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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…

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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…?

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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.

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Filed under Heritage diesels, Off the beaten track, 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