Tag Archives: Far North

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.

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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.

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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.

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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/

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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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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