Kingdoms in transition.

Indian Summer in the domain of Autumn.
Mellow light and strong colours.
Always make the most of days like this in the north. They are beautiful but fleeting as daylight shortens and less settled weather patterns move in.
There will be a few weeks of amazing colour yet though and perhaps winter will gift us a good few clear cold days with their own type of stark beauty.
Expect more images like these on this blog!







Here’s one I prepared earlier.

Seeing as we are still struggling manfully on with the Jumbo, I thought I’d show you some of the wagons it will ultimately haul.
Apart from the open, the construction of which we followed a few months back, all these kit-based wagons were built a few years back and have just been converted for EM operation. I’m still rather proud of the finish though.
The only exception to this is the brake which is Hornby’s 2011 release.
For what it’s worth, this to me is the best representation of the BR standard brake yet produced and whilst the Bachmann brake is still great, there’s a real subtlety about this one that gives it the edge. I’ve fitted mine with LMS Models Dowty buffers and given it a lived in look. It really looks the part. If Hornby were to produce it with oil axle boxes I’d seriously consider making it the standard (I know !) brake in my fleet of stock.












A very sharp learning curve!

Work with the Jumbo had been at a kind of impasse of late as I tried to figure out why the rods wouldn’t behave correctly when power was applied. I tested first the rods (as four coupled units) then as this still showed the problem I decided to pay attention to the bearings with their massive slop. I decided to replace them but then became unhappy with the frames themselves. When I offered them up to the jig again there was still a lot of slop in the bearings and I decided to unsolder them and try to reset them on the jig. Just out of curiosity I checked the manual for the jig and, BANG, the realisation dawned; the mock axles on the jig are 1/8″ diameter. Guess who was using 3mm diameter axles on the loco! Cue a Homer Simpson moment.
I had been a little unhappy about the fact I had been producing new rods for a previously built chassis whose spacings had been altered in between times so I bit the bullet and dug out a spare set of frames which had been hanging about since 2009. Using the fresh bearings and Comet EM spacers I quickly knocked up a new chassis which also now has somewhere to mount the pick-up plate!
This model has made similar progress to a wee drunk man on a Friday night; one step forward, two back but I don’t care, I’m in a good mood and I know at least that it’s all going together correctly this time. Culreoch WILL see that ‘Doonhamer’ Jumbo in service soon enough!
All the same, isn’t it time the Imperial measurement system was carted off to an honourable retirement?
Metric is so much more logical!
(Retreats to nearest hard cover…)


Variety week.

I’ve had a very varied and interesting week for very many reasons. Last Sunday, I visited Expo EM north with Jamie, my regular accomplice in such expo ‘raids’!
Held in Manchester this year instead of the traditional recent venue at Slaithewaite, the show struck the right balance between size and friendliness. My phone/camera didn’t have the legs for the entire course, but I did manage to whang off a few shots of the superb Stainmore layout, a long term favourite railway of mine. I was able to acquire a host of very useful small parts for current projects and others planned for the immediate future.



I’ve very recently returned to active cycling, in no small way due to the increased profile the sport has gained due to the current crop of riders from this island such as Chris Frome, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. I was privileged to see a host of world class cyclists last Monday as Stage 2 of the Tour of Britain blasted off from Carlisle. The turnout to see the riders off was a real credit to the Border City and I was lucky enough to catch a grab shot of Wiggo as he passed the foot of the castle. I’m still not right up there with names and faces so some of you might recognise some of the other guys here!



Since Thursday I’ve been off for some leave and on Saturday I took a trip to Edinburgh where I spent an interesting afternoon on top of a slightly chilly Calton Hill with at least 20000 other Scots folk, pondering the future of our wee country.

In between all this gallivanting I’ve also been running amok with a paint brush as I start to get the house looking fit for sale next year but having spent all of yesterday and half of today on the job, I took the afternoon off and headed up to Whitrope to give myself and Abi a good walk since I wasn’t cycling today.
I’ve not been up for a bit and the volunteers have been busy laying e few extra panels from Bridge 200 to the lease limit at the head of the cutting.
It will be a while yet before the section can be used as ballasting is required and in any case no vehicle moves are permitted over Bridge 200 until a Transport and Works order is in place for the structure.




Physical change is coming to the Whitrope landscape too as the monoculture of Sitka is being harvested and the clearance returns the hills to the east to something resembling their ‘railway era’ profile. Unsightly for now but in a year or two when the lower vegetation has taken over it’ll look much better.
The change of seasons has manifested itself early in the roadside trees which are becoming quite spectacular in appearance



Having had a check around the site, Abi and I headed up the footpath over Sandy Edge, through which Whitrope Tunnel passes. I love the view from the top here with the S curve of the railway still clearly visible as it climbs through Shankendshiel to the north portal. What a sight it must have been on a clear winter’s day here fifty years ago, watching a southbound freight service slogging its way round the curve trailing a white wraith of condensing steam behind.
On the way back, at Shankendsheil, I
came across an old BR1 baseplate spike which had somehow escaped the vultures of 1971.
It’s got a new home now, though I’ve not really though what use it can fulfil.
Paperweight’s looking likely!
Well, after that packed programme, you’ll be wondering where the modelling projects are?
Don’t worry; there will be new stuff up in the next few days.
Be seeing you…



Bits and bobs for sale



I’m currently having a clear out of surplus items to gather some funds for EM track and wheel sets so I’ll be putting a few more bits and pieces up over time.
First up are these 4mm road vehicles from EFE, Oxford and Base Toys.
A useful selection covering the 1955-70 period. I’ll accept £45 for the lot.
Also available are fifteen Bachmann Presflo wagons in Blue Circle yellow livery. £100 secures these.
I also have a Bachmann A1 in original BR apple green livery as 60114, WP Allen, tested only and yours for £75.
If any of you are aircraft modellers, I also have a decent quantity of 1/72 aircraft kits for sale. Mainly British prototypes though there are a couple of US and Canadian types, all of the 1930-60 period.
As always, please reply if there’s anything of interest.
More railway-related items will appear in due course! 😊


As Summer draws to a close…


Today has been a beautiful day down here in the Debatable Lands, as has the last few days in truth.
It really has been a fitting end to the best summer I can remember in ten years. The beginnings of change are there though as house martins circle and swoop, building themselves up for their long migration flights, the days are very noticeably shorter by comparison with even a month ago and the leaves on trees are already showing signs of turning.
Even on a personal level there is a sense of changing seasons afoot as I reach the age of fifty next year and take stock of where I’ve been and where I’m going. I’ve been in the same house for not far short of fifteen years and when you consider that makes for close on one third of my life it kind of slaps you in the face a bit! Similarly, I’ve been in the same job for 21 years and though it’s been reasonably lucrative I feel it has about served any useful personal purpose now. Both these factors are converging in a way that will probably make for big changes in my life over the next year and possibly beyond.
I’m not a materialistic individual as a look around my house would probably betray. You won’t find a state of the art telly, flash car, gadgets or the like. My models, books, two guitars and two pedal bikes are the only real material things I have any true attachment to, so money is not a true driver in my life.
I’m going to look at the situation next year and as I was lucky enough to join a good occupational pension scheme before they went hugely out of fashion with our enlightened Neoliberal employers, it may be that there’s enough in the lump sum pot by now to clear the mortgage. If there is I’m out of the rat race and leaving the ‘hands-on’ stuff to the young men!
Somebody else can do the weekend and nights while I get my health and energy back, hopefully working somewhere with better hours and less responsibility.
With no mortgage to worry about, I hope that work will become more a matter of choice than necessity as remuneration will be less important than it is when your primary need is to keep a roof over your head!
The next aspect of transition will be to sell up and move back to Scotland; not that far away in practice and preliminary observations suggest I’ll be able to find a place suited to my needs for no more and hopefully even less than the worth of my current abode without travelling too far.
And that’s where this piece starts to fit into the more common framework of my blogging.
One very important consideration of this move is modelling space and I’m looking at somewhere that has sufficient garden or yard space to construct a purpose-built modelling/layout shed or outbuilding.
Finally, with concerns about overloading the loft of this place out of the way, SERIOUS thought can be given to construction of a layout.
Hopefully there will be space somewhere in the house for the bikes and a tumble dryer, and with luck somewhere to put a wood-burner too!
After what seems a good few years in a holding pattern it’s good to rediscover a sense of direction and purpose.
How this is going to manifest itself in terms of my modelling output will start to be outlined in my next entry.
If you haven’t already nodded off, thanks for staying the course on this one! 😉


77021 Loco Group

A brief introduction to an embryonic group in which I’m involved. You will probably already be aware that despite several BR Standard steam designs having been saved from the slaughter of the 1960s, there were some gaps in the surviving classes. Some of these are being plugged by the Standard Locomotive Group with 72010 Hengist and the 82045 Group but that left the small class of class 3MT 2-6-0 locos out on their own. Known in the North East of England and West of Scotland as useful, if unspectacular little engines, the class never exceeded twenty in number and was extinct after1967.
Until now.

The 77021 Locomotive Group has been formed in order to address this final gap in the ranks of the BR Standards.
Being a relatively lightweight design, the 3MT would be an ideal heritage line machine and would look perfectly at home on such erstwhile haunts as the Stainmore or Aln Valley Railways for example.
It is still very early days for our group and we are literally just finding our feet but it is heartening to see the goodwill and offers of assistance that are coming in from the ‘New Build’ fraternity. For this we are truly grateful.
Whilst we don’t underestimate the enormity of the task before us, it is hoped that through time, we will reach our objective. This trail has been blazed by pioneers such as the A1 SLT and the G5 group among others and it is exciting to see such classes return from the fiery grave of the furnace.
It is our group’s hope that the 3MT 2-6-0 will also return before too many years have passed.