Monday, 28 April 2008

Sneak Preview...!

Just a hint of what should be making an appearance in the near future - a large pacific tank for Botanic Gardens based on a kit from Little Engines.

Monday, 21 April 2008

More than just wheels...

I had the pleasure of spending the weekend at Scalefour North over the weekend. It a lovely show; very much quality over quantity. The show had just seven layouts, but I'd rather have seven excellent layouts than a leisure centre full of average layouts any day!

I feel privileged to have been demonstrating at the show on the last three occasions. It certainly is a most enjoyable experience. I find it strange when people are wanting to know what I think on certain issues! A couple of people, it seemed, had come specifically to ask me questions! And when people who are my 'modelling heroes' come and ask me questions, well it's rather surreal and amazing all at the same time!

Scalefour North has a unique atmosphere - it must be one of the friendliest shows you could ever hope to visit. I've found this ever since I started going to the show when I was about sixteen. Judging by the way that some younger modellers were asking questions, the atmosphere must still be as welcoming as I found it when I was a bit younger. I've never seen operators or demonstrators talk down to people either, which is a welcome change from a whole host of small clubs shows I've attended.

I think this reflects the true personality of the Scalefour Society; it is a helpful, friendly and welcoming society. It's not just about wheels and track, but helping its members achieve a higher standard of modelling. Which neatly brings me to the photograph at the top of this post...

The photo was taken at one end of the South London Group's St. Merryn layout. It's a wonderful little cameo but the way it's been executed, it isn't the cliché which many 'bus outside a railway station' scenes often are. I think this highlights what finescale is all about - finescale is a state of mind rather than a set of measurements.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Scalefour North 2008

Two locomotives on my demonstration table at Scalefour North 2007.
This weekend The Scalefour Society will be holding its northern event, Scalefour North, and yours truly will be there pretending he knows about modelling diesels!

The show is well worth a visit even if you don't model in P4 yourself; the standard of modelling is very good indeed and can be an inspiration to all modellers. Trade support is excellent; the show is a great place to buy the small parts you wouldn't normally find at major shows or in shops. Full details of the show appear on the society's website.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Hopper Progress

Just a quick update on some Botanic Gardens progress...

It's one of Chris' recently completed hopper wagons. Chris built, painted and lettered it and I have been weathering it. Once I've worked out the best way to get the effects we desire, I should be able to put up a more in depth guide to how it's done.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Welsh Highland Railway Working Week

Last week I spent an amazing week on the Welsh Highland Railway! It was part of the 'Working Week' on Phase 4 of the re-construction. I was there as part of the GrantRail team of graduate engineers (Network Rail had also sent a team of their apprentices). It was like a paid holiday for me! Thanks must go to Andy Savage for providing this wonderful opportunity.

The week started out very pleasantly - a nice leisurely drive down to Wales, stopping at the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, which is one of my favourite heritage railways though it seems the 'least Welsh' of all the Welsh narrow gauge lines. Maybe due to its common carrier status? Regardless of this, I still have a real affection for the line. I would love to model the line in 7mm scale!

We were staying in Minffordd at the Ffestiniog Railway's own hostel. A nice little venue, although the facilities are basic, it does have a charm all of its own. I can easily forgive basic facilities when I can see steam hauled trains running past the kitchen window!

This was where we started on the Monday morning -

It's about three quarters of a mile from here to the bridge at Pont Croesor, where the aim was to join by the end of the week. Good progress was made on Monday as we got used to the processes and the equipment we were using. On Tuesday we laid twenty lengths, smashing the previous record of fifteen lengths in a day!

Despite being rather tired after the day's work on Tuesday, I made the trip up towards Corris to see Neil Rushby. He lives in one of the most idyllic locations I have ever scene! I had an absolutely lovely evening.

He is just starting out on a major project based on the Cambrian Coast. Have a look here for more details on this amazing project. This is one of the photos I took whilst I was there -

I can't wait to see it as it progresses! I have threatened to return to see the progress!

One real highlight of Neil's layout must be the rolling stock. The stock is beautifully weathered, as you can see here.

I'm very grateful to Neil and his wife for such wonderful hospitality.

It was back to work (well, if one call this work!) on Wednesday morning. There would be about fifteen lengths required to reach the bridge. We managed this quite easily, after twenty panels down on Tuesday, fifteen didn't seem to phase anybody! By late afternoon we had reached the bridge, just one pair of rails needed to be cut and fitted to make the join. Here you can see the whole working party at the 'Head of Steel' -

Following this achievement, we had a rather good night in Spooner's at Porthmadog station - I think we may have been rather rowdy! Well earned recreation obviosuly!

We were back on Thursday morning, leaving Paul Bradshaw and his team to cut and lay the rail right up to the bridge. The GrantRail gang and two of the regular volunteers headed back towards Croesor Junction with crow bars to align the track before ballasting and tamping. When we returned to the Head of Steel just as the final length before the bridge was being prepared to be laid.

Just after the rails were joined, we witnessed the first train to venture onto the bridge for over seventy years. It was something I was so pleased to have witnessed, even if I did have to run down the road like an idiot to get my camera in time!

Looking back towards Croesor Junction, we could see just how much had been laid - with the gentle curve of the road, we couldn't quite see where we had started on the Monday morning.

On Thursday afternoon we had a ride up to Blaenau Ffestiniog on the Ffestiniog Railway. It was a nice break and welcome break from moving heavy objects!

Progress during the week had been excellent, and well ahead of schedule. Our week would finish off with a ride from Hafod y Llyn to Rhyd Ddu, the latter being current southern Terminus of the WHR. We headed through Beddgelert and the scenery is just beautiful. The ride was made even better by being able to ride on Upnor Castle on the way up to Rhyd Ddu! When the offer was made, Andy Savage said it was the fastest he'd seen me move all week!

Just a taste of what can be seen from the train, though photographs don't seem to capture the magnitude of the surroundings.

I enjoyed the week immensely; though it was nice to be back home in Yorkshire - seeing the Yorkshire Wolds bathed in sunshine as I came home was a wonderful sight. The week was the final week that the GrantRail graduates would be all together, so it was a rather nice way to end our time as a group. For this reason it's a week I'll treasure for many, many years. The feeling of accomplishing something like 'building a railway' was also very satisfying indeed.

The GrantRail gang at Pont Croesor.