Category Archives: Scottish railways

The Kyle mixed, and ‘XP’ brandings

The above shot shows the evening Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness leaving Dingwall in August 1976.  Apologies for the quality, the light was fading but as I expect you’ll realise, it was taken for its intrinsic interest rather than any intention of being an artistic masterpiece.

At the back of the formation are a 13T Highfit loaded with a cable drum and a Presflo; it was at this time that Stromeferry (Loch Kishorn) was being used as a construction base for oil platforms for Howard Doris and I believe that both wagons would have originated there.  At this distance in time though, I’m a bit hazy as to how the wagons actually got onto the back of the train, which we’d just alighted from in order to step back onto the last Far North service into Inverness.  They could have been there when we boarded at Kyle, although if so, why I didn’t take the photograph then is debatable; if they were attached at Strome Ferry, I don’t recall any shunt move (though I could have been asleep, it’s not unusual).

The rest of the pic is not without interest; the lattice post signal, goods shed with GUV in attendance and the opposing turnouts and diamond of the goods yard trackage.

In more traditional days, mixed trains had been characteristic of many Scottish branches (that said, it should be pointed out  that the definition of a  ‘mixed’ is complicated, and in earlier years such workings often included unfitted wagons and thus required a brakevan).    The Kyle line, along with the Fort William – Mallaig section of the West Highland, had retained this propensity even in the diesel era, although by then the term ‘tail traffic’ is probably more appropriate as the freight vehicles were always vacuum fitted.  Often this would be with plebian 12T Vanfits, but occasionally something giving a more unusual appearance would turn up.  Indeed on the Mallaig line, 45T tank cars were conveyed into the early ’80s, and a shot in ‘Scottish Urban and Rural Branch Lines’ shows a fitted 16T mineral on the Kyle working.

Now neither 16 tonners nor Presflos carried the fabled ‘XP’ branding, although the Presflo’s 10’6 wheelbase should accordingly  qualify it.  But whatever, this is one of those subjects that modellers delight in trotting out the ‘official’ line on, often without realising what they’re scratching the surface of.  Whilst there certainly were some very specific rulings around this subject, they did change over time, and there would also have been the usual host of  exceptions, qualifications and ‘local arrangements’.  Overall my feeling is that being too prescriptive about them without access to extensive official records is like trying to nail jam to the wall.

As one example, a factor that often crops up is the stated requirement for XP vehicles to be screw coupled, yet it’s an indisputable fact that in the early 1950s BR built many thousands of Instanter-fitted wagons which were nevertheless XP-rated.  Having said that, the strict requirement is probably more focused on the necessity for the screw coupling on the coaching stock to be used if the Instantered wagon was next to it.  By the late 1960s, the fast running of short wheelbase vehicles was under scrutiny anyway and particularly with rapidly changing patterns of working, I suspect the branding steadily lapsed into irrelevance.

My thanks to David Vinsen (Eggesford Box) for prompting me to dig this out from the hard drive and put it up.  The blame for the associated ramblings however is all mine.

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

2012 and all that

Hello there, and welcome to Windcutter’s first New Year.

Given the time of year, I suppose some initial comment might be appropriate on the now-established Hornby Christmas period announcements.  As I’ve said, I don’t want Windcutter to be excessively political, nor do I want it to promote RTR frothfrests, but there is even less than usual to actually get excited about now the news is out.   All quite understandable of course in the current climate, but it does have to be said that this year the much-criticised embargo has reached new heights of farce whilst increasing the froth : substance ratio beyond any reasonable limits.    No completely new freight stock is not entirely a surprise; I’m getting an inkling now that the backpedalling last year over prices with the brake and the tippler has made Hornby think that they can’t really compete with Bachmann, in the field of traditional wagons at least.

That said, I’m pleased enough about the Thompson suburbans, something I have to say I didn’t see coming as they fulfil such a similar role to the Gresleys which are just hitting the shops.  In my mind, they hit that same spot as the Hawksworths, in that they’re not so much an LNER coach as a BR (ER) one, something that can be used past the usually accepted ‘transition’ era, into the mid-1960s and even in some cases with diesels.  Parcels stock is always popular with BR modellers, so the SR bogie brake will no doubt go down well (once the price has settled to more modest levels), and the O1 2-8-0 is just a bit too tempting to me given its association with East Midlands iron ore trains!  There’s no point me putting up the whole list of releases, it’s available easily enough elsewhere including the now ‘legal’ copies of the magazine that wanted to be first with the news.

As for Windcutter, having updated Traditions in Decline, the basic ‘page’ structure is now complete, unless I have any other bright ideas of course.  One thing that’s still missing is a rundown on weathering roofs, which has to be slotted into the More on Techniques page – that’ll have to wait for those days of decent weather and lighting, I’m afraid.  I noticed the other day that some of the page headers have defaulted for some reason to the ‘running theme’ of the 47 and Mk2 coach; I’m not sure why this is, but unless I stumble across the right buttons, it’ll probably stay that way for the forseeable!

Something that is outside my control however is the periodic absence of the forum database hosting the original 6WTS weathering thread from 2008.  I’m pleased that this has continued to be something that tyro weatherers have found useful, that was the intention all along.  Its most recent,  prolonged spell of non-availability does rather vindicate my decision to transfer the essence of it onto this site, and  I hope the three weathering pages here are found to be  some substitute for it.  One other enhancement I’m thinking of here is a list of basic weathering colours in several ranges; although I always say that successful results are really not the result of following a ‘recipe’,  I appreciate it can be a bit daunting if you’ve never really looked amongst all those murky dull browns and greys in the paint stands.

All in all though, I’m pleased enough with how it’s all gone; in an age where glib soundbites dominate social media and even more considered pieces within this very hobby can prove to be rather transient, I do hope that I’ve provided something of substance for those who do drop by.  I’d very much like to thank all those who have made it possible and enjoyable, whether helping with material, making comments or just generally being around and supportive.  I’m also pleased to see that a few other independent-minded modellers whose work I respect are treading the same path, and will update the ‘blogroll’ links in due course with those that are most relevant to my own interests and outlook.

The pic above by the way is not a genuine Hogmanay item, but from September 1983.  Those two fine gents were actually welcoming the appropriately named ‘Skirl o’ the Pipes 3′ railtour into Burghead.  Locos are 27036 and 26042.

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Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways, Uncategorized

Trout pout

The third of Hornby’s 2011 traditional wagons, the Trout ballast hopper, is also the most impressive.  Its RRP is £16.99 and for once, I’d say it’s actually worth it, in terms of the number of separate parts and general level of detail.

The wagon design originated back in the 1920s with the LNER; a small batch was also built for the LMS and construction continued into early BR days. Unsurprisingly, the design seems to have remained associated with  Eastern and North Eastern England, and Scotland, and a relatively small number were built (a total of just over 300).  In very simple terms, the Trout is a bit like an inside-out version of the later and better known Dogfish – the hopper shape is basically similar but the stanchionwork is inverted and the solebar has the flat face outwards, making for a very distinctive appearance:

Most decent renditions of riveted wagons make for nice looking models, and Hornby’s model catches the distinctive construction features very well indeed.  Being hypercritical, the bottom of the inverted channel forming the stanchions follows the same base line as the sides proper, whereas it should probably ‘push through’ slightly further, and there are no rivets around the inside lip of the hopper body, though both would probably have made it more difficult to mould. I also make no claims as to whether said rivets are correct as to either quantity or size!

Handwheels and chequer plating are very pleasing; some examples exhibit less-than-regular handrailing, but before whipping the pliers out, do note that the ones at each side actually are a peculiar shape on the real wagons!  To be fair, these are quite a good attempt for a mass-produced model and most seasoned detailers would have difficulty getting them this neat:

This cruel closeup shows the join between the two main assemblies, obviously on the real wagon the stanchion would hold the hopper body to the underframe.  Not evident at Normal Viewing Distances though.  Axleguard, spring and axlebox moulding is very neatly done and appears well proportioned:

In service, the wagons’ most likely working companions during much of the BR period would appear to have been the aforementioned Dogfish (with which they shared their 24T capacity), although plenty of shots also exist showing them randomly mixed in with hoppers of other capacities – the modern trend towards long rakes of identical infrastructure wagons is a relatively recent trend.  Unlike the Dogfish though, the Trouts were not built vac fitted and although Hornby’s marketing has dubbed them as ZFO/ZFP, evidence has still to emerge as to whether any were ever fitted with vacuum through pipes.

Somebody somewhere has been doing their homework, as both the hopper interior and the side chutes are painted in a rusty shade (although it’s a tad strong and uniform, it provides a good basis for further work and is better than some interiors).   The oddest thing (and there had to be something, doesn’t there) is the two chosen liveries.  The TOPS period model is liveried in olive green – not incorrect, but I have to wonder how many actually carried it – and the other one is of course the LNER version as seen here.  There is some dispute (amongst those more knowledgeable than I on such matters) as to whether this should actually be dark blue, and I have to say that that colour would make an even more impressive backdrop for the lettering.  And the least said about the triple pack with consecutive numbers, the better…

Overall then, a very nicely executed model that really shows what Hornby can do with wagons when they want to.  Unfortunately the confused messages coming out of recent reports of the company’s change in strategy are not too encouraging in terms of future freight stock to this standard; only time will tell, I suppose.

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Filed under Departmental, Hoppers, Scottish railways

Capuccino for Mr O’Hara?

BR Diesel Traction in Scotland, George C O’Hara

And though my roving eyes always led me astray

Well I’m coming back home, Scotia don’t walk away

Published 2010 by Clyard Novella Ltd, 16 Garryhorn, Prestwick, Ayrshire KA9 2HU, tel. 01292 479407 or available from various booksellers on the exhibition circuit.

Almost 700 pics for £25 sounds like a bit of a bargain by any yardstick, and if this sort of subject matter interests you at all, then get your paws on a copy PDQ by whatever means possible.   I’ve never once regretted the £12.50 or so that I paid for this author’s Scottish Urban and Rural Branchlines in 1986, and that now commands very healthy prices on the secondhand market. Both of them could justifiably be subtitled George’s Big Book of Scottish Layout Ideas.  Strangely the companion Scottish Region Colour Album No 1 can be found for around a tenner; evidence perhaps that its unimaginative presentation didn’t win favours, despite the content being every bit as scintillating as the other books.

The period covered by this latest production is from the late 1950s to the 1990s, although there is a definite emphasis on the 1960s ‘green’ era; all shots apart from those on the cover are B/W.  Incidentally the front cover alone could have sold it to me, with a railbus in the commodious environs of Crieff station and an all-green class 20 coming off the ‘other’ Forth Bridge at Throsk.

There are several early treasures; the interior of Leith Central DMU depot, a 20 on the Ardrossan turntable and bizarrely, one of the SR/EE 350hp shunters on trial at Aberlour in 1958.  Personal favourites include three other Crieff-related shots showing diesels on the freight workings to Perth (which actually survived the railbus run to Gleneagles), and a nice selection of GNoS and C&O content. The latter includes some rare images of a demolition train behind an NBL type 2.

Apart from the motive power, the book is packed with other interest; period rolling stock obviously features prominently, but perhaps the book’s strongest suit is in showing the vernacular infrastructure and industry which has largely now disappeared – one particular gem is a Cravens DMU passing a Kelvinside mill at Partick. There are quite a few caption inaccuracies (such as shots being dated 1965 that show blue DMUs) and whilst that’s something that would normally irritate me (in the likes of say Modern Locomotives Illustrated), in a work as  unique and valuable as this I’m more than happy to overlook them.

Even two months after originally penning these words, I can still say that this really is a book which you can keep picking up and finding something new.  And at over 300 pages, it’s heavy – it’s not so much a coffee table book as one you could make a table from.  And there’s talk of a second volume…

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Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways