Celebrating Abi.

Many of you who know me personally will know that I lost my best friend, Abi on May 20th this year following a short illness at the grand age of 14 years and almost six months. Anyone who has ever had the honour and privilege of a dog in their life will know just how this feels and there have been tears enough in recent weeks. Eventually, acceptance comes and life must ultimately continue.


I felt however that her long and overwhelmingly happy life deserved some commemoration and I thought this would best take the form of a post featuring some of her best photographs, accompanied by some little anecdotes where appropriate.

Abi was surely one of the most photographed dogs in the world if the number of images I appear to have is anything to go by, there was rarely an adventure we shared over those years that didn’t have a couple of snapshots!


It wasn’t all adventure of course and she was certainly a fan of her bed!



She loved a good bone in her younger days too!



Although most people recognised Abi as a Staffie (from her paternal side), her mother was a Lurcher and she had definite Greyhound/Whippet physical characteristics which I think you can readily see here. She certainly had a bit of the chaser about her when she saw a small animal, although she was very fond of cats, being in the company of two for a while.


Abi loved our trips up to Whitrope and our walks along the old Waverley line and I’ve lost count of the times we made the trip down through Ninestanerig Cutting down to Riccarton Junction.


The Waverley of course became a big part of Abi’s life and for a while, she became a proper “railway dog”.


Not only was Abi fully trained in Permanent way inspection…


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She was also as far as we can gather, the world’s first Lookout Dog, trained to bark upon sensing an approaching train.

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Of course, it wasn’t all work and she was known to let her hair down a bit at parties!

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Right up to the last year of her life, Abi enjoyed pretty much perfect health although she had an occasional incident, one of which required her getting stitches following a bite from another dog who wasn’t on her Christmas card list. This is her feeling sorry for herself for the humiliation of having to wear the cone of shame!


Not only was Abi a regular at Whitrope, she was no stranger to train travel and has had an A1 and Royal Scot for haulage as well as 37/4s on the Cumbrian Coast. Her favourite though was steam heated Mk1 stock, hauled by a boiler fitted 37 025 at Bo’ness…


She really was the most photogenic of dogs and there are so many more I could share. However, one image, I think really encapsulated the force of nature that this wonderful creature and companion was; I took it on holiday in Glencoe with her in November 2007 as we were walking up the glen behind Ballachullish. It was a nice, bright morning with pockets of low cloud on the mountain flanks. Abi had gone on ahead of me, sniffing and exploring as was her wont all her life when she reached the crest of a ridge and something caught her attention – I got the phone up quickly and just snapped and when I saw the result, I knew it was the definitive photograph of her. If she had an autobiography, it would have to be the cover shot and ever since I have called this image her ‘Monarch of the Glen’ moment…



I hope this wee celebration of her life in pictures has given you a flavour of what she was about if you weren’t lucky enough to know her personally.

Would I do it all again if I could? You bet I would – thanks Abi, it was the highest honour to be your friend and keeper!



Is avoiding BBC Scotland ‘News’ making Scots more optimistic about the future?

Waking up the blog with a non-modelling related post but rest assured, there is much else to follow in modelling and other matters.

Talking-up Scotland


(Reuters/Dylan Martinez) / Reuters

Today, we read on the BBC website:

‘Scots ‘more optimistic about future’, according to BBC survey’



and spotted the graph above showing the sunny disposition of Yessers.

The full report is not yet on the YouGov website, but I am able to reveal, based on my contacts in the research industry, the shocking news that the researchers found a very strong negative correlation between watching BBC Scotland News and pessimism about the future – those who regularly watched BBC Scotland News were statistically much more likely to be pessimistic about the future. Amongst researchers into Scottish culture and politics, this is known as the IM/IMNO Jolly spectrum.


(c) Sunday Post

I’m also informed that the data on this will not be released and that the lead researcher has been reported for bringing both the BBC and YouGov into disrepute. The BBc has previous on this…

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Oly’s Holland

This is as near as model railways gets to touring with Sleaford Mods… 😉

The Model Railways of Oly Turner and Chris Matthews

It all started with sound logic. The plan made perfect sense, Mark Tatlow had been invited to “Rail 2018” in Utrecht, Holland. Mark has always, religiously, hired a van around 10 times larger than required. This van was usually a classic long wheel base Sprinter, in which Portchullin had received many a war wound on the motorways of Great Britain by being allowed to slide around freely in the rear while the vehicle was driven like it had been stolen by a middle class mad man from Sussex.

Portchullin requires around 5 operators, 1 to operate and 4 to spend the weekend fixing it, so to make the proposition of 5 of us on the beer in Holland more appealing the spare space in the van would be taken up by SQ. So a sort of free layout for the exhibition manager.

That was where all logic ended.

The first…

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Getting down to business at last


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.






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..?



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!


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)



Just to illustrate that snow has always been a problem for the railway I thought it was time again to share this well-known BTF film from 1955.

It features some good footage of the Stainmore line where the incident occurred and some interesting working practices that might be frowned upon in today’s more safety conscious world’