that slot is seen as  being fulfilled by an updating of the old Lima Pressed Steel class 117;  I see this as particularly flawed thinking though because until very late in its life, the 117 was restricted to the WR plus rather small bits of the SR and LMR.  The earlier Derby-built 116 would have much more potential and I can only conclude that the calls for a 117 arise from that unfortunate phenomenon of  people being aware of models because of other models, rather than knowledge of real live trains .

But just what is it about the Pennine? Is it just its looks, and if so, can it really be considered as an iconic train  in the same way as the Blue Pullman?  Maybe I’m blinkered by familiarity and adolescent contempt, but I just don’t see it. Maybe again it’s that ‘collective unconscious’ that seems to underpin the hobby, based on fond recollections of the 1960s Trix model of the type.

But the Trix model wasn’t really a full unit; the intermediate  coaches were just reliveried versions of their standard Mk1s, and that sort of thinking doesn’t cut it these days.   A significant consideration in tooling up for a unit like this is that a full six-car class 124 set includes three different coach types.  There’s a motor composite at each end, a non-driving motor brake second next to each of those, and then the trailer second and trailer buffet in the middle.  Add in the class 123s (as many are wont to do), and you add at least another four to the mix (I’m including the buffets here, which were withdrawn quite early, but being generous by deeming the TSLs to be similar to the 124 TSLs apart from the bogies).    The early days of the Bee Pee debate on the forums were marked by a gulf in understanding of this very nature – there were those who knew the makeup of the sets, and others who apparently thought you could ‘do a Triang’ and just bung in additional generic ‘centre cars’ (sic) to taste…

There’s also a debating point around the theory that longer DMUs and EMUs are not good sellers, and that two- and three-car sets are more or less the sensible limit.  I wouldn’t like to call that one either way – the Bachmann 4CEP evidently did well enough, and obviously their Bee Pee is a six-car set – but then again it’s an inescapable reality that a six-car set is in very general terms likely to cost double what a three-car does.  And the Bee Pee, like the prototype Deltic, is undeniably a model with a ‘wow’ factor and that transcends normal considerations.   So for now at least, the Pennine is the province of the hardcore conversionists like Sean Hughes and Paul James, and even if further DMUs do appear RTR, I honestly don’t see either class 123 or 124 being very high on the list.  Though I’d love to be wrong!

Anyway, in the midst of the frothing season, that seems an appropriate note on which to close.  Once again after another year, my thanks and the compliments of the season to all who follow, pass comment or just drop by and browse.


Filed under DMUs, Heritage diesels

More for the creaking bookshelf

Not a review as such, but a quick ‘heads up’ to a couple of recent publications which may be of interest to those with kindred interests.

Hornby Weathering Large

Firstly, Hornby Magazine’s Skills Guide on weathering; at less than the price of two regular magazines, a worthwhile investment even for those with some experience.   In the interview-style preamble, I was pleased to see Tim making the point that an airbrush is far from essential, although perhaps unfortunately for a publication that will be flicked through by newbies to the art, there is quite an evident visible emphasis on this sort of work .

There are a few more words here on James Wells’ Eastmoor blog,  and after my comments a few posts ago on the ‘art of the state’, I would generally agree with James’ endorsement.   Despite the  sticker-driven appearance and obligatory ‘we show you how’ strapline, this is a publication that’s actually been penned by a seasoned and prolific modeller with a genuine track record.  There are a few namechecks for particular products here and there, but nevertheless you do get the feeling that this is because they are genuinely felt to be fit for purpose, not part of some tacky ‘advertorial’ exercise.

Secondly is George O’Hara’s latest extravanganza in Caly blue: BR Steam in Scotland is a followup to his earlier similar volume on Scottish diesel traction.


Again there is more elsewhere, on the Culreoch blog of my good friend Jamie Wood.  And you’d be well advised to go and read it, because I’ve not yet had my paws on this one!  I’d be very surprised though if it doesn’t warrant an instant purchase as and when I do; the subject matter, quantity of material and track record more or less guarantees satisfaction.  As Jamie points out, there are unlikely to be too many surprises in the motive power (compared with the diesel volume), but again a large part of the value is going to be in the settings, the infrastructure and the train formations.


Filed under Heritage diesels, Mineral wagons, Off the beaten track, Rust effects, Scottish railways, Wagon weathering

All at twenty-sixes and -sevens – the BRCW Sulzers

Another issue of the periodical MLI is now to hand (I’m not intending featuring every one here incidentally, just the ones I buy)! Having said which, I passed without too much thought on the recent ‘Western’ one;  a subjective judgement I suppose but there wasn’t enough to ‘wow’ me, perhaps because the class has been so well covered in the past. 

MLI 201 - class 26-27.indd

This issue, whilst not nearly up to the rare brilliance of the NBL issue, did fairly easily justify its purchase price.  There’s  the usual potted history and technical overviews, accompanied by  usage details for each class.  I accept these things have to be there, but they are something I always approach with a kind of pre-prepared Gallic shrug.  In this case, the rundown on allocations through the years seems oddly abbreviated and lacking in flow.   One thing about these classes which is rarely spelt out in so many words is that even when all had been transferred north of the Border, they were never really one homogenous fleet, as many modellers are wont to think.   Like most Modernisation Plan orders, the locos had been ordered with specific tasks in mind and even with the background of great change at the time, this coloured their distribution for maybe 15-20 years thereafter.

In very broad terms, from the early ’60s to the mid ’70s, the 26s remained split between Haymarket and Inverness, with the latter well known on the Highland main line and to Kyle and the Far North, and often in the company of the contemporary batch of BR-built class 24s.  The 27s were largely based at Eastfield, for duties up the West Highland, to Oban and later on the GSW section, and in some cases working turn and turn about with both 24s and 25s.    Whilst the Waverley route saw 26s throughout its later life, conversely 27s were very rare with only a handful of recorded instances, and correspondingly 26s were almost unknown on the West Highland line.

Probably the central belt between the two cities, together with the routes to Dundee and Aberdeen, were the locations where both classes could commonly be seen together, although Eastfield locos did reach further North on freight turns over the Highland main line.  The principal exception to that pattern was the allocation of push/pull machines to Haymarket from 1971, and with their steady displacement by 37s during the ’80s, further blurring of the previous boundaries became evident.

As for the images, which I expect is the principal draw for most buyers, there are quite a few previously seen in print plus a few welcome returns from Jim Binnie’s Diesel Image Gallery, but they’re balanced by some really good stuff at less usual locations.  One such is D5348 on acceptance trials at Great Ponton, near Grantham, another is D5301 at Moorgate with a classic set of Quad Arts, during its tenure on the GN suburban services .    The shot of D5393 at Culgaith recalls that the LM class 27s were  regulars over this route and the GSW into Scotland, long before they became ‘native’ along with the original Scottish batch.

There’s quite a lot of blue era material, but as I was most familar with the locos through the ’70s and ’80s, I didn’t find that a problem.  A relative rarity here (in terms of being photographed as such) is 27117 – the push/pull + ETH machines are comparatively little known in this guise, being quite quickly renumbered again into the 27/2 series.  Also of some interest was 27014 pictured in June 1974, which I think is the earliest date that I’ve seen of the characteristic Glasgow Works application of TOPS numbers half way along the bodyside.  I believe this practice, which became the familiar norm in the later ’70s, was originally born of the need to avoid the tablet catcher recesses carried by nearly half the fleet.  Ironically, by the time it gathered momentum, the recesses were being plated over anyway.  Prior to this, the recess-fitted locos had the numbers applied to the right-hand cabs, with the others following convention in having them on the left.

Although not a big deal in the wider scheme of things, I dont think I’ll ever stop being irritated by some of the ‘added value’ captioning beloved of certain Ian Allan authors.  In this publication, it’s  a focus on TPO liveries that jars; it’s debatable whether the information needs to be there and unfortunately, it’s simply wrong.   More of an ambivalent  comment perhaps  is that there are ‘only’ six pages of preservation content – whilst I fully buy the argument that some locos have been in such ownership longer than they were with BR, it’s material that is easily found on the Internet and both historians and modellers have much more to gain from the more historical shots.  On that last score though, I should mention there is a particularly good shot of  a 27’s bufferbeam, complete with plumbing and ploughs.

Talking of models, whilst we’re all familiar with Heljan’s representations of the classes these days, as far as the body mouldings were concerned Lima’s  efforts were pretty good for the time and  a vast improvement on the 33 that spawned them.   The pair below are the work of Ken Gibbons and myself.  My 27 was done way back when the models first came out, and for that reason I’m inclined to hang onto it, whereas Ken’s 26/0 was done more recently, partly because Heljan were not showing any great signs of interest in that subclass, and partly because he’s just like that.   It’s numbered 26011 and after a few changes of identity, mine has now settled on a 1974ish incarnation as 27032.


The pair both ran mileage on Culreoch in its day but this pic was taken on Ken’s micro layout Port Pennan, (and belying what I said above about common territory…).

‘Port P’ is featured elsewhere on this blog and seen here at the Hessle Model Railway Group’s open day in October 2011.  Bizarrely, it was hot enough for shorts – you can see an insect just by the 27’s rad grille 😉  (seriously, that’s just an odd effect of my mobile camera lens).  The group are holding another open day this October – I’ll put up some more details nearer the time.

More information on the ‘Modern Locomotives Illustrated’ series can be found at


Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

Sunshine after the rain


They said there’ll be snow at Christmas

They said there’ll be peace on Earth

But instead it just kept on raining

A veil of tears for the Virgin birth

There’s not much connection between this time of year and the pic above, other than the seemingly incessant rain that blights so many otherwise promising days in this lovely country of ours.  Although taken in summer (July 1975, Taunton), it’s arguably more typical of December than the archetypal snow scene.

Anyway, it’s one of my favourite shots of one of my favourite locos, with some lyrics from my favourite Christmas song;  I hope it serves as an appropriate greeting to all those who have read, commented on or otherwise supported ‘Windcutter’ in the past year, with my best wishes for the New Year.

Photo copyright of myself (as it’s my shot), and of John Turner of 53A Models, who has worked wonders lately in turning some of my variable transparencies into decent images.  See more by following the ’53A’ photostream link in the sidebar.



Filed under Diesel-hydraulics, Heritage diesels

Pilot studies – at last, the original 26/0 from Heljan

After a period of speculation, informed opinion and occasional hints, Heljan have finally made a formal announcement at the Warley NEC show  that they are to manufacture the Pilot Scheme version (later designated 26/0) of the BRCW type 2  in its original condition.  (As an aside, it makes me smile wryly when I think of a forum post some time ago where someone had asked Heljan about this, to be met with the response of ‘we have no plans to do so’, and had taken that as an indication it would never happen.  Well, all that that meant was that at that time, they weren’t planning to do the model; it’s not the same as planning not to do it.  I have no plans for what I’m wearing a week next Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean I’m going out naked…).

A 26/0 is already in the range, along with the later build 26/1s that have been around some years, but only as the refurbished variant suitable only for the 1980s onwards.   There are quite a few noticeable differences between the subclasses, the Pilot Scheme locos having a greater number of cantrail grilles, lack of tablet catcher recess,  conventional droplight cab window, oval buffers rather than round, a slight difference in the shape of the footstep on the bogie and the provision of transverse leaf springs between the struts of the bogie sideframe.  The latter point is not reflected in the ‘refurb’ model, but is not necessarily incorrect as many 26/0s acquired bogies from later machines (and also round buffers) during the refurb work.  As an aside, I think the class (26) as a whole, for a relatively small number of 46 locos, exhibits an amazing amount of variation in both physical details and livery permutations.

The popular image of these locos is of course as Scottish stalwarts, but this first batch were not intended for that use (the lack of tablet catcher recess is a giveaway for this, as until the 1967 batch of D83xx class 20s, all type 1 or 2 locos intended for Scottish service had the recess as part of the specification).   Their first use was out of Kings Cross, on outer-suburban passenger services, but even when transferred north in order to rationalise operating requirements, they tended to remain mostly as Lowland engines.   That said, 5318/19 spent some time at Inverness in the ’60s and became the oddballs in the subclass.  5319 at some point early in its career underwent a small rebuild to incorporate a tablet catcher and associated sliding window, and 5318 was the only 26/0 to carry snowplough brackets.

In 1966, the first seven machines of the subclass were fitted with  dual brakes and slow speed control for use on the Cockenzie MGR circuit, losing their train heating boilers in the process.  The remainder continued in use on the usual cross-section of mixed traffic duties, with Fife and the Waverley route (whilst open) being amongst their regular haunts.  In 1976, the non-SSC locos were exchanged with Inverness’s 24s, with the latter locos then eking out their last few months of service from Haymarket.

Also announced by the Danes are an LNER Gresley O2 2-8-0, a bit of a curve ball, and a Hunslet class 05 diesel shunter; I’ve still to get my head around which variant they’re doing and how it fits into the scheme of things, but it’s a welcome development that may well indicate that in the ‘niche’ mindset that seems to work for them, they’ll continue with some of the other small shunters.   There was at one time some talk of Bachmann doing this class, on the running gear of their recently retooled 03, but then again, they also still have the possibility of the Drewry 04 to revisit.


Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

Of claypits and colonies

A bit of a personal report from the recent Hull Model Railway show (10/11 November), featuring two layouts that, whilst having been around the block a bit, are none the worse for it.

A significant part of the weekend was spent operating the Hull MRS OO9 layout Barrowfleet Brickworks.  It’s hard to believe that this was the first time I’d done so in its 21-year history but as with  the ‘Bomber’, it’s a remarkably absorbing exercise.   The main part of the layout is based on the narrow gauge systems that used to exist on each side of the Humber, bringing in clay for brick manufactory, and as the name suggests, combines elements from former installations at both Barrow on Humber and Broomfleet.  This, for me, is one of those ‘one that got away’ subjects – in their prime, the Lincolnshire systems may as well have been in a foreign country, and even once the Humber Bridge was open, they just didn’t feature on the young Pennine’s radar.  It should be borne in mind however that there was nowhere near the amount of readily accessible information on industrial systems back then.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now…

There are two operating sequences, both well thought out in typical HMRS NG style; a weekday one where the narrow gauge diesels busy themselves exchanging loaded and empty rakes of tipper wagons, and a weekend preservation sequence with predominantly steam traction.  In each case, appropriate BR traffic rumbles past on the standard gauge to the rear.

As well as the irreverently named Greta, Wes and Tern (and no, that’s not a typo…), the preservation sequence features a diesel whose driver has a habit of baling out of his cab if his  speed gets a bit too high!  Another endearing little quirk is the ‘phantom’ shunter, that can be heard, but not seen…

As always, the best part of a show is often the human element and on the Sunday, we were pleased to chat with one visitor who’d actually worked at the Barrow works, as a fitter and general factotum.  He recognised the dock in particular, where barges had once been loaded with clay for Wilmington cement works in Hull, and was able to provide snippets of previously unknown information to Paul Windle.

Also at the show, fitting into that same ‘off the beaten track’ genre and making its final appearance after 28 shows, was Pete Johnson’s Canada Road.  This represents a bank of sidings in a typical dockland area of indeterminate location, named (as is often the practice in such locales) after the principal trade routes served by the indigenous vessels.

With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

The above image of a TechCad Clayton class 17 on a short rake of 16T minerals is courtesy of Keir Hardy, whose ’emgauge70s’ website is linked in the sidebar and features a great deal of work by several prominent modellers of the BR era.  Canada Road naturally has its own page on the ‘Layouts’ tab,  but images of Pete’s locos and freight wagons  appear throughout the site.    He has a very comprehensive selection of stock and in keeping with the location of the show, had made a point of bringing along a couple of 03s, a class 14  and even a pukka Dairycoates EE type 3.

Canada Road’s retirement is largely due to some of the buildings being required to maintain progress on the replacement layout.  Canada Street will follow the same dockland theme, but in a larger L-shaped format incorporating a sharp linking curve that will provide an apposite setting for the smaller shunters in Pete’s fleet.  Many of these designs were acquired by BR in the 1950s and ’60s for just this sort of work, but were destined to have short lives as this sort of work dried up and the National Traction Plan sought to rationalise as far as possible in favour of the all-pervasive class 08.

Canada Road was awarded the Hull MRS NG section’s MK Memorial Trophy for the layout with the best atmosphere at the show, following the example set previously by fellow operator Ian Manderson’s  Easington Lane.  Ian returns to Hull next November with his Borders layout Hartburn, but we have told him that if the group wins a third time, they don’t get to keep the trophy!


Filed under Heritage diesels, Off the beaten track

Modern Locomotives Illustrated

Issue 197 of this periodical has now been out a short while, and deals with the North British type 2s, both diesel-electric and diesel-hydraulic, of what became classes 21, 22 and 29.  The editor says that this one has been by far the most difficult to put together, and wearing the less charitable hat that I’m known to don on occasion, I’d probably say that’s because it hasn’t been possible to rely on the padding of privatisation or preservation era material….  But cynicism aside, whilst this is a publication I’ve been known to criticise, I have to balance that by saying that this issue really is a cracker, and well reflects the effort that must have gone into it.

The diesel-hydraulic content seems stronger, but that’s not to say that that of the diesel-electrics isn’t worthwhile.  The shots that I’ve seen before do generally fall into the category of ones that I’m happy to see again (some of these being Jim Binnie’s, from his erstwhile Fotopic Diesel Image Gallery),  and there are some new GNoS area images.   The selection of class 29 rebuilds seems to include class members that are less commonly photographed, and the freight formation behind 6124 at Eastfield is characteristically fascinating.  The WR selection includes some very interesting or unusual locations and workings; Cheddar Valley, S&D demolition, Torrington, the Callington branch and the Paddington – Bude summer service seen at Halwill Junction.

Much of the text, too, makes pleasant reading.  In the uncredited introduction on Order and Design, the myth of unreliability, particularly of the diesel-hydraulic 22s, is addressed.  It’s become far too fashionable for commentators to ascribe the demise of much of BR’s Modernisation Plan fleet as due to unreliability or (that other hackneyed phrase) being ‘non-standard’.  Whilst it’s unarguable that some poor decisions and purchases were made, it’s also the case that too many locos were ordered at a time when rail traffic and trackage were being decimated; that being the case, it’s only natural that the larger or stronger classes would fare better once steam had been eliminated and surpluses identified.  Had it been the case, however, that the work had been there for the other classes, then effort would have been put into making them fit for service.  One thing that I didn’t expect to see addressed though (because it rarely is), is the generally better reputation of the 21s allocated to Kittybrewster for the GNoS section – whilst these are usually tarred with the same brush as the Eastfield contingent, it’s rare to see a photo of one in anything less than immaculate condition and anecdotal comment suggests they were looked after mechanically and performed accordingly.

All in all though, a good buy at less than a fiver and even if you only favour one class over the other, the coverage of each is good enough that you shouldn’t be disappointed.

More information on the series can be found at

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Filed under Diesel-hydraulics, Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

From steam to the blue era – a bluffer’s guide to TOPS-numbered locos

Oh yes; the end of steam,  what happened during its last few years and afterwards.  Quite a misunderstood interlude, if recurrent questions around the forums are anything to go by.    The aspect on which I’ve most recently seen an unusual amount of hot air expended is that of five-figure computerised numbering (usually known as ‘TOPS numbers’); though whether they were strictly necessary for TOPS to function isn’t something I’m going to get into here – as far as the modeller or enthusiast is concerned, it’s their effect on the appearance of the loco that matters.

The class numbers were initially allocated as far back as 1968, although as is often the way with these things, many types were withdrawn before carrying the five-figure numbering.  The first loco to actually carry the new style was an EM1 electric, 26050, which was renumbered 76050 in November 1971.  A few more 76s followed during 1972, along with AC electrics of classes 83 and 84 which, after a period in store, were undergoing work to augment the fleet for the extension of 25kV wires to Glasgow.

Diesel renumbering didn’t start until 1973, initially with class 45 ‘Peaks’; the first was 45101 in March 1973, which had undergone conversion for ETH (electric train heating).  The wholesale renumbering of the rest of the fleet started from the autumn of that year, and was initially quite slow as locos were generally only done on works visits.  By early 1974, ‘crash’ renumbering programmes had been instituted at depots and the bulk of renumbering work had been completed by that summer.   No longer did the new numbers only sit on shiny new paint, but were applied to scruffy blue and scruffy green alike – over 500 locos ran with TOPS numbering whilst still in green, with the last still being around in 1980.

Old Oak’s 31416 (ex-5842) was notable in being one of the first (if not the first) loco to be renumbered without a works visit.  It’s seen here at Royal Oak on 29.9.73, on its usual Paddington carriage pilot duties.  

Below, a recipient of an ER depot renumbering (in this case quite neatly done), 20133 (ex-8133) is seen at Barrow Hill on 5.7.75.  It also shows three distinct styles of allocation sticker.

As ever, records do present anomalies, notably in that several Scottish Region locos (including 27s and 37s)  don’t seem to have been renumbered until as late as autumn 1974, but it’s generally thought that this was just a question of late record keeping with the actual locos having been done some months earlier.  The ScR also gave us some interesting variations, such as numbers on secondman’s side cabs on locos with tablet catcher recesses, and a handful of locos like the one below.

26005 (ex-5305) at Glasgow Works on 10.8.75 has its new number applied with old transfers in the serif style used on green locos.  This is the only 26 known, although there were several 27s (including some push-pull ones with the ’27’ in one style and the rest in the other), and a sole 25, 25217.

There were some bona fide exceptions to the 1974 cutoff though, being members of classes 45 and 47 which had been identified for conversion to ETH but rather than carrying numbers in the 45/0 or 47/0 series, kept their four digit numbers until called to works.  Some of these stragglers ran with the old numbers well into 1975,  and as is fairly well known, WR hydraulics of classes 35 and 52 also remained untouched due to being slated for early withdrawal and the difficulty in removing their cast numbers.

As mentioned in the text, renumbering of class 45 started slightly before other diesels.  One peculiarity of this was that the first ones done had numbers on all four corners, as seen here with 45110 (ex- 73) at Holbeck on 7.8.73.   By the time renumbering had started on other diesels, the familiar pattern of numbers on driver’s side only had been established.


The  Allocation History of BR Diesels and Electrics, self-published by Roger Harris.  My copy is the original 1986 edition but the work has more recently been reissued in expanded form.

Green TOPS – The Definitive List

Livery guru Russell Saxton’s diligently researched findings originally appeared in Rail Express Aug 2003 and now appear on the Rail Blue website:

Russ also has a Flickr group on the same theme, which is at:


Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways