Penlowry

Chronicling the development of my 5-gauge 4mm scale model railway with a few off-topic insights thrown in for free


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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.

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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!


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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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Going underground

Having recently been in the depths of a project looking at international trains, I got on to ruminating on what-could-have-been with the UK – mainland Europe business as BR originally intended. Originally the Eurostar business was a conglomeration of BR, SNCF, and SNCB, which of course were all state run. By the time Eurostar went live in 1994, the UK was in the midst of privatisation so the BR share was being run by London and Continental Railways (LCR) which is a company wholly owned by the DfT. In 2010, a company called Eurostar International Ltd was created to run the Eurostar service, 55% stake being owned by SNCF, 40% owned by LCR, and 5% owned by SNCB. It is this 40% stake which has just been sold by the Government.

The original intent was the service we see today (London – Paris / Brussels) but augmented with regional trains from as far afield as Glasgow running direct through the tunnel to Paris. Then on top of all that, there was a proposed sleeper service, the Nightstar.

The regional Eurostar trains were built; they are called the North of London sets and you may even have travelled on one. When GNER ran the ECML and was short of rolling stock it hired in some N0L class 373/2s to cover the shortfall. Most people remember them fondly in their striking dark blue livery. Those who got off at York particularly liked them because York was the first stop north of London where the platforms were long enough to take an entire set (all 14 carriages) – if you wanted to get off at York, you were advised to sit in the front carriage it was off the end of the platforms at the other stations. Unfortunately that has been the only use for them in the UK and for the last few years they have been running as TGVs on French domestic high speed routes.

GNER liveried class 373/2 NoL Eurostar (C) Tagishsimon

GNER liveried class 373/2 NoL Eurostar
(C) Tagishsimon

The Nightstar project was even more disastrous. Most of the vehicles were built but never went into service as it was realised early on that the demand wasn’t there (well I would have gone on it gladly so there was some demand, obviously just not enough). At the time the sleeper carriages made headlines for their price – three times the price of any other carriage built around the time (the Mk4s being the most recent) but unlike other carriages they were fitted with three power systems to work in the three countries so it’s perhaps not surprising they cost so much. These days, such compliacations are much easier to deal with. Eventually, having been kicking around for a bit with nothing to do, London and Continental Railways sold them back to Alstom who promptly sold them and the rest of the incomplete order to Canada’s Via Rail to run their Renaissance train.

Train of Nightstar carriages in Toronto (C) Buddah / Arsenikk

Train of Nightstar carriages in Toronto
(C) Buddah / Arsenikk

 Of course, on Penlowry, there is the aim to model a tunnel running from Sodor to Northern Ireland, known as the Stollen. Such claims as “economic unviability” are of course unheard of on Sodor with the bankrolling of the railway that seems to occur. So it is highly likely that Eurostars will be seen running through the tunnel in GNER and original livery, along with other trains the Fat Controller has collected from round the globe to enable him to run the service.

White rose

One day, it might even see the use of high speed postal services between the UK and Ireland….

TGV La Poste.  La Poste announced in June 2014 that they were going to stop using the TGVs (but crucially unlike the Royal Mail shortlived change, they are keepign the traffic on the rails) (C) Baastian

TGV La Poste.
La Poste announced in June 2014 that they were going to stop using the TGVs (but crucially unlike the Royal Mail shortlived change, they are keepign the traffic on the rails)
(C) Baastian


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Racking my brains

Following on from my earlier post about the mountain railway section, I have since got hold of some of the rack rail Fleischmann makes / made. This has tempted me to do a rack railway properly.

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I may be slightly mad but I think, just possibly, it may be possible using a Mini-chassis or by making my own chassis and adding a rack gear.

IMG_4352
I get plenty of time to think in my job as I hurtle up and down the ECML but not much time to do, so I should have plenty of time to work out if it’s possible before I actually get the chance to do anything about it!

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Bird’s eye view

I have an 08 shunter. It’s a Bachmann one. They’re good and they’re outside framed (OK I know the new Hornby one is considered better but that doesn’t make the Bachmann one bad).

IMG_4098

I’ve always wanted an 08 and a BR blue one too. This in itself is a little odd as I’m not really a corporate blue era person.

The reason though comes from a couple of incidents. When I was 4 (in 1982) I spent a week in hospital. From my vantage point in the hospital I could see the railway below and it looked like a model railway.

When I was 8 (I’ll let you do the maths) I spent a week in hospital again. As before I got to watch the railway below and this time I distinctly remember a very shiny shunter hauling carriages about. It made me want to build a model railway with a blue shunter.

I have since done sufficient research to know this was 08567 built at Crewe in ’53 and had just come back from overhaul at Swindon a few months previously.

So my only tasks on this little project is to re-number my 08 and make sure it has the correct details (dual braking for a start) for 1986. Then it will be the yard shunter in the research facility.

IMG_4024


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Destination “K”

Recently I have done some travelling. With places which begin with K. Korea was one trip – for once being in the South was preferable to being in the North. The other was to Kingston upon Hull. Or ‘Ull as we prefer to call it. 

The Korea trip was a business trip to Seoul and included a look round the depot for Metro Line 9 and a trip on the high speed line. The trains for Metro Line 9 look like a fat Class 141. See:- 

Metro Line 9 EMUs

Metro Line 9 EMUs

The high speed trip was a there and back from Seoul to Daejeon in the middle of the country. 1 hour each way. Both legs were in a KTX-1. These are the Alstom Atlantique TGVs with a nose job. Incredibly, they even used the same paint for the colour stripe class demarcations on the body sides. We did see a KTX-2 while we were at Daejeon which is Korean built with Alstom equipment. KTX series 3 and 4 are pure home grown products but we didn’t see them. 

KTX-1

KTX-1

KTX-2

KTX-2

There was also an interesting flower bed with clock outside the station at Daejeon.

 

No trains today...

No trains today…

The trip to Hull was as previously mentioned to pick up my tamper and have a gander at Bron Hebog. It really is as impressive as the pictures always suggest. Well worth seeing when it’s next out.

My tamper has a quick test. Here it is approaching Cutting Mawr above Beddgelert

My tamper has a quick test. Here it is approaching Cutting Mawr above Beddgelert

 

One thing I did like at Hull was the opportunity to hire a stool for a £5 returnable deposit for small people. Mini-me is still a bit short but he still found it useful at the Hull Model Engineers’ stand.

Mini-me in "choo-choo" heaven

Mini-me in “choo-choo” heaven

The other layout which was on my top 2 list was Crumley and Little Wickhill. The corner layout enabling the perspective of looking down the valley rather than across it produces stunning views. Very well done and makes me wonder if I can do that anywhere on mine.

I also had preliminary discussions with Boston Largs Works about another commission. Watch this space!!

A view showing the wild expanse of the layout. Note the "wind up" Russell in the foreground (not clockwork - it's what cut down Russell does to WHR fans)

A view showing the wild expanse of the layout. Note the “wind up” Russell in the foreground (not clockwork – it’s what cut down Russell does to WHR fans)

Wife, Mini-me, Tamper. A good day out. (and wind-up no.2, the Parry people Mover on the extreme left, which you will only ever see going downhill...)

Wife, Mini-me, Tamper. A good day out.
(and wind-up no.2, the Parry people Mover on the extreme left, which you will only ever see going downhill…)


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Blinded by colour – a chuntering on liveries

Did I mention the “c” word? I think I might have done.

“What colour?” seems to be the biggest cause of argument on the railway. Occasionally you see it used for good such as in the case of deciding what colour to paint Duchess of Sutherland where punters could vote… for a fee, thus raising the money for the repaint in the process. By showing how the voting was going, and publishing it in the railway press, additional votes (and therefore revenue) were secured by people desperate for a particular colour scheme. Smart work, whoever thought of that one.

Duchess of Sutherland in the voted for Brunswick Green  (c) RuthAS

Duchess of Sutherland in the voted for Brunswick Green
(c) RuthAS

One benefit of the younger brigade of railway volunteers starting to swarm some of the UK’s railways is the reduction in all things BR black. The upsurge in the late 90s and early 2000s was a direct result of those people who could remember the days of steam being in charge of the paintbrush. As they get too old to volunteer, or too old to be in decision making roles at least, we are seeing more colour come back, which is a good thing in my books.

A well applied livery can make such a difference. A bad one can look appalling. You can see on today’s railways the difference between those that get it and those that don’t in their livery applications. Some railways get it very right. Midland Mainline for example seem always to manage to provide a livery that works. The teal and tangerine livery, followed by the blue, followed by the latest EMT liveries all worked for their time (and continue to do so).

Midland Mainline's second livery launched in time for Project Rio

Midland Mainline’s second livery launched in time for Project Rio

Midland Mainline's second livery and East Midlands Trains livery (EMT photo (c) Phil Sangwell)

East Midlands Trains livery
(c) Phil Sangwell

As did GNER’s blue and red.

Much missed GNER livery (c) Phil Scott

Much missed GNER livery (c) Phil Scott

Second from bottom of the livery pile for me are Northern’s class 333s. The original livery was smart. Very smart. On the lines they first ran where there hadn’t been anything new for donkeys years it was like seeing the Vulcan at Farnborough airshow in 1952 when all you were used to were Lancasters. Unfortunately they have since had several partial vinyl wraps and that red/blue mix just make you want to vomit.

So much potential... missed!  (c) Peter Skuce

So much potential… missed!
(c) Peter Skuce

However, the winner (or loser) of worst livery ever is DOR’s East Coast. This is a good reason why the railways shouldn’t be under Government control. Brand awareness just doesn’t seem to be a Government skillset.

East Coast have one saving grace. It’s the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight class 91, 91110, the British record holding locomotive. You may not like the livery but it is distinctive so it ticks some of the livery boxes.

Yes I like it, and yes, I've got one

Yes I like it, and yes, I’ve got one

However, getting back to the East Coast norm, which civil servant nitwit thought a grey train (OK it’s supposed to be silver but it is grey in pretty much all light) would look good? Not only does it show up every single crinkle and dent on the Intercity 125s and 225s but the person who came up with it hadn’t been looking out the window that day and noticed the sky in the UK is uniformly…  GREY! When you get a train you want to be cheered, spirits lifted, hop, skip and a jump, etc. Never before has anyone produced a livery (and I use the term loosely here) that can depress people more. The purple stripe doesn’t help either. It’s a small trickle of colour that has escaped the bland artist on the bandest palette immaginable.

Grey, grey, GREY! (c) A1Personage

Grey platform, grey canopy, grey sky, grey carriage… grey, grey, GREY!
(c) A1Personage

A livery should be a symbol of the company. A beacon of advertising. A distinction from the world around it. If East Coast’s livery is a beacon of DOR, the sooner it is back in private hands the better. And the purple stripe? It reminds me of the scene from the Italian Job when they all jump in the Dormobile after they’ve done the raid. They’re all looking so glum and one of them says “Look ‘appy you b@rrstards…we won didn’t we?” and one of them responds with a limp wave of a balloon.

That’s East Coast’s livery: a sad, depressing, grey day punctuated with a limp purple balloon.

"Look 'appy, you b@rrrstards..."

“Look ‘appy, you b@rrstards…”