Chronicling the development of my Cambrian and Narrow Gauge 4mm scale model railway

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The spuriousness of colour

Colour is very emotive. You only need to look at the discussions over what colour Tornado should be, or the angst over City of Truro in black. 

Colour shades can also be argumentative. The recent move by the Ffestiniog to paint their historic locos in a more authentic maroon is to be congratulated although the authenticity may only be as old as the post preservation era of Mason’s paints. 

It cannot be argued that it wasn’t needed in some cases though. Prince’s pillar box red was hardly in keeping. 

(C) Chris Parry

The odd one of course is Soupy, or the Soup Dragon, David Lloyd George. The rather orange shade does get people talking and as it fades it certainly gets more lurid. 

One thing I am certain of though is this isn’t it. 

This is a tin of Pheonix DLG red which was going for £1 because of the rusty lid. Now I’m actually happy that this isn’t the correct orange because the colour depicted on the lid is extremely close to the maroon currently being used on locos such as Merddin Emrys so that’s a win then! 

(C) Glenn Williams

Postscript: The new cab sheets on Merddin are fantastic. Proper old school. Love it! Once finished, the pride of the fleet is going to look great again. 

(C) Glenn Williams



I’ve been travelling up and down the East Coast Main Line (ECML) quite a lot recently, and generally been delayed every time. 

As I am now currently at Kings Cross awaiting my train at 2000 which is going to be late I predict since the inbound service isn’t due to arrive until 1953.5 I thought I’d have a ramble on spaghetti – no not the Italian carbohydrate, but the overhead line that has been causing a lot of the recent problems. 

When BR electrified the ECML in 1989/90, ready for the arrival of the Intercity 225 sets in 1991, they were skint so did it on the cheap. 

How they did it on the cheap is fairly well documented- they strung the posts that hold the wires up to the maximum distance possible because over 400 miles you save an awful lot of posts. But actually it didn’t end there. They also chose to use head span wiring rather than portal wiring. What this means that instead of, as on the majority of the west coast where each post is an “n” with the wires dangling from the cross bar, on the east coast a wire is strung between two vertical posts (the head span) and the contact wires are strung from that. 

West coast wiring

This means the foundations for the posts can be smaller as the mass and aerodynamic resistance is reduced, which again over 400 miles all adds up. 

East coast wiring 

The downside of this has become more and more prevelent in recent years as more and more trains run on the railway – dewirements. 

A dewirement is when the pantograph and the contact wire lose contact. In most cases this is where the pantograph of the train lifts over the top of the contact wire and then drags it off the posts resulting in spaghetti all over the railway. 
With portal wiring, a dewirement generally only affects the track the recalcerent train is on as the wires on the other lines are all attached to the portal individually. 

With head span wiring, all the string is attached to each other, so if you dewire on one line, the chances are the whole lot comes down and the east coast grinds to a halt while you sort it all out. 

But don’t despair, Network Rail have been investigating a solution and currently have a trial at Potter’s Bar. The natural thinking would be to replace the head spans with portals but a) the current posts aren’t strong enough to have the cross bar out in, and b) the foundations aren’t strong enough to replace the whole  post assembly with a portal one. 

Added to this is a desire to run the east coast at 140mph which requires a thicker (and therefore heavier) contact wire. 

The solution devised is to install a lightweight aluminium portal crossbar to the existing posts. The claim is that the ensemble, even with 140mph contact wire, is no heavier than the current head span wiring. 

A picture of the portal trial is here showing a class 325 passing underneath it.

Having said all this, today’s late running wasn’t caused by a dewirements at Retford like most recent delays, but by a trespasser. I don’t know why people go on the track; it’s not a playground. All it caused was a lot of angst for a lot of people. The 1900 ish service to Peterborough doesn’t normally have this many people rushing to get on it.

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Courting with technology

You know I like oddities. I was perusing the Internet the other day and was reading up on Lentz valve gear. (As an aside- Did you know the chap who invented it was Lenz but the valve gear was called Lentz to help the poor ignorant English speakers pronounce it correctly)

In doing so I came across the GWR’s flirt with it – 2935 Saint class Caynham Court.  

It can’t have been terrible because it remained in service until 1948. 

(Note the incorrect caption in the photo above- Caprotti is a rotary cam valve gear but not all rotary cam valve gears are Caprotti)

More grist to the mill that the P2 boys are on the right track to rewrite history – Lentz valve gear was not a failure – it was the decision to remove the infinite variation of cut-off that doomed Cock o’ the North.

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Piggy bank

I came to the conclusion recently that it is all too easy to decide that I “need” another tool that is essential* for the workshop. Then I’ll end up on eBay or a website of funky tools ( for example) wondering if I can press the buy-it-now button. 

To curb this exuberance particularly as we have more pressing needs such as a house to rebuild much of, a family in Australia to visit occasionally, holidays to have, presents for t’missus to buy, and two boys who are already doing their best to eat the house empty, I have invested (I know, buy something to save?!) in a piggy bank. 

As you can see, this one is designed specifically with my situation in mind. The rule I have set myself is that to buy the next item, the money has to be in the piggy bank. The money gets into the piggy bank from a reduction in me buying “specials” for myself so instead of saying “I’ll just have one more beer” I’ll put the money in the piggy bank instead. 

We’ll see how it pans out but given I already have my next funky tool in mind, it could be the impetus I need. 
*Whenever the Patriarch returns from a model engineering show or the quarterly auction night at his club, with a bag or pockets bulging, the Matriarch will declare that she already knows two things about the latest whatchamacallit, it was essential, and a bargain.