Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Revenge Is Sweet

This, together with our Class 25, is the second of the two latest locomotives that we have recently had weathered by Mikron Models in Taunton and, once again, I think Alex has done a brilliant job.
We currently have three Class 50s in our fleet, these being: 50007 'Sir Edward Elgar', 50011 'Centurion' and, this one, 50020 'Revenge'.
50007 was purchased already weathered by Hornby but the other two, both in large logo livery, were purchased in pristine condition. So, it was decided that we should get them both weathered, one more heavily than the other. Revenge was chosen to be the dirtier of the two and I think she looks amazingly good - see the before and after photographs above!
A total of 50 of the Class 50s were built by English Electric and they were, in fact, the last diesel locomotive specifically built for passenger train haulage. They were introduced in 1968 to work the West Coast Main Line between Crewe, Carlisle and Scotland, prior to electrification.
By 1974 this northern section of the WCML was completed and the Class 50s were displaced by Class 87 electrics and the fleet was transferred to the Western Region, where they themselves displaced the diesel hydraulic Westerns. Here the 50s worked services from Paddington to Oxford, Bristol, Plymouth and Penzance then, in their later years, they also worked the Waterloo to Exeter route where they improved timings immensely.
Due in part to the over-complexity of the design, the class was plagued with reliability problems right from the start and, as a result, the decision was taken in the early 1970s to refurbish the entire fleet and simplify their design. This work was completed by 1984 and availability definitely improved as a result although they were never to be the most reliable of locomotives.
They were known as Hoovers to rail enthusiasts because of the noise made by the air filters, however, these filters proved unreliable and were removed during refurbishment but the nickname still stuck. Fortunately Howes have included this sound on their decoder so the Hoover lives again!
The last of the fleet were withdrawn from BR service in 1994 but the Class 50s always proved popular with enthusiasts and eighteen of them were saved for preservation with several subsequently registered for use on the mainline.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Steady Progress

We continued to make good and steady progress around the supermarket and petrol station area this weekend although, alas, not enough to allow filming of the sequence that I want to capture at this location. As I am away on holiday next week this will not now be done for a couple of weeks.
Anyway, that aside, this part of the layout is starting to look quite effective now that we have erected the Hornby walling to the front and sides of the supermarket and petrol station. We have also put wooden fencing along the back although, you may recall, the original idea was that this should be a security fence. However, this just did not look right to be honest so we went for wooden fencing instead. 
We might now put the security fence down nearer the track but need to see what it will look like first.
We also acquired, this week, two new Hornby shops for the town. These were: the Nearly New Shop and Holmes Cycles. I think that we now have enough shops to fill our town centre so, hopefully, we can progress this during the coming weeks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

You Dirty Rat!

Our Class 25, together with one of our Class 50s, are the latest locomotives to be weathered by  Mikron Models in Taunton.
I will look at the 50 in a future posting but here is the Class 25 and, yet again, I would say that Alex has done a remarkable job in transforming the once pristine loco into something that looks like a real work-horse.

We also asked him to change the running number whilst he was at it so that it would be unique to us; therefore, instead of her being Nº 25245,  she is now Nº 25248.
Some of you might be wondering how the title of this posting fits in with the loco. Well, the Class 25s were nicknamed Rats by enthusiasts because, during their heyday in the 1970s, it was alleged that they could be seen virtually anywhere on the BR Network. This is hardly surprising since a total of 327 of these Sulzer Type 2s were built between 1961 and 1967. They were primarily designed for freight work, and this is what our loco will predominantly be used for, however, quite a few were fitted with steam heating boilers so that they could also haul passenger trains.
The last of the Class 25s were withdrawn in March 1987 with 20 of their number fortunately heading into preservation, although sadly not 25248! 
Never mind, at least it is still possible to see quite a few of these locos still RATtling along various Heritage Railways up and down the country!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Road Works

Well, as you can see, we made quite a bit of progress at the weekend, laying some more road  into town and surfacing the area under the supermarket, petrol station and bus station. For this we used some of the Metcalfe Tarmacadam Sheets (M0056) which, I have to say, do look very effective.
We also did some planting along the embankment between here and the railway line as well as around the brewery so these areas are starting to look almost complete now.
However, all of this work took more time than we had anticipated and we were unable to complete it sufficient for us to do any filming in this area. Hopefully we will be able to do this next weekend.
At the front and to the sides of the supermarket and petrol station will be some of the Hornby Brick Walling (R8977), which I have placed there for effect, with gaps to allow for an entrance and an exit. We bought this walling for use elsewhere on the layout but then decided that it was not really high enough for what we wanted! Anyway, it was always thought that we could use it in the town area somewhere and, actually, I think it will look just right here.
To the rear of all three premises will be some of the Bachmann Security Fence (44-505) and, again I have placed (balanced) a couple of sections to see how it will look. 
Unfortunately, this fencing has no obvious way to secure it into the ground and the only way that we can think to hold it in place is to sink short pieces of thin but stiff wire into the ground and stick the fence sections to that. If the wire is thin enough it should be hidden behind the fence uprights or, at least, that is the plan! I will let you know how we get along next time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Full Steam Ahead

Okay so I might have lied a bit when I said in my previous post that it would be the last time, for a while, that I would feature this section of the layout because, yes, here it is again!

Well, I'm sorry, but I simply could not resist posting this photograph that I took a while ago of Hornby's Duchess Class "City of Sheffield" (Nº: 46249) thundering across the viaduct at the head of a steam special. I also thought that it would be a good opportunity to prove to you that the layout is most certainly NOT a steam-free zone.

This particular model was the first steam locomotive that Hornby produced with sound and, since we definitely did want a couple of steam locos to haul the occasional special, we decided to add it to our fleet. Unfortunately the sound was not brilliant and we were unhappy with its performance so we have since sold her in order to acquire a Black Five with lights and smoke etc and I will be featuring that loco in a future posting.
As for the landscaping under the viaduct, it is not quite finished but it is largely complete. We still have a bit more work to do on the stream to make it look as if it is fast flowing rather than the tranquil waters that you see here.
To create the stream we used several layers of Woodland Scenics Realistic Water (WC1211), laying down a thin layer at a time over several days after, first, adding the rocks, stones and plants to the bed of the stream. Actually I think we have probably made it deeper than is ideal for this product since it is recommended that the maximum depth should be no more than 1/8th" and we have probably gone to almost twice that depth - oops! Maybe that is why it looks a bit cloudy in places but, hopefully, the application of Woodland Scenics Water Effects (WC1212) on top, to create some fast flowing rapids and churning water, should help mask this.

In mitigation, it is our first attempt at water modelling and, actually, it does not look too bad, so long as you don't get too close!

When it is complete I will (might) post a picture on the blog so that you can see just how good (or bad) it looks! 

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Mouth Piece

Our newly weathered Class 50 (50020 "Revenge") looks somewhat dwarfed by the surrounding landscape as it emerges from the tunnel on the approach to Saggy Bottom Halt.
Yes, I know, this is yet another look at this section of the layout but, I promise, it will be the last for a while. 
However, I did want to show the cave entrance (at bottom right) which is situated at the end of a footpath leading from Saggy Bottom Halt. This cave has not been included in any of the previous pictures that I have posted of the branch line and I thought it might make an interesting photograph when shown with the two tunnel mouths.
Where the cave goes and what might lurk within is really anybody's guess but, if there is a monster hidden in its darkest recesses, it is most probably going to be an eight-legged creature. This is because, at the weekend, we spotted a small cobweb near the cave entrance. No doubt it is only a small spider but, for anyone who is just 24 mm tall, even that would be a giant. 
Be afraid, be very afraid!
At top right of the photo you can see the Hornby Operating Tipper which feeds, just out of shot, the Operating Conveyor Belt. These are situated at the head of a short spur off the main line and are in, what will be, a small coal yard. This area is still being landscaped but will doubtless feature in a future posting.
As for the Class 50, the wholly single track branch line will definitely not be its normal stamping ground since this will be operated by the Class 121 on a "Single Engine In Steam" basis. I just thought that it would be useful to include a loco in the photograph to give the scene a sense of scale and "Revenge" just happened to be handy.
It is actually one of two locomotives that we have recently had weathered by Mikron Models of Taunton, the other being our Class 25, and I will be featuring these in future postings.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Heading Into Town

Here is an update of the work carried out during the past week or two which, from the picture above, might not appear to be all that much but which is, in truth, quite a bit.
Firstly, I hope you can see the newly refurbished Petersfield Station, now covered in Metcalfe platform card and looking much better than the original Hornby platform sections. The feeling is that we will do the same now to Gunnmere - a much more daunting prospect given the length of the platforms.
Actually, looking ahead, there is going to be some major track relaying work carried out through Gunnmere in the near future since I want to remove some runaround points that were put in when that station was a terminus. These points are no longer required and, worse, they necessitated a slight realignment of the track to prevent locos from hitting the platform edges when running around their trains. Not so much of a problem when the station was a terminus but annoyingly all too obvious now!
On the subject of track relaying, we have recently relaid the points at the far end of Platforms 2/3 at Petersfield (changing them from Hornby to Peco) and this is now in the process of being reballasted.
Meanwhile further scenery work has been carried out around the Brewery as well as the groundwork being laid prior to working on the supermarket / petrol station area this coming weekend. This will be the first phase of landscaping the town itself and should prove interesting work!
So, hopefully, my next update should show a big difference in this part of the layout.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Winning Streak

Following on from The Frontiersman, I thought I would feature another vintage Tri-ang Train Set and one which dates back to the early 1960s. This one was aimed at the Australian market rather than North America although Tri-ang did produce variants of this train for America and Canada too.
This train set was called "The Blue Streak" and its Catalogue Number was RS34. It was introduced in the 1963 catalogue and lasted for just two years although, individually, the locomotive and coaches continued  in production until the mid to late 1960s.
The train set featured the following items:
R159 Double Ended Diesel Locomotive with working headlights.
R131 Transcontinental Passenger Car - Coach
R132 Transcontinental Passenger Car - Blue Vista Dome
R133 Transcontinental Passenger Car - Observation Car
R134 Transcontinental Passenger Car - Baggage Car
Tri-ang also produced two additional items that are not shown here, namely:
R325 Transcontinental Passenger Car - Diner
R250 Non Powered Dummy Diesel Locomotive - for running double-headed trains.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Down On The Farm

I think it is high time for closer look at another hidden corner of the layout and, this time, we will pay a visit to Dairy House Farm. 
Actually, the farmhouse is not particularly hidden sitting, as it does, beside the branch line from Gunnmere to Lake End. As such it occupies a fairly prominent position, high up in the North East corner of the layout.
Being a dairy farm it has its own siding where milk tankers and cattle wagons can be delivered. This gives us yet another destination to which we can send our trains and it also means that the branch line gets to see a variety of locomotives and rolling stock trundling up and down.
In the photograph, the farmer can just be seen, behind the greenhouse, digging in his vegetable garden while his wife cleans the windows and her mother sweeps the doorstep. One of their sheep dogs is running in the garden while lots of chickens search for food near the Land Rover. 
Hmm, I wonder how many of those hens get run over by passing trains?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Social Climbers

Another scene along the branch line to Saggy Bottom and I hope that you can just make out the two climbers in the photograph, slowly but surely picking their way up the rock face. 
Obviously they caught the early morning train in order to spend the day pursuing their favourite hobby and, judging by the blue backpack at the foot of the rocks, it might well be their intention to stay the night, camping out under the stars and the viaduct.
My nephew's girlfriend made these figures for the layout using a sharp knife, a dab or two of glue, some paint and a lot of patience. She and my nephew are both climbers themselves so who better to achieve the authenticity and accuracy required here? That plus a steady hand and a keen eye - two things which, at my age, I sadly seem to be lacking these days!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Branching Out

In a previous posting I featured the branch line station that we have named Saggy Bottom Halt and which sits in the shadow of Nigglehead Viaduct. 
I promised then to include photographs taken further along the line towards the tunnel mouth, as it emerges from beneath the London loop, high above.
Well I do, eventually, keep my promises and so here is a photograph of our Class 108 DMU (still to be DCC chipped) coming out of the aforementioned tunnel mouth. 
When this train has had its sound card installed, it will be used on this branch line, taking climbers, cavers and campers to the wilds of Saggy Bottom!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An Old Timer!

No, I am not referring to myself in the title although, admittedly, the epithet is wholly appropriate to both the train and me!
Actually, the train in question is "The Frontiersman" which was introduced by Tri-ang in 1962 as part of its Transcontinental range. This range of locomotives and rolling stock was produced in an effort to appeal to the Australian and, in this case, North American markets. 
The train, which was sold as both a set and individually, was available between 1962 and 1967 by which time Tri-ang had become Tri-ang Hornby and this item was dropped from the catalogue.
The locomotive, which came with smoke and an engine crew, was called Davy Crockett and had the Running Nº: TRR 1863. The loco's Catalogue Nº was R358S and its tender carried logs rather than coal.
You will notice that the two 'Old Time' coaches (Catalogue Nº R468) are slightly different in that one is plain while the other one is lined. Both coaches carry the same running number (Nº 257) and I am not sure if the livery variations were as a result of the passage of time or were based on Australian and Canadian outline railways.
The train in my photographs also includes a caboose (Catalogue Nº R115) which was not part of the original train set but was added by me to lengthen the train.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coming On A Storm!

We have done quite a lot of work during the past week or two and, as such, the landscaping around the fire station is almost complete as we continue to work our way, very slowly, through the town. The building is still not fixed in place as we want to install some lights before we do this.
More fencing has been erected around our, yet to be named, National Trust house and hill although parts the kissing gate have still to be painted.
We have also done some work on Petersfield Station in an effort to try and improve the look of the station.
This was done by simply covering the top and fronts of the existing Hornby platforms with  some of the Metcalfe station kit that we had over from constructing Sueston. Sadly, though, we did not have enough to complete the job. 
Having seen the improvement, thus far, though, we are now thinking of doing the same to Gunnmere. It is certainly a great way to hide the joints between the platform sections - as well as the clip at the base of the platform fencing!

The Blue Pullman

The Blue Pullman was a luxury class of DMU that was in service on British Rail from 1960 until 1973. The train was so named because of its Nanking Blue livery, as used in Chinese blue and white porcelain, and it was conceived following the 1955 Modernisation Plan in an attempt to try and compete with both the motor car and the emerging domestic air travel market.

Although not completely successful the Blue Pullman did demonstrate the potential for high-speed, fixed-formation, multiple unit, inter city train travel and, as such, were the inspiration behind the development of the Inter-City 125.

There were five complete sets of Pullman trains built by Metro Cammell of Birmingham with all coaches being air-conditioned with automatic humidity control. The coaches had armchair-type, table seating, each with a lamp and steward call-button whilst noise from the track was kept to a minimum by extra insulation in the bodywork and double glazed windows. There were even Venetian blinds contained within the panes of glass!

Initially the trains were operated by the Pullman Car Company (PCC) which had, by then, been acquired by the British Transport Commission. In 1962, however, the PCC was fully nationalized and, so, operation of the Pullmans was incorporated into the BR network. Towards the end of their operational life the trains were given the BR TOPS Classification Number 251, for the motor cars, and 261, for the kitchen and parlour cars. They were, however, never to carry these numbers.

The Pullman services ran from Monday to Fridays only, with weekends being reserved for maintenance and for the occasional special or charter service.

The London Midland Region were allocated two six-car sets and these operated the Midland Pullman between Manchester Central and St Pancras. Meanwhile, the Western Region had three eight-car sets which operated the Bristol Pullman between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington and the Birmingham Pullman between Wolverhampton and Paddington via Birmingham Snow Hill. From 1961 the WR also ran an additional morning train called the South Wales Pullman between Paddington, Cardiff and Swansea.

Following electrification of the West Coast Main Line in 1966 there was introduced a faster, locomotive-hauled Pullman train between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly at which point the LMR ceased its Blue Pullman service and their sets were transferred to the Western Region.

By 1973, through a  combination of the introduction of air-conditioned, second class Mk2 coaching stock, declining reliability, the cost of maintaining such a small fleet of trains and the imminent arrival of the Inter-City 125, the days of the Blue Pullman were numbered and May of that year saw the withdrawal of the last sets. There was a final, commemorative special that ran to and from Paddington via High Wycombe, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Kenilworth, Coventry, Birmingham New St., Cheltenham, Bristol Temple Meads, Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol Parkway, Didcot and Slough.

Sadly all of the Blue Pullman sets were subsequently scrapped with none being preserved for posterity despite ten carriages, reportedly, being saved from the scrapyard in July 1975.

I mentioned earlier the livery of these units was, originally, Nanking Blue. This lasted until 1971 when all the sets were repainted in corporate BR grey and blue livery and this is how they stayed until the end of their days.

The only models that were produced of the Blue Pullman were made by Tri-ang; originally in the Nanking Blue livery between 1963 and 1967 with the extra parlour cars being produced between 1964 and 1974. Then, between 1969 and 1971, Tri-ang produced these models in their 'new' BR livery of grey and blue. 

These models, particularly in their original Nanking Blue livery, are still highly sought after today and an updated model has long been requested by modellers. Finally, it seems, these requests are going to be answered since Olivia's Trains of Sheffield, in conjunction with Danish manufacturer Heljan, are about to produce a ready to run model - hoooray!