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
A new forum has been launched called
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
I think it is about time for a serious
appraisal of this scale, or should it be OOn?.
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
Our new No 7
effortlessly pulled 24 vehicles from Blair's stock box. Is this a
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The station board is almost complete and
restored. The fields in the foreground have been modelled as a hay crop.
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.
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.
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
click on image to enlarge
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sunday went along just fine and it was such a
pleasure to meet so many French modellers with whom I have corresponded
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.
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!
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.
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
It is probably counter productive that this
forum is owned by a trader.
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
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
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
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!
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,
Work on the baseboards begins this week.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Today, the new railcar, No 305 'Southern
Belle' was completed and successfully tested for service. It is seen
here passing 'La Coupe D'Or'.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
The second point to Cliffhanger was also
Everything is now ready to fit to the
baseboard which will be done on Thursday.
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.
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.
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
simplicity of DCC????
They say you only need two wires.
This is what is under the County Gate Station
Frog Juicer (HFJ)
So this mad sounding piece of electronics is
duly installed. Delivered from
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
"And whatever you do, no jokes about
These were the parting words from Jenny
as we drove off in glorious sunshine on the way to the Intermodellbau
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
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
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
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
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
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
The view of the footbridge from the comfy 3rd floor landing of the
"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
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
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.
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.
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.
The decals have now been applied to the new
The new loco to tow the disguised Tomix
trackcleaner, 'River Aller' has been on test and passed with flying
All of the cars are now completed and await
the decals from Peter Blackham. All the lights work and the cars operate
The cars came back from Chromed Up yesterday
and what a job they have done for us. Assembly is now under way.
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
After a break from the railway while I built
a museum model, it is back to the upgrade.
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!
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
And just before painting, here is the very
last coach. Another Minehead Extension freelance.
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
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
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
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
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
Altogether an excellent day out. I just wish
the event was not held at the same time as the National Cat show!
The original railcar, No 200 has been
withdrawn from service and is due to be scrapped following the failure
of the drive chassis.
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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.
finishing of the three baseboard modules.
Installation of LED
lighting array with dimmers
laying of track and
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
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
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'.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Our Mallet, 'River Avon' had become a little
'tatty' due to excessive handling when converted to operating lights.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
Our thanks to DCC Supplies for helping out.
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!
Back from Brighton with the lined and
weathered Kitson Meyer. This was done by
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
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
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!
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.
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
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
a special event - the first public steaming of 'Lyd', replica of 'Lew' -
photo Andrew Thomas
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'.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
The push pull set is now wired up and ready
the completed push pull coach end with sandpots and plough cowcatcher
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
I celebrated my new workshop by building the
Kitson Meyer. It is nearly finished and we are just waiting on a few bits.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
here to see what
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
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.
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.
Outside is yet again a blizzard and workshop
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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.
- 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!
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!
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.
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
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.
The tunnel complete.
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
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.
We have installed a gizmo to allow us to
uncouple the coal train easily every time we wish to run round at the
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
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!
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!
While suffering from the infamous swine flu, I
replaced railcar 201 with a 3 car set no 302. Here is the result.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
the sports stadium
complete with steam generator for the ship,
this Dutch visitor, Beachley Dock was a very popular layout. click on image
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.
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
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
end of day: CG is ready to roll to its
trailer - click on image to
County Gate has just been featured in Voie Libre.
Included are the best photos taken of the railway yet.
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.
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!
day1: bad day2:
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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'.
The fragile castors have been replaced on our
exhibition stands and no further problems are anticipated.
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
prior to paining
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.