Tag Archives: Sulzer

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

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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Filed under Heritage diesels, 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