If you build it, they will come.







Twenty-five years ago; if you had told me that in the 21st Century I’d be riding down the re-born Waverley Route behind a Peppercorn A1 Class locomotive I would have asked you what you’d just dropped.

On Sunday the 13th September 2015, though no illicit chemistry of any sort was involved, that’s exactly what I did.

In just a few short but unforgettable hours all those marvellous images and anecdotes that admirers of the famous line rever; the tales of majestic vistas and sweeping curves, the old DMU cab ride film. All pulled into perspective and brought back into glorious, kicking, screaming life.
An uncommonly wonderful railway returned from oblivion, traversed by a member of a locomotive class back from the lost ranks of the extinct. A historical wrong in part(for now)righted.

Even the service trains observed today were full; station platforms crowded,
bridges full of photographers and curious well-wishers dotting the line-side of the Lothian uplands and the Gala Valley to witness a sight not seen here for half a century.

Tonight I’m hugely proud of my wee country because WE made this happen; from the grass roots lobbyists of the CBR and the WRHA who kept the flame and kept the dream alive to a forward looking and sympathetic government who trusted those who believed in the potential of this largest stretch of line to be built in Scotland or the UK for a century. To the engineers, technicians and labourers who grafted in all weathers and hours of the day to being the project to fruition.
True, mistakes were made along the way but today, the people of the Borders have a fast, modern link with the outside world and if what I witnessed today is any indicator the future is bright.

This evening, with the events of the day in mind, I walked Abi along the old trackbed from Brunthill to Parkside.
Even if trains return to the entire route in the future as far as Carlisle, developments since the 1970s have ensured that trains will never run this way again, but away to the north, the Phoenix of the Waverley has again risen and in that knowledge, the old section, quiet, leafy and tranquil can finally rest in peace.


Sometimes, the wildest dreams really, really do come true!


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? 🙂

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!


Possible new Reid Atlantic kit from 52F


(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/