The Scottish School


Back in the autumn of 1977, when it appeared that the railway interest I’d picked up in the summer wasn’t going away anytime soon, I joined the East Kilbride Model railway club. At that time, they had their ‘Nerston Junction’ layout in operation and to a new enthusiast like me, it was a thing of wonder with its island platforms, sweeping curves and MPD.

A couple of weeks later, I visited the Cathcart Model Railway show which for some reason that year was being held in the McLellan Galleries. looking at the various layouts, it occurred to me that ‘Nerston’ stood out from the crowd with its neatly ballasted and painted track, well-made buildings and consistency in appearance of its trains. Very few competing layouts at that time on the Scottish scene had the same finesse as EK’s creation had and as the group progressed, I was privileged to see the Aviemore, Ardlui and Beattock layouts take shape, each raising the quality bar that bit higher. Whilst at the club, I was exposed to the work of some very competent and talented modellers including Dave Franks, whose work continues to inspire me to this day. It’s down to Dave that I build my own locos nowadays and it may even have been Dave and the late Ian McNaughton who introduced me to the concept of weathered finishes – see the monster you created, mate? πŸ™‚

EK weren’t alone in producing good layouts in Scotland back then of course and I remember Eastbank MRC showing a rather nice Southern Region layout. There was also a nice LNER era loco depot whose name escapes me now, but by and large, EK’s layouts stood above the general mass of code 100 and Triang with their SMP Code 75 bullhead track and kit-built locos/detailed RTR.

By the mid 1980s though, things were starting to change and the advent of historical groups like the NBRSG (1978) and the Caledonian Railway Association (1985) provided repositories of information on Scottish railways previously hard to obtain. Special interest groups like the 57 Study Group, The East of Scotland Finescale Group and the Scottish Region Study Group have risen and produced some excellent finescale layouts such as Hewisbridge, Burntisland,1883 and Alloa respectively. The East Neuk Model Railway Club’s superb Law Junction in 2mm scale demonstrates quite emphatically that 4mm isn’t the only game in town here any more!
The Scottish Modellers group, which evolved from the Scottish chapter of DEMU has brought new standards to the post steam era Scottish scene with superb scratch built models of Timber P wagons and on track plant for example.
It’s not only groups that are driving this quest for high quality finescale though. John Duffy’s Clatterinbrig and Joe Loftus’ Rockvilla Goods are notable examples of individual projects, the latter now being active on the exhibition circuit. Although, originally built in the wastes of East Yorkshire ( πŸ˜‰ ), Jamie Wood’s evocative Culreoch is currently being enhanced by its current owner to give a more characteristic representation of the post-war era ‘Port Road’ and can now be wholly considered a ‘Scottish Layout’. I understand you’ll be able to view it again publicly next year.

It would be churlish to say that this increasingly excellent modelling was entirely self-generated as much inspiration was generated by the marvellous work being created by our neighbours south of the border and classic layouts such as Kier Hardie’s Wibdenshaw, Stoke Summit and Dewsbury Midland immediately spring to mind. The appearance of such as these at the big Scottish shows provided further inspiration and spur to greater things among Scottish modellers. There’s no parochialism in terms of prototype however, evidenced by the 57 Study Group’s Tyneside-set Montague Fields and Dave Franks’ Wharfeside layout but there is, wherever you are, an interest among local modellers of their local scene. Scotland is no exception.

We live in an era of unprecedented digital communication and whilst it’s a global phenomenon, Modellers in Scotland are more interconnected than ever before and a great exchange of ideas, information and inspiration is going on in our sphere of interest. This communication is going on largely individual to individual and blog to blog, rather than via internet forums which other than for highly specific interest groups such as Scalefour and the CRA are largely redundant and increasingly irrelevant.

There is, I believe an upsurge in interest in the Scottish Pre-grouping companies evidenced by the plethora of books on for example the Caledonian and G&SW railways, not to mention healthy membership of the company societies. The SouWest association has this year celebrated its half century with a very well attended series of talks and dinner evening at (unusually) Carlisle. People are again starting to take an interest in Scotland’s Transport and Industrial heritage (witness the campaign to save Govan Graving Dock as a Heritage site) so it seems and it appears that it may be part of a broader cultural wakening currently going on in Scotland.

Arguably, we could be witnessing the birth of a new ‘Scottish School’ of railway modelling; there certainly seems to be a great deal more high quality modelling going on up here than I remember from twenty-thirty years back!

Here’s tae a bricht future!


14 responses to “The Scottish School”

  1. Here here and thats from a southerner. Id rather see northern Pre grouping over anything from down saaf.

  2. You’re a man of undoubted taste though, Jon! πŸ™‚

  3. Jon, I wouldn’t publish your where-abouts anytime soon…..

  4. He’s safely esconced in God’s own English North, Dave! πŸ˜€

  5. Ah . This is the Mr Franks I’ve heard many a good word about and who’s Lanky buffers ive just built πŸ˜‰ Quality items they are too.

    thanks Dave.

  6. Nerston Jct is one of my earliest memories of the Cathcart Show. Extended Airfix footbridge across the Platforms if i remember correctly. EK layouts always were impressive.

  7. The footbridge really does stick out in my memory along with the two bridges. I’d love to do a modern take on that layout!

  8. Stewart Glendinning Avatar
    Stewart Glendinning

    Nerston Junction – not forgetting the rather excellent Auchentibber branchline which ran round behind and above the fiddle yard which included a rather nice distillery if I’m not mistaken. I remember having to stand on a chair to operate the branch terminus!

  9. We were lucky to have Herbie as a talented structure builder too; even if he got a bit grumpy if our youthful hands strayed close to his creations! Understandable in retrospect. πŸ™‚

    1. Were you a wreck it ralph back then mate πŸ˜‰

      1. Nah, I think Herbie was just protective of his babies! πŸ˜„

  10. Well, this is turning into ‘all our yesterdays’ isn’t it guys.
    Hi Stewart….

  11. Thanks for reading my blog posts. So I thought I would have a look at one of yours. I have a friend in Coatbridge who with his dad are big into model and steam railways. I’ll point him in the direction of your blog. I don’t know much about the subject but I do like heritage railways. Recently on the Isle of Wight one. Also Bluebell, Severn Valley and Settle to Carlisle (I know it’s a mainline). All the best, James

    1. Thanks James. It’s nice to reach a wider audience. 😊

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