Saturday, 31 October 2009

EXPO NG 2009

EXPO-NG is probably the biggest narrow gauge show of the year, so like many NG modellers I had been looking forward to it for some time. As usual there was a great selection of top quality layouts, but also excellent trade support. It could be just me but it seemed a little quieter than last year, but the crowds were deep enough in places!

For once I didn't have a toddler in tow, so I was able to take my time, get some reasonable pictures, and talk to the exhibitors. It was also good to catch up with people and put some faces to names. I did get to browse the trade stalls too, as well as picking up various odds and ends I have a new project for the workbench, of which more later! However here is a taster of some of the layouts, you can see more photos here.

Dunbracken by Tom Dauben is a small Scottish harbour scene built on an ironing board in 009. This was my fist chance to see this layout having followed it's construction on various forums, and I have to say it looks superb. It just shows what can be done in a small space to a high standard, and I gather he now has some more show invites.

The Oro Grande Railroad in the unusual scale of 1/64th, 14.2mm gauge, is a US outline quarry superbly modelled with (and indeed around) a working excavator by William Loyd.

The Blackwood Valley Railway by P J Saunders was another layout I'd seen on the internet so was good to see in the flesh, a characterful O-16.5 depiction of a Shropshire lead mine line.

Regular readers might find this familiar, as I saw Cwmorgoth Copper Mining Co at the Worthing MRS exhibition recently. However it has gained a lighting rig, and so that and the lack of a toddler to hold meant I could get some decent photos (without flash) that better capture the feel of this O-16.5 layout by Jean-Luc Pineau.
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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Steam without Fire?

No, this isn't my work! Last Friday I made it to a Sussex Downs 009 Group club night, where my friend Rob Kaczmarczyk was showing off (and test-running) his latest work. It's a model of a fireless loco, if you are not familiar with them (they were pretty rare) they had a large tank of high-pressure steam which was charged from a fixed supply (e.g. a factory boiler), allowing it to run for several hours. The lack of fire meant no smoke or sparks, useful for working into buildings and not setting fire to things!

This model is of a loco that worked the Bowaters Paper Railway, now known as the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway and has a preservation society. Rob is keen to build a model based on this system when it was still industrial, and capture the run-down atmosphere. Like me he is limited by family and work commitments right now, but we were chatting about possible micro-layouts in the meantime!

As you can see from this model Rob has a gift for painting and weathering, which I can only admire! The model was not fully assembled after painting (so if the cab and hand-rails look wonky that's why), and these photo's were taken on my phone so are pretty poor (the green is not quite that lurid in reality!), but even so Rob's skill at capturing that dirty, workaday, wiped-with-an-oily-rag look can be seen. I should also point out that Rob has done a lot of work to the original kit to achieve the detailed model seen here.

Next time I need a model loco painting I think I'll be talking nicely to Rob!

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Sunday, 18 October 2009

Uckfield Model Railway Show

On Saturday I took a run over to Uckfield, and the show was well worth the trip. The quality and variety of the layouts was excellent, the only downside was that on Saturday afternoon it was pretty busy, and some of the layouts were difficult to see, particularly with a toddler in tow. However there were steps in front of many of the layouts - strong wooden boxes (probably used to transport the barriers) with a handrail attached, a great idea for kids. I've also noticed that my little boy has different favourites to me, perhaps unsurprising! There I am admiring a small narrow-gauge or industrial layout, and he's tugging at my leg saying "I want to see big trains Daddy!"

Anyway, here's a sample of some of the layouts I managed to get (decent) pictures of, you can see more
here. The trade support was also very good with some specialists there, I picked up some details for Awngate from Dart Castings.

Here is the Hellingly Hospital Railway by Phil Parker, you may be aware of his Blog, it was nice to put a face to him! Actually the concept of a Hospital Railway has caught my imagination recently, Railway Modeller this month features another layout based on this concept. I have some OO stock for a light railway layout that didn't get finished, it could fit a micro-layout based around a hospital ... ?

Portchullin in P4 by Mark Tatlow was a superb Scottish layout set in the 1970's, both of us were happy to watch the trains go by for a while on this one. It did seem to be suffering an attack of the gremlins though, after the second derailment I was cheeky enough to suggest they may have been better off in OO!

I admired Cornwallis Yard when I saw it in Railway Modeller a while back, so it was nice to see it in the flesh.

Purbeck, by John Thorne, I have seen before but it is a super layout and it was good to see it again, especially having recently visited the area that was the inspiration for this layout. As always there was quite a crowd around it!

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Friday, 9 October 2009

Quayside Inspiration

Down on the seafront at Swanage there are more rails, set in the cobbles. After poking round the museum next door, and a bit of internet research, the history is quite interesting.

Back in the 18th and 19th century Purbeck stone was quarried around Swanage and used for buildings in London and elsewhere. It was carted down to Swanage and stacked on the front, before being shipped out. But Swanage does not have a harbour, so the stone was taken out to small boats at low tide using high-wheeled carts and horses bred with long legs (no, really!), then transferred to larger boats. Clearly this was rather inefficient - we are talking large blocks of stone!

So a tramway was built from the town square around the bay to a pier in deeper water, it is about 2'6" gauge but may have been of wider gauge when built. Unfortunately the connection was never made to the quarries themselves, and the locals carried on with their long-legged horses rather than pay the fee for the tramway and pier! A few years later the standard gauge railway arrived, and the stone went out by rail, so the stacking yards on the seafront were replaced with houses and shops. The tramway was used to transport fish in later years, but so far as I can see only ever used horse power.

The line starts with two sidings (one visible to the left, the other along the building) just off the Square. I think this building was a fish store, and at the far end a siding clearly ran into it (that end is now an amusement arcade, the nearer bare brick end is the museum). The route of the tramway can just be made out on google maps here - running East around the shoreline to the harbour and pier, not the current pleasure pier but the aerial photos show the supports of the original stone loading pier. There are more photos of the tramway route here - helpfully the rain means less people in the way! More information can be found here and here.

Now that wouldn't make a very interesting model! But what if it had been connected to a quarry? And what if it had been connected to the standard gauge station when the railway came to town? After all, it would have only needed to run a little further along the front, cross a stream, then run up Station Road .... Stone was quarried from the cliffs around the coast and brought in small boats to Swanage, so the line could then have been used to bring it from the pier to the railway, as well as fish, coal (to the steam ships), rubble for sea defences, perhaps even passengers from the station to the pleasure pier and steamers.

So with a little "modellers licence" there is potential for an interesting layout. It might be rather long and thin, I imagine it could be built in a number of scenes. The pier(s) (including steamer pier, and some boats if you like), quayside with fishing boats, then the town front with the sea in the foreground and the fish shed as a backdrop, finally the line turning up the street towards the station. Even so it would be a short line, so small loco's and in later years internal combustion loco's would provide the motive power (in reality horses would do, but they are more tricky to model!).
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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Norden Narrow Gauge

While in the area I had to find time to explore the narrow gauge tracks at Norden, currently the inland terminus (and Park and Ride) for the Swanage Railway. A fellow blogger Steven posted some pictures from here on his blog back in July. This was where a number of narrow gauge tramways from local clay pits met the "main line". Actually the original lines pre-dated the standard gauge, and were built to 3' 9" gauge, although later a reduced size system was relaid to 2' gauge to utilise commonly available equipment.

The history of the systems is quite complex, but a number of boards around the site explained what was where, so it was well worth an explore, although there isn't actually a lot to see. Even some of the trackbed is hard to spot, but there is some track on a concrete base where an engine shed used to stand, and some bridge abutments where the line crossed a track - later used to tip clay into road lorries. The main visible feature though is the bridge where the original line was crossed by the standard gauge.

It is an interesting structure, an early use of concrete, it was originally an incline into a clay pit hence built with a distinct slope. Later it was rebuilt on the level as the line was used to connect to another pit and for tipping waste. The preservation group plan to lay some track around the site for rides and demonstration trains, and even re-open this bridge.

Meanwhile the preservation group are building this transfer shed and a demonstration "mine" (more like a cave!), where wagons will be hauled from the mine into the structure and tipped into more wagons below.

For now they have a museum in this restored foreman's hut (sadly it is only open Sundays, and I was there on a Wednesday!) and some wagons from this and other similar locations.

This wagon was one of the original 3'9" gauge lines, and although sheeted some interesting features were visible. The braking was achieved by pushing a sled or bar onto the rail between the wheels (see Steven's picture); and while one end of the wagon has dumb (solid wood) buffers, this end has an unusual transverse leaf spring behind a floating buffer beam!

These clay lines have already inspired models. Earlier this year I saw a model of Eldons Sidings (as the transfer sidings at Norden used to be known) by Peter Hollins in 7mm scale, he has modelled the narrow gauge at 3'9" and has some faithful models of the stock. I recall this was in Railway Modeller a while back.

John Thorne has built a freelance model (with some prototype features) based on the Purbeck clay mining industry in 009, last year I took some pictures at Narrow Gauge South:
Steve also published some pictures of John's model, which has also featured in Railway Modeller. I also recall a 7mm scale (O14?) model in RM a couple of years ago, which I think may have been for display in the museum in the foremans hut.

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Monday, 5 October 2009

The Swanage Railway

Recently returned from a family holiday in Dorset, staying in a cottage in Corfe Castle. This is a beautiful part of the world, and as you will see from the pictures, we had great weather too (and this year that has been in short supply!). However railway enthusiasts will also have figured out that the Swanage Railway passes through Corfe Castle on it's way to Swanage, so a few minutes walk from the cottage were real steam trains!*

What a great opportunity to continue the kids education :-) This is a lovely line and well worth a visit, it has a real atmosphere and is very well kept.

We even enjoyed a ride in the lovely Pullman observation car, although it was like a greenhouse in the sun!

*Note - other attractions are available! There's a nice castle too, but someone blew it up before we got there (about 400 years before). Still, it made a good location from which to photograph the trains ...
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