Sunday, 28 November 2010

Wakefield 2010

Today we braved the weather and went to the Wakefield RMS’ show – the journey there was fine but the return trip was positively awful! It took three times as long as you would expect with the M62 down to just one lane and less than 25 mph! But the question is, was it worth it?

I have to say I thought it was – the standard of layouts at the Wakefield shows is always very good indeed with a wide range of eras and genres as well as different scales and standards. It would be really hard to describe in detail every layout I liked as there were so many. Worthy of mention were the two tram layouts which were being exhibited; one is one of the few tram layouts I’ve seen where the trams get a decent run! And the trams ran slowly and steadily just as many of the prototypes did. Both layouts were operated realistically and are a world away from some of the layouts I’ve seen where the trams’ acceleration would have given any of the turbo-charged cars I’ve owned a run for their money!

One of the layouts I was really looking forward to seeing was Striven which was built by the late Chris Matthewman and is now in the hands of Colin Ashby, a name well known to many modellers no doubt. Both my dad and I loved his other layouts, one of which has made a return to the exhibition circuit recently. All were EM and rather traditional in many ways. That’s not to be critical, far from it. The layouts worked well and the modelling was of a very high quality and they looked superb!

Elsewhere Law Junction was a wonderful example of modelling the current scene, and an excellent example of how N gauge can allow for long, prototypical, train formations in a reasonable space. One feature which I really liked is abandoned line –

A really nice piece of modelling with a lovely contrast between the modern mainline with its CWR and deep ballasting and the old line as it slowly returns to nature. Very nice indeed.

Of interest to me, due to its local connections, was the model of part of the Sand Hutton Light Railway in its later form with ex-military 18” gauge stock. The modelling is of a very high standard with every thing built from scratch. It’s all very nice but I’d have liked to have seen a deeper scene – it’s a hard one though. First glance I wasn’t convinced by the way it was presented but returning and watching it for longer I started to ‘get’ it. The use of flat cut outs behind the scene and the backdrop is very theatrical in concept and does seem to work well, even it if isn’t how I would have done it. Maybe it’s a good example of keeping an open mind to new techniques? Either way, I did like it.

Finally I have to mention The Gresley Beat - for many it will need no introduction but for those of you who don’t know it, it’s an interpretation of the East Coast Mainline as it heads through North London. It’s not based on any particular part but draws inspiration from various parts of the line. The result isn’t a replica in the sense of The Model Railway Club’s Copenhagen Fields, instead it is more impressionistic. And the result is superb with a whole host LNER named expresses interspersed by locals and long freight trains. I really like the layout and it has moved on hugely since its appearance at the Hull show a few years ago.

Wakefield RMS do seem to manage to maintain an excellent standard year on year which is no mean feat. I think it’s one of the best club shows in the country and not one where you come away thinking this or that ‘could be better’. Well worth the trip despite the rather long, drawn out journey home!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Cold Light of Day

History has an odd habit of repeating things. The last couple of days has shown this, albeit in a small way out of the hands of man.

Forty five years ago today the York - Beverley line closed to all traffic and the last day, unusually for November, was a cold time with snow on the ground - conditions where roads grind to a halt but railways can, for the most part, continue as usual.

And today, as in 1965, the Wolds were covered by a soft blanket of snow. Roads seem to sit someway below a layer of ice and travelling by car was much harder than normal but on the railway trains continued as normal as they effortlessly went about their business on rails which looked like they were laid on top of the fresh snow.

A pair of DBS Class 66 locos leave Beverley on a Water Cannon working.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Hull 2010

This weekend was Hull MRS’ annual exhibition – the East Yorkshire Area Group had been ‘volunteered’ for the club second hand stand. Not ideal for us as we were very busy indeed and didn’t see much of the show on the Saturday – I didn’t get a chance until the last fifteen minutes before closure! But the Sunday allowed a little extra time.

One of my favourite layouts this weekend was Duncrieve Sidings, a contemporary layout in EM. It’s a very interesting concept, one which I first saw in Modelling the British Rail Era, which involves modelling just one end of a yard with an over bridge masking the ‘other’ end. It’s a great way to model ‘big’ trains in a small space; Duncrieve Sidings is just eight feet long. You see a loco bring its train to the end of the yard, uncouple and proceed to run round. Later on the wagons disappear in the other direction. The train is only two or three wagons long in this case but the way it is presented you don’t notice it and it’s utterly convincing.

Although based in Scotland parts of it reminded me of areas around Healy Mills and the trans-Pennine route areas – the rough waste ground reminded of areas around Scunthorpe where land shows the scars of past glories. The van making its way over the ground is typical of many inhospitable access points! A really lovely layout which I think is brilliantly observed and very well presented.

Easington Lane is always a pleasure to see – the modelling is of a very high standard. The layout is wonderfully detailed and everything is toned down and weathered so it all works as one. I was quite happy just looking at the layout itself between trains! But the stock is superb – all the modelling within the group is of a very high standard – Pete Johnson’s work, in particular, is just amazing.

One delightful small layout which appeared was Gordon Luck's Fish Dock Road which is a lovely little shunting puzzle in P4 based on Grimsby Docks. Interestingly it was exhibited on a table – it normally lives on a shelf. The low height made it ideal for children and wheelchair users to see – many layouts can be rather difficult for some to see and layout height is a debate which could run and run, especially for exhibition layouts.

One exhibit which I enjoyed watching was 16mm Scale Association’s layout; live steam has a real fascination for many modellers, regardless of their interests. I always think a large scale garden railway would be great! I think something like the Ffestiniog Railway’s Prince at the head of a rake of slate wagons or a Welshpool & Llanfair loco on a goods train trundling around the garden on a summer’s evening would be very civilised!

Of course there were layouts from within Hull MRS, including Driffield and Crumley and Little Wickhill but I find I look at the visiting layouts far more as I’ve seen the club layouts on many occasions – though in the case of Crumley and Little Wickhill it’s always good to see it for the scenery alone!

I think the Hull show is one of the best small club shows in the country – maybe I’m biased? But just look at the standard of the exhibits I have highlighted here – pretty good I’m sure you’ll agree. These local shows as they do wonders for the hobby and offer something remarkably different from the big shows like Warley or the scale society shows like Scaleforum and I think it's important that modellers and enthusiasts support local shows like these.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Project 31 - Finale

The catalyst for this project was seeing a photograph in one book of 31 171 working on the remains of the North Lindsey Light Railway just north of Scunthorpe. Until seeing this I hadn’t realised that class 31s had worked on the branch, which is now best known for the refuse trains which head to Roxby – the waste being buried in the former iron ore mines.

My thoughts about modelling the loco centred on a rather old Lima 31 which I had ‘in stock’. Initially I had wondered about using a Life-Like Proto 1000 PA-1 mechanism which is very close to Lima’s bogie wheelbase but then I looked at the Hornby class 31 which I bought when that first came out a little while back. I have explained my views on the model previously so won’t repeat them here, but I could see many of the parts could be very useful when combined with the Lima body – the Life-Like mechanism will be used in the future for another Lima re-power I suspect!

I chose to retain the Lima chassis frame as I could replicate the methods I used when I extensively rebuilt a couple of Lima 37s (to the extent some people didn’t believe they were based on Lima products!) and used Hornby class 50 bogies as a form of propulsion. Jim Smith-Wright did make use of the existing Hornby chassis block within a Lima body but I felt repeating a previously used method would speed up the initial stages of the project.

The Lima body looks right and has captures the look of the prototype far better than the newer offering from Hornby. With a bit of care the Lima body can be made into something pretty special. The photo shows how few items are required to really lift it. It also has wonderfully fine and subtle tooling which Hornby and Bachmann have so far failed to match. Hornby score well with their underframe parts – the battery boxes are a massive improvement over Lima’s. The bogies, in cosmetic terms are fairly close really – of course Hornby’s are much better mechanically but they do seem a little two-dimensional. A huge improvement can be made by removing the moulded (out of line) brakegear. The lack of brakegear isn't obvious – it’s often in shadow anyway and the mind will fill the darkness with what it thinks should be there! The other Hornby items which should be included are the cab interiors which are superb and with new glazing can be easily seen.

For some of you reading this I suspect you think this method is not exactly cheap – it probably isn’t but patience should find either discounted Hornby models or keenly priced second hand models. I have seen some for less than £50 on eBay in recent months. Bear in mind that I sold the body and made £20 back on that, so had I bought the model second hand the cost of the mechanism would have cost me around £30. You can get Lima models quite cheaply – at the last toy fair I visited in Beverley I saw unboxed Lima models in good condition for less than twenty pounds – I paid just £16 for a near mint class 47. Add to this the new Gibson wheels (£20) and a few new details and parts you could easily build a high spec model for under a hundred quid. To some this will seem expensive but compared with locomotives I’m building for Botanic Gardens, this is good value – I am aiming for a consistent standard across all my modelling regardless of era or genre. To put it into perspective, a good quality etched kit built to P4 standards could easily be heading towards £200 depending on the choice of wheels and motor – very easily in fact. If you value prototypical fidelity then this cost will be acceptable, but if not then I think you’ll be very happy with the Hornby 31 as it comes and will have avoided all of this messing about!

So the big question is, was it all worth while?

I have to say emphatic yes! The end result is, I feel, a model which combines the best elements of both the Lima and Hornby models. It does require more work than simply taking a ready-to-run (RTR), but the end result is far more satisfying. I’m not saying you have to do projects like this but making things yourself is very satisfying, whether is locomotives and rolling stock or scenic projects.

I do wonder if modellers rely on RTR too much – high quality RTR can save time but sometimes I think people will accept RTR which isn’t quite what they want but it’s ‘near enough’. This is also true of many of the ready made buildings now on the market. I worry that the hobby may loose some skills as a result. No one can tell anyone how they should be ‘enjoying’ their hobby, but trust me there is nothing more satisfying than looking at something and being able to say ‘I made that!’

Further Reading

Project 31
Project 31 Fades Away
Project 31 - Getting There
I Can See Clearly Now
Project 31 DCC

RMweb Thread

Saturday, 6 November 2010

All Change at Scarborough

Here's a view which may provide a little bit of a contrast with my previous visit to Scarborough. The large mechanical gantry has now and new colour lights are in its place; also gone is the wonderful selection of bullhead track, replaced with modern flatbottom on all concretes. It flows beautifully through the station throat.

This is not something to despair about, this is the railway evolving, as it has done for the last two hundred years - this is progress. The old gantry isn't lost though, it'll be installed very soon at Grosmont as part of the NYMR's remodelling of the station to improve access to the Whitby line and Falsgrave box will remain in place, not as a signal box but as a memorial to the old infrastructure.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Sing Like an Angel

Earlier this week we saw Mitch Benn and the Distractions again - they were superb! I think Mitch Benn is a hugely talented man, not just musically but comically too. And he is a genuinely funny and witty individual too. And this isn't the first time we've seen him either!

I love the warmth that he has - the studio theatre at Hull Truck Theatre really helps with the intimacy of the performance too. His observation is superb too - Sing Like an Angel is superb. It's funny but at the same time there is a sad truth in the song about the way talent contests raise the hopes of entrants. This one thing I love about Mitch Benn's work, wonderfully sharp observations.

But his work isn't just of this nature - a recent song is much different. The BBC has come in for a lot of criticism over the license fee in recent years but they have produced many things which a purely commercial broadcaster may not dare to produce. My own interests in comedy and especially that which appears on radio relies heavily on the BBC, and I agree it is something of which we should be proud -

And if you get a chance to see Mitch Benn live, I urge you to take it!

Monday, 1 November 2010

When Railways Mattered?

The other day Thomas and I had popped out for the afternoon while Suzi was at work and I saw Traction Magazine’s new annual in WH Smith’s ‘reading room’ – for £5.95 it looked like pretty good value too with very few adverts in among the articles which is an added bonus. On the way back home I realised Thomas had fallen asleep in his seat in the back of the car so I found somewhere to stop – although he sleeps through, sleep during the day is rare for him so I didn’t want to wake him up if I didn’t have to. All this crawling really takes it out of him! We parked at Kiplingcoates station, which seemed a rather nice place to read to a railway book!

The editorial I found rather negative – as my title suggests, I don’t really agree with the leading headline of the annual. The rose tinted view of railways which was once the preserve of many the-world-ended-in-1968 steam enthusiasts seems to be spreading to diesel enthusiasts now. Having spoken to my dad, who, without giving his age away, was fortunate enough to witness a good few years of British Railways steam before it finished, it seems that the railway wasn’t something “most boys and men” took an interest in. He said with boys, it was a case of there wasn’t always much else to do!

But questioning the railway’s role in society is interesting – passenger levels are now at levels only previously achieved in the time immediately after the Second World War. But the network has changed greatly and many people, us included, rely on cars to provide our primary means of transport. The rolling stock has changed – many units have replaced loco hauled services as they’re much cheaper! But the loss of loco hauled services isn’t a reason to despair – the railway is still a fascinating place! It’s constantly changing and can still provide a great variety of stock in all sorts of liveries. I still find it a fascinating place!

But then I find articles which show all sorts of scenes from my childhood and adolescence fascinating too and this annual has plenty of articles like this. And it is amazing just how much has changed in the last twenty years. The railway has almost reinvented itself completely in parts. Scary in some ways just how much it's changed and how old it makes me feel!

Just one thing, however, which I really don't like about the annual - photos taken from positions clearly on railway property where the photographer admits to trespassing. With some of the recent examples of enthusiasts trespassing to take photos of railtours which have appear both in the railway press and the national media I feel this is a very irresponsible thing for Traction to publish.

But otherwise if you would like a bit of diesel fuelled nostalgia, at just short of six quid the Traction Annual is great value.