Past News

Trouble with Geese

I really do not like bullies and rather sadly, it seems to me that this is the direction that the 009 Society (Inc.) is in danger of going these days. I have previously experienced bully tactics from the now 009 'President' David Gander when we took County Gate to the wretched ExpoNG exhibition at Swanley. The experience was so terrible that Jenny will no longer go to model railway exhibitions!

The latest 009 newsletter publishes the most dictatorial and heavy handed article about their views of the 009 forum one could possibly imagine. I may be wrong but I suspect written by the hand of David Gander himself.  It is signed by the 'Directors'.

A new forum has been launched called Narrow Gauge and Branchline Modelling . 'Branchlines' cover railways of all gauges. Consider it an antidote to heavy handedness!

While the 009 Soc. seems to be heading to the enforcement of the 'party line' at all times, more and more NG modellers are moving to larger scales. Could there be a connection, I wonder? These days, it is rare to see a 'serious' layout being built in this scale and I suspect the scale is viewed by many as the preserve of kit bashers, table top toys and pizza layouts.

Elsewhere, the hobby has moved on but for the most part, 009 still seems to me to be firmly stuck in the 1970s. It is a great pity as the scale offers enormous opportunities to build a railway in a convincing landscape.

I think it is about time for a serious appraisal of this scale, or should it be OOn?.

26th February

Julien Webb's 'Victoria' pulling Blair Hobson's 'Commie rolling stock'. Victoria did eventually manage to struggle around the line.

Based on a Portram bogie, this little machine built by David Churchill trundled around quite happily

Our new No 7 effortlessly pulled 24 vehicles from Blair's stock box. Is this a record?

Blair's 'Purple People Eater' gamely tried the same load and almost made it, succumbing to wheel slip on the corners.

With David Gander at the helm, we are increasingly unhappy with the direction being taken by the 009 Society which we feel these days is being run by the nefarious and exclusive Greenwich and District NGRS. Members must recognise each other either by the shape of their skulls or perhaps they have a secret handshake, like the Masons!

13th February

We are still struggling with Cliffhanger wiring but slowly winning. In the meantime, two of the locos have come from Chris Meacham of Golden Arrow Productions having been lined and weathered. We are delighted with them.

13th February

Having spent a month near Adelaide, it was a cold shock to return to the UK. We took Bratton Fleming to the BRM Doncaster show. It felt so strange to have so little to do to set up and knock down! The model seems to have been very well received and attracted far more attention than a small layout should. I always like BRM shows as they are well organised and the show staff are charming. I do have reservations, however, about mixing trade stands and layouts as much as they do. In my mind it turns the whole thing into a bit of a bazaar.

The venue had its own security force which we quickly named the 'Men in Black'. I asked them if they had much trouble with aliens at Doncaster and one replied "Only at model railway exhibitions." We did have one for a while counting rivets on Bratton Fleming!


5th December

County Gate is now cocooned in plastic film and racked up on the end walls of our workshop. Cliffhanger is again set up for working on and hopefully good progress will be made.

We hope than in a few years, CG will again be invited to attend some of our favourite shows.

2nd December

No2 'Ben Halliday' was the last train to run on CG for some time to come. All stock is now put away and storage of the modules begins tomorrow. The new No 7 ran extensive successful trials and is quite happy with 14" radius curves but dislikes 12". This is not a problem as it will either run on CG main line or on Cliffhanger.

27th November

The open day yesterday went well and particularly in the morning, quite a few folks came to see the line running. Operation is far superior after the rework. I built up another double headed holiday special and tried to get 'Taw' to run backwards. For some time, it has been unsteady in that direction. Finally, I gave up and had to pair up the Manning Wardles differently and now, all is well. It is quite a sight to see a train with a box car followed by eight coaches run into the station.

This train has several freelance L&B coaches.

My thanks again go to Malcolm Alberry for adjusting the RR&Co programming

19th November

Went to the Warley show this morning and sorry to say was somewhat underwhelmed. Two layout stood out; the Hull MRS 'Stealth Bomber' and Purgatory. I had seen all by lunch so spent the afternoon in the cat show! This evening, we finally were able to test CG under automation and I am delighted with the result.

18th November

County Gate is now reassembled and we are adding all the trains. Each one is being run through the new trackwork to check there are no problems. So far, a small section of point rodding had to be moved to clear River Brue. I am delighted with the results of the restoration.

County Gate will be out next as an 'Installation Art' exhibit at an arts festival. I have to say that I am delighted that some fellows of the Royal Academy consider CG as 'art'. This does not mean, however, that I shall wear a smock and beret and sound like Brian Sewell.

10th November

We are moving well towards completing the restoration of the final module, the harbour. We shall then test run the system one more time before it all goes into storage. A ground frame has been added with all point rodding.

8th November

The hotel module is now restored. I have made new thin plywood travel protectors. These are fastened to the baseboards by machine screws. I installed threaded inserts into the baseboards. They will have waterproof covers made that fit on with Velcro.

5th November

After repainting the baseboard sides, the backdrop was replaced and work was focussed on the restoration of the viaduct board.  This has been quite quick and two days should see it finished. This has been the perfect time to undertake the numerous 'roundtoit' jobs that have accumulated over time. For example, I have cut a much better access hole to the rear tracks so maintenance will be far easier in future.

The interface between the model and backdrop had become much more visible as colours had become faded due to dust accumulation. This has been rectified by the judicious use of our air brush and it is now quite hard to determine where the layout ends. Again, many bushes were replaced  and the meadows revitalised. The East Lyn River sparkles again and I think the board looks as good as when it first went on the exhibition circuit.

The next project will be the hotel section.

3rd November

The station board is almost complete and restored. The fields in the foreground have been modelled as a hay crop.

1st November

All the point rodding and cranks are installed. This includes compensators and all other kinds of fancy cranks; all supplied by Model Signal Engineering. The things are tiny and the whole job has taken three full days. Was it worth it? Probably as anyone with a macro lens will see that it is there. Certainly the rod runs look right to me.

I can now get on with the scenic upgrade.

26th October

The intention of leaving clean ballast on the new track was a good idea but it just did not look right. As a consequence, the ballast has been toned down and weathered. The grass sub layer has been put down in readiness to use the static gun. We are now waiting for the point and signal controls from MSE.

25th October

We are still suffering from an occasional DCC problem when for some reason we cannot change the points at the station. This will be resolved with the help of Andy of DCC Supplies.

The station trackwork has been ballasted. We shall leave the clean ballast to show that the station layout has been recently revised.

click on image to enlarge

24th October

We have removed all mains transformers from within the baseboards. Apart from the obvious weight reduction, we believe that this practice is likely to be banned quite soon. The challenge is to ensure that all the transformers are correctly posted to prevent any error. In addition, each plug low voltage plug is being made to be incompatible with another.

One of the Tortoise motors failed. It had completed many cycles and when installed with a new mainline point, I did not ensure that the travel was no more than previously. Wear in the gear caused a jam.

The harbour branch has been re-signalled and we are now ready for ballasting the new trackwork and completing a scenery upgrade on the station board.

19th October

How daft do they get?

At long last, the Portmadoc bypass has been opened. The Portmadoc Town Council boycotted the opening event because someone mistakenly sent the invitation in English only! There are also complaints about the term WC on the FR/WHR. WC is a term used internationally, except in Wales, of course where they no doubt want 'TB'. (ty bach)

17th October

The new trackwork has been wired and tested and appropriate modifications made to the control panel. Our DCC system has shown to be so reliable that at the same time, we have removed the original manual over-ride panel in order to simplify the wiring.

13th October

Work began on refurbishing CG today. The station is at present a scene of devastation. All main points are being replaced by Peco 18" 'mainline' points and the trackplan has been revised. This will give much more reliable running.

12th October

A very French affair

The last showing of County Gate for a year was at Ramma, in Sedan, France. Desperados Fergus Rainey and Harry Lowe came with me. We left Ludlow early and by 19.00 hrs were installed in our Calais hotel after a crossing in a P&O ferry. The P&O ferries are veritable rust buckets and ours was no exception. It made me wonder if they were purchased from Bangladesh after they had failed their safety checks there.

Next day, we had an easy run to Sedan and were ready to set up by 14.00 hrs. Sedan is in the heart of the Ardennes, a very pretty but poor region. The town is noted for its fortified chateau which is the largest in France.

Signage to the exhibition was excellent. The venue was held at the sports complex. Much of this is quite scruffy but adequate. We were warmly welcomed by the organisers who helped us push our trailer into the hall where we were able to unload.

Harry and Fergus with the setup almost complete

All was together by 19.00hrs but we did have a bit of trouble getting the electronics to connect with the points. Eventually all was well and we still have no idea why. Bernard Walter, a most talented French 009 modeller joined us to assist as front man during the show.

Bernard shows some of his stock from his Port de Carhaix layout

our hall during setup

By then, I needed to go to the loo. This became a logistics problem. We found that the only disabled loo was some distance away and the building was locked up like Fort Knox. After some telephoning, eventually an irritated security man turned up with the electronic key and all was well ............. just!

We repaired to our hotel. Ramma pays for hotel nights at Formula One. This is a chain of hotels that is best  avoided. We were happy to pay a supplement to go elsewhere and we found ourselves at the 'Relais' an old hotel which thought it had disabled access. Access to the restaurant was by a flight of tiled steps. I just about managed this while the lads hauled my scooter up to the restaurant. They had put my bags in the 'ground floor' bedroom' and decided that they would not tell me about the other flight of steps until after dinner!

After a perilous descent from the restaurant I then had to repeat the process to get to my room.

Once up, there was a long serpentine corridor to navigate. Like so many French hotels, the corridor lights were operated by a timer which switched off the lights within a second and left one in stygian darkness!

This had clearly been opened up specially for me. I think it was the first time the room had been in use since the departing occupying German forces in 1945. Mould grew down the walls and the toilet was a deep brown. It was cold but I was very reluctant to sleep in the dank and mouldy sheets so left all my clothes on. Damn, I would have settled for even Formula 1!

In the morning we discovered it had rained and we were greeted with a leaden sky. The tiled steps to the restaurant were soaking wet and impossible to negotiate with crutches without huge risk of falling. I therefore decided to eat breakfast outside. Harry and Fergus brought out a selection of food and we tried to dry the plastic chairs and table with dozens of napkins.  As soon as we were all sat down it started to rain afresh. The croissants began to warp and the toast became more and more soggy while we became soaked. Breakfast was abandoned!

full French breakfast!

A couple of French exhibitors sheltering outside at the top of the stairs smoking cigarettes were watching us with interest. One eventually asked us why we were having breakfast in the rain and we explained. "Oh", one replied, "We thought it might be an English thing".

The show opened at 14.00 hrs on Saturday as it is quite impossible to get any French person to an exhibition on a Saturday morning. As a consequence, the show ran on until 19.00 hrs. This gave us an opportunity to take a good look at the layouts. I would have to say that the standard was exceptional. The railway part of the show was actually 'two shows in one'. Expometrique (a show for metre gauge models) was in a hall next door and included Pempoul, always a pleasure to see.

I will not even try to pick out layouts I liked in particular as so many were fantastic in their own right. The standard of scenery was way better than seen in most UK exhibitions.

Lartigue monorail of Feurs à Panissière, by Bernerd Junk

During our time there, we suffered from several heavy rainfalls and our hall was unheated. The humidity increased to 100% and we all had to work hard to keep the trains running. While the hall was well lit, the lights only worked for 30 minutes and then we were plunged into darkness until an organiser rushed over to put a coin in the slot!

Jacq Damen and his extraordinary sawmill layout

This well attended show also included aircraft, cars, wargames and ships. These were also made to a high standard.

Saturday night, we were all invited to a 'coupe d'honneur' at the chateau. More stairs but we finally assembled in a medieval hall where long lines of empty champagne glasses awaited us. We had a long political speech from the mayor who suffered from verbal dysentery. He focussed on the 'Sedan Welcome' and finally out came the champagne; not a moment too soon!

waiting for what was to become the worst meal .... ever!

We had also booked places for the banquet at the chateau. While France is renowned for its gastronomy it is also capable to producing some of the worst food in Europe. Sadly, the banquet was the latter and was, I think, prepared by Chef 'Micro-onde'.

We left early and repaired to our new luxury hotel in Charleville, a few miles away. What a difference, except the usual French electricity economies made it quite difficult to even see when dressing!

Sunday went along just fine and it was such a pleasure to meet so many French modellers with whom I have corresponded with.

17.30 hrs arrived all to soon and we dragged the trailer back in to the hall to load. As we pulled it over the step into the hall, a large lake of water that had formed on the roof sluiced off one end and then fell on top of poor old Fergus. Everybody found this hilarious and even Fergus managed to smile weakly!

We were packed up by nine and after saying our goodbyes returned to our hotel. Our return took two days which allowed us to feel rested. The return trip on the P&O rust bucket was as bad as the outward. I asked a crew member which end was the bow. He pointed to the far end of the ship and replied "this end is the front". Good to know P&O crew are so knowledgeable about shipping. Next time, it will be Sea France. I am sure they know where the bow is!

An excellent show and really worth a visit. We have been invited back for the next show with 'Cliffhanger'. A special thanks to Harry, Fergus, Bernard and the organisers who made our visit so pleasurable. I really hope that someone will have shot Chef Micro Onde by then!

County Gate is now going to be thoroughly serviced and some modifications made before it is wrapped up and stored for the following year.

30th September

Just back from a great day at Porthmadog. A long full train is announced to Festiniog. Shortly afterwards, a loaded train departs to Caernarfon.............. narrow gauge heaven!

23rd September

We have two weeks to go before going to Ramma, in Sedan, France. This huge show is noted for the quality of layouts and CG will be the only 009 layout there.

9th September

It is with sadness that I note the web based forum NGRM has, in my opinion, taken a retrograde step for the scale of 009 modelling.  The forum, with a few notable exceptions, contains little to interest the serious 009 modeller, many of whom no longer contribute to it; instead, the modelling appears to have reverted to the style of 1970’s kitbashing with endless Pug and now Triang Jinty conversions.  We all have to start somewhere but unfortunately NGRM does not often reflect the advancements which have been made in 009 modelling over the last 20 years and which can be seen in the many fine layouts which have been built.

It is probably counter productive that this forum is owned by a trader.

5th September

We are back from the Blackburn and East Lancs. MRC exhibition held at all places, in Accrington. Yes, it really does exist and its football team is even back in action! The previous show was half way to New York. This one was half way to the Arctic Circle! The drive up the M6 seemed endless. To pass the time, we naughtily amused ourselves by finding as many stereotypes of the North Country we could think of.

The lady hiding in our TomTom accurately guided us to the right junction and immediately we picked up clear signs to the model railway exhibition. I would have to say that this is the best signposted show we have been to. The Hyndburn Leisure Centre was easy to find and despite arriving a bit early we were warmly welcomed by the exhibition team who very kindly helped us unload the CG roadshow into the side hall which would be our home for the next two days. This was no mean feat, as the entrances to the exhibition halls are sparse and difficult to negotiate. The next few hours were taken up with setting up and checking that the system was working correctly. This time, an important block section was inoperative and it was some time before we realised that a pin in a multi-connecter had been bent over.

By seven o'clock, we were happy that all was well and we repaired to the Premier Inn at Burnley. We were advised to take our trailer each night to the hotel as gypsies live close by to the leisure centre, who strip clean anything that they can get hold of.

Doors opened at ten o'clock and all too soon, the show looked very busy.  I got the impression that interested members of the public were more numerous than the usual model train enthusiasts. County Gate was well received but several were puzzled by the extension to Minehead. The best quote came when a young lad rushed over to us to tell us "Your ship's on fire, Mister!". We had to explain about smoke units!

Another young lad fell in love with the silver railcars and got quite upset if another train came along. We had to take him round the back and switch the lights on so that he could really see inside.

Drinks, toast and cakes were available to us all day and excellent lunches were provided by a concession stand. Sadly, the air conditioning had just failed, so our small hall rapidly became more and more hot and humid.

The standard of layouts on display was extremely high and the model railway trade well represented. I was pleased to see that Falmouth MRC had brought Gweek to the show. There were a number of N scale layouts built to a very high standard indeed. Here are some of the layouts that caught my eye.

Porth Eithin - Peter Midwinter 00 gauge

Deep Lane - Pete Latnam N gauge

Bee Lane - Preston MRC - 00 gauge

Grange over Sands - Blackburn MRC - N Scale

John Holden and his team were demonstrating their progress on the 'layout of a lifetime'; Liverpool Lime Street. The quality of work that is going into this layout is exquisite and inspiring. From detailed 3D printed station columns, fabricated arch spans to incredible signals, this layout is going to be a world classic.

Liverpool Lime Street progress

County Gate won best in show, voted by the visitors.

All in all, a very well organised show which was welcoming to exhibitors.  In fact, we found all of the folks from that area, extraordinarily friendly, cheerful and welcoming. I was even presented with an Accrington Stanley sticker for my car. Our sincere thanks go to Les Green and his exhibition team for making our visit so agreeable. As it turns out, due to the cancellation of the Detling Show, this was the last show for County Gate for a little over a year.

Les Green, Exhibition Manager with County Gate

And just for the record, Les, we did know they were really crowd barriers and not hitching posts for whippets!

24th August

Work is now progressing apace to re-jig our workshop to store County Gate, wrapped up on wall racks to give space to begin the new layout, 'Cliffhanger'. Work on the baseboards begins this week.

23rd August

The 20th August was the Three Spires Railex at Truro. This is run by the Falmouth and District Model Railway Club. This was the club's diamond jubilee. An early start saw us driving South West.............. and yet again South West.

Then the trailer had a flat tyre on the M5. £240 later, we were back in action and running a tad late.

By Oakhampton, we were wondering whether we would soon be in another time zone, after all, Truro is half way to New York!

Eventually, we arrived and help was at hand to offload the heavy baseboards. The show is held in a sports hall of a private prep. school. This is sadly up a very long, narrow and steep lane, a feature which must dissuade many folks from visiting.

By 21.00 hrs, we were all set up and feeling pleased with the new look presentation of County Gate.

the new look CG presentation - click on image to enlarge

We welcomed a new Desperado, Martin Andrews, who is more usually involved with the workings of the full size L&B. He had been a wonderful friend to us during our visit to Woody Bay.

Doors opened to the public at 9.00 hrs Saturday morning. I must say that sadly, visitor numbers here are very low indeed. We felt sure that if the exhibition had been down-town, the situation would have been very different. The general standard of layouts on display was very high indeed and there was a good range of traders.

The highlight for me was to see in the flesh, Gweek Harbour of the Helford Valley Railway. This was created by the Falmouth & District MRC and is 7mm narrow gauge. The website is quite wonderful with a most convincing phoney history. The layout was quite up to expectations.

Helford Valley Railway - Gweek Harbour

There were some excellent fine scale 2mm layouts and some good 7mm work.

The Shed - an exquisite diorama in 7mm

Sadly as usual, a few layouts were displayed with the track level somewhere in the stratosphere with the inevitable result that there were some very annoyed disabled people who felt very excluded. Shown below are some of the layouts by thoughtless people who consider that disabled folks are not worth considering.

Last and not least was Diesels in the Duchy. All I could see of this one was that they had sky corners!

Truro is a really lovely city and the evenings offered an excellent choice of places to go. Our new Desperado, Martin, is besotted by real ale and various expeditions were made to some pretty sordid pubs to try their particular offerings. This interest is a bit like bus spotting. Various brews with strange names, such a Tin Miner's Sweat, Stinking Willie, Pale Maggot and Old Excrement were tried and one can say that at least they were all consistently bad and warm to boot!

After all of the DCC updates, CG ran like clockwork throughout the entire show. Our thanks again to Andy and Fiona of DCC Supplies.

Martin Andrews, Jenny and Kevin Mason

Altogether a very well run show which deserves a lot more support. Our thanks go to exhibition manager, Nigel Tregoning for the warm welcome given to us. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

12th August

We are more or less packed up and ready to load the trailer for Truro. Looking forward to returning to that fine town even though it is half way to New York!

4th August

When we built CG, we used self adhesive copper tape for bus bars below the baseboard. Time has not shown this to be the best solution as the tape is delicate and can easily be damaged if a wire soldered to it snags. We have now moved to using N scale track glued to the underside of the baseboard. It is low resistance and of course very strong.

2nd August

We have managed to have a bit of a torrid time with our DCC automation and a considerable amount of time has been needed to get to the bottom of things. With the best will in the world, I rather suspect that getting DCC automation to works perfectly is a bit of a dark art. Perhaps we have to sacrifice a cat on the Digitrax altar!

The system had begun to make more and more errors and it was very difficult to understand why. Andy and Fiona of DCC Supplies very kindly have spent silly amounts of time diagnosing the problem and baseboard diving. In the end, we found a loose Loconet cable deep in the baseboards but still there were a few unforced errors. Andy has now revamped the Loconet cabling network. It had become a bit haphazard due to development and retrofits. Matters improved some more.

The clincher has been the addition of a Digitrax Loconet repeater. This is directly in line between the computer and the Zephyr controller. The repeater ensure that the correct strength signal arrives at the Zephyr. It also shows by a yellow light if there is a Loconet error.

Since then, the system has run perfectly.

We have clearly developed too much resistance on the track power bus bar under the station. This is due to be remedied. We have already fitted a heavy bus bar from one board connecter to the next.

27th July

Yesterday, the British Railway Modelling film crew arrived to make a 45 minute DVD of County Gate. I think all went well although suddenly the electronics started to make a few mistakes. This was found to be due to a Loconet cable that had become loose.

Andy and Fiona of DCC Supplies were present and took part in the interviews. Andy has decided to reroute all of our Loconet system and thinks that this will much reduce the occasional error experienced in shows.

20th July

Today, the new railcar, No 305 'Southern Belle' was completed and successfully tested for service. It is seen here passing 'La Coupe D'Or'.

17th July

Yesterday, we took Bratton Fleming to the 009 EGM at Water Orton where it operated faultlessly.

We were met with some very sad news indeed.


Peter Smith

We learned that Peter Smith, a member of the West Midlands 009 group has died while on a holiday to the Isle of Man.

Peter developed his skills while working in micro engineering for Lucas and was, in my opinion, the best 009 locomotive builder of his time. He was not just a modeller but a precision engineer as well and he tackled projects that the rest of us would consider impossible.

I first met him when he brought his fully working de Winton, 'Mary Ann' to our home.

Everything he built was perfectly engineered and an object lesson to us all. He was a quite man with a wry sense of humour that I enjoyed immensely.

Peter, you will be very much missed.

A number of layouts were brought to the meeting including 'Corris 1930'; 1930 being the altitude of the layout above the floor. It is impossible to view by anybody who is short or in a wheelchair so as far as I am concerned, it is not a good layout at all no matter what any tall people might say. Two people at the EGM were unable to see it.

So the 009 Society is to become a limited company for whatever reasons given. It was impossible to hear what was being said from the top table.

4th July

I have been working on the maquette of the new layout, 'Cliffhanger'

Here is the first two baseboards in miniature. The start of the funicular can be seen. The lido will be on the beach to the right of it. There is still a fair bit of work to complete the maquette.

Ist July

P.D. Hancock

News has arrived that PD Hancock died on the 28th June. He had been taken ill some time before. Hancock built the first credible narrow gauge layout in 4mm scale and published many articles in the Railway Modeller. His Craig and Mertonford Railway was as real to many as the emerging narrow gauge preserved railways in Wales.

Philip was from Edinburgh, and his layout, built in the bedroom of an Edinburgh tenement flat, was perhaps the finest example of the “bedroom branch line” that was (and is) the staple of so many space-starved modellers; indeed part of its attraction was that this celebrated layout was built in a 13’6 x 10’6’ room under conditions that many ordinary modellers could recognise as their own. Craigshire was in many ways the direct heir of the Madder Valley of John Ahern, but there were two major differences: Craigshire was emphatically Scottish and the Craig and Mertonford Railway was 9mm narrow gauge, certainly the first 009 layout ever built and probably the first significant British narrow gauge layout. Craigshire was three times completely rebuilt and it was a staple of the Railway Modeller from the early 1950s to the late 1970s; from 1960 onwards it was that glamorous thing, a pre-Grouping layout was the subject of a PECO book (Narrow Gauge Adventure, Seaton 1975, 2nd ed 1980).

P.D.Hancock was by preference a scenic modeller and both his townscape and landscapes were thoroughly characteristic and highly atmospheric: indeed in some respects both Craig’s trams and the freelance rolling stock of the CMR were as much scenic features as operational ones. But Craigshire was entirely free from the tweeness and improbability that characterised much late Sixties 009: this was no rabbit warren layout but an entirely convincing small but busy Scottish narrow gauge railway.

When Craigshire went pre-Grouping in 1960, it was a serious effort to create an evocation of the Edwardian NBR, with a scratchbuilt Scott and NER M1 and versions of several other NBR classes concocted by “butchery” out of seemingly unrelated proprietary locos in the fashion of the time. There were locos P.D.Hancock probably couldn’t manage but that only made Craigshire more relevant to the ordinary modeller: here was no effortless impossible perfection but a fellow modeller struggling with familiar problems and limitations, and overcoming them spectacularly. And at the end of the day the quality of what he achieved in terms of appearance and atmosphere was very high. Craigshire might not have stood scrutiny with a vernier against a detailed set of prototype drawings but in other respects it achieved “infinite riches in a little room” and richly deserved its fame.

Sadly, this wonderful railway did not survive but some of his locomotives have been restored and are carefully preserved.

Thank you Philip for your inspiration and humour which contributed so much to generating my interest in NG modelling.

The layout is back together again and I am happy to report is working fine with the new points installed under the Glenthorne cliff. The colour light signal at the harbour works thanks to Malcolm Alberry and DCC Supplies although at present, the lights are not sufficiently bright in show conditions. Two resistors are due to be changed to fix this problem.

Dean Whiston had very kindly offered to repaint some of my less convincing figures. They are now proudly back in place and enhance the scene excellently.

on temporary stands

Design work goes on for 'Cliffhanger'. Here is the frontage of the Lido.

click on image to enlarge

28th June

Thanks to DCC Supplies, the harbour colour light signal is now married to an NCE Switchit. I must congratulate NCE for the most useless instructions ever supplied with a bit of model railway electronics.

The second point to Cliffhanger was also installed.

Everything is now ready to fit to the baseboard which will be done on Thursday.

27th June

Today, the first of two points was installed from the Glenthorne Harbour Branch towards the extension. I am using the new Peco Mainline points operated by Tortoise. These will remain under manual control with a hidden switch and lock to prevent any mistake that could decant trains onto the floor.

25th June

Design has been going on for a spectacular extension to County Gate. After much thought, we have decided upon modelling a stretch of the Glenthorne Harbour Branch where the line runs along the sea cliffs. This involves two baseboards stacked on top of each other in a staggered fashion.

Here we have Countisbury loop where branch trains will pass each other. In addition, there will be a funicular down to the art deco Glenthorne Lido.

These two boards are the first of four which will eventually be a stand-alone layout. They will be displayed for the first time next year at the Warley show.

23rd June

Today we have been restoring some older scenery on the railway. This required the removal of the backdrops and placing the baseboards on their sides. We fitted a light in the goods shed which nicely shows the interior detailing two Hex Monofrog Juicers and a further 6 way HFJ. All Peco operated points on the layout are now fitted with HFJs so we feel we are another step towards complete reliability.

The simplicity of DCC????

They say you only need two wires.

This is what is under the County Gate Station baseboard!

22nd June

Hex Frog Juicer (HFJ)

So this mad sounding piece of electronics is duly installed. Delivered from Digitrains, I am happy to say that it does just what it says on the box. The polarity switches on my Seep motors were retained to continue operating the point position lights on our switchboard. The droppers from the frogs were attached to the HFJ and the HFJ was wired to track power. Nothing could have been easier.

the six point unit as fitted to CG

Under test, the polarity changed instantly and the momentary short was not registered either by the trains, Digitrax system or the Railroad & Co software. A perfect result in fact. The unit is not cheap but if one is looking for 100% long term reliability, well worth the cost of £8 a point in my opinion. Single and double units are also available. The LED light show is quite impressive: pity it is hidden under the baseboard!

The unit also does miracles for more complicated trackwork such as crossings and slips.

So now, onto the harbour colour light signal.

20th June

When in Germany, we discovered we had forgotten our lighting pelmets and we used black cloth instead, normally used above the backdrop. We liked the effect so much, that we have now modified the pelmet design and a new black cloth pelmet is being made. This will drop lower than the original pelmets and much better hide the lighting. The pelmet will also go around the ends of the layout, making the whole affair much neater. The graphics from the original pelmets have been carefully cut out and will be attached in from the the cloth pelmet.

At the same time, our VDU display has been moved to the pelmet, rather than its original position above the backdrop. This has involved much cutting, grinding and welding of the metal work.

We are now moving into signalling improvements, with rodding, cranks and ground frames to be supplied by Model Signal Engineering.

Today, we fit and test 'Hex Frog Juicer'. This sounds like some dreadful health drink or an illegal substance. It fact, it is supposed to automatically change the polarity of point frogs. This has been an ongoing problem on our fiddle yard.

14th June

We are back from Chatham where both Bratton Fleming and County Gate operated side by side. Despite being cold, damp and dusty, I am glad to say that it all worked nearly perfectly the entire time. As usual, the welcome from the club was first rate and all in all, we had a great time. Rather sadly, numbers seem to have been well down compared with two years ago. One can only surmise that publicity was not as effective. There were some great layouts there too. Such a pity that some layouts were still deliberately made too high to be able to be seen from a wheelchair.

Ravens Rock - an object lesson in modelling slate quarries

St Etienne en Caux - French atmosphere in 009

our old friend Henk Wust and his Punta Marina

my favourite of the show - Batty Moor

Our thanks go to the Chatham and District Model Railway Club for all their hard work and hospitality.

5th June

Quite a lot of work has been done on CG. The sidings on the fiddle yard get shorter as we progress up the ladder. By the time we reach road 4, we have found that it is actually too short to reliably run two trains from it. The software has been reprogrammed for one train and the wiring for the second stop block transferred to road seven. Our thanks again go to Malcolm Alberry for sorting out the reprogramming.

This has allowed a longer train to be used and we have brought into service a freelance 'what could have been' coach based a bit on the WHR Gladstone car.

Eventually, all seemed to be working well and the layout is now all packed up and ready to take to Chatham. This is a show we really enjoy. The Historic Dockyard is a unique venue and the club is one of the most friendly around.

28th May

County Gate is now erected at home and work has been progressing to repair minor damage and make sure everything is running perfectly for our visit to Chatham in a couple of weeks.

16th May

Possibly the worst conditions one could imagine to operate County Gate were to be expected in a tent on top of Exmoor. This was Woody Bay, an original station on the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway and now the headquarters of the revived railway. Throwing caution to the wind, we took both CG and Bratton Fleming and hoped for the best.

The welcome at the L&B was fantastic and within seconds of arrival, we were enjoying the very best of sandwiches and warm hospitality. The layouts were set up in a special marquee behind the station building and large numbers of wooden blocks were needed to get them even vaguely level.

We managed to run a service most of the time although I have to say, the equipment did complain somewhat. Bratton Fleming, however worked almost perfectly but then again, it is far more simple.

One visitor thought the layout was a disgrace. He figured the trains ran far too slowly and that trains should be running in full view at all times. I suspect the last layout he had seen was an ancient Triang job on the dining room table!

We welcomed George Sims to the Desperados. George, a sprightly octogenarian, operated Bratton Fleming perfectly throughout the weekend.

Our thanks to all those at Woody Bay who helped to make our visit so enjoyable.

1st May

Work has gone apace to prepare Bratton Fleming for the forthcoming Woody Bay Gala in two weeks time. We are close to getting the work finished. Huge thanks are again extended to Malcolm Alberry for programming the Railroad&Co.

We are beginning to look at 'beyond County Gate'. This will be a mirror image of CG which can run as stand alone or as an extension to CG.

21st April


"And whatever you do, no jokes about Poland."

These were the parting words from Jenny as we drove off in glorious sunshine on the way to the Intermodellbau Dortmund 2011.

It had all begun some time ago when we exhibited our 009 Lynton and Barnstaple layout in Utrecht. A rather jolly man came over to us and babbled on in German. This was a bit of a problem as you can't copy and paste what people say into Babelfish to get a translation! A simple "Nicht spreken ze Deutch" caused him to go away.

He returned later with a tall guy sporting a ponytail who translated for us. His friend was Dutchman Paul de Groot and like all good Dutchmen, he could speak at least four languages fluently.

"Mr Ebe wishes you to come to "Dortmund next year".

I had found the trip to Utrecht very tiring as I had travelled via Dover/Boulogne and as a consequence had benefited from very little sleep. The Brits on the layout next door overheard the conversation and suggested we took a night ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland. Eventually I agreed provided that Paul would help with translations. It seemed that none of the organisers of Intermodellbau could speak English. This was fair enough as none of the Desperados, those who help show County Gate, could speak German.

As the show loomed nearer, we worked hard to make sure that the layout would operate well for a full five days. This is quite a challenge for tiny 009 locomotives. The last thing that I wanted was to have failures and Germans saying "Vorch Sprung Dirk Teknik". While all this was going on, poor old Paul had to translate all the video interpretations into German.

Ready as we could be, we planned our route. To make sure that I would arrive in Dortmund, I had finally blasted into the 21st century and bought a TomTom GPS. The salesman told me that even an idiot could work a TomTom. So why was it so hard to get it to tell me how to get to Westfallenhalen Dortmund? I also wanted to go via Harwich and carry on from Hoek van Holland. Whatever I did, the TomTom resolutely directed me to Harwich, then Dover, cross there by ferry and drive to Hoek van Holland before continuing on to Hallen Westfalen.

After some frantic random button pushing, it looked about OK for the route and off we went. My fellow Desperado was Kevin Mason. A wonderfully potty Fellow of the Royal Academy of Art. He lives close by and these days is deeply involved in County Gate. He has loved 009 for the past half century. His artistic claim to fame seems to be his belief that if you paint something in magnolia, it becomes invisible. It is a very long drive to Harwich with a big trailer; 210 miles in all from Ludlow. A stop en route to fill up with fuel and refresh ourselves at MacDonald's passed without incident until the sliding door of the disabled toilet jammed shut. After some considerable shouting, help arrived and eventually a well built volunteer with lots of tattoos managed to force it open. The door then promptly fell on top of me.

We arrived too early at Harwich docks. It is Sunday. Not a soul in sight. We drove through the town. Still not a soul. This place must have suffered the plague. Our third Desperado arrived by train a little later. He's Martyn de Young; a long time Desperado and a great supporter of the new Lynton and Barnstaple Railway.

Somebody has already remarked that when the three of us get together it reminds them of the Three Stooges. Be that as it may, there always seem to be lots of laughing when we are together.

The TomTom lady confidently directed us round Rotterdam and put us on autobahns going East. If anyone is thinking about organising fell walking tours in these regions, forget it! How flat can you get? All the towns en route changed from being called Uit to Ausfahrt so we figured we had arrived in Germany.

It is supposed to be 160 miles to Dortmund. At 190 miles there were still no signs to the place and the autobahn just continued to relentlessly roll on. Kevin thought that we were probably getting close to places where lots of miserable men drink vast quantities of vodka. He then said he thought he could see a yurt. At this point, Martyn started to look at some maps and announced we were on our way to Poland! Clearly Halen Westfallen is not quite the same thing as Westfallenhalen.

Martyn eventually came to grips with TomTom and the lady started to direct us way South to Dortmund. Needless to say, we got lost in Dortmund and drove through the town centre without a green emission sticker on our car. No one stopped us and we were not actually sent to the Russian Front. Eventually we did manage to get to the show ground. There was not one sign that said Westfallenhalen. The showground is extensive and seemed not much smaller than the NEC. It looked a little less 'industrial' and a large covered stadium was included. We then realised that we had seen lots of signs to what looked liked a drawing of a MacDonalds Big Mac. How were we to know that it was depicting the stadium?

Despite our slight diversion towards Poland, we had arrived by lunch time and were directed to the correct door in Halle 4. No one spoke English but we were getting the hang of the Links/Rechts bit. Paul de Groot came to meet us and we were quickly unloaded. We then began to realise that this show was a bit different from most. All the layouts were neatly separated by walls and a very generous space it was indeed. The best bit was that they gave all of us a shed! A generous private room where we could lock up all of our bits and pieces. Wow, what a luxury.

Kevin settles into our personal 'shed'.

Suddenly we were met by a posse of jovial Germans who herded us towards the exhibitors' hospitality area at the MOBA stand. Once in, someone announced "County Gate" and lots of Germans came to say hello (at least I assume it was that) and there was a great deal of 'backen schlappen'. Within nanoseconds there were endless glasses of beer and champagne lined up in front of us. We felt obliged to drink it all. You should never insult the natives, should you? One of the MOBA members told us that Germany took its model railways much more seriously than the UK. I replied that this was excellent as it might stop them invading Poland again. There was a slight pause and then they all cracked up. "Ahhh, British humour!" And that is how it all carried on........... lots of translated jokes followed by "Ahhh, British humour!" or "Ahhh, German humour!" all punctuated with lots of champagne and beer. MOBA people were a great bunch and I shall always carry fond memories of them.

Some time later, we returned to the County Gate stand a bit glassy eyed and somehow managed to assemble it all without incident. It was then that we realised that we had forgotten to bring the pelmets. A quick recovery had the black cloth usually fitted above the backdrop substituted as a pelmet instead. Kevin and Martyn decided that I was slurring my speech too much to start running it so we left for the hotel with Paul de Groot. After all, we had the whole of Tuesday to get it running properly.

County Gate ready to run with our emergency lighting pelmet. Paul de Groot is photographing for the MOBA website

For those who don't know, I am a grumpy one legged man well past male menopause and use a mobility scooter to get around. Whilst the Dortmund Pullman is close by, we had to cross over a main road using rather a steep ramped footbridge. My poor guys had to give the scooter 'assist' to get up the slope which resulted in a lot of panting and red faces. 

Peter Goss described it thus:-

The view of the footbridge from the comfy 3rd floor landing of the hotel.
"A motor chair with a large man in it wearing a black jacket pointing forward. "Onward men!  I want to plant my new tree with some glue that I haven't got before sun-up!".   Pushing the chair, and walking almost horizontally up the slope, was a Mongolian Magnolia man wearing a large pair of spectacles with steam coming out of his head and a roll up carefully tucked into the corner of his mouth. Several yards behind walking almost sideways was another chap, red faced, carrying 27 bags of luggage and wheelie bags buckling under the strain......Priceless....  if only I had had my camera."

The four star Pullman is a typical 'glitzy' Euro hotel which includes a staggering number of pretty young female staff who were always smiling and helpful. This was getting rather good. That is, until Kevin realised that his room was on the forth floor and they had glass lifts. Eventually we managed to coax him into one of them and gave him the choice of having a bin bag put on his head or he face the one opaque wall. Having chosen the latter, Kevin majestically rose to the heavens trembling all of the way.

A little later, we left for a restaurant close by. This was a really a local affair with excellent German food costing 3,50 Euros for the main dish. Here we met up with Peter and Julia Goss of Rowlands Castle: the other Brit layout. Paul de Groot told us about his new project which is organising the building of an enormous H0 model railway for a museum. He has just ordered 2 million H0 figures. Anyone fancy gluing them all down?

left to right: John de Frayssinet, Paul de Groot, Julie Goss, Peter Goss, Martyn de Young and Kevin Mason.

The following morning we enjoyed excellent breakfasts (except the Germans have never heard of Weetabix and their tea is terrible). Fortunately, we never had a bad cup of coffee. It's amazing what the Germans can do with acorns these days.

We took a few hours to ensure that automatic operation was working correctly and then it was time to take a look around the show, still in the throws of being constructed. There were two large railway halls. They even had stick down track graphics in the corridors.

between the two train halls

This is a really classy show and clearly a huge amount of money is spent on presentation. Even the cafe was constructed as a locomotive roundhouse.

The roundhouse cafe

Clearly, the ethos of German railway modelling appears to be to buy as much of the layout as possible ready built and tip the bits out of boxes onto a baseboard. Some of the models were absolutely amazing. One could buy a complete pit head complex for the price of a BMW or a vast variety of trees. Despite all of this, I found the German layouts on display to be a bit 'wooden' in composition. Many layouts were infested with vast numbers of LED lights and animated figures. There was no question that a lot of the layouts had cost more than the average house. Interested Germans constantly asked us where we had bought our buildings, trees, backdrop and rolling stock. When we replied that we had made them, they just looked puzzled and asked "but where did you buy them" One guy wanted to buy my Beyer Garrett K1 and kept returning with higher and higher offers.

Julie and Peter Goss with their exquisite Rolands Castle

Famous French modeller Jack Treves was installed opposite us with a new H0N3 layout, Sirène Habana Northern. This was a model of a South American line and involved shunting box cars into the rear of a rather noisy ferry. The team looked very tired indeed at the end of each day. I had recently bought a new mobility scooter and realised that every time I drove around, I became highly charged with static electricity. The first morning, all the French guys shook hands with me according to custom but looked a tad surprised. The next day, only a few of them did so and from then on, they studiously avoided me first thing in the morning until they felt that a lack of handshake would not be impolite!

At 9am Wednesday, the doors opened and the hall was quickly filled. We were very surprised how many came during the weekday openings. This show gets around 90,000 visitors over the five days. They all seemed to be well dressed and unlike some who visit UK shows, none of them smelt! County Gate was quickly five deep with visitors and there was a lot of "das ist schön" going on. I have never seen so many expensive cameras in use at any one time.

County Gate ran nearly perfectly for most of the time. Sadly, I twice touched engines without first discharging myself of static. This in both cases blew the DCC chip and we had a bit of rapid reprogramming to do to keep the full service running. After a couple of days we were well 'in the groove' and life outside seemed a long way away.

Other halls were visited and we were particularly impressed with the model ships. The Germans seem to prefer to model WW2 British ships while the Brits often model German ones. Some kits of ships made of card were quite fantastic. There were also all kinds of cool things kids could do with radio control.

On Thursday, our favourite restaurant is closed and Paul took us to a 'Mongolian Restaurant' which was also close by. This offered a vast array of food which one chose. It was then cooked for you. They specialised in zebra, ostrich and kangaroo which clearly are animals very plentiful in Mongolia! Despite protestations, I found that their 'most mild' cooking set my mouth on fire so I ate virtually nothing but Peter Goss tucked in to the food with gusto. Peter was then suddenly and violently taken ill. He was still in a pitiful condition the following day and had developed two most impressive black eyes. Julie absolutely denied that she had hand-bagged him. Luckily, he had mostly recovered by Saturday. Saturday night was an exhibitors get together at the Roundhouse. Various rolls arrived in profusion and the place was awash with beer, wine and champagne. This was the night that Kevin decided to 'go for it' and he became quite agitated if there were not at least three full glasses of beer lined up in front of him at any one time.

Sunday began with most of us quite hung over. One visitor carefully examined our hotel with its bowling green. "Ah, cricket" he declared. We think that many Germans did not quite understand that the line was freelance and we confidently expect many to be driving around Devon trying to find the real railway.

The last visitor had left by 5pm and we prepared the layout for loading, scheduled for Monday morning.  For us, the show had been absolutely brilliant. We would like to thank Carl Ebe and the MOBA team for their fine hospitality and Paul de Groot for being a 'translation minder'. We all felt rather sad to leave and would happily have stayed another 5 days. We have further invitations for Hanover, Sweden and Belgium and MOBA has invited us back in a couple of years. Will we go? You bet! A fantastic show and well worth the visit for anyone interested in modelling.

Post Script

Our trip home was without incident and we all found ourselves back in reality.  In Martyn's absence, his wife and daughters had redecorated the hallway in magnolia and Martyn could no longer find the stairs. Kevin learned that his mother had died. She had been ill for some time but it was still, of course, a shock. I learned that my elderly mother in law had broken her wrist and one of our Desperados had died unexpectedly. Daren was a very enthusiastic South Walian who had perhaps the most unique chat up lines ever. We still laugh at his attempt with one young lady. "Would you like to see a photo of my lizard?" He will be much missed.

26th March

The point motors on the fiddle yard have been changed to Seep units which need much less power to operate them. This has enabled us to speed up the route changing.

The new art deco diesel is now virtually complete and only the decals and nameplate remain to be applied.

This is the carry case for the new railcar.

17th March

The decals have now been applied to the new railcar.

The new loco to tow the disguised Tomix trackcleaner, 'River Aller' has been on test and passed with flying colours.

13th March

12th March

All of the cars are now completed and await the decals from Peter Blackham. All the lights work and the cars operate perfectly.

11th March

The cars came back from Chromed Up yesterday and what a job they have done for us. Assembly is now under way.

06th March

For our trip to Germany, I am building a new art deco four coach railcar. This will be finished using a newish process to replicate polished aluminium.

We have also been checking correct operation of the layout, which has seen little activity while I built the museum model. Some Peco point motors are being replaced by latching Seep motors after we have continued to have problems with Peco micro switches for polarity changing.

07th February

After a break from the railway while I built a museum model, it is back to the upgrade.

Shrewsbury Bridge around 1730

I have tried several times to get realistic steam to come from the collier Glenthorne Rose. A steam generator and an ultrasound system were tried to no0 avail. Finally, I discovered the 'burning building smoke generator' from Faller. no 180690. This eventually came from Gaugemaster.

We needed to have a computer fan controlled by a wire wound potentiometer fitted below the baseboard to blow the smoke up the funnel enough to make it look like steam. The effect works just fine but what an effort!

23rd December

We have had no mail for three days now so work on the coaches is at a standstill until we have passengers. So here is the rake of coaches for the future 'Axe'.

click on image to enlarge

20th December

And just before painting, here is the very last coach. Another Minehead Extension freelance.

19th December

The last five coaches are underway. These will be used for the train of the Baltic North British loco whose chassis is being built in the USA by Jeff Bissonnette. Some of the coaches are freelance and represent what could have been built for the Minehead extension. Care has been taken to develop faded paint on some of them. The coaches are shown below, awaiting the passengers which have yet to arrive.

click on image to enlarge

6th December

During testing, a wire came loose in the fiddle yard, causing a short circuit that blew two point motors and a transformer. If this had happened at exhibition, we would have been in deep trouble. As a consequence, the yard has been rewired to allow for redundancy.

Much work has been done in preparing for the Lynton and Barnstaple World exhibition at the Warley NEC show of 2012. The new Ffestiniog built Lyd will be the star attraction.

The website for this event can be found here.

21st November

The day after a visit to the Warley National Model Railway show at the NEC should always be viewed as a rest day!

I had a list of things to buy, and I had to say, by and large, was successful. I have finally found a smoke generator that runs for many hours. This is the unit used in the 'burning house' (Viessmann) and was supplied by Gaugemaster.......always a helpful bunch at exhibitions.

Now we shall have the job of installing it under the Glenthorne Rose. This will not be without its problems.

I have suffered from a number of Peco point motor failures and have now gone to 'Zero tolerance'. I bought a number of Seep units with proper microswitches and these will be dropped in as and when. I just wish I had installed Tortoise motors on the fiddle yard to begin with.

What of the show? For me, the star had to be Copenhagen Fields by the Model Railway Club; an ongoing project which rivals Pendon for complexity and detail.

Another top exhibit was that of David Taylor; Bridport. David was kind enough to allow trains to be stopped while I did my 'happy snaps'. It was a privilege to finally get to see this layout.

David chats with an admirer

I also knew that the 7mm model of Barmouth Bridge was here on display. I had seen this model at a local show and was much taken with the quality of modelling. Sadly, they have fitted a hand painted backscene which completely destroys the model. Brashly painted in garish colours with no regard either of perspective and distance, it is impossible to enjoy this superb model. What a shame. A camera would have been a far better choice.

Our programming guru, the redoubtable Malcolm Alberry was operating a DCC automation stand which was packed throughout the day.  I never got close enough to see the exhibit but it must have been good.

The number of 7mm logging lines has grown. Soon these will become as common as GWR branch lines used to be.

There were also a large number of model tree makers. Sadly, they have all elected to make foliage based on polyfibre covered with scatter. Perhaps this is going to be the new national standard? I surely hope not. At best, they looked like sawdust scattered on polyfibre and at worst like accurate models of Brussels Sprouts.

I was able to firm up details of the 2012 Lynton and Barnstaple World exhibit of 2012 with Paul Jones, the exhibition manager.

Altogether an excellent day out. I just wish the event was not held at the same time as the National Cat show!

County Gate withdrawals

The original railcar, No 200 has been withdrawn from service and is due to be scrapped following the failure of the drive chassis.

16th November

Some of our vegetation has been slowly beaten down through wear and a number of bushes are being replaced.

and as it was

The foreground trees of the viaduct are also being replanted.

13th November

All trains now have working rear lights. It is really quite job to do as a function chip has to be fitted to the last vehicle, capacitor and of course the current collection and lamp from DCC Concepts. Despite this, the tiny red glow does add something to the whole affair.

Finally, the Glenthorne push pull unit powered by my old 4-6-0 Baldwin is working properly after well over 100 hours of effort. This makes a welcome change to the Glenthorne railcar. This little engine once ran in a shop window in Denver non stop for one year and a day. Apart from a motor change to five pole, no other maintenance has been needed.

28th October

A great deal of work is going on with County Gate right now. The fiddle yards had warped somewhat and needed rebuilding to get them reasonably flat again. Yet another Peco point motor had also burned out on the yards. This is getting beyond a joke.

We have put different consists together which should offer better visual differences for the visitor. These now include a double header with Exe and Yeo.

Some new slide shows have to be produced and the whole lot is now needed in German and French in readiness for two future shows.

18th October

That's the way to do it!

I have always taken rather a dim view of industrial espionage but now I rather think it would be a jolly good idea for one professional event management company I know of to have a try. Go and see how Warners Exhibitions do it! The National Festival of Railway Modelling is held in the East of England Showground near Peterborough by British Railway Modelling and Warners Exhibitions with the help of the Market Deeping Model Railway Club.

We have enjoyed many shows but only a few tick all of the boxes, and this is one of them! From the organised welcome, friendly and polite staff, we really felt that nothing was too much for us.

We welcomed two new Desperados, Richard Lake and Kevin Mason, both 009 modellers. Blair Hobson came with us for the first two days, and was spelled by Martin Mills on Sunday. The Friday set up went easily, although we still suffered somewhat from Barrow Hill dust despite major cleaning efforts.

The showground is a superb facility with so many access doors that there was never a stampede to load or unload. This is an unheard of luxury. The large exhibition halls are bright, airy and pleasant and just good to be in.

All in all, the railway ran very well indeed although we did experience a few blips over the two days but I do not think the visitors noticed at all.

The entire atmosphere of the show was one of fun and relaxation and it seemed far too soon that it was getting time to knock it all down again. There was an excellent selection of layouts and traders although narrow gauge exhibits were a tad thin on the ground.

With 14 train sets parked behind on the fiddle yards, we began to thin the number of trains operating towards the end of the afternoon until by the time the show was over, just three trains were operating. This has always been our standard practice as it takes so long to box them up. This does not in any way reduce the service unless we experience problems.

One and a half hours after the show closed, the hall was once again an empty space and it is so hard to imagine what it was like just a short time before,.

The Desperados would like to thank Sam Porter, her staff and all those involved in making this show one to remember. Why no photos? Well, it helps to remember to put the memory card in the camera!

27th September

Model Rail Live, Barrow Hill

Barrow Hill is the only surviving working roundhouse in the UK. Set in the heart of industrial dereliction, it was saved by a dedicated group of enthusiasts and now hosts some very famous locomotives which on open days, come back into steam and thrill all who see them.

It is also the home of the Deltic Preservation Society who went to a great deal of trouble to become hosts to a small number of model railways. I remember seeing the original locomotive on test and was actually very impressed with it. It looked 'proper' and was then the most powerful diesel locomotive in the World.

The impressive Deltic prototype that is now stuffed and mounted at Shildon, Co. Durham.

Rather sadly, by the time the Deltic became the Class 55, the production locomotives had lost all of their allure and looked, in my eyes, just like all of the other boring spam cans that have run on British Rail.

I was invited to take County Gate to the first Model Rail Live which was to be held at Barrow Hill. the concept was to combine full sized working locomotives with a model railway exhibition. I support Model Rail Magazine and thought the idea sounded interesting despite reservations about the conditions at show. It was a bit hard to get accurate information about what we were to expect as the show had been given to an event managers to organise whose knowledge of model railways to say the least, skinny.

At the last minute, I discovered that access was up a ramp through a small personnel door which meant that County Gate had to be manhandled over some considerable distance. This meant that I had to find an additional helper.

This was a 'good' bit of ballast to walk on! CG had to be manhandled through the little door.

We arrived an hour late after getting lost and driving half way to Scotland before turning back. We eventually found where we were to be and the layout was manhandled into the Deltic diesel shed and we spent the next six hours assembling and testing it.

On Saturday morning, we arrived in time to perform final tests and to check one last time for any scenery defects. We had just applied RailZip after a last minute track cleaning. That's when they opened the door. Not just any door but one the size of a house and it was right next to our layout!

As everybody knows, any place North of Birmingham is right inside the Arctic Circle. The icy gale whirled through the Deltic building bringing with it a cloud of cement dust, some of which quickly settled all over County Gate. The dust of course stuck to the RailZip!

It turns out that someone called 'Simon the Baby Deltic' had a derelict diesel outside which he had painted showing how he intended to convert it into a class 23 (Baby Deltic) locomotive. It looked like a clever diagram showing cuts of meat! He wanted to have the door open so that the public could see it.

It may be that the event organiser had agreed to this and it is quite possible that this was the case. I rather suspect that it was as Model Rail Magazine has given a donation to the Baby Deltic Soc. which I suspect is a bribe for keeping the door shut!

Our Simon was adamant the door stayed open so more and more dust settled on County Gate and the other model railways. I was forced to argue with the organisers that we had brought our model railways to be showed in a building and not a wind tunnel.

Eventually, it was resolved but not before a lot of stress and unpleasantness and damage to delicate layouts. All the rolling stock on County Gate now began to collect a mush of dust and RailZip on the wheels.

County Gate is kept in controlled conditions and arrives in plastic to ensure that it is pristine. Due to this thoughtless incident, we now have hours of work to restore the layout.

I just do not feel this should have been allowed to happen in the first place. We were told by one organiser that we were 'unreasonable' and should be pleased to have been 'chosen' for the exhibition. After so carefully preparing the layout, this experience has left us very angry.

Still, after yet again cleaning the track, we were able to get on with the show. County Gate worked almost perfectly and very few stoppages were experienced (from dirty wheels of course!).

in the shadow of a Deltic

The crowds did not seem to be the usual people who go to model railway exhibitions. I suspect they were mostly there to see the 'big trains'. There were probably too few layouts of quality to attract most model railway exhibition goers.

So it was time to take a look around.

Most of the Barrow Hill site has pedestrian ways of loose railway ballast. This is as hard as can be for anyone in a wheelchair or small scooter. Despite this, wheelchair users were made to park 100 yards from the attractions while cars of able bodied people parked close by.

The traders had been put in a marquee with a floor that resembled a boulder field. Able bodied people were tripping and access was quite impossible for the disabled. This was completely out of order for all concerned. There was also no disabled access whatsoever in the building where demonstrations took place.

The verdict? A bit like the curate's egg......... good in parts. The Barrow Hill boys could not have been more friendly and helpful and the sights of main line steam in action were thrilling.

I do not think there were enough layouts of quality to attract modellers and I am not convinced that the facilities at Barrow Hill can really support a national model railway show. I think most layout owners felt that they were no more than a side show and an inconvenience to the full size diesel boys who normally occupy the building. We were not even thanked for attending and left the premises like 'thieves in the night'.

The editorial of Model Rail did all they could to facilitate but were hampered by the event organisers who were frankly absolutely clueless about the needs of exhibitors and succeeded in marginalising those who knew what they were doing. This was the first exhibition run by Model Rail and it was a brave attempt.

Tips for the future would include:

  • Breakfast is not one stale croissant and a stone hard chocolate muffin in a bag for exhibitors expected to spend the day in an unheated shed.

  • Expenses should be paid in cash on site. We should not have to submit invoices to be paid at some later date. This has left some retired exhibitors with cash flow difficulties until expenses are resolved.

  • Employ someone with experience of organising model railway exhibitions.

  • It takes exhibitors a lot of effort and time and money to come to an event. At least make us feel appreciated and welcome.

  • Give much more information to exhibitors so they are more fully informed before accepting

4th September

charming floral stations.............

Living as we do on the Mid-Wales border, it is only natural that we should visit the gala weekend of the 2ft 6inches gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Caereinion. These days of course, with the extreme 'Welshification' of the principality, it should probably be called Rheilffordd Y Trallwng Llanfair Caereinion but then again, no one would be able to find it!

All a bit silly really, because this railway was saved from extinction by a bunch of blokes from Birmingham!

The W&L is probably the most eclectic NG railway in the world, fielding as it does, rolling stock from Antigua, Sierra Leone, Austria, Hungary and Romania, among others. It was built during the time that everything was built with corrugated iron and for the most part, the W&L has managed to retain the atmosphere of the period.

Llanfair Caereinion has not changed so much since the line was operated commercially. The cafe is without doubt one of the best in the business and is decorated beautifully and staff are helpful and very friendly. John and Jane Jacobs, of 009 Nettlecombe fame have actually moved to the area and work tirelessly on the line.

We were scheduled to take the 10.45 train which duly arrived behind the visitor locomotive Chevallier. This handsome Manning Wardle spent its working life down in Kent before being privately rebuilt. There is talk that it may be going abroad but it would also seem to be a possibility that it will stay here.

Behind Chevallier were a couple of large Hungarian coaches. As the photo shows, they are a fine example of Commie craftsmanship. The steel sides were beaten into shape by depressed Hungarians using large rocks. There is a large amount of Hungarian painted on the sides. This appears to be identical to Welsh except there are a lot of accents as well!

We were helped into the coach and eventually, we departed. It is important to note that unless you have a naturally well padded bottom, it is worthwhile bringing cushions with you. The Welshpool journey is best described as 'bucolic'. If you enjoy examining hedgerows at close quarters, this is the line for you. There are some views across rolling fields and for a while the line runs close to the River Banwy. The railway also has some very stiff grades, including a section of 1:29 so there is plenty of opportunity to hear locos working hard.

Chevallier was suffering from a hot box, so apart from the occasional stop at level crossings, there were also delays while the loco crew tried to introduce more oil into the offending component.

The timing of the loco was, to say the least, 'iffy'. This along with the sprung centre buffer couplings resulted in all passengers' heads going backwards and forwards like demented chickens. This was at first extremely amusing but got a little tiring after a while.

We passed two trains en route, including one with the newly built replicas of the original Pickering coaches. These have been constructed by the Festiniog Railway to a really high standard. Rather sadly, the seating is arranged along the sides which in my mind is a very uncomfortable way to ride.

photo - Andrew Charman

Upon arrival at Welshpool, the late train was whisked away by one of the lovely original engines, Earl, and we spent a while at the nicely built station before being returned to Llanfair Caereinion by the 'Chicken Machine'.

Llanfair Caereinion was really the centre of activity, including all kinds of steam vehicles, showman's organ and even Stanley steam cars. An excellent day out and full credit to the volunteers of the Welshpool line. The only thing missing from this most traditional gala was bunting!

30th August

With work on Bratton Fleming taking much of my time, attention has shifted to County Gate in preparation for the next show at Barrow Hill. A few tree repairs were necessary and a general dusting to bring the colours back to life. Already, we are knocking the layout down ready for transport.

13th August

Since mid May, I have been building the snow scene diorama of Bratton Fleming and yesterday, I am glad to say that I reached an important step in its completion. All that is left to do is the scenery and backdrop graphics. As usual, it is the infrastructure and wiring that has taken much of the time. It may be of interest to review what has been achieved so far.

  • construction and finishing of the three baseboard modules.

  • Installation of LED lighting array with dimmers

  • laying of track and ballasting

  • fitting of point motors and wiring, including required electronics to permit automated operation using Railroad & Co software.

  • building a Backwoods/Bemo model of loco 'Exe' including lights and DCC

  • building Backwoods/Grafar 08 model of Lyn including lights and DCC

  • building four coaches and fitting of lights and sound

  • construction of station building, bridge and goods shed

Scenery does not take so long usually so hopefully, the layout is on schedule.

The time has now arrived to check over County Gate ready for the first autumn exhibition. All seems to be working very well so far.

The big news has been the completion of replica locomotive 'Lyd'. This is another huge success from Boston Lodge of the Ffestiniog Railway. It seems to be working well 'out of the box'.

the new loco prior to fitting of cowcatcher and application of Southern livery - photo Matt Waldren

A whistle was made for the loco from original drawings and what a weedy sound it is! We have replaced the whistle sounds on County Gate to match the 'real thing'.

1st August

The shuffle of trains on the fiddle yard now takes place as trains run onto blocks further from the fiddle yard and the problem is solved.

30th July

We are gradually fitting working tail lights on the County Gate trains. This means that a simple function chip is installed in the last car of each train. All of a sudden, we had problems getting the trains to 'shuffle'. The long train clear a block but the the last car is telling the software that the next train has arrived! More programming is in order to fix this one........thank you Malcolm!

27th July

Work has progressed on the Bratton Fleming layout with both new locomotives made and all baseboards complete, finished and varnished. Track is laid and wiring droppers installed. There is pressure to complete this layout as a blue diesel gauge 1 layout awaits to be built.

10th July

The two main baseboards of the Bratton Fleming layout are complete, filled and finished in dark navy blue and very smart they look too. The next step will be to attach the two together in correct register using mould makers pins and then the fiddle yard must be made.

9th July

The main two baseboards of Bratton Fleming are built and primed. Right now, they could easily be hamster cages! The fiddle yard is yet to be built.

The test sample decals for the Manning Wardle have arrived and include the lettering, green panels and white lining. They look very good indeed.


2nd July

Our Mallet, 'River Avon' had become a little 'tatty' due to excessive handling when converted to operating lights. Robert Kaczmarczyk (pronounced Shithotlocopainter) kindly offered to give it a  'brush up'. Some of the lining had been displaced and in a few spots we were down to metal.

I like weathered working locomotives so a 'brush up' might not mean quite the same thing for some. Thanks Rob.

Tomorrow, Andy and Fiona of DCC Supplies are back with us to programme our loco sounds. I have had a torrid time getting the train running properly for them and managed to wreck two chips. Still, all is well now and I have been enjoying the little train running round CG with all the lights out!

30th June

I have been building the first locomotive for our Bratton Fleming diorama. It is a model of the Manning Wardle 'Exe' and is based on a Backwoods kit. I have been unhappy with the design of the Backwoods chassis as it is very difficult to get working correctly and almost impossible to repair. This model incorporated a Bemo outside frame chassis from a small H0e diesel.

Build time was 44 hours and I am happy to say that it runs like a top. Panelling and lining still remains to be done.

24th June

Away with the Fairlies

My oldest friend, David Line, felt well enough to make a visit to the UK from France for a few days. A retired BBC man, he has always been besotted with narrow gauge railways and the Ffestiniog in particular. Paul Lewin, general manager of the FR and his staff, very kindly offered him a footplate ride on his favourite loco, a double Fairlie called Merddin Emrys.

In glorious summer weather, we drove up to Portmadoc in sufficient time to first be able to visit the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. The station is attractive and very well presented and the staff helpful and friendly. A diesel hauled train eventually drew into the station and the half dozen or so passengers climbed in and we were slowly drawn to the end of the line at Pen-y-Mount. The slow speed of the train is rather necessary as the line does not even reach the first mile post. Here is a replica of the original station halt, built in corrugated iron. The open side faces the WHHR platform while behind it, the Welsh Highland Railway main line passes unseeingly behind fencing.

After running round, we stopped at the new narrow gauge museum. This is actually well presented with good passenger facilities. My friend, who owns a garden steam railway, enjoyed a run on their 71/4" line.

On our return to the terminus, there was a small scattering waiting for the train but one does wonder how this operation manages to keep going on its traffic returns.

A very sour note was the text on WHHR posters, "we cannot sell tickets for the WHR as the Festiniog Railway does not allow us to". Hardly surprising really: when I visit Marks and Spencer, I do not expect to be able to buy things from Tesco.

a real class act

On arriving at the Ffestiniog Harbour station, we found ourselves pushing through the throng of visitors. This station had to be the most popular place in Portmadoc. We enjoyed an excellent lunch at Spooners Bar before our train arrived, full to the brim with happy passengers. Due to the recent low rainfall, Merddin Emrys was piloted by single Fairlie, Taliesin. This was to prevent the loco working too hard and setting light to the lineside.

David quickly decided that Merddin Emrys was more attractive to photograph than ride on and elected to travel on Taliesin instead. The long train was again about as full as full could be and right on time, we drew out of the station. In recent times, focus has been on the growing Welsh Highland Railway, also owned by the Ffestiniog and it is easy to forget what a stunning railway the FR really is. I cannot guess how many times I have ridden on it and I have to say that the ride never gets boring. This has to be one of the best narrow gauge lines in the world and frankly, seems to be better run than the British main lines; a real class act.

ready to depart

All to soon, we drew into Blaenau Ffestiniog station and we all got out onto the platform and pondered why anyone would want to go to Ffestiniog except as part of this railway trip. David had enjoyed a wonderful ride but found that it was a tad tiring and elected to return in the train.

David with his stead

Only too soon, we had returned to Portmadoc and sadly it was time to leave. That evening, we even managed to find a good restaurant at Tremadoc.

the great bladder saga

An early start next day, found us at the Welsh Highland terminus under the shadow of Caernarfon Castle. The installation is still a very temporary affair and is served by a gaggle of Portacabins. After finding a seat in a semi open coach, David loaded my disability scooter into the guards van and off we went. Garratt No 87 was hauling eight fully loaded coaches rather than the usual ten but still suffered considerable wheel slip upon starting.

The first part of the trip runs on what used to be the LNWR main line. In a way, it still feels like the two foot gauge is a small boy wearing Daddy's trousers and is frankly a bit boring. There was a compensation that the track felt good and we cracked along at a fine speed. After a short stop at Dinas, the original terminus, the journey really began. I still find it magic that after a lifetime of looking at an empty trackbed, the Welsh Highland has come back to life. This railway has almost everything British scenery can offer in profusion and description of it bankrupts the English language.

There is still a lot of work to consolidate the trackbed and for now, it is nowhere near as smooth as on the FR. The WHR will need many more years of hard work before it could be described as finished.

After our plunge through the long Aberglaslyn tunnel, we passed the new Nantmor halt and rolled down the dreaded Nantmor bank of 1:40 before coasting onto the river estuary plain beyond it. Until the Cob, at Portmadoc, was built some two hundred years ago, this large area was actually tidal. Dig a foot under the grass and one will still finds nothing but sand.

Last year's temporary terminus at Hafod-y-Llyn was passed and we were on new territory. In many ways, it reminds me of the first few miles out of Durango, on the three foot gauge. The mountain vista falls away as we rattle across steel girder bridges and by marshy fields before passing over the long Croesor river bridge and stopping at the latest terminus. From here, there is just three miles to go before reaching Harbour Station of the Ffestiniog. Some public trains are due to reach it later this year.

Pont Croesor is again a melange of assorted Portacabins and seems far more important than its remote location would suggest. This is because of the adjacent Osprey Centre, a Mecca for all twitchers. There is just one breeding pair and it is difficult not to wonder what would happen if they stopped nesting here.

During our trip down, David and I and enjoyed a variety of drinks offered to us by a very pretty French student who was working the summer on the line.  Perhaps we drank more than usual because she was so pretty. Fortunately, at our age, we are still allowed to look! After the various bumps from the consolidating track I felt it was about time to visit the disabled toilet at the other end of the platform. David set forth to recover my scooter only to discover that for some reason it had been off-loaded from the train and stored at Caernarfon!

It is amazing but when one discovers that one cannot go to the toilet, the urge to do so multiplies tenfold! The guard was most apologetic and promised to try to get a wheelchair for me at Beddgelert. It is at this point that one really does realise how long the WHR has become!

At some deep subconscious level I was aware of a hard working Garratt, wheel slips and tunnels but most of my thoughts were taken up with trying not to think about my bladder!

Beddgelert finally came into view but no wheelchair...........Oh my God! I was promised that there would be one at South Snowdon. I have no recollection of the next section at all except my Herculean effort not to find myself in a puddle of the wet, warm and wild. The journey was endless and for me, a trial. I tried to avoid looking at streams, not visualise toilets or dripping taps and of course those were the only things that did come to mind and in my imagination there was this image of a toilet, looking at me and beckoning. I felt sure it was laughing at me!

The guard came round, apologised profusely yet again and told me that I would feel as right as rain once we got to Rhyd-Ddu. I smiled weakly; he really shouldn't have said that!

After an eternity we arrived at Rhyd-ddu (South Snowdon) and eventually a wheelchair arrived. David huffed and puffed as he pushed me down the endless platform. By now, I swear that I could actually hear the toilet singing to me like a porcelain siren. We got to the end of the platform and had to cross the other line. Worse, I could now see the toilet building. A train was very slowly approaching the platform. "Go, David. Go". David hesitated and the endless train crawled by us.

After the last coach, David accelerated and we were off again. The front wheels of the chair promptly dug into the rail gaps and I was thrown onto the track like a projectile from a trebuchet. Perhaps it was a good idea that David had hesitated after all. Various station staff rushed over and I was quickly reloaded into the chair and finally we made it to the 'hallowed place'. I can say for certain, it was the best pee I have ever had. By now, our train was loaded up ready to go and was waiting for me. David, by now well out of puff, wheeled me back to the other end of the train while all the passenger stared at me!

The last part of the journey was uneventful but I have to say that by then, I was quite pleased to regain the independence of the car.

The Welsh Highland is indeed already very long, and even at OAP prices, the tickets cost over £50 for two. I rather suspect that many will choose to take just a section of the line.

Altogether an excellent and very funny two days in Wales with a best friend. Needless to say, I am taking the WHR and FR again in two weeks. This time, I shall handcuff myself to my scooter.

15th June

One train is now fitted with lights and sound and very good it is too. Any break in current collection, however, results in a crackle. This means that more coaches have to be hooked up for collection.

The entire website crashed due to the server failing. We have been offline for 24 hours while this very large site had to be loaded up onto a new server.

I am continuing building the snow covered scenic work for the group's Bratton Fleming layout. The snow seems to get everywhere when being applied as the particulate size is about scale for a snowflake!

1st June


While preparing a brake observation coach for the fitting of interior lights and sound, I managed to drop it onto the carpet. I pushed my office chair back in order to pick it up and managed to run over it!

This is the result. A new coach is almost complete!

23rd May

Work is progressing on the working Bratton Fleming snow scene diorama. With the main station building and bridge completed, attention is moving to the 'goods shed' which appears to be little more than a converted farm barn. With only one photo of a gable end available, imagination will have to play a role. The snow scene began as a photographic commission. A local group of narrow gauge enthusiasts, (Marches Narrow Gauge Group) then asked if the diorama could be made to operate so that it would become a club layout. Their website is on here

On the home front, I have finally succumbed to the attractions of a stair lift as my efforts on crutches were becoming more and more precarious. We now have a huge pipe that sweeps up the stairs that is a passable imitation of a petroleum cracking plant. I ascend with a multitude of electric hums, bumps and whines. The cats, surprisingly are not in the least afraid of it and need the occasional prod with a crutch to make them move out of the way.

My young grandson is fascinated with the affair. A high clear voice from the kitchen floats up to me.

"When Grandad dies, will he use that to go to heaven?

Ho hum!

16th May

For a little while now, the automation on County Gate had become a bit unreliable. It was no longer possible to turn one's back on operations for a moment without something dreadful happening. A number of possibilities were considered from insufficient voltage to corrupted software. Andy and Fiona from DCC Supplies spent Sunday with us and in the gaps between lunch and watching the Monaco Grand Prix, we finally found the issues. Due to the lack of flush mounted Loconet sockets, we had used DIN plugs between baseboards. These are not the best plug at the best of times but it is always hard to find decent plug/socket systems. Due to constant plugging and unplugging when travelling to exhibitions, some wear had occurred causing corruption of Loconet information packets being 'sent down the line'. By connecting the computer with the Zephyr unit with one Loconet cable, it now runs like a Swiss watch! In the end a simple solution when we had feared the worst!

Our thanks to DCC Supplies for helping out.

15th May

The West Midlands 009 Society Group visited County Gate today and for the most part, it all worked quite well. Martin Radcliffe brought his superb Leek and Manifold boxed set which quickly found its way onto the layout. The transporter wagon would have never got through the tunnel though!

14th May

Back from Brighton with the lined and weathered Kitson Meyer. This was done by Robert Kaczmarczyk and a jolly fine job it is too. No 6 really is a brute. It runs extremely smoothly.  'River Avon' is now with Rob for a bit of 'titivation'.

6th May

UK election day. It does seem a bit pointless as whoever wins will only be a new group of pigs who put their collective noses into the trough with disregard to promises. I have the impression that politicians are chosen these days for their 'X factor' rather than skills. Two of them are still children! At least I can get lost in County Gate while all this bullshit is going on.

I have been testing the automated system for many hours and these days, we do get a few misses. That is, the computer thinks an order has been obeyed but it is actually ignored. The reality is the such systems are also electro-mechanical and resistance increases with age and I rather suspect that over the miles of wires, we are experiencing more voltage drop. Andy of DCC Supplies is bringing around a Digitrax Chief which has a booster and puts out much more current than the 2.5 amps produced by the Zephyr. We shall see if it makes a difference.

I have also developed a predilection for articulated locos with two motors which also eats up the power.

Another issue is to get the train placement on the fiddle yard correct. At shows, I like to have the greatest possible variety of locos and trains running. Sadly, when I built the fiddle yard, I have not anticipated my superpower locos. The new low pressure cylinders of River Brue foul the Manning Wardles so that train must now be moved!

The Kitson Meyer is almost ready to collect following lining and weathering.

I am starting a small winter L&B diorama for an Xmas magazine front page. Snow and winter trees will be a good challenge. I have also been playing around with a small diorama concept called Barbrook, showing the higher level track to Lynton and the new main line to Minehead. The upper track would be of a smaller scale so building L&B stock would be a good challenge.

Finally, my 0 scale L&B modelling friend Tony Spencer has just had his birthday and this was one of his cards!

3rd May

A little while back, I made the 'how to' articles on registration only. This was due a person who created many problems! The difficulty has now been rectified and I am therefore opening up the how to articles freely again.

Amazingly, 1354 people registered from as far afield as Oz, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Brazil. The emails, names and data have been now wiped and are no longer stored by myself. I am really sorry to have put everybody to such trouble but something had to be done to stop this person.

1st May

Took some of CGs rolling stock to the West Midlands 009 annual exhibition. This was held near Kidderminster and was a well run affair that suffered from rather poor attendance. This did give us time to chat and have a few laughs. Food was excellent and a new figure, Martin Radcliffe trolleyed in with a presentation case of the complete stock of the Leek and manifold Railway, build to near perfection in 009.

 photo by Mick Thornton

The 009 stand arrived with Brian Guilmant who had managed to get a visa to come this far North and as usual, some very tasty pickings were on sale.

 'River Avill' on Simon Coward's Isle of Mudd layout - photo by Mick Thornton

River Avill worked hard pulling long trains on Simon Cowells 'Isle of Mudd' layout while the rest of the CG stock languished in cases.

Thanks to Blair Hobson who organised the event.

a special event - the first public steaming of 'Lyd', replica of 'Lew' - photo Andrew Thomas

20th April

Bit by bit I am going through the rolling stock and where necessary renewing parts. For some time, the Grafar chassis under the prototype railcar No 200 has been misbehaving. I finally managed to buy a similar chassis on EBay and installed that. The railcar now works perfectly. Work is continuing to re-chassis 'River Brue'.

17th April

The Kitson is now running wonderfully well and will be making the trip to Brighton tomorrow for lining and weathering by Rob Kaczmarczyk. Five new empty bogie coal wagons have been completed so a 'return trip' can be operated in show.

The Garratt is still not running correctly with the push pull from the harbour and we must wait for Andy of DCC Supplies to come over and programme the back EMF on site.

11th April

Yesterday we drove down to Winchester to the Wessex Narrow Gauge exhibition at Sparsholt. 40 narrow gauge layouts were scattered in a series of classrooms. The exhibits were varied but included some well known examples, including Tarrant Valley, Ilfracombe East and East Quay Chapel Pill. They were supported by a smattering of traders which included Parkside Dundas who continue to support these events, all the way from Scotland, with amazing regularity.

It was a difficult show for someone like me who is confined to a small mobility scooter. The crush in each room made it extremely difficult to manoeuvre and Jenny quite quickly felt claustrophobic. I saw most of the exhibits and we left quite quickly and spent the rest of the day exploring the fabulous city of Winchester and its cathedral.

8th April

The Kitson Meyer is back after having its chip sorted out by DCC Supplies (spot on people they are too). The handrails are fitted temporarily and she has been trundling around the layout without too many problems although she is still a bit stiff.

5th April

The Garratt with consist works fine on test although, for some reason, I cannot programme acceleration and deceleration into the chip. A trip to DCC Supplies is needed I think. The brake ramps have to be changed but this is a very quick thing to do on our software. Yet another CDU from the original batch failed today, so at least they are consistent. I have therefore changed all the CDUs of this batch in the hope that we can have another long period of reliability.

I have mentioned that I have found that metal etched valve gear is too heavy when fitted to the Bachmann class 08 outside frame chassis. This is now been confirmed on close examination of our Mallet 'River Brue' which used the gear from Backwoods 'Russell' etches. The loco had become increasingly unreliable and is now worn out after travelling 5.2 actual miles. I am replacing the entire chassis using ROCO valve gear.

It does make me wonder how Victors will fare with their La Meuse offering.

I finally realise what an old codger I have become. My trusty old mobile phone broke down. It was simple, made phone calls and the battery lasted for days. The new Nokia sent to me looks a lot better, as if I care but it has taken me over a day to figure out how to make a phone call. Nowhere did the instructions say that a clear bit of invisible plastic had to be removed from the screen so one could operate the touch sensitive scrolling. I still only want a phone but this thing, if one could only understand it, does everything including getting stones out of boy scouts' feet! All I want is a simple bloody phone.

4th April

It is very strange that all my locos can easily pull these two coaches up the grade from the harbour but pushing them seems to be a lot harder. The only loco that is able to push up the rake without effort is No.4 Garratt, the oldest loco of the fleet. I have added a power socket to the front of the loco to take current collection from the rake and this will have to be the consist. The double heading using No.1 and No.2 with a mixed goods will continue and the poor old 4-6-0 Baldwin (No.9) still does not have a job to do!

I have been giving some thought to the work the new Kitson Meyer will do. This is still awaiting attention to its chip at DCC Supplies. The Diesel, 'River Avill' hauls a long coal drag towards Barnstaple. The Kitson will haul a drag of empty coal wagons in the opposite direction. I do not have enough stock for this, so I shall have to order some new kits from Parkside Dundas.

I have just seen that Nine Lines are winding down. They have produced excellent L&B kits of the bogie goods wagons and their loss will be a huge problem for those modelling the L&B in future.

2nd April

For the first time in two months, we now have all the fiddle yard tracks properly working. At the same time, all the panel point indicator LEDs have been replaced and bigger resistors added, which will stop burnout in future. I am now locked in battle with the 4-6-0 Baldwin to make it smoothly travel its new route from the harbour to the bay platform at County Gate. The wheels of the Baldwin are perfectly set with the correct back to backs, although the actual rigid wheelbase is quite long. It completely jammed in two points at the harbour. The rail gauge has had to be eased a little at these points and I have now removed the flange of the centre driver. Now it works!

31st March

We lost two roads on our fiddle yard ladder at our last exhibition which restricted our operations. Gradually, the problems are being identified as failed CDUs. These were made for me and were supposed to be pretty powerful. I have replaced the failures with ones from Gaugemaster which actually seem to have even more capacity and everything is now working, thank God!

The dilemma is now that as the four failed units were installed at the same time as all the others, it is likely that they too will be on their way home. I am inclined at this point to replace the lot, about eight of them, rather than risk a failure at exhibition.

I still have to replace many indicator LED lights on the fiddle yard control panel which had burnt out due to excessive voltage.

25th March

With the painted floor mostly dried now, I shall soon have access to the layout...not a moment too soon as politicians and elections are already driving me mad so the railway barn is a safe refuge. There MUST be a politician gene which results in complete dishonesty. If it was ever found, I would recommend foetal termination!

As far as I am concerned, Tesco should run the country and politicians stack their shelves (if they could be trusted not to steal the merchandise).

The push/pull coaches are now complete and ready for road testing. The workshop floor will be ready for rolling on by Sunday so I shall be able to get on with solving the electrical problems of the fiddle yard.

The NGRM forum seems to have regressed 30 years back to bashing Kitmaster Pugs and railcars. It is such a pity that so much narrow gauge modelling still revolves around such shenanigans while the rest of the hobby strives to excellence.



24th March

The push pull set is now wired up and ready for painting

the completed push pull coach end with sandpots and plough cowcatcher

22nd March

Access to County Gate's barn is not possible over the next week as the floor is being painted. This is an annual bit of fun! While this has been going on, thoughts have turned to the Harbour Branch. At present, the passenger shuttle, under automation, is performed by the Glenthorne railcar. Should any problem happen to the railcar, we are without a service. Our history states the railcar is not always too reliable and at times, a push/pull steam service is used. I have always felt a bit sorry for our 4-6-0 Baldwin, scratch built back in the early seventies. It runs well but has never found a role.

I have started to build the two coaches by butchering some L&B etches.

15th March

So we are back from Basingstoke, County Gate is offloaded into its barn and as usual, I am really tired. Basingstoke is not the first place that comes to mind when considering a recreational weekend but we went anyway. Aldworth Science College seemed to be generously blessed with large halls and we were quickly offloaded and had mostly set up by 22.00 hrs. The organisers of the show were very welcoming and helpful and we got to our hotel in good spirits. We were billeted at the local Hilton and could have asked for nothing better. The place looked like an up market old peoples' home but was well appointed and very comfortable.

A party was in full swing in the function room and even as early as ten thirty, there were a large number of young women who were already incapably drunk and being more laddish in their behaviour than I remember us blokes were in much earlier years! The old maxim of 'if you've got it, flaunt it', seems to have mutated to 'flaunt it, even if you don't have it'. All I know is that if I was a girl and had legs like most of the women we saw, I would wear a long dress!

Next day, after a hearty breakfast we returned to the school and got thing going before taking a look around. The range of layouts was very diverse and covered everything from an excellent 'Thomas' layout to fine scale 0. Three other narrow gauge layouts were in evidence.

In 009, was East Quay Chapel Pill by Angus Watkins. Despite the very strange name, the layout was excellent and included some lovely scratch built vessels and a working loading dock. The locos were running reliably and very smoothly.

East Quay Chapel Pill

East Quay Chapel Pill

Oro Grande Railroad, an SN3 diorama with a working crane was there although all I was able to see was the top of the crane. This was disappointing for me as photographs show it to be of an excellent standard. Worse was Crichel, apparently a 7mm/16.5 NG layout which was so high up that many able bodied folks were unable to see it properly. I find it difficult to understand the arrogance of Roy Wood, the builder whose work excludes anyone of short stature, children and of course the disabled. I have nevertheless included a photo of this layout. Scenically, it was very poor indeed.

Crichel in 7mm/ft

Saturday night arrived and we were off to the Conservative Club for an excellent dinner and quiz organised by the host club.

Sunday was relatively quiet, being mothering Sunday and of course, the first Grand Prix of the season. County Gate for the most part ran well except that we suffered a points failure just before the exhibition closed. We had hoped to test the new Kitson Meyer but a defective chip kept it immobile in the sidings.

The Kitson sulked in the siding for the duration.

Fellow Desperado Dave Renshaw was exhibiting his 00 diesel (making nasty noises) Cramdin Yard. Needless to say, a great deal of joshing took place throughout the exhibition... mostly about our noisy seagulls and his traverser which had refused to work!

County Gate won best in show.

Basingstoke is an excellent regional show which is friendly and comfortable to visit. We hugely enjoyed our time there and thank the organisers, the BNHMRS, for making us feel so welcome. Later on Sundays, the crowds always thin out a great deal. It was so good that the show closed at 16.00hrs, which gave many a chance to pack up and get back to their families. As usual, a very special thanks to Desperados Andy Beresford and Martyn de Young who so ably helped out and made it all possible.

9th March

The Kitson is now in etch primer and will make an appearance, (not running though) at the Basingstoke show.

The fiddle yard is set up in my room and finally I have identified the fault on one of the points. The Peco point motor had failed. This has now been rectified.

8th March

I celebrated my new workshop by building the Kitson Meyer. It is nearly finished and we are just waiting on a few bits.

4th March

Modelling standards in smaller scales are fast improving. I am delighted to see  more and more folks getting into etching and other new techniques. Companies like Dapol nowadays trolley down to the station yard and laser scan a prototype to produce masters using 3D printing.

  ...........and then we have 'little people'. Our near perfect rolling stock, set in highly detailed scenery are more often than not ruined once the 'little people' are added. They may be purchased ready painted or are white metal; it doesn't matter, they are so far from looking like real people that the entire effect of the layout is often ruined. One of my railway staff looks like Michael Jackson, for God's sake, and NO ONE looks like that!

these days, this is just NOT good enough

4mm/ft seems simple enough to me....this does seem to escape some suppliers too and it is often impossible to mix figures as they have been made to different scales.

When at the Brighton exhibition, I visited 'Overlord' and was shown a small range of 'little people' which for the first time actually looked real. There was even a model of someone pointing with a scale finger. It can be done but isn't!

What is needed is to get real people to dress up, laser scan them and then 3D print them. Then there is a chance. Am I the only one to feel the need for something a lot better?

I have more or less moved into the new workshop and hope to get to grips with the loco maintenance starting today.

2nd March


My workshop re-instated. Now for putting all the bits back in the new drawers!

So far, I have been able to do nothing on the railway as we are still in complete disruption from having flood repairs done to our home. One advantage of being flooded is that eventually, you get a cheque for damaged furniture, carpet and decorating. The disadvantage is that one is overrun by contactors who all have 'builders bums', (a particular dislike of Jenny). Come to think of it, Jenny tells all the Desperados who come to help showing County Gate, "Make sure that John is not showing his bum on his scooter". Below is probably the record beater of these proceedings!

By the evening, I had assembled the new Ikea flat pack drawer units for my workshop. They go together superbly well and are worth the trip to that dreadful store! I just wish loco kits went together as easily!

MDF is unbelievably heavy and it astounds me that it is still used by some for their baseboards. In fact, I suspect the severe earthquakes are caused by the excess weight of Ikea MDF which is proliferating around the world.

Jenny sent me to bed early as she thought I was getting 'hyper' assembling the flat packs!

Still, the carpet went down today and I am now building up flat packs of new drawer units for my workshop.... damn....there are some bits left over!

I do hope that some of the sick engines will be able to be fixed before the next show.

22nd February

Back in 2008, County Gate attended the Birmingham Model Railway Exhibition, hosted by the Redditch Model Railway Society. This year, we were again their guest at the Redditch show. This was held at the town hall and very comfortable it was too. I am always struck by the friendliness of this club and this year's event was no exception. We were very short of Desperados for the event and club members cheerfully stepped in to unload and dismantle the layout.

The Warley show at the NEC seems to act as a 'black hole' for other shows in the area and visitor numbers suffer as a result. This year was sadly not as well attended as it deserved. It is my understanding that in future, the club will hold just one event a year at a new venue.

County Gate automation caused a few problems but began to improve as the show went on. We have not had time to do any maintenance since Brighton so there is quite a 'to do' list outstanding.

River Avon ingested a lump of foliage and was withdrawn. Brue is still out with a bent rod and Exe suffered a broken wire to the companion car. My 40 year old K1 Garratt took over running the eight coach holiday special and operated faultlessly throughout the day.

Altogether a good show and I would like to thank the organisers for the help and kindness afforded to us.

15th February 2010

So we are back  from the Brighton Modelworld show. We arrived at lunchtime Thursday and found ourselves at the loading bay in freezing conditions. For one who dwells in the backwoods of Herefordshire, Brighton is rather a strange place. Among other things, it claims to be the 'Gay capital of Britain'. On the streets, were men in frocks, and others (of indeterminate gender), had trousers with the crotch well below the knees. This made them look as if they had shot a load in their shorts!

I rather naturally burst out laughing on seeing such apparitions. Someone suggested that I should go on a diversity course. I found this hurtful as I have already been to two and last one actually had more than thirty sorts of real ale.

The Brighton Centre is a slightly frayed building more or less on the front. The interior is a rabbit warren of halls with one large arena on the first floor. When they built this place design work stopped some place short of the loading bays. These are cramped in the extreme and totally inadequate for the size of venue. The organisers made a valiant attempt to help exhibitors unload but the 'architecture' got the better of them. Many had to wait at some race course half way to Dover before being called to unload some hours later and there were quite a few grumps. Due to our long setup time, we were allowed in quickly and organisers kindly helped us to unload.

Light relief was afforded for exhibitors when the huge boating pool burst, dumping thousands of gallons of water across the floor.

Six hours later, we were more or less set up and retired to our hotel very cold and tired. The organisers had kindly booked a hotel on the front. On arrival, the Polish staff were more interested in getting guests to sign in multiple boxes to confirm they had read their no smoking policy (which was longer than the Maastricht Treaty), than actually making people welcome. A sort of Polish run Faulty Towers, in fact. The real problem arose when they demanded £150 in cash or credit card per person so they could fine anyone who broke the rules.

I rapidly disavowed them  of any hope of getting a deposit from us and we retired to comfortable rooms and began to warm up.

Upon arrival at the venue the next day, we were confronted with burnt out debris and an overwhelming smell of fire. Some idiots had tried to set fire to the building. Fortunately, Brighton's finest were there to extinguish it in short order. Hell, this place is Dodge City in a frock!

The Brighton show is eclectic in the extreme and is a first class venue for parents and kids. There was a large Lego stand where kids could build what they liked and an area for huge model tanks which gave battle to each other. Personally, I hate war games stuff and see it as playing with large radio controlled Tonka toys and dolls.

There were boats, planes and cars galore, all being controlled by RC. There was even a radio controlled goose! The entire building must have been awash with radio frequencies and therein lay our problem.

At the beginning and end of the days, the County Gate automation worked faultlessly. As more and more frequencies fired up during the day, it infiltrated our system and all sorts of mistakes cropped up which resulted in trains going into the wrong places and at times colliding with each other.

Some superb large robots were also wandering around. They were by far the most disruptive to our systems.


My favourite was 'Titan the Robot' which performed a great show. When he was around however, points even began to start changing all on their own!

Titan inspects County Gate

We had to almost run the thing by hand at times and gave up the unequal struggle during robot and tank shows. For the first time we did manage to run a Manning Wardle double header though.

the first MW double header

Being in the main hall was certainly not the ideal for us. As we were directly underneath the loudest Tannoy system ever installed, close to tank battles with ordnance and extrovert singing robots, we drowned in a cacophony of sound. It was impossible to hear oneself think and regular exits were in order to get one's hearing back. The lower floor, by contrast was as peaceful as a summers meadow and I just wish that we had been down there.

The food provided by the Brighton Centre was inspirational. I had no idea that road kill could be served in so many different ways.

Despite our tribulations, the public did seem to like the layout and we were awarded gold. All in all the experience was 'educational' and we shall certainly avoid venues with radio control all around us in future. At all times the organisers did all they could to help but for us, it was hard work to keep up a show.

My thanks to Desperado Rhys Davies who so valiantly helped out.

9th February

The layout gets loaded into the trailer tomorrow. The figures arrived from Aiden and have been planted. Some of the figures were too large in scale but have found a place in the foreground of the harbour. At last the awful flat sailor who stood on the platform has gone!

click here to see what happened!

5th February

So it is time to knock down the layout ready for going to Brighton. All seems to be going well and just a few repairs and new detailing remain to be done. I have been very unhappy with some of the figures on the line. Some new ones are due to arrive from Aidan Campbell.

31st January

It has not been the best time for us as we have had a death in the family and part of the house was flooded. Sometimes, during such trials, it is better to get really lost in some project or other rather than face reality! The website, which was originally intended to be short had grown into a monster and its navigation had become chaotic. In particular, the 'how we did it' articles were scattered all about the site. They are now together in a section which can be easily expanded. Of course, it is frustrating to have to rediscover how to navigate the site and I apologise for this. Nevertheless, I do hope that the new look website will work OK for everybody. Please let me know if there is a problem or bad link.

The Lynton and Barnstaple modelling section has also been revamped although no new material ever comes our way. This is disappointing as it could be a more useful resource.

22nd January

Back in the workshop and I am glad to say that after a few glitches, the layout seems to be working quite well. Taw jammed up and the problem was that the crosshead slippers had become worn. A curse on the covers over the slide bars on our Manning Wardle tanks. The job took almost a whole day.

20th January

Outside is yet again a blizzard and workshop access impossible.

Being born at the end of the War, universal hatred for Krauts and Nips was quickly displaced to the Commies. Our household became worried about annihilation by nuclear war, woodworm and dry rot in about equal measures. Rotten weather was always blamed on nuclear testing, of course.

After many years of concern about nuclear destruction, we have since been threatened with gigantic volcanoes, huge meteorites, extinction of wildlife, AIDs, and mutated flues. For me, the last two threats always looked quite hopeful. A mass reduction in the burgeoning world human population would resolve one of the other fears, that of running out of resources such as oil.

And now they have moved on to global warming, terrorism and unrestricted immigration. First they said that British weather would become like the South of France if we used aerosol sprays. In the spirit of things, my consumption of aerosols went up four-fold but still our winters remained grim and depressing affairs.

And now, that hotbed of potty extremists at the University of East Anglia have managed to fiddle data sufficiently to convince some fools that we are experiencing global warming.

Yeh, right!

Looking through the window at yet again, fast falling snow, tells me that this global warming thing is just another excuse to raise taxes for British politicians to pay for their absurd warmongering and of course the city bankers must all still be paid kings' ransoms.

I used to think that such hobbies as railway modelling were the preserve of those who suffered from horrible winters. I even convinced myself that the best model railways must be in Scandinavia and Canada. The internet has shown otherwise and it is clear that the hobby is pursued even in places of good all round weather.

As I have become older and hopefully a little wiser I now see that governments feel it necessary to keep us permanently anxious about some major potential threat.

It is little wonder that many of us retreat into imaginary little worlds where it is always summer and nothing ever happens!

10th January

The bad joint is repaired and now stock operates faultlessly. I would have liked to be testing on the assembled layout but the weather has got the better of me. Snow has been sufficient to make it almost impossible to get to the barn. Hopefully things will improve soon.

27th December

After finishing off the cold turkey and chestnut stuffing, it was time to go forth and work on the layout. Endoscopic examination of the track joint, hidden in the tunnel between the viaduct and harbour baseboards showed that one rail was .5mm higher than the adjacent one. Clearly, during setup or knockdown, we had managed to hook the end of the track to cause the problem. Jenny calls such things 'events'. This, in girl talk, means something we did during exhibition and therefore nothing whatsoever to do with her! It is quite surprising that most of the stock managed to get across the joint at all. I am sure the endoscope had a faint whiff of cow's bottom!

There was nothing for it but to cut out an access hole in the baseboard, remove part of the track and relay it. All is well now and we are left having to refill the access hole. Once this is complete, the layout will be reassembled and testing begun.

19th December

Now back from France, my thoughts are again turning to some CG maintenance. Our little engines have really covered some miles and were beginning to be less well behaved by the end of the Warley show. As an example of our maintenance schedule, here are the worksheets so far.

Complete ultrasonic clean. The plunger pickups were worn and giving only intermittent contact. They were replaced by phosphor bronze spring wires.

A coupling rod bush on a drive wheel had become detached which caused rough running resulting in damaged teeth on one of the spur gears. The gear was replaced as was the rod bush. The chip was not always responding so this was also replaced. Chassis cleaned and loco tested and reprogrammed.

Replacement of failed plunger pickups with wire.

railcar no 200
Chassis cleaned and all bearings re-lubricated.

15th December

I had found that the forum on modelling that I set up on Yahoo was not a suitable format to easily combine photos and text. As a result, I set up a more suitable message board which would allow for an unlimited disc space for the storage of articles. Sadly, this forum remained largely unused and as a result, it was withdrawn due to the cost of running it.

24th November

I am shortly off to France for a while and face quite a lot of maintenance work on CG on return. For some reason, a baseboard joint has started to derail a railcar (we will have to borrow an endoscope to see why) and all the little engines will be visiting the ultrasonic cleaner! Some of them have now travelled over 7 real miles; James May, eat your heart out!

23rd November

Well, we are back from Warley and we survived! The drive to the NEC is a short one for us and on arrival, it did not take us too long to be able to drive the trailer into the hall and offload.

Already installed was the K1 Garratt from the Welsh Highland. What struck me was how tiny it looked in that barn of an exhibition hall. Also at the vehicle entrance was a stand being set up called S & M! We wondered at first if we were unloading in the right hall!

WHR K1 Garratt

The layout was together by 4.30 pm except, where was the electricity? Our automation does require a start up cycle that takes at least two hours. In the end, power did not come to us until 7.45 but by then, all we could think about was getting to the hotel for a meal and BEER.

It was nice to be alongside John and Jane Jacobs 'Nettlecombe'. That layout is exquisite. John and Jane were a tad more concerned in case I collided my mobility scooter with their fiddle yard, however! Despite many 'attempts', I am happy to say that the yard remained intact throughout the show.

Nettlecombe looks just like the place I would like to live in!

John tells me that in one show overseas, he was not awarded a trophy because his layout was too low. Certainly, in Europe, there are now more layouts at shows that are not accessible for the disabled to see than those that are. In Britain, the law requires that there is accessibility for the disabled at public events. It is amazing how folks can be so selective about observing the law. As a smoker, I do have to go outside for a ciggy. However, as a disabled person, I have to campaign just to be able to see a model railway!

I had wanted to see the WW1 layout Willesden Junction. This was brought to the exhibition by members of the Greenwich Narrow Gauge Railway Soc. Sadly, I was out plum of luck as they had clearly decided to further their campaign against the emancipation of the disabled, short people and children. Just to make quite sure, much of the layout was lower than the foreground! I am given to understand that there were a lot of things that looked like cow pats on the layout but then again, I shall never know! The Greenwich operators did however remember to bring step ladders to stand on so they could see their own layout.

Willesden Junction - a view from quite a high mobility scooter

It is still my hope that exhibition organisers will eventually wake up and insist that layouts shown, comply with the law.

We stayed at Holiday Inn Express and I have to say what a comfortable place it was, so we were able to get back to the NEC on Saturday morning in reasonable shape. It is such a pity that the hall lighting is so awful. All visitors should be issued with a valium pill to compensate! We were not able to go through the start up cycle before the visitors came in so for the first time we did suffer from a series of automation glitches throughout the first day. Luckily, trains were still able to run for the most part.

Saturday was extremely busy and at times, visitors were five deep trying to get to see County Gate. Sunday morning gave some respite and one was able to wander around the hall and see the seventy odd layouts and the numerous trade stands.

One thing that has always upset Jenny and myself. The people on County Gate. This is just something that we have never managed to get right. I have often seen the work of Aidan Campbell and the photos on his website always look like caricatures from Punch magazine. In real life I was very surprised how jolly good they actually were and the painting surpassed anything we could do. I therefore kidnapped him for a while and we will now be starting a gradual replacement programme with painted figures from Aidan.

I must say that I am getting less sure about some folks with sound chips in their trains. Some were actually louder than the prototypes and could be heard many yards away. Behind us was a G scale LGB layout with lots of sound... again rather loud, but it was the sound of Westinghouse pumps which did me in. Every time they parked close to us with the pump noise on it made me want to go to the loo!

I really enjoyed the 7mm hi-tech layout Dinas 1869 by Paul Holmes.

Dinas 1869 by Paul Holmes

Other favourites were:

New Ponca Yard, a very evocative US layout

Quite a large number of continental layouts were there, including our old friend Ems-land Moortrack who we had met at Utrecht.

Ems-land Moortrack

We were sharing the hotel with folks exhibiting at the National Cat Show...(very sad for me that it is the same weekend as Warley). At around 2am on Sunday morning I was wakened by "Mau....mau....mau". At first thought it was one of my cats wanting to get under the duvet until I realised that I wasn't at home. Oh well, got up and dressed and found a fine looking grey English shorthair at the door; and very worried he was too! Picked him up and ran him on the scooter to the lift and down to reception. He never stopped with his "Mau....mau....mau": as accurate as an atomic clock! At reception, he was reunited with his equally worried owner who suspected that 'cat show sabotage' was behind the whole affair; (those people will kill each at the drop of a hat).

All in all, a very well run friendly, huge exhibition with a high standard of layouts and the largest selection of traders you will ever see in one place. County Gate won best NG layout in show and the huge trophy spent time standing on the Contisbury cliffs. A few felt it was somewhat out of scale. I later discovered that the trophy was presented by Pete Waterman!

All too soon it was all over and we were knocking it all down. Some delays were experienced in getting the trailer into the hall following a car accident outside. How someone managed to run over a traffic warden covered in visibility vests and reflectors I have no idea. I only hope that he will make a full recovery. Despite this, it was all packed up soon enough and I was home before 9pm.

I had heard many tales of exhibiting at Warley and was somewhat nervous. We actually enjoyed the experience and felt the club had looked after us well.

As usual, a thousand thanks to the Desperados for helping so wonderfully at the show and well done Warley MRC.

15th November

With everything working properly, the time has arrived to pack up CG for Warley. After the 10 page article on CG in the British Railway Modelling magazine, showing at the NEC seems a hard act to follow!

7th November

Work is now beginning to repair the detached cross member under the viaduct section. Once this is completed, the railway will be reassembled and the new and repaired rolling stock programmed and tested for automation.

5th November

Diesel electric 'River Avill' was completed today and has been passed for service.

I have also been busy fixing a few small problems encountered at the previous two shows. River Brue began to run roughly and I replaced a wheel set and keeper plate. These had become damaged during the initial construction. The loco is now as smooth as River Avon. Better bogies were fitted to the Glenthorne railcar, (one had become detached at Genk), but the greatest effort as been with our 'Taw' (Mr Slippy) which is fitted with a Class08 chassis. It is impossible to add further ballast to the loco so I am fitting a Tomytec Scale 16m Chassis to its companion box car. This will have to have its own chip and be adjusted in speed to match the loco. It is the only way I can see to obtain reasonable load hauling capability up our grades.

29th Oct

Following mediation, a well established model railway exhibition will no longer be exhibiting in their current venue where no access to the disabled is afforded. Further details will be released shortly. The action took place as part of a campaign to ensure that this hobby remains inclusive for those with mobility difficulties.

23rd/25th October

Eurospoor, Utrecht

Overseas model railway shows are a very big commitment. Most find it hard to be away for five days so it was not so easy to find members of the Desperados to come along. In the end, Rhys Davies and Blair Hobson poured themselves into the loaded rig and off we went.

County Gate had been left in a secure lockup after the previous show, so first, we had to drive to Genk to pick up the trailer. It was then that I realised that I had left my laptop at home! Fortunately, Malcolm Alberry, our magic programmer was due to arrive next day with his computer, so Jenny was able to email him our current operating programme.

So onwards we slogged, in the rain and dark and finally made landfall at Utrecht at midnight. After a couple of tours, we eventually found an Ibis Hotel and we all managed to get a few hours shuteye in a shared room. Exactly who snored loudest will remain on the Official Secrets Act!

The following morning, bleary eyed, we eventually found the exhibition hall in the centre of the city. We then took even longer to find which gate was needed to get into the place. I am not used to trams or millions of bicycles and quite quickly got myself into a real pickle with a tram blaring at me, angry cyclists and my passengers all shouting at me at the same time!

This venue is tight on security and the first thing we discovered was that we had to leave a 50 Euro deposit at the gate to get in. We were told this would be refunded if we came out again within the hour. Seeing that the 50 Euro note was all I had left in currency did not please me too much as I was already dreaming of some sustenance on arrival!

No amount of argument would prevail without passing over the cash. The gate keeper, (hiding in a fortified kiosk where he was immune from any attempt to throttle him) just kept repeating "Nee Nee Nee"; a passable imitation of a constipated horse, I must say.

Finally things began to get sorted out but not before the batteries on my mobility scooter had become seriously depleted; more stress! Being so tired after the journey, I have to say that I was rapidly getting more and more grumpy!

Blair Hobson and Rhys Davies just about manage a smile before retreating to bed!

We were given a hand by the organisers to unload the heavy boards and by tea time we were nicely set up. No drinks or snacks are available at the halls throughout Thursday which in my mind is a serious oversight. Malcolm checked that all was well with the interface with his laptop and off we went to the hotel booked by the show which was a few miles away in a delightful Dutch village; (canals and all).

Jaarbeurs, the spacious and modern Utrecht exhibition centre

Eurospoor provided us with a really excellent hotel and also breakfast and lovely evening meals. This is so different from most shows where one has to fork out more money for food. There was even a packed picnic lunch for us to take to the show. After a few Belgian beers and Dutch gins, we began to feel somewhat restored.

The doors opened and in came the flood of people and in no time, they were three or four deep at County Gate.

By 11.00 Friday, there was already a good crowd round County Gate. Malcolm Alberry holds the fort.

Generally things ran perfectly, although 'River Brue' developed a minor problem. As a result, she was withdrawn and made to sit like a dunce in front of the engine shed, 'pour encourager les autres'. This did seem to have the right effect and all the other trains worked perfectly throughout the three day show.

The show

The one striking feature of this show is how open and well laid out it is. Wide avenues between stands and layouts gave all the space in the world and the experience was much better as a result. Unlike the exhibition at Genk, most layouts were visible for wheelchair bound visitors. Well done Leo Hendriksen! Another feature was that the food concession stands were offering delicious food! (NEC take note). Visitors were able to enjoy the visit in a relaxed and easy way. Two large halls were filled with layouts while a third was nothing but railway shop stands which did all rather seem the same to me.

The wide open spaces made the whole experience so much more pleasant.

The mix of layouts is quite different to shows in the UK. Some modular layouts were absolutely huge. There were several LGB scale layouts of massive proportions and no doubt massive cost. One has to remark that they did not seem to be attracting too many visitors who mostly gathered around smaller scale scenic layouts.

one of the huge LGB style modular layouts

For me, the most extraordinary layout was a family modular job from former East Germany. In H0e, it portrays a German narrow gauge line on the isle of Rügen in the Ostsea built by enthusiasts for the Railways of Mecklenburgalmost. At 55 metres already, it is actually less than half built. The quality of modelling was first class although the little Bemo engines did appear to need quite a lot of coaxing with the hand of God. Sadly, the model did not enjoy a backdrop or lighting, so much of its excellence was a little lost. Apart from its length, this line must also hold the world record for the number of allotments modelled.

Rügensche Kleinbahn... H0e as far as the eye can see

Where else can one see vistas like this on a model? Notice the overgrown headland of the foreground field
click on image to enlarge

The train ferry. Real water and the ship pulled along by invisible thread operated by the winding handle. Exquisite modelling.

Another layout really caught my eye was a Dutch club layout (Spijkspoor) of a freelance German line; Ems-land Moortrack.

Ems-land Moortrack with a brilliant hand painted sky

This had one of the very few good hand painted backdrops that I have seen and the ensemble was modelled to a very high standard. The best bit was that the extensive line was built around an inner 'den'; a sort of grown-up tree house, if you will. There, club members were able to enjoy a few quiet drinks, probably a smoke or two and who knows, being Holland, even a spliff,  all while watching the layout on CCTV!

Ems-land Moortrack inner sanctum

Another scene from Ems-land Moortrack - click on image to enlarge

Warley winner Durlesbach by Die Freunde der Eisenbahn Burscheid made an appearance and deservedly drew quite a crowd.

Eiland Waan by Rob Kievit is loosely based on the Isle of Mann tramway and was beautifully modelled. Shame about the corner in the sky, though.

Manx look alike - the Isle of Waan

Isle of Waan

European model layouts can seem a tad strange to the British modeller. In many cases, nice layouts are spoiled by trains running at breakneck speeds and some modellers feel the need to cram so much onto the baseboards that the result just becomes a mess. Fiddle yards appear to be widely unknown here too. Many modellers do not appear to make anything themselves but just pour out expensive proprietary models from their boxes onto a baseboard.

I was really impressed with the effort to draw children into the hobby. From a large ride on affair to a secure railway orientated play centre, there were no bored children to be seen anywhere!

The secure play centre

What was it like at a three day show? Well, not as bad I we feared. Many new friends were made and even as exhibitors, thanks to the automation of County Gate, we were able to really visit all the stands. The visitors were again well dressed and so polite; the children were adorable and even the toilets remained clean throughout the day, (Belgian and Dutch men do not appear to piss all over the floor)! Eurospoor is well worth a visit. No awards are given at the show.

The return trip was long and we arrived home on Monday evening extremely tired having driven in all 1240 miles. We have been asked to attend other European shows but I wonder if we really have the stamina to go through all of that again!

County Gate at the show - River Brue sulks in disgrace

13th October

Euromodelbouw-2009 (Genk - Belgium)

So we are back home and back to reality! County Gate is safely in storage in Belgium, ready to be taken to Eurospoor in two weeks.

Taking a large model railway to other countries is, I still think a bit brave! So many things can easily go so wrong. It is a very long haul from Herefordshire to Dover and the trip took the best part of last Wednesday. I picked up Desperado Andy Beresford enroute and he became official navigator. The last part of the drive to Dover was in the dark and rain so we were only too pleased to have three hours rest. We were up again in time to take the 02.00 hrs ferry to Dunkirk and after a very early breakfast on board, managed to catch a bit more shuteye before being poured onto the Dunkirk dock at five in the morning. Again, it was raining and very dark indeed.

We had just driven about 5 miles when we heard a large noise from the trailer and immediately pulled over onto the narrow verge to find that a wheel had come off. Luckily it had become trapped under the axle. It is not the best experience to have and despite hazard lights and our safety triangle, high speed trucks whizzed by within inches of us.

After a few frantic phone calls, a local French breakdown truck arrived and the trailer expertly recovered. By then, we were surrounded by autoroute police with huge flashing trucks. Everyone was friendly and helpful and we set off behind the recovery truck to the garage. Our thoughts were bleak and we were beginning to think that Belgium was a 'bridge too far'. This French recovery truck must have been a race car in a previous life; charging along narrow and bendy roads at speeds of up to 85 mph we were hard put to keep up with it in a 5 series BMW!

Still, very quickly the trailer was back on its wheels. Somehow, the wheel nuts had all become undone. This is a compete mystery, as the trailer had been checked over weeks before. The only damage was to the wheel well and brake shoes, so the rest of the trip would be without over-run brakes!

After four hours, in all, we were back on our way, a few hundred Euros lighter. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Genk at 13.00 hrs. I have learned never to use Multimap again. When the routes are printed out, the heavy blue route line obscures the road numbers. This made Andy's job quite interesting when navigating around Brussels.

At Genk, we met Daniel Casio, our new Desperado, who had come in from Amsterdam. Danny Smets is the organiser of Euromodelbouw and he made us most welcome and resuscitated us with King Charles beer. After our travails, it seemed like nectar from the Gods! Daniel is originally from Argentina but speaks Dutch which is sufficiently similar to Flemish to make communication easy. Not that it was that important, at the locals all seemed to speak English very well indeed.  To our untrained ears, both languages seem impossible. If anything, Dutch sounded a bit more like Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men than Flemish!

Genk is a modern well manicured city and the exhibition hall was no different. There are several large exhibition halls and already preparations were well in hand. Euromodelbouw is not just for trains. There are sections for war gaming, model boats, (with large water tanks provided for demonstrations), cars, track and tractors and model aircraft. There were even maxi radio controlled trucks which included one powered by a rocket.

The most strange was a very large radio controlled model of an earth mover which spent two days moving a pile of earth backwards and forwards. Inevitably, this resulted in an awful lot of mud all around the entrance!

a little bit strange!

Unlike UK shows, the exhibits were separated by tall dividers which actually helped set off each exhibit to its best. We were put into the most fancy hall I have ever seen. Parquet flooring, tasteful decoration and muted lighting.

a hive of activity in the exhibition halls

With some help from the organisers, County Gate was quickly unloaded and by Thursday evening had been fully assembled. We found our hotel and gratefully drank more beer and enjoyed an evening meal. Again the hotel was very friendly but the staff never managed to get the hot water boiler to work, so washing was 'bracing' to say the least!

That left us Friday to rail all of the rolling stock and check that the automation was working. We were really so lucky with our trailer wheel incident. Just two small bits of scenery had become detached and this was put right in a heartbeat.

Ready to roll. Daniel Casio and Any Beresford take a breather in the very posh exhibition hall
click on image to enlarge

Perhaps the most striking layout was by the host club. It covered half a tennis court and the rolling stock alone was worth £100,000. Pallet loads of compost were delivered and the entire layout was planted with real plants by the hundreds!

model railways 'big time'! - click on image to enlarge

one of the few layouts I could actually see! - click on image to enlarge

I am quite unable to report on most of the layouts there. The viewing height was so high, that all I could see was sky! This is so thoughtless as many shorter people and children could not see them either. I do hope that Danny Smets will do something about this in future.

We returned to our hotel and spent a very convivial evening in the bar.

The show opened at 09.30 hrs on Saturday morning and in no time, the halls were crowded (this show gets about 12,000 visitors in two days. I have to say that there was a huge difference between these visitors and many we have in the UK. There were no bobble hatted train spotter types, and also, I must say, everybody seemed to have washed! People were all so polite and friendly and the children so well behaved. There was none of the pushing and shoving one sees in the UK, even though at times, they were four deep in front of CG. The railway ran almost perfectly but it does seem sensitive to 3G Wi Fi telephones. If anyone sent an email close to the layout, the automation made at least one mistake.

We were pleased to see that our next door neighbour was our friend Henk Wurst who had brought another masterpiece. I do not think he is a modeller, rather an artist. Henk added to the laughter!

Dutch master - Punta Marina of Henk Wurst - click on image to enlarge

Punta Marina of Henk Wurst - click on image to enlarge

When the show closed at 18.00 hrs, we spent a further two hours helping a Dutch magazine take photos. CG is to be the main feature next month.

the show - click on image to enlarge

Finally, we all moved upstairs to be given a glass of champagne and sat down to a Belgian Banquet. This consisted of a vast array of food, Belgian, Spanish and Italian. The name of the game was to eat as many main courses as humanly possible! I have to say that we were very quickly left behind in this endeavour!

The prize giving was at the end of the meal, I am proud to say that we won 'best in show'.

Sunday went well and only too soon, we were putting it all away again. After our farewells, we were escorted to a secure storage where we left the trailer, to be picked up in two weeks time for our trip to Holland.

All in all, a great show, (if you are tall enough or not disabled) and very well organised in an excellent environment. We would like to thank Danny Smets for his hospitality and of course our Desperados without whom, we could never show CG. We found the Flemish people charming, helpful and smiling and look forward to returning some day: and yes, I really like French fries and Mayonnaise!

06 Sept

The new RR & Co programme came over from Malcolm Alberry which modifies signal sequence at the station. We are now legal again! It works perfectly. All 200 wheel sets have been out of the cars for cleaning: mind numbingly boring!

04 September

Despite only spotting 3 honey bees during the whole year in our Herefordshire garden, The apple tree is laden with fruit, it is the silly season for wasps and very shortly, the model railway exhibition season begins.

Most of the tasks are now complete. A remote panel has been installed at the end of the Hotel section to operate the harbour. The coal train is now able to run round its train, apparently without human intervention.

The paint is not even dry around the new remote harbour switch panel

I also indulged in a bit of 'Hard Corn'! Someone is now arc welding below the wagon under repair in the engine shed and, yes, we also have a flickering fire of line side branches! The units were supplied by Express Models. They actually look very effective.

A slightly revised Railroad and Co programme is being prepared by Malcolm Alberry, and one or two scenic details still need to be completed. All in all, unless the kitten attacks the railway, we shall be up and running for our first exhibition in Genk, Belgium.

Also have heard that we shortly have a 'state visit' from the redoubtable Chris Nervard, who will be photographing CG for a further article in British Railway Modelling.

29 August

This last week. Malcolm Alberry had a three day stint at my home to finalise the programming of County Gate. We did hit a few snags. We discovered that the booster we had just installed, which was supposed to top up the power loss over the layout, converted all the Loconet messages into Urdu. This language was not understood by our L & B locomotives and for a while, we had trains wandering about all over the place looking for curry and poppadoms while crashing into each other!

The booster was removed and things got back to normal. We also discovered that the Digitrax Zephyr had partially failed. Every time power was switched off, the Zephyr converted our chips into other formats so the locos performed differently. This had been a problem for quite some time and I have wasted at least two weeks reprogramming over and over again. We have been promised a replacement so hopefully this snag will be cured. The problem was identified by Malcolm who used the software 'Loconet Checker' to see what the hell was going on.

Finally, everything fell into place and the trains started behaving. We now have a ten train operation on the main line, and the Glenthorne railcar happily chugs up and down also under control of Railroad & Co.. The trains now all whistle in the correct spots and even the guards can be heard. Slide shows also come up on the display screen when required. Sterling stuff and very exciting! CG is turning into a show!

Since then I have been fine tuning the system. The Glenthorne railcar had a different type of chip which stopped following orders. A new Digitrax DZ125 was fitted and the train was tamed. The locomotives Ben Halliday and No 1, which run a double header were joined electrically, which has given far smoother operation. The two Mallets have also been wired up to companion wagons, as every now and then, they would stall. One would think that unlikely considering there are 12 wheels to pick up current, but the Mallet configuration is a tad rigid and on grade changes, a few wheels leave the track a tiny bit.

A film of automatic operation can be seen here

A turnout at the station has always been very rough and we now have to face the awful prospect of digging it out and replacing it. I shall have to build a wooden support to protect the scenery.

15 August

The tunnel complete.

8 August

The tests are going on apace and after a few changes, we are now able to control ten trains perfectly. We are opening up the side of the tunnel under the hotel to give those at that end of the line at least some sight of the train! We will fit lighting into our railcars.

tunnel interior - click on image to enlarge

5 August

Malcolm Alberry has sent the new 'all singing and dancing' programme that will operate up to ten trains, set of slide shows and sound. Initial tests are very promising although obviously there are a few bugs to sort out.

4 August

We have installed a gizmo to allow us to uncouple the coal train easily every time we wish to run round at the harbour. see here The Garratt which is over 30 years old has become more and more gutless and it was clear that the ancient Atlas motor had served its time. It has been replaced with a Kato 5 pole motor and things are right in the world again!

30th July

After a long absence, our No 188 'Lew' is back home, fully repaired thanks to Peter Wallace. Lew was the most damaged locomotive by our PVA disaster and in the end had to have completely new valve gear. She is now running just fine and we are tuning the chip for automation. For the first time ever, we have working models of all the L&B locos at the same time!

25th July

The last two brake coaches have been completed and finally, we installed a CDU for each of the turnouts on the fiddle yard. This has speeded up operations enormously until two of the CDUs failed. We are now trying to find out why!

14th July

While suffering from the infamous swine flu, I replaced railcar 201 with a 3 car set no 302. Here is the result.


15th June

So it is Monday morning and after the long drive back from Chatham last night, I shall probably go back to bed again!

After a five hour drive, I arrived at the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham and was let in through the wrong gate and as a consequence was able to take a good look around the site and enjoy a good lunch at the Wheelwright cafe before finding 'Slip 5'; the site of the Chatham Model Railway show.

the graceful 'Slip 5' - click on image to enlarge

It is hard not to wax lyrical about the graceful cast iron roof spans of this place. The conversion of the dockyard into a historic venue is superb. Every now and then, do not be surprised to find a dockyard tank drifting along the tramlines, or even a steam crane or an Aveling and Porter steam engine. One could also watch Sea Cadets practicing 'square bashing' if one was so inclined.

some of the wonderful old timers at the Yard- click on image to enlarge

On signing in, I was given all the help needed to offload and by the time Desperado, Martyn de Young, had arrived, we only had to plug in and start testing! This has got to be the most unusual venue in the country. The huge building dwarfed the exhibits and is light and airy. The floor is bare antique concrete which is a bit dusty and it is certainly not level! The original position planned for County Gate was to say the least uneven. After explaining that I could not use the baseboards as a viaduct, the floor plan was quickly moved around so we had a floor that we could work with! Thanks guys!

The entire railway did slope towards one end and what are usually hard grades were now almost level. This did at first cause a problem with the automatic running as trains would over run the stop blocks and at places travelled at light speed. Fifteen minutes reprogramming got everything behaving itself and from then on, the programme ran perfectly the entire time. After all the work, it was quite marvellous to see it all happening on its own and we quickly realised how relaxing the experience was. With the best will in the world, operating CG manually always ends up with mistakes resulting in derailments and even a few crashes (particularly when I am involved).

This is a very big show and the standard of layouts was very high indeed. We were right alongside a live steam garden railway exhibit and enjoyed the smell of coal fired locos for much of the time. We were also close to Rolands Castle and now and then heard the sound of Merlin aero engines as their Airfix P51s zoomed across the layout. Our own ambient sound did add something to CG too. The show also had a huge number of traders there and had to be a Mecca for those wishing to buy that 'something special'. One or two layouts had no lights which certainly did them no favours under that huge soaring canopy.

It was good to meet some old friends again and to be able to spend some time with them in the evenings. Dave and Midge Grassing were there with Foss Landing and Henk Wust brought along his excellent MariaHohe. He even came provided with a periscope for those who were vertically challenged!

One of the features of the show was how well we were plied with teas, coffees and orange squash throughout our time there. There are certainly a few shows that could learn some things from the organisers at Chatham. We felt really welcomed and looked after.

Henk and MariaHohe - click on image to enlarge

Somewhere in Belgium; 7mm military narrow gauge by Ted McElroy - click on image to enlarge

Whiteoak; 7mm military narrow gauge by Martin Coombs - click on image to enlarge

Maesog in 009 by Paul Towers- click on image to enlarge

Saturday night offered an excellent dinner shared with Chatham members. Rather sadly, it was not well attended - still, we had a lot of laughs which became louder in direct proportion to the Drambuis drunk!

One lady told us that she had been to Minehead the previous week and travelled on the railway..."ho hum"! Another looked at our dirty engine shed and said. "Rolands Castle must be brand new and this layout, (CG) must be really old to get covered in that much dust! Still, you cannot please everybody.

Sunday was not as busy but we were able to spend more time talking with visitors while the trains rolled by all on their own. Desperados Dave Renshawe and Malcolm Alberry arrived and joined the team. Malcolm was able to enjoy watching the fruits of his programming labours.

The only problem happened during the last outing of 'River Avon' which dropped a crank pin. This was luckily soon put right thanks to Dave, who managed to find the tiny bits on the track! Each train had run 1500 yards by the end of the show. This is logged by our Railroad and Co software!

All too soon the show was over and with regret, we packed up and left this very special place.

Our thanks go to all those who worked so hard to make this unique event so enjoyable. We left feeling that we had made some new special friends.

25th May


Hidden in a maze of narrow roads in a slightly dowdy housing estate is the prestige Stoke Mandeville sport facility; the venue for the Railex exhibition. I arrived knowing that two of our team had been struck down with flu but thanks to the kindness of the organisers, County Gate was carefully offloaded and set up in time. The queue of visitors on Saturday morning was more than a bit impressive., and quickly, the exhibition was heaving with people.

The selection of layouts was excellent and only praise can be given to the organisers. The one problem was the lack of any fresh air in the arena which became unpleasantly hot and muggy.

County Gate operated almost faultlessly throughout the show, thanks in no small measure to Max and Bruce, part of the Risborough and District Model Railway Club 'loan a son' scheme!

Max hard at work operating CG

the sports stadium

complete with steam generator for the ship, this Dutch visitor, Beachley Dock was a very popular layout. click on image to enlarge

My thanks to the organisers for an excellent show and two our two Desperados who were able to make it. County Gate was on the short list for best layout, chosen by the other exhibitors. Pempoul was awarded best in show.

17th May


the hall prior to opening

Not such a long trip this time for us. I arrived a bit early having driven through intense rainstorms to eventually find the the sports centre at Melksham. Hidden in a run down industrial estate, one has to say that the building must rate as one of the most ugly in the UK!

As soon as I arrived, the welcome was fantastic. Cucumber and cheese sandwiches (not a curly one in sight and my absolute favourite), cake and tea..... this was going to be good.

Some very willing helpers from the Bentley Model Railway Group had County Gate unloaded and running before the rest of the team had even arrived! The following morning had a long queue outside and in no time flat, the hall was heaving. All in all, the railway ran perfectly. Sadly we did not always do the same! CG, at present is difficult to operate as we are just on the cusp of going automatic and reproducing the Railroad and Co operating programme by hand is more than hard. On top of that, none of us are that expert in operating. This led to a few errors that required the 'Hand of God' to put right! The Desperados come from all over the UK and none of us have so far developed all the skills to get things running perfectly all of the time. We are all looking forward to passing some of the work over to my laptop. It was the first time that CG was operated digitally (points and signals).

Master narrow gauge model maker, David Taylor joined the team on Saturday and ran the fiddle yard better than any of the rest of us! Come back David!

My most glorious moment was when I managed to snag the main power lead to the model, pulling the wire right out of the plug. The railway plunged into darkness and was offline for a few minutes as Phil frantically put it all back together. Once power went back on, the stranded trains all took off and before we could recover had run over a few points set the wrong way.... 'Hand of God'.

Pleased with my mayhem, I promptly managed to do it again......and then a third time before the offending wire had been taped to the floor for several yards! At this point, the other Desperados promised to kneecap me if I went near CG!

The standard of exhibits was first class and attendance was very good indeed. Altogether, an excellent well organised and friendly show which deserves to grow in reputation and stature.

exquisite rural England at Nettlecombe - click on image to enlarge

wonderful military and ship modelling at 'Overlord'  - click on image to enlarge

end of day: CG is ready to roll to its trailer - click on image to enlarge

15th May

County Gate has just been featured in Voie Libre. Included are the best photos taken of the railway yet.

8th May

Dutch master 009 model maker, Ted Polet, is a retired merchant seaman and quickly found fault with the rig of the 'Glenthorne Rose'. As a consequence, the 'Rose' has new masts and derricks and hopefully is more accurate.

We have also adjusted the colours of vegetation between the backdrop and scenery along the scree section near the viaduct. The interface can hardly be seen at all now.

1st May

Malcolm the roach tamer

A further morning had seen great strides in our automation. The Railroad and Co software offers huge flexibility so almost anything is possible. We resolved the CDU issue by giving a 3 second delay between each point operation which allows the CDU to recover.

We had two trains running on auto and passing at the station and the rear fiddle yard. Signals and points all working on their own is quite strange and a tad spooky!

A new issue came up with the 'stop blocks'. As soon as the first set of current collection wheels came to a block, the loco stops instantly (due to our slow speeds. This does not always leave enough contact on the block to restart the train. A solution has been found which will roll on the loco a bit to get more pickup wheels on the block. This will be now programmed into place.

There are still a few issues to sort out but I do feel very confident that this is really going to work. I cannot wait to be able to watch the whole show!

For those who along with us feel they get bad days when modelling, take a look at these....they will make you feel better!

bad day1:   bad day2bad day3bad day4bad day5bad day6bad day7bad day8bad day9bad day10

30 April

Malcolm DCC has been with us for a couple of days and huge progress has been made with the automation. All wiring circuits are working and the system is reading all the block detectors. There is still a lot of tuning work to adjust braking circuits and programme speeds for each loco. The biggest problem are the Peco points in the fiddle yard which are operated by quite a large CDU. However, it is nowhere near large enough to fire all the point sequences in the time required and more CDUs will have to be put into place.

For the very first time, we did get a couple of trains running on an automated schedule. It is quite strange to watch them doing their thing all on their own!

This means, that on the next two shows, we will be running entirely on DCC control but still not with the Railroad and Co automation.

The Digitrax Zephyr had been programmed to prevent a 'wild roach' incident as happened in the last show!

26th April

We have made good progress in completing the hard wiring needed to convert to auto running. All repairs from our last show have been completed and we now have a full compliment of motive power.

20th April

John with Martyn de Young prior to the opening. The new 'frock' of the layout is in place - photo  Tony Spencer

The Crawley show. It is an awful long way to drive to Crawley from Herefordshire but I have to say that it was worth it. Held at a school with excellent facilities at Horsham, the club members could not have been more helpful and friendly. CG was up and running in record time and we were able to repair to a hostelry for a Chinese and a few jars. The hotel was perfect and breakfast excellent. What more does one want?

Brave New World - the railcars gather at County Gate

Well, a bigger DCC memory for a start. The buffer became rapidly full and would not clear so everything ground to a standstill. I had a spare controller and swapped over.  On went the power, and every loco sprang into life having defaulted to DC and full speed. It was like trying to catch a bunch of scattering cockroaches! The folks next door were wetting themselves with laughter and reckoned it was the funniest thing they had ever seen at a model railway exhibition! It got a lot funnier for us, after a few beers on Saturday night!

click on animation to stop the roaches

the Baldwin, 'Ben Halliday' waits with a goods as 'River Brue' rolls in with a long holiday special

Despite our travails, by and large everything went pretty well. It was the first show using the rebuilt 'River Avon' , the new 'River Brue' and the Baldwin 'Ben Halliday'. I am pleased to report that they all ran faultlessly. The Garratt ground to a standstill having ingested a lump of tree and a Manning Wardle dropped a crank. Nevertheless, we were able to run the service for most of the time.

'Ben Halliday'  creeps onto the viaduct as the Glenthorne Harbour shuttle disappears below

We were proud to win 'best in show' which was voted by the visitors. My favourite layout was Westcliff which has exquisite modelling of a beach.

All my thanks to the organisers and club members and a special thank you to the Desperados who came to help. The only cloud was that Button only came third in the Grand Prix and we can hardly blame the Crawley Model Railway Club for that!

The naughty locos were easily repaired on return home, I am glad to say. The new MW, 'Yeo' did not do too well at the show either. The problem was found to be contact between the larger flywheel and a body fixing screw.

15 April

The last coach needed by the layout has been completed. This time it is a freelance design of what could have been semi open summer coaches. The coach would have been much lighter and a greater load could have been drawn during busy summer services. The line now has 22 coaches.

8th April

Well, we had a bit of a problem. In making our new transport trays for rolling stock, I discovered that wet PVA gives off noxious fumes which damaged some of our stock. We have lost three weeks recovering from this and two of our Manning Wardles are still at the doctor's. Live and learn!

County Gate gets a frock

Jenny has always thought that our presentation looked unfinished and finally I have given way and have ordered a curtain which will hide the underside of the layout. It will be interesting to see if it improved the 'look'.


9 January 2009

The fragile castors have been replaced on our exhibition stands and no further problems are anticipated.

4 January 2009

River Brue has been sent off for panelling and lining. The Sandy River loco was just far too light as a tender engine to work on County Gate. It has therefore been rebuilt as a 2-6-4 tank and now performs admirably.

prior to paining

30th Dec

Work has gone apace with the two new locos. Both are now running very well indeed.

this is prior to glazing

River Brue nearing completion

15th Dec

The Wigan Model Railway Exhibition

The show - photo 'I. K. Brunel'

Well, all I can say is how this show put into sharp focus how awful our experience at Swanley really was. Wigan was wonderful!

A warm welcome, happy and willing help, professional and lots of laughs. That is what it should be all about and it was in every respect.

The standard of exhibits was very high indeed, and frankly in my mind, it gives Warley a real run for its money and 'premier show' status (I understand that Railex is similar).

Andy Beresford and Phil Bradbury keeping the trains running - photo Dave Renshaw

Pity that Wigan is somewhere near the Arctic Circle though....was it cold out there!

CG ran very well for the most part and was second as best in show, voted by other exhibitors. Roland Castle beat us by two marks.

All in all an excellent weekend. Jenny went on her cruise where she has had horrible weather and was even seasick. Should have gone to Wigan!

a view down the line - photo Dave Renshaw

Never got to try the famous Wigan pie although there was one 'meat pie' served for lunch which even was confusing the natives. I had a feeling badgers were involved but I might be wrong!

Our thanks go to the Wigan and Wirral folks for such a warm welcome and excellent show. A special thanks again to the Desperados for making the visit possible.

photo Dave Renshaw

10 Dec

We had hoped that the new chassis for Russell would be ready for Wigan but this is not to be as the builder has encountered a few problems. The Sandy River kit has been dispatched to us so I am looking forward to a good Xmas project.

the completed prototype at Victors Models

4 Dec

All the bits for the Mallet have now been completed. All we want now are the chassis which will be here in a few days. It would be nice to have it running for Wigan but time is going to beat us on this one.

27 Nov

With the Xmas holiday soon upon us, it is time to look at some winter projects.

I have begun to work on building the second Mallet, 'River Brue'. This will be based on 2 N Drive Productions 0-6-0 outside frame chassis. These have to be the right choice as all axles are driven and pickups are not on the wheel treads. We should be receiving the two chassis in about a week.

23 Nov

We do not have long to go before the Wigan exhibition. I cannot say how different the experience has been when dealing with the Wigan organisers compared with those of our last show. They have been so helpful and do everything to make exhibitors feel valued and cared for.  County Gate has been residing in our trailer as its usual site is taken up with a large commercial project. We hope to get it back inside after Wigan.

Yet another railcar!

This one is based on a Lifelike chassis, (which is exceptional) and uses some damaged coach etches. Now the Harbour shuttle will have its proper consist.

We have also tried to repair loco No 6 (Alco) but sadly the Roco chassis is irredeemable. After some soul searching, we have decided to retire the loco, weather it further and plonk it onto the scrap siding!

We visited the Warley show today. I have to say, folks were far more helpful to those on scooters and in wheelchairs so perhaps our little campaign has done some good. Some other wheelchair users also remarked how much better it had been for them. The show did not seem as busy as last year and there were far fewer people with shopping bags.

For us, layout of the show was Roland Castle by Peter Goss. Exquisite! There was also a German H0 layout that had lovely buildings and great atmosphere.