Category Archives: Scottish railways

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:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Advertisements

1 Comment

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…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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…?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

3 Comments

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

The Flying Kipper

(With acknowledgement to Rev W Awdry, whose ‘Henry the Green Engine’ still has a place on my bookshelves)

It may be the romance (if that’s the right word) of the associated workings, with rakes of, ahem, aromatically-enhanced wagons  careering along the main lines at dead of night, but the BR 12T Insulfish van  is proving to be a particularly enduring and much-modelled vehicle. Fish was once a widespread rail traffic of course, with thousands of vans of all sorts of designs running at one time, but it’s this one that’s probably foremost in the minds of most.  Probably this is because of the frequent (but only half-correct) labelling of them as a ‘Blue Spot’ and the fact that half a decade ago, the said Spot formed part of the Hornby Dublo ‘Super Detail’ range, passing in due course to Wrenn and later Dapol.

Much more recently, Parkside Dundas introduced a kit for the van and this has now been duplicated in ready to run form by present-day Hornby.   This effect now seems inevitable, as manufacturers look for new subjects to sate the large part of the market that seemingly won’t even attempt to build a simple wagon kit.  As also seems inevitable, the renewed interest in the type has highlighted a degree of misunderstanding and repeated misinformation on the part of modellers.  For the benefit of anyone that’s actually bothered, here’s a rundown.

BR plywood bodied 15 foot wheelbase Insulfish vans

The earliest of the series of vans were given the LNER diagram number 214.  Although these vans didn’t appear until after Nationalisation, in 1949/50, the design lineage and asymmetric triple-hanger vacuum brake rigging is nevertheless  unmistakeably LNER in origin.  By the mid-’50s, they’d been followed by  a batch of vans to BR diagram 1/800, but which were to all intents and purposes identical.  The well known ‘Blue Spot’ designation came later, around 1957/58, when 275 of the 1/800 vans were retro-fitted with roller bearings to assist fast running on the long Aberdeen – Kings Cross run via the ECML.  The nickname came from the marking applied to the side of the van, in order to designate the upgraded running gear and keep the vans on the Aberdeen circuit.

The later diagram 1/801 vans are often purported to be a development of the design, but in truth they have very little in common other than having  four wheels at the same distance apart.  The body is slightly different dimensionally (admittedly only by inches), but all of the ironwork is different.  The wheelbase remains at 15ft but the brakegear, although still an 8-shoe clasp arrangement, is a lengthened version of the late 1950s BR pattern as fitted to other wagons.  All of this type had roller boxes from new and the more modern types of buffer that went with the BR brakegear.  All in all, it’s probably more correct to consider them as two different vans built to fulfil a given specification, rather than as one being a development of the other; the detail differences then become a matter of contingency, rather than being a design evolution as such.

Number series:

LNER dia 214              E75000 – 75599

BR dia 1/800               B87000 – 87499

BR dia 1/801                B87500 – 88057

Going back to the models, slightly annoyingly, all three of them are that first diagram (214 or 1/800), and neither Parkside nor Hornby have chosen to fill the gap that is the 1/801.   More annoyingly,  Hornby used at least two publicity photos which clearly showed the 1/801 type, getting a few folk excited before issuing model shots that confirmed it was the tired old 1/800 they were actually going to model.  Ah well; whilst it’s a bit of a lost opportunity, we’re no worse off than we were a year ago.

The Hornby model is now in the shops and whilst reports suggest it’s selling pretty well to its target market, for the finescaler it’s most kindly described as a curate’s egg, summed up perhaps by this closeup shot of one corner.  The Rail Blue SPV livery is well up to Hornby’s usual standard (don’t mind my slight blurring from holding the camera in a cold garage), and parts of the underframe show a nice finesse.  The moulding of the axleguard, roller bearing and spring are set off here by the Gibson wheelsets I slipped in,  but dear oh dear, what on earth happened to that brake lever guide!  Similarly, the solebar is much enhanced by the gussets joining it to the body – then you take in that clumsy gap along the body bottom…  The buffers also show a rather obvious lack of care in assembly, and I don’t believe my one example is untypical.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That rather visible gap is caused by the bottom edge of the body actually being part of the chassis moulding. I can only think that this has been done so that the false floor thus created could form the step in front of the inset sliding doors;  a poorly thought out solution as it then compromises the greater part of the body.  The Parkside kit manages this by having the floor moulding shaped with a tab that fits into the doorway; it’s simple and sensible, and why Hornby couldn’t have followed suit is anybody’s guess.

All of this is to some degree fixable or overlookable though; the killer fault to me is the roof profile, which would be completely unfeasible to correct.  Some time before getting one in my mitts, I was reasonably convinced by available photographic evidence that the roof arc was going to be noticeably too prominent.   Not the end of the world of course, and I’m sure the target market will still be happy with it, but it’s a tad disappointing to those who appreciate the nuances of wagon design for their own sake as well as wanting convincing looking models.  This is also particularly relevant in the context of quality RTR being seen as a timesaver, because it means that for anyone who already has a few kitbuilds and would like to augment their fleet, the new RTR vans won’t happily mix with them.  Still, like I said, we’re no worse off than we were a year ago!

Oddly, the Hornby van doesn’t seem too far out when a rule is run over it.  The biggest discrepancy between it and the kit is about 1mm in height at the apex; the sides are fractionally lower where they meet the roof and it’s also very slightly narrower.  Yet add all three together and they obviously accumulate enough to have a visible effect, suggesting that the roof arc has simply been drawn to ‘fit’ once other basic dimensions had been laid down, and nobody has looked hard enough at whether it actually looks right:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Part of the reason I bought the van and set up this comparison shot was to convince myself how wrong it was, because this is one of those situations where simple measurements don’t tell the whole story.   The Parkside is at left (in about my fourth attempt at an Ice Blue that I’m happy with!), the Hornby in the middle and for completeness, I’ve also included a Wrenn van on the right.   I’ve read one forum post that states the Parkside roof radius is 35mm whereas the Hornby is only 25mm; I’ve not checked it myself but looking at this I wouldn’t doubt it.  The incorrect position of the transverse strapping, together with the roof edge being rather thinner than it should appear, also probably don’t help the overall impression.

The pic is clickable for larger sizes, at which you’ll be able to see how well I’ve done at getting a consistent level for the comparison.   To assist this I subbed the Hornby wheels for Gibsons and put Jacksons in the kit, but the former still sits a bit higher.  The Wrenn sits tallest of all, but some of that is in the chunky chassis and that the body isn’t sat properly on it.  Nevertheless, and despite being about a mill and a half too wide as well, it still manages to look proportionately more right overall than the new model.

So there you have it; fifty years of progress.  Or not 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This particular Wrenn body is one of a handful I have from many years back, but which I’d still like to make something usable of.   Whilst the finish is maybe a little unsubtle in places (mostly where I’ve attacked the ‘Findus’ lettering!), it’s good enough to stand a little extra work and warrant the fitting of a better chassis at some point.  It’ll probably also acquire one of the ‘I am not a fish van’ -type brandings that were applied when transferred to other uses.  As stated above, the Dublo-originated body is slightly overwidth, but that’s something that can be said of many RTR wagons.  The main thing that makes it look a little distorted compared to other wagons is the odd way that HD designed the chassis, with the entire solebar stepping out almost to the edge of the body.

For anyone starting with a clean slate though, the Parkside kit still stands up as the logical way forward without either aggravation or compromise.  Like all later Parksides there’s not a lot to say;  it’s pretty much faultless as it stands and builds up as easily as any of the firm’s more recent offerings.   In my opinion, it simply isn’t worth investing even a tenner in the Hornby van when it’s actually less work for any reasonably skilled modeller to get the kit looking acceptable.

Back in the RTR fishing grounds, Bachmann’s forthcoming 10 foot wheelbase LNER van is due next Spring and is I believe based on LNER diagram 83, a wooden underframe, non-insulated type.  I’d imagine that not many of these got far into the 1960s so only a token purchase is likely in this household, but by comparison, I’m expecting a rather more satisfying experience.  And looking ahead, I’m more intrigued by what else they have planned for that wooden underframed chassis…

8 Comments

Filed under Perishables, Scottish railways, Vans, Wagon kits, Wagon weathering

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.

1-20131124-214459-002

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.

2 Comments

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.

1-DSC00156

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 http://www.modernlocomotives.co.uk/

2 Comments

Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

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 http://www.mli-magazine.com/index.html

1 Comment

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.

Sources

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:

http://www.railblue.com/rail_blue_history_2.htm

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

http://www.flickr.com/groups/br_green_liveried_tops_locos/pool/with/4574395547/#photo_4574395547

2 Comments

Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

Spring shows

A couple of recent shows, at Nottingham and York, have provided some enjoyable and varied opportunities for playing trains.

Cully sallies south

First up, Culreoch’s second trip back south of the border, in the capable hands of its new owner Jamie Wood and co-operator Dave Franks (of Lanarkshire Models & Supplies note).   It was pleasing to be able to give them an hour or so off on the Sunday, and also to make reacquaintance with the layout, which looks well and now has the benefit of some lovely 1960s stock, marshalled into authentic and thoughtful formations.

I don’t often do badges, not when I’m theoretically a punter anyway, but it’s good to know they were there.  Rather than another layout shot, I’ll provide a loco portrait to showcase  one of Jamie’s own lovely Black Fives, although Dave had brought one or two of his own exquisite creations, including another Five, a 4F and a very nice kitbuilt Fairburn tank.   Good use was also made of Jamie’s Standard 4 tank, recreating the image of ‘the Mad McCann’ at Creetown which will be known to Port Road afficionadoes!

Bomber jacket required

During March I also took an opportunity mooted for some time of training on the Hull MRS ‘Stealth Bomber’, so named because of its unusual shape and the ‘cockpit’ arrangement of one of the operating positions.  This was something very different for me; I’ve obviously been used to being around the creations of our narrow gauge section since joining the club as a teenager, but have never operated them at a show.  The ‘Bomber’ or to give it its correct name, ‘Crumley and Little Wickhill’, is a very well thought out layout in all aspects, and with the standard of scenery, a real pleasure to operate.

The above shot is courtesy of Steve Flint and the Railway Modeller, and is of the intermediate station Little Wickhill.  In the near distance, a goods train is dropping down the hill to the crossing point, and hidden to the right is a further incline down into Crumley.  A siding runs past the abandoned tipdock to the right and also serves a cattle dock, and is probably my favourite spot on a very atmospheric layout.

Last train from Bonchester Bridge

Finally, a farewell to Brian Sunman’s second exhibition layout Bonchester Bridge, a North British terminus station located in the Borders of Scotland, about equidistant from Jedburgh and Hawick.  The layout is now over twenty years old and featured in the first volume of British Railway Modelling, although because of the pre-digital nature of the available images, I’ve not been able to feature it here before.

Having once been retired, ‘Bonny’ has over the last few years made reprise appearances at a few shows.  The time comes though to move on, other projects come to assume prominence, and the layout will shortly be in the hands of a new owner.

We had to have a wee dram of course to see the old girl off, and pictured above are some of the people who have been associated with her in some way or other over the years.  Left to right, they are Ken Gibbons (who, most importantly, provided the Scotch), Steve Flint  (editor RM), Brian himself, your scribe, Mal Scrimshaw (taller), York Show acting manager, and Paul Windle.  Not shown, being behind the camera, is Paul Derrick; the three last-named gents  being instrumental in the construction of the ‘Bomber’.

Brian originally ran the layout with early 1960s steam power, including a B1, V3 and N2, but in recent years a slight shift to the later ’60s made sense, using the proprietary diesels with superior mechanisms that had been easily converted to EM for use on Peffermill Road.  

The pic above shows a class 26 clearing the last few wagons from the yard, in just the way that must have happened on so many branches like this in the 1960s and ’70s.  And now, with mention of Spring and the inspiration glands recharged, it must be time to at least think about doing some modelling!

3 Comments

Filed under Scottish railways, Uncategorized

Too many books…

Despite the sentiment of the title, a situation that I think is true of most modellers, over the festive season I’ve managed to acquire three books that I convinced myself I couldn’t be without.  And yes, I know it’s March already…

First up is an obvious ‘reference purchase’ for someone with my background, the latest in David Larkin’s series for Kestrel Books. As the title suggests, Civil Engineers Wagons Volume 1 – British Railways: 1948-1967  deals (in more depth than anything has previously), with the departmental wagon fleet.  It follows the usual pattern set by previous books and those he did for Santona, in having several illustrations of each type combined with information on number series, and allocations from a time when the fleet was rather more fragmented and parochial.  A particularly nice touch is the headings giving the biological derivations of the ‘Fishkind’ names.  Also included is an insight into some of the ex-traffic wagons transferred into use by the engineers, although given the variety of types involved, this obviously can’t be as comprehensive as the purpose-built types.

Next, Ian Allan’s First Generation Diesel Railbuses.  I was initially sceptical when I saw this announced, partly because I doubted there was actually enough material on 22 vehicles with a ten-year life to fill a book, and partly because the author’s writings in Hornby Magazine are not usually associated with unimpeachable authenticity.  It has to be said though that Evan has brought together some intersting and not commonly known information – it’s a sobering thought that some of the early withdrawals could have been bought for the price of a 4mm scale loco!  I do wonder therefore if the old bogey of working to deadlines is what differentiates the magazine writings from this work.

As well as the expected chapters grouped by manufacturer, there are also separate summations of operation by Region, together with one on decline and withdrawal.  If I have a criticism (apart from the high cover price), it’s that many of the photos are not the clearest, although as is often the case, the interest factor does tend to outweigh this.  Particular faves are the Park Royal having hit a landslide, passengers on the ballast and generally wondering ‘what’s to be done’, and the WR halt which is scarcely bigger than the pram occupying it.

Also now available in the same series is a volume on the early Derby Lightweight DMUs, which I’ve not yet obtained but may well at some future point.  The choice of subject for these two may well have been to tie in with current RTR releases.

Lastly is something that was a bit of a surprise when I saw it lying on the counter of my local model shop, Bellcode’s Steam Age Diesels across Yorkshire.  I was familiar with this publisher, already having their volume on the railways around Selby and Goole, and as is often the case with such outfits, it combines an original approach with production values second to none.

The title sums up what it’s about – those elusive few years where diesels were following much the same working patterns as the steam locos they’d replaced – and the compilers have done exceptionally well in pulling together so many scenes of departed locations, traction and traffics.  Of obvious local interest to me were some unpublished shots of D95xx type 1s and the Beverley – York line, but there are many other gems including Metrovicks in Leeds and various early shunters.  In fact other than in size, I’d actually say that this is a Yorkshire equivalent to George O’Hara’s Scottish volume reviewed in an earlier post, and I really can’t recommend it enough.

Leave a comment

Filed under Departmental, DMUs, Heritage diesels, Scottish railways, Yorkshire railways