Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

Out of the Gloom

I'd like to wish all of those who read what I post on here a Happy New Year and all the best for 2014!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

I'd like to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year! May the day bring you all many train shaped gifts!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Bridge Replacement

The bridge on the former Hull & Barnsley mianline which crosses Spring Bank West in Hull is being replaced over Christmas - the replacement will allow for the road to be widened and a new, modern structure to be installed.

This wasn't one of the structures which I worked on during my time with VolkerRail, so it's interesting to see the quite different approach here. Our work was upgrading and strengthening existing structures rather than the wholesale replacement.

So while you tuck in to your Christmas dinner, spare a thought for the railwaymen who are working hard over Christmas (or maybe wish you were one of them while you spend the day with people you don't really like or wouldn't normally give the time of day to!).

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Winter Steam

At Thomas' request we headed up to Pickering today! We've not bothered with the Santa Specials as he seems quite unimpressed by meeting the 'man himself' and is much happier watching the engines!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Tractors at Beverley

A railtour from Newport to Beverley for 'Carols in the Minster ran today. With three class 37s it was understandably popular! Here 37604 and 37612, with 37423 now at the rear, have just arrived with the empty stock ready to form the return 1Z38. The train sits beneath Beverley's lovely overall roof - click on the image to take you to the full size version on Flickr!

For Carols at The Minster

We weren't out to see it today; it was Thomas' 4th birthday party this after and we called in afterwards, which just happened to coincide with the railtour!

And whilst not perfect I don't think it's too bad for a hand held shot in the dark!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

8th August 1963

Driver Jack Mills
1905 - 1970

Given the news this morning, I think it's best to remember the railwaymen, who were simply going about their normal duties. This article - which is an interview with the Secondman David Whitby's sister - I think it put the events into a far better perspective than many other articles, some which sadly glamourise the events, manage.

Friday, 13 December 2013


After a very hard week, a bit of light relief. Another signal box passed out! And even the bonus of a class 60, 60074, working 6J94!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Powering Tomorrow

A while ago I posted a photo of Drax Power Station's new bio-mass wagons, well here's a whole train of them with a suitably liveried class 60!

Earlier today, in connection with the official opening of the new Bio-Mass Terminal on Hull Docks, a freshly 'vinyled' class 60, 60066, passes Crabley Creek Signal Box with the return 6H25 having worked in during the darkness as 6D27. It looked very impressive too!

Friday, 6 December 2013

After the Storm

Hull's been hit hard by the recent bad weather. On Thursday afternoon/tea-time, all trains on the Hull - Selby line were cancelled due to the risk of flooding. Ceratin parts of the line are very close indeed to the River Humber and were very vulnerable as a result. The first train was 5K99 at lunchtime today running from Selby and return from Hull to check that everything was working OK following the extreme weather. All was well!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Straight Down the Middle!

What to do with nearly sixty quid's worth of chassis kit?

That's right! Cut it in half!

I thought I could get away with using the EM spaced frames but in the end I decided it would look a bit odd so with a cutting disc in the mini-drill I cut the whole thing in half within a couple of minutes!

So, I've reassembled using Gibson frame spacers and a little bit bit of fettling to the body and we're sorted! Now this is not a criticism of the 52F Models kit at all - they intend their kit for either 00 or EM, not P4! This way the suspension is preserved (though some packing betwen the beams and integrated gearbox will be needed due to the extra width between the frames) along with the lovely brake gear!

But as I said before, this was supposed a quick build but it's not worked out like that!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Kielder and the Border Counties Railway

Last summer we spent a week in Northumberland in Kielder Forest, staying in a log cabin right by Kielder Water. When we were up there it rain constantly and the area was experiencing flooding and all sorts of associated problems - not exactly summer!

This isn't a comprehensive survey in the slightest, really just photos taken as we went about our holiday! There are plenty of other stations which can be seen easily from roads and thus viewed without trespass; Wall and Humshaugh are two which are very well preserved and are easily seen from the road. Much of the route, in fact, can be see from the road which makes it very easy to follow.

Even today you can understand why the line lost its passenger service in the mid fifties - 13th October 1956 and freight would only last until 1st September 1958. Originally it was hoped to exploit the area's coal deposits but the coal wasn't suitable for industrial use, even though it was ideal for domestic use. The mines on the line never really flourished in the way those on or near the Newcastle - Carlisle line did. The area was very sparsely populated, with small centres of population dotted here and there; Bellingham was the largest place which the live served between its centres, Hexham and Hawick. Although the latter wasn't on the Border Counties Railway itself, the services were extended along part of the Waverly route. Riccarton Junction was where the Borders line meet the Waverley - there was nothing there. Riccarton was a pure railway community, it existed because this was a convenient place for the lines to meet. A thankful wrong turning meant I ended up seeing a couple of key bits of the Riccarton - Hawick section too!

There's an excellent site on the railways of the area if you want to see historical photos of the area Northumbrian Railways, also Railscot has a lovely selection of photos after closure and it's well worth following the route through the excellent Disused Stations beginning at Hexham and following the line northwards, as we will do.


Hexham has been quite an affluent centre in the lower part of the Borders - this is still reflected by the businesses you can see as you walk through the town. The railway opened up transport links to the town and it was very much the hub of the local network which once radiated from the station on the Newcastle - Carlisle. Not only did the Border Counties line start here but also the Allendale branch.

The remaining signalbox is very well known and typical of the gantry style boxes which were once common in the north east, the Northern Division of the North Eastern Railway seemed quite keen on the type. At the other end of the station was once another box of a more conventional style; very similar boxes can still be seen locally. Although there's still a substantial amount of infrastructure in the station area (and a decent model railway shop!), it is but a shadow of its former self.

At the site of Border Counties Junction, where it left the mainline, as well as the remains of the viaduct, there remains also the base of the signal box. Hard to believe that it once provided jobs for three or four railwaymen.

The original image can be found here on Geograph.

Reedsmouth Junction

I've always felt the name 'Reedsmouth Junction' is quite a well known one in railway circles - though many people have heard about, not everyone can tell you where it is or which lines it served! The facilities also seemed quite out of proportion with the the level of traffic the line had, especially in its later years. However early in its life it represent a typical country junction. The loco shed was a sign of the one time importance of the location. The signal box and station building/water tank survive now, the latter with a roof rather than its tank, as private houses while the loco shed survives in agricultural use.

From the road little is immediately obvious, however the bridge over the Scotsgap line still bears sign of the railway - the Engineers Line Reference is clearly displayed. This is very similar to the example here at Market Weighton.

Looking over the bridge, there's something very peaceful and tranquil about abandoned railways.

The station covered quite a large site and somewhat dominated the immediate vicinity - the signs of ash ballast can still be seen around the junction area itself.

There are some excellent photos of the operations at Reedsmouth here.


The station in the market town of Bellingham lasted longer than the other intermediate stations on the line - a freight service continued to serve the station until November 1963, running via Morpeth, Scotsgap and Reedsmouth. Even passenger trains would occasionally visit, via the same route, to serve Bellingham Show. DMUs saw use on the line for excursion traffic but now it's an EMU which waits in Bellingham's platform! Perhaps further north than you'd expect to see one!

Its presence is in connection with the Bellingham Heritage Centre occupies an area over the trackbed at the south end of the station while the station building itself is in use as county council offices. The EMU houses railway exhibits, including numerous 0 gauge models with a local connection, and a cafe - inside the centre are further railway displays, as well as other local industries and history. It's very good, and is an excellent example of how a small museum can be.

Tarset Halt

Or at least just north of Tarset Halt.

From childhood holidays in Northumberland, when we visited Kielder I always remembered an old p-way hut which stood by an embankment, and despite the missing bits is still standing. As time passed I discovered that this was within sight of Tarset Halt and the odd mound behind was once the earthworks for Tarset Castle. There's a surprising number of quite intact p-way huts along the route - possibly an indication of how few people are around and no seems to have got round to vandalising them in the last fifty years! And that's the odd thing - it's fifty-five years since trains passed by and these huts still remain, some hardly any different from how they were when in use, just a little weather beaten.

The whole scene is very 'modellable' - just further north a low, three arch viaduct crosses the Tarset Burn as the line passes behind Tarset Hall.

Kielder Forest

The line begins to change in character Tarset, the lush valley bottom opens up and soon you're out in open moorland. Falstone, for example, appears quite bleak in old photographs, only tree growth since softens its appearance. I didn't get to Flastone and Plashetts station is now somewhere beneath the water! However the line resurfaces as it climbs towards Kielder. Near the site of Lewiefield Halt you can glimpse the embankment from the main road.

To the casual observer, the station building may just appear to be a normal stone built cottage - it's much like many of the structures on the line, nothing elaborate and quite at ease within its surroundings. As with many country stations, Kielder's building incorporated living accomadation too.

I imagine it was quite a pleasent existance - not too taxing with a gentle pace of life. Ultimately this would be the reason why lines like this would prove unsustainable.

From a Forestry Commission postcard.

To the north of the station another p-way hut still stands, this one in remarkably good condition.

I suspect this one has had some other use at one point but even so it remains very much intact and part of the scene.

If anyone wants to model the line, access to structures would be very easy indeed!

Deadwater Halt

Deadwater is the last station before the railway crosses the border.

Of course there's another platerlayers' hut just near Deadwater! In fact there's another one right by the station!

The station itself is some distance from the road but can be easily spotted and is little altered since it closed. Indeed, the station building is little changed since it was built. It's quite a delightful spot really. The earthworks, as elsewhere, are still very much intact. This bridge is a good example of the condition of many structures - very much complete and virtually untouched since the demolition trains, even the handrails survive.

Over the Border

And the first time we headed north over the border, the heavens opened!


Following a wrong turn as we headed for Hawick we came upon the Whiterope, which was once the home of Whitrop Siding and Whitrope Siding Signal Box on the Waverley Route. This was once a mainline from Carlisle to Edinbrugh - it is still possible to travel by train between these two cities but no via the route via Hawick. This was one of the major closures which resulted from Beeching's Reshaping of British Railways report. It did duplicate as a through route, but other routes which duplicate others have survived as useful extra capcity. Perhaps the Settle and Carlisle line is a good example of this. The reasoning and sense of this closure has been debated over many years and I won't go into it here.

The Waverley Route Heritage Association is an organisation which exists to promote the route and ulitmately, I think, with the hope of seeing the route restored. There was a proposal, not to long ago, to reinstate the line to Riccarton Junction from Carlisle and the back south towards Kielder. This was intended to allow logs to be transported out of the Kielder Forest area and avoid the many lorry journeys which would otherwise be required. Sadly nothing came of this scheme and lorries carrying logs are a very regular sight if you visit the area.

Until such time that the line sees through trains, the WRHA's main activities centre around the Whitrope site where they have established the Whiterope Heritage Centre. It hadn't officially opened when we were near, and there was very little happening but it showed a lot of potential! Hopefully we'll return to see at some point in the not too distant future.


The Waverley was known for being quite a bleak and even desolate line in places and Shankend is a station which really shows this very well. The station building survives and, unusually, so does the signal box! The signal box is now a holiday cottage style and it's not too long since it was on the market. It's a typical structure of the style in which other boxes were built and, although it has been modified over the years since closure, it still retains a familiar appearance.

The railwaymen and their families would have to have been hardy souls in this area - trees have softened the appearance of the hills over the years but still the bleak nature of the area is very clear. Shankend Viaduct is a wonderful structure which is still complete and imposing.

And this is where we left the line. Well not quite as we were near sites which were once railway property in Hawick but now you'd never really know. And Hawick is probably one of Britain's larger towns to not be served by the railway, and I think it shows. It is a pleasent town (and only ever having seen it in the rain maybe doesn't help!) but it shows a lack of prosperity which may well be a reflection of its lack of good transport links. Even the A roads in the area are not modern, fast roads but winding routes very much following the contours. Had the service remained it may well have prospered as a commuter town for Edinburgh, who knows? The development since the railway disappeared would cause problems for the Waverley's reinstatement but even getting to a stage where this is an issue to be sorted is a long way off. Maybe the retention of the route will forever be a missed opportunity?

Certainly for the enthusiast the area has much history to offer and of course the area offers some stunning scenery and is rightly popular with visitors. Kielder is a well served for visitor facilities and offers a unique environment in many ways. It would be nice if the railway could return one day and help remove the hundreds of lorry journeys but for now, and maybe forever, the remains of the Border Counties Railway provide a wonderful link with the past, virtually untouched since the day the track was removed.

Want to know more?

Disused Stations

Excellent site which details all the stations on the line - the link takes you to the beginning at Hexham and you can follow the line northwards towards Hawick.

Hexham to Hawick

Excellent book by Roger R Darsley and Dennis A Lovett published by Middleton Press.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Semaphore Sun Set

As the sun sets at Crabley Creek Signal Box Northern Rail's class 158, 158904, comes to a stand waiting for the section ahead to clear. I know I only posted a view of Crabley the other day, but I think this is worth sharing.

J21 Cab Roof

A closer view of the J21's cab roof mentioned yesterday. I think the two photos, especially if you compare the thickness of the original in the second photo with the replacement, the difference is obvious. Well I hope so anyway!

This isn't a criticism of the Alexander Models kit at all - it is simply a limitation of the whitemetal process. Very thin parts are possible but are very vulnerable. However a brass replacement, of laminated construction in this case, is much stronger comparatively so not only looks better but is more durable.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

So much for a quick build!

This was supposed to be a quick build it hasn't worked out that way! And mainly through its conversion to P4!

The J21 now has new splasher fronts and cab roof made from thin brass - 5 thou sheet. The splashers didn't allow enough room for P4 wheels so the thick whitemetal fronts were removed and replaced with brass soldered on the outside to maximise the room within.

The cab roof has also been replaced - this is often a weak spot of whitemetal locos and it is very hard to disguise. In fact a replacement is probably less work than trying to disguise the original's thickness. I think the cab roof makes an enormous difference over the cast one provided - it's simply a 10 thou brass base with a 5 though overlay with the rain strips added using flattened handrail wire. Cut and bend it to shape - rub it on a sanding board to make the base reasonably flat and solder in place. Then file down so you have a flat appearance and consistant width. Not too much effort for a really big improvement in appearance!

The tender is coming along too - all handrail are now in place and also has Millput in the coal space which will form the basis for the eventual coal load and means you don't have to spend time cleaning up soldered joints beneath it!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Project 25 - Underframes

It's nice when you feel a project is really coming together - especially it's one which is quite involved. This class 25 has been quite long winded in many ways! But slowly over this week I feel like things have been finally coming together.

The underframe is a huge improvement upon the original Bachmann moulding. There are now gaps where the should be gaps and even the simplified pipework gives the right impression of the correct equipment being there. Not that it's correct in every respect - it's too easy to get bogged down in the detail and miss the bigger picture I found, but the result will hopefully satisfy most.

The water tank is actually scratchbuilt depsite having the Brassmasters' one 'in stock' I found that D5176, my chosen one, was built with tanks with no gauges. It would be a shame to file off the nicely moulded gauges so I built a simple box from black Plastikard. Using photos I added a reasonable approximation of the equipment around it. Incidentally, an excellent source of detail photos (and not just for the class 25 but pretty much most production British mainline diesels!) is Brian Daniels' excellent Flickr site. Well worth a look.

So this brings 'Project 25' up to date. Still required are the remaining pipe runs on the chassis, the framing behind the headstocks and a few final details and then it's ready for painting!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Project 50

This is an ongoing project for a friend of mine - it's a fairly straight forward detailing and respray of a Hornby class 50. However, the standard and finesse of some of the parts now available mean that even a straight forward project can result in a very high quality job if you take care and take your time.

50018 Resolution stands at Waterloo on 25th November 1989.

This is how the model should ultimately end up looking; unfortunately I can't remember the source of the image. It's reasonably typical, I think, of how the fifties appeared in the later Network South East livery. The miniature snowploughs just add the little something extra to the the loco however!

The roof clearly shows the new parts from Shawplan. I've also added the cowling within the roof space for the fan itself. A minor detail but I think it's worth the effort for the visual appearance. An idea nicked from Paul Marshall-Potter!

The main parts used so far are from Shawplan and they are excellent. Well, I wouldn't expect anything else from the nice Mr Hanson! The first task was to strip the body using Phoenix Precision's 'Superstrip'. It's expensive but very good! And it is amazing just how fine the model is beneath the thick factory applied paint - the yellow warning panel was especially thick and once it was removed some wonderfully subtle and fine bolt detail around headlight. This is totally lost as the model comes out of the box.

The new exhaust ports are an enormous improvement over the originals.

The new Shawplan roof details are not like the details of old - they are very fine and the fan grille (which hasn't been fitted yet) is especially delicate and requires careful handling. I found it worth annealling the parts to make it easier to form the correct curves - it makes things much easier! I'm sure some people will think that the work involved isn't worth the effort but personally I think the extra finesse they provide, and the ability to correct some minor errors on the original moulding makes the effort really worthwhile. It does require a great deal of care to prepare the loco for the new parts but the result is very satisfying!

Hornby Magazine - Weathering Skills Guide

Don't be fooled by the title of Hornby Magazine's latest publication! In all but name this is essentially a new book from the former MRJ editor, Tim Shackleton. The whole book (I think it warrants that term) is very well presented and very well written - 95% of it is Tim Shackleton and the rest is Hornby magazine's editor, Mike Wild. I think there's something for both those who already weather their models as a matter of course as well as those new to the whole concept.

There are plenty of ideas to challenge established ideas - finishing wagons in a gloss top coat to reflect their depicted 'newness' is a great idea and would leave many modellers sitting in a corner rocking back and forth mumbling to themselves. But it works very well and the rational behind it is explained very well, as is the whole book. You can see the difference that having someone who's not only a very accomplished modeller but also a professional writer makes.

Other than highlighting other bits I liked, there's little point continuing other than to say that railway modellers really should find a copy before it disappears. And if you can't see the fuss about weathering, then you really do need to find a copy of this!

Further Reading

Aspects of Modelling: Weathering Locomotives and Rolling Stock, by Tim Shackleton