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 Ferry, a 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…
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.