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

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Why railways?

Someone recently asked me on Facebook why I liked railways. It’s an interesting question. Look on the bright side. It’s a harmless hobby…

The Elder Statesman introduced me to railways. He grew up in Gloucester and went on family holidays back to the ancestral home in Bude so if you snap him in half he has “GWR” written through him like a stick of rock, and his second favourite is the Southern.

His Uncle was signalman at Yeovil Junction and the Elder Statesman used to go there in holidays to work the ‘box under tuition. My Great Grandfather was a Stationmaster on the LSWR. Started way down in the Lizard as a lad porter and moved east as he got promoted, ending up living in Bude.

Bude station in 1907

For me, I like odd things, experiments, and performance. I like narrow gauge, LNER and GWR. I don’t mind LMS or SR but it gets a bit particular with them: – Hughes Crab, Stanier developments, Q1, Leader, and USA tanks. I like mechanical signalling, industrial railways (particularly brewery railways), and the study of railway accidents.

The one thing that is common in that list is that I am interested in clever mechanics, and providing the best solution to solve the problem at hand.

The history of the engineering experimentation and development over the course of the industrial revolution is fascinating and the only acceleration of development of similar proportions has occurred in the last 30 odd years with the development of computing power to enable CAD / CAM, 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and the like.

If you find me on a locomotive footplate I’ll probably tell you about the performance; if you find me under a locomotive, the ingenious design; in a signalbox, the sheer complexity of mechanical interlocking; at the Railway Technical Centre, the history of the fantastic creations born there; at a disused railway site, what made the railway important; the railway museum, the designs that changed the world; and if you want to know what I think of the current railways I’ll remind you of the unbelievable growth in the last 20 years.  I’ll probably do all that with an enthusiasm which marks me out as slightly bonkers. But then I’m an enthusiastic railwayman. It’s in the blood.

Stockport No.2 Signalbox - mechanical interlocking

Stockport No.2 ‘box interlocking © Peter Whatley

I’m going to start sounding like a stuck record in a minute. The Elder Statesman likes the elegance and class of railways, particularly locomotives. He loves pointing out that it is likely there are more books written about the GWR than any other single subject on the planet. Not sure about that one, but it is an interesting theory.

For that reason he hates Hawksworth while I’m fascinated by him, His style wasn’t Churchward or Collett, but to my mind his style was GWR. Experimenting, improving, trying to win back the years lost when Collett was past it and didn’t step down. He was too late of course. But what might have been? His 15xx was a leap in the right direction. His Modified Hall should never have been called a Hall it was so different from the original. His County took 2 cylinder locomotives beyond the classic 4 cylinder Castle. And his Pacific would have been the most powerful locomotive in the UK.


That’s what I love. The investigation of what was and what might have been. Pioneers at the top of their game. Which means come Christmas time, at some point, over a Purple Moose or two, the Elder Statesman and I will have our usual conversation where he waxes lyrical about the GWR and I tell him I’d be more impressed if they’d sorted grease and mechanical lubrication, roller bearings, accessibility, crew comforts, left hand drive. All the things that made the GWR, great though it was, flawed. And then we’ll argue whether the GWR or the Ffestiniog was the real pioneer (they both were).

I’ll probably also get a chance to get my usual little jest about my favourite Southern locomotive. It’s called Ellerman Lines….

Happy Christmas everyone. Cheers!


The little grey cells

As I said in an earlier post, my modelling appears to have currently reached a temporary hiatus. There is little I can do about it. I have two sons who are hardly independent, a job that has gone into overdrive, and, as my previous but one post said, I am getting to grips with the new pump world.

One of my regular readers, who happens to write a blog about modelling that does happen, said to me recently, “You like to have several projects on the go at once don’t you?” He may well be right, but I think my blog is misleading because I haven’t anywhere near as many projects actually on the go as I make out. Many have reached the drawing board and are no further.

This doesn’t concern me greatly, because the day will come when the kids are busy doing homework, and when not doing homework, chasing girls, and I will get some time to build things. All I am doing now is the planning.

Although I don’t get much modelling time, what I do get are 10 minute breaks between jobs in the office, and a lunch break where I need to think about anything but High Speed Rail in Canada, buying trains for Mexico, looking at recently scrapped trains in Australia, and has the right team won the latest franchises in the North of England (to give an example based on this week just endeth).

These 10 minute breaks are ideal for research. So for the last couple of weeks I have been resurrecting an idea I’ve had for some time to build a 1988 built steam loco in 009, and the last couple of days in amongst the hectic world of modern day Colonial railways, examining GWR tenders, Hawksworth ones in particular, both for my Pacific project and also for something else. These dabbles in online research keep the creative juices flowing and ensure I don’t end up in the loony bin.

More on 1988 steam locomotives and Hawksworth tenders another time. I may also do a piece on Hawksworth himself. The more I look into his work, the more I’m saddened he didn’t get a chance to show what he was really capable of.

One of the results of this week’s research: Did you know that Charles Collett did an 8 wheel version of his standard 6 wheel 4000 gallon tender?  No I didn’t either. He only did one. I presume it was an experiment to see if you could get the same capacity on a wider route availability. Presumably it wasn’t worth the bother.

Anyway, here it is attached to a Hall.

Collett 8 wheel tender

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Making excuses

I admit it has been some time since I posted any pictures of actually doing any modelling on here. There are any number of excuses I could use for this ranging from just having moved house to being too busy drinking my Uncle’s good health.

Here are two which I thought were worth recording.

1. Designing layouts. I do this a lot for Mini-me. For his Brio. Recently he has started coming into our bedroom in the morning and saying “railway, railway, railway”. To translate this means “one of you parents, get your lazy @rse out of bed and play trains with me”. As my wife points out, “it’s all your fault”, and with that she pulls the covers over her head and leaves me to pacify the budding enthusiastic railwayman.

A Mini-Me / Me creation

A Mini-Me / Me creation


2. Restoring my Big-Big train to service. When I got my Big-Big train out of the box it had arrived in from my parents’ loft, it had a loss of traction tyres and droopy couplings made worse by the continual uncoupling and subsequent collision on the next circuit. Mini-me is fascinated by this train set (it really is a train set) so I have set about restoring it. I found some 7/8″ Lionel made traction tyres (suppose they should be tires being American) which have revolutionised the Hymeks (I have 2) from being incapable of hauling one 16 ton mineral wagon to being able to haul 2 Mk2s and 2 mineral wagons (the sum total of the rolling stock), each.

Traction tyres - Copy

On the coupling front I have decided to fit Lego couplings. I was going to fit hook and 3 link but since I want this to be workable by a toddler ( a very smart one, but still a toddler), Lego ones seemed the best option, and he already understands magnetic couplings from Brio. By making two cuts in line with the rear tab edge of the coupling buffer beam assembly, I should be able to drill through the rear tab and attach the couplings to the original mounting holes on the rolling stock using a bolt and nut (and perhaps a dab of 222).

Lego couplings

However, if you’ve read this far, I’ll let you into a secret – as I predicted in my earlier post Final Pieces, they weren’t. By procuring another tender frame I can sell off the Princess tender complete on eBay which makes sense and allows me to recoup a small amount of the capital cost of the Cathedral project. Now I have no excuses left not to get on with making it!

Tender frame - Copy


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Never trust domeless engines…

So says Gordon on meeting City of Truro, before going on to lose his own.

The only drawing for the GWR Cathedral is this one which isn’t even Hawksworth’s work.

Hawksworth Pacific

It shows a really odd arrangement. The dome is where the safety valves on a GWR loco normally go, and there is a top feed but no safety valves shown.

The more I read about Hawksworth, the more I realise he was a true Western man. With that in mind I cannot believe he would have put a dome on his Pacific on the grounds that he could use an elongated King boiler and still have the regulator at the top of the Belpaire box and put the safety valves where they normally go.

Nick Parsons also had the same thought when he built his Cathedral because he put the safety valves in the normal position above the centre driving wheels, and put the dome between the bonnet and the start of the Belpaire box. Roger Meadows also didn’t agree with the concept drawing and did his with no dome at all.

Given Hawksworth’s Great Western-ness, and my belief he would strive for the best Swindon solution, I have decided my Cathedral won’t have a dome (but will be fully lined like Nick Parsons’ version).

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Final pieces

So the jigsaw has all the pieces. Last week a delivery arrived with the final parts (ok this may not be true) needed for the Hawksworth Cathedral.

parts 2Final pieces are the new 5 pole tender drive (it’s from Henry hence the GREEN wheels), new blackened rods for a a Princess and blackened crossheads, slidebars, and connecting rods for a King , loco crew and lamps from Springside. The lamps are correctly white, not red as the GW had rectified this oddity by the time Hawksworth was in charge.

Now I just need to build the jigsaw…..

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Counting the days…


The lack of recent activity both on here and on the modelling front has been precipitated by a house move. However we are now in the new H family house and it has space. Oh yes it has space…

Anyway, I haven’t been idle with getting bits for the Cathedral project.

Here are the latest bits. This County body and tender body I picked up for next to nothing on eBay due to a slightly melted firebox side sheet caused by an overheating motor.

However as I want it for the cab (which is slightly different from a Collett one) and for the double chimney, this is perfect.

So now I’m counting the days till the house is in a sufficient state of unpackedness for me to have a modelling day.

Also I now have another tender body so maybe another Modified Hall. Sod Hall perhaps.

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GWR in the heart of Ebor

Having made my musing clear last month regarding the GWR Cathedral, I decided I did want to get on with it. At the same time I also decided that as my family and I (that phrase has to be said in the Queen’s voice) had been in York for nearly a year it was time to stop messing about and go and have a look at the Ebor Group of Railway Modellers.

So last night I popped down and found a right good mix of people whose main aim is to get together for a chat and maybe, just maybe, talk about railways. The club rooms are extensive, have various layouts either built or under construction, have a library and workshop, and have the added attraction (or should that be the main attraction) of being above a bar where they had Deuchars IPA (in bottles but still…).

The other thing I found rather good was a decided lack of animosity towards GW. Surprising given this is the heartland of LNER but mention of a GW Hawksworth Pacific didn’t receive the response I was expecting (maybe they were just being polite).

Anyway, I have been doing further work on the Cathedral, No. 8019, and have now worked out pretty much everything I need to get. I have this, a Hornby Princess – eBay coming up trumps again – which will be the donor.

Hornby Princess

However it has the early 3 pole Ringfield motor so I will swop it for a 5 pole. I will also have to do some jiggery-pokery with the tender as the most readily available top is from the Hornby County which is loco drive and so shows the coal hole which will be full of Ringfield.

Hornby's Hawksworth Tender  (c) Peter's Spares

Hornby’s Hawksworth Tender
(c) Peter’s Spares

Some way to go then. Also there will be a break in (physical not mental) railway activity for a short while as we’re about to move house. A house with a garage, or is that a workshop, and a shed already fitted with light and power <strokes white cat and chuckles>….