Friday, 25 December 2015

Happy Christmas!

I would like to wish all those who come here to read the varied things which I post on my blog a very happy Christmas! I hope that you have a restful and relaxing Christmas and don't suffer too much from annoying relations and rubbish presents.

May the day bring you all many train shaped gifts!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

North Lincolnshire Sunset

North Lincolnshire Sunset

On Christmas Eve 2015 North Lincolnshire will be resignalled and the traditional signalling will disappear and ninety signalmen will see their jobs go.

The North Lincolnshire mainline has been a mecca for enthusiasts with its frequent freight trains and back drop of ex-Great Central signal boxes and semaphore signals. My Dad and I used to visit when I was younger - it was just over twenty miles from us. I visited most of the boxes a couple of months ago but I felt like I wanted to go and see Barnetby station one last time. I didn't really enjoy it though. It was full of people also seeing things for a final time, but for many it was a 'jolly'. It was as if they didn't understand or could comprehend that jobs are at stake here, far more than just the signals. I felt like a voyeur. Almost unsavory. I think I would have been annoyed with myself had I not have made the effort to visit.

Some time in 2000, an ex-works 56115, later named 'Barry Needham', passes though Barnetby Station with an empty MGR train bound for Immingham. Everything in this photo will soon have changed forever - the class 56s have gone, as have the HAA style MGR hoppers. On Christmas Eve 2015 North Lincolnshire will be resignalled and the traditional signalling and 90 signalmen will too disappear.

The industry is going through many changes at the moment, and often it is those on the frontline who really feel the impact of schemes like this. Signal boxes are closing at a similar rate through resignalling schemes as they have over the last thirty years or so, but with fewer boxes left, a scheme like the North Lincs one have a greater impact than they might have previously done.

Some enthusiasts will lament the semaphores as merely a backdrop for their photos, but this traditional way of working has been established for years and for many of the staff, this will be a very hard time indeed. Fortunately there are no compulsory redundancies this time round.

60059 comes off the Lincoln line at Wrawby Junction whilst an unidentified class 66 waits on the Down Goods with a loaded Bio-Mass working.

I would liek to wish all the staff involved all the best in whatever they do, either on the railway or beyond.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Working for You This Christmas

While many of you at home with your friends and families this Christmas, remember there will be thousands of railway staff hard at work on maintenance and upgrades all over the country.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Playmobil Testing

'Testing' the Playmobil - that's 'testing' not 'playing'!

After carefully buying bits and pieces of Playmobil we finally had everything together last night!

We did actually buy a few pieces of new LGB track (LGB supplied the original track to Playmobil for thier range) from Garden Railway Specialists whose service was excellent and very prompt - ordered at lunchtime and arriving the next morning just days before Christmas is very good indeed!

This might have been the loco's first decent run in years! Since we bought it, it has only run up and down a very short test track to check it before and after a service. It was very impressive just how well it ran, especially on track which has been stored for clearly a long time with heavily tarnished rails. Despite this, it was flawless. Not bad for a model which is at least twenty years old and had been stored for a long period.

Testing probably continued for longer than it needed to, but it was rather nice seeing the loco and its new stock pottering around the lounge! I think I regressed a good few years in the process too!

Now it's all wrapped up and hopefully a little boy will be pleased and surprised when he sees it.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

'Getting Them Young' - Are We Doing it Wrong?

For any hobby to survive, it needs new people coming in. But is the hobby as a whole missing something?

For years we've heard people bang on and on about "getting young people interested" and while this does make some sense, it is very much flawed. Firstly, children lack the buying power to actually have any real influence on the hobby as far as I can see.

The newcomers who have the money to spend which can make a difference are, I think, the thirty and forty some-things, who are either returning to the hobby or are making a start with it. They have the time and money to properly enjoy things. The increasing standard of ready made stock has no doubt done a lot to draw them in along with the massive leaps forward with the hobby in terms of control systems and scenic materials. No doubt the internet has helped things too - it is so easy to browse pretty much anything.

Despite this key group, we still hear people saying we need to get children interested. On one level this is true, as many people are those returning to the hobby after years of cars, jobs/careers, families, etc. In order to return you must have been somewhere in the first place! Children will find the hobby a struggle on pocket money - those who are heavily or actively involved tend to be those like me, with a parent or close relation interested. So you help them, and they help fund your hobby! In essence anyway!

But to really grab a child's interest, are clubs and exhibitions getting it wrong?

Plenty of shows have a 'Thomas layout', and for the most part, they're terrible. Creations rushed in clubrooms so "there's something for the kids" - from personal observations many are frustrating as the trains are not very controllable. They set off like performance cars and have no degree of control beyond very fast and stop. Little more than toys - and how many adults think that this crap will draw a child into a long term hobby?

My little boy, Thomas, loves trains. He loves running things on 'grandpa's layout' - at home there are trains and books and the same is true at both sets of grandparents' houses! He comes to shows with us and he has really enjoyed having a go with things like the Lego layout which appears at many northern shows (very good and far better than the Thomas layouts I've mentioned!). But one thing has stood out for me. It's when he's had a turn operating a 'proper' layout.

Thomas operating Colinton at Scalefour North earlier this year.

This picture was taken at Scalefour North earlier this year. Not an obvious show for a child I admit, but this was repeated at Manchester a couple of weeks ago. He has been invited to have a go with a couple of layouts at shows - there was a delightful 3mm layout, Newfields Wharf, and Thomas saw an older boy, maybe eight or nine, shunting from the viewing side. So he said "I'd like a go!" I told him to ask the man if he could. So he politely asked and spent about fifteen minutes shunting! He got far more from this than the Thomas layout elsewhere in the show. Similarly at Warley a week before he had had a go with the Shelfie, Paul Marshall-Potter's lovely minimalist layout. Experiences like this are great!

Also at Manchester I was talking to a very nice and helpful man on the MERG stand about their DCC system. As Thomas is bound to operate and help with my layout, I asked if it was OK if he tried it on their demonstration layout. Kindly they obliged and he managed it very well. Now I will admit that not every child would react like Thomas and be as careful, but I think when a child takes an interest, you can tell they're not going to be destructive...

The key to these examples is that they were proper layouts which worked well and were built to a high standard with stock which worked very well. They were not collections of cast off track and equipment hurriedly assembled in a damp club room. Thomas, and any other child given the same opportunity, can see just how satisfying the hobby can be. I could see how much satisfaction he got from the experiences.

We want to sell our amazing hobby as one which can be taken seriously and be satisfying, entertaining and sociable all at the same time. We owe it to the hobby to take new entrants of all ages seriously and not dumb down based on age and experience.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Christmas Model Railway Exhibtion

Hertsmonceux by Andy Jones. It's a lovely layout, very well executed and worked flawlessly!
Photo courtesy of Andy Jones

This year saw the return of the Manchester MRS' annual show as a their traditional, Christmas model railway exhibtion! And it must be about the last which is still a traditional city centre show. It moved out of the centre a few years back and we stopped going to it - it had moved from it pre-Christmas time already. I think it's been a tradition for many modellers and families to go to it at this time of year, so it's great for it to return!

New Hey by Andy Cooper. This was the layout's last appearance - quite a fitting end for it to be seen at a local show I think.

The venue, The Barnes Wallis building, worked very well and was just a short walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station - it meant we could very conveniently get the train across the Pennines, just like we used to! Though the 'we' had changed as we included the third generation Wells!

Tollesbury Quay - what a delightful model! The colouring was spot on and it had a real sense of space, despite its quite modest size.

As an added attraction - the tide would come in and out every couple of hours too!

Overall, what a cracking show! If you didn't go this year, make a point of visiting next year!

Further Reading

Albion Yard - Home of the Shelfie
New Hey
Manchester MRS