Getting down to business at last

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I’ve been off work this week which has allowed me to finally get properly to grips with the long procession of models requiring enhancement.
This week that has meant some top-end 1960s-era mainline power. First pair out the door into today’s early spring daylight were A2s No 60530 and 60535, both in 1965 condition.’535 is for a friend and is essentially straight from the box Bachmann.
Every other loco you’ll see today has been upgraded with LMS cast buffers and vacuum pipes in the case of 60530.

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Next was a Class 40, again in mid ’60s garb (EE Type 4, more properly in that era, I suppose), in a typical condition for that era when diesels were beginning to dominate and with their own dedicated depots, cleaning and maintenance was less problematic than earlier in the decade. D369 has had the benefit of LMS buffers replacing the factory item. This in fact was done back in late 2014 but she had then languished awaiting the call to EM conversion that ultimately never came, but we know that story now, don’t we..?

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Last but not least for today was my current favourite ‘big engine’ of the pack. Hornby’s latest take on the LMS ‘Duchess’, No 46256, Sir William Stanier FRS. In spite of dark mutterings from some quarters about the fixed rear truck, this is certainly the finest yet take on these, the finest examples of UK ‘Big Steam’ and worthy of the prototype.

Once again I have traded the original buffers for more substantial castings from LMS. They really do enhance the front end in my opinion and if you can summon up the minerals to do the surgery it’s worth the effort.

I’d like to fit a shorter drawbar for a closer loco-tender coupling and add a crew but, otherwise I’m pleased with the model as it comes. I’ve portrayed the loco during her last 3-4 years of service and she has a work-stained but still cared-for appearance.

This one provided the most enjoyment this week and I really must find a layout somewhere in the area to run it on!

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All in all, there’s been a bit of interesting stuff going on here this week. I have a couple of smaller models to be getting on with next, more typical of bread and butter Scottish operations in the 1960s. Tomorrow, however I’m going to consider some of the very positive developments this year offers for the Scottish modelling scene.

Musically, there’s a rich crop of new, interesting material passing my way at the moment including new-to-me Australian band, Lowtide.  Their latest album Southern Mind has been on repeat this week. Theirs is a rich, layered soundscape that reminds me a bit of the Cocteau Twins. Being a sucker for bass, the fact they use two bass players has sold me considerably!

Alibi is my current stand out track, with that marvellous bass line that takes me back to my ‘goth phase’ thirty years ago!

LOWTIDE – SOUTHERN MIND (Opposite Number release OPPONO6CD)

 

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Captain’s Log, Stardate; WTF?

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As someone who’s been following Scottish politics since the great independence debate took off in 2011-12, I’m pretty used to ill-informed, bat-shit craziness by now but I have to say that this post, spotted on a well-known UK model railway forum by an ‘alert follower’ 😉 still made me rather astonished in a Jo-La sort of way and it kind of proves that the UK media’s propaganda onslaught is having effects outside the expected sphere. Either that or Alan Cochrane’s taken up railway modelling!
Anyway the 5:15 to UKIP-land’s running a bit late so best take your meds now, old chap!

Where you’ve been and where you’re headed…

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Well, there we are. Our wee blue world has completed another circle of the sun,bringing to a close a year of great change on a personal, national and global scale.

It’s been a funny old year from my own perspective as an old career finally ran its course and I sit right in the middle of a big transitional shift. The old job was doing me no good and had long ceased to be in any meaningful way enjoyable, let alone satisfying. Watching out for threats ahead and increasingly behind became ever more wearing with the risk of a wrong call made under pressure putting you out of a job and in my case also out of a home as I was still trudging along with a mortgage burden on my back. I had also been struggling with my own conscience as I see an increasingly unpleasant regime flex its muscles against the weakest and were things to seriously deteriorate I had no wish to be taking the heat of an angry populace on behalf of those who caused the problems in the first place.
Therefore, an opportunity arose this year to get off the hamster wheel and to say I grabbed it with both hands is the mother of all understatements. As a result I am now mortgage free with a small monthly pension and a part time job to back this up. It’s only a small step up from subsistence but it sufficient for now whilst I readjust to normal life.

At this point things are reasonably quiet then but as the year turns full circle, it’s time to start thinking about making sustainable long-term plans. Ideally, I’d very much love to return to Scotland now, but that’s going to be very much dependent on finding new work. At fifty with no real qualifications beyond some O levels and a lot of useful life experience this will probably be easier said than done but I owe myself to give it a try. It would be easier if I had a clue what I wanted to do but I’d settle for 30 hours a week at a living wage for now whilst I build up a bank reserve again to take care of the expenses of any move. I’ve no real desire or need to get back into the rat race but I would like to move back to my own country and to a wee place with a better kitchen, more cupboards and a decent bit of space out back for a layout shed and growing my own veg!

It must be an effect of the independence referendum but I do find myself increasingly missing ‘the old country’ these days and really would like to be a bit closer to my friends and family. It’s a fact that my social network is still largely centred around Central and Western Scotland. That said, I’d be happy anywhere north of the border, depending on where the work is.

I’d really like to do more in the way of modelling commissions but if I’m honest this is never going to generate anything more than pocket money for me so I have to be realistic and accept it’ll never be a ‘proper’ job! Modelling has in some ways just trundled along in the background this year, set against the monumental background of change that is still on-going. I’ve determined that the blog is my sole engagement with the wider modelling world. Previously I was a keen user of forums and I still use those useful CRA, G&SWRA, EMGS and Scalefour fora as places where you can ask sensible questions, relevant to your needs and receive similar responses. Sadly, other places that held promise fell into the hands of individuals with their own agendas and after being painted, entirely without justification, as railway modelling’s own Kim Jong-Il I took the view that I would leave the place to the projectionist and his fanboys and plough my own quiet furrow away from those who think toy trains are worth monstering people for.

I’ve since become a member of the fine Scottish Region Study Group; a decent, down to earth bunch of guys who are always good for a bit of banter and crack in the best Glasgow tradition and though visits are currently infrequent on account of distance, they are always a joy to visit; no cliques, no divas!

In spite of all the distractions though, I’ve managed to complete the troublesome Jumbo and Black Five, three diesel locos and have two LNER 0-6-0s and Duke of Gloucester well in hand. Therefore, although things have been somewhat disjointed, it’s not been an entirely unproductive year and while today’s entry has been largely retrospective, the next one will have it’s gaze fixed firmly ahead and to the north!

Thanks for visiting throughout the year and I hope you continue to find the content interesting and entertaining!

5MT CItadel

The Scottish School

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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? 🙂

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 ( 😉 ), 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!

For External Use Only.

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I recently finished these two models for a friend. First one is a nicely constructed O gauge J39, 0-6-0. In addition the effects, I also added a cab storm sheet and coal for the tender.
I’m very pleased with how the model turned out.

The second model is a Bachmann Class 24 diesel, converted to a late 1960s Inverness example by adding Brassmasters conversion parts and opening out tablet catchers on the cabsides below the driving position.
The model was given Shawplan glazing as a final touch before the effects were applied.

The recipient was very happy with with the models I’m pleased to report. 🙂

More 2P sub assemblies

Before work today, I grabbed a couple of hours at the bench and surprised myself with the progress made. Cab splashers applied, firebox and boiler/smokebox fabricated. Whilst these are relatively simple shapes in terms of the Fowler design, I suspect the real challenge will be mounting the sub assemblies squarely in relation to one another.

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Possible new Reid Atlantic kit from 52F

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(Image courtesy of WRHA Archive.)

Whilst a number of kits exist for models of the Caledonian and Highland Railways’ larger locomotives, there is nothing similar for the NBR (sorry, I just don’t like the full title!) 🙂 equivalent, WP Reid’s impressive Atlantic Class locomotives.
Built in the early 1900s to handle crack East Coast services north of Edinburgh and also the Midland Expresses north of Carlisle over the Waverley Route, these big 4-4-2s were unique to the best of my knowledge as being the only tender locomotives in Scotland with that wheel arrangement.

During the 1970s, a cast kit was available from GEM, but this is now very difficult to find so Peter Stanger, founder of 52F Models has intimated that if sufficient interest is forthcoming he will produce an etched kit in 2015.

It’s certainly a kit I would love to see produced so if you like me share that desire, please leave a comment to that effect and I’ll make sure word gets back to Pete.

Having made his mark on the NER modelling world with a rather nice series of kits, Pete has begun to tackle gaps in the NB’s fleet such as the C16 I reviewed last year and the useful N15 tank loco. Currently he is working on a J83 tank, famous in the later steam era as the Waverley station shunt pilots and whilst nothing is as yet finalised, future projects under consideration include J88 dock tanks and ‘Intermediate’ 4-4-0s.

You can visit Pete’s website and see the NE and NB items he has already produced by following this link. http://52fmodels.sharepoint.com/