Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Valley Good Work

This weekend we managed to get a few jobs done as we continued working at this end of the layout.
To begin with we grassed over of the extension to the cutting on the up side of the line between Gunnmere station and the valley beneath the Nigglehead Viaduct and I think that this looks much better than what was there before. 
It still needs the addition of some trees and bushes and we might even put in a small bridge between the two embankments to enable walkers and animals to cross the line. Provision has also been made for a small pond at the foot of this new incline but we have yet to  make up our minds whether to go ahead with this idea or not.
So, this part of the layout is very much close to completion now and, hopefully, we can soon add some people to the scene. At the moment there are very few figures anywhere on the layout mainly because we do not like to add them until all else is finished and we are happy with the landscaping etc.
A second job that we did was to replace a couple of Hornby points with some Peco ones which, we believe, are vastly superior. When we began building the layout we, rather naively, thought that Hornby turnouts were best or, at least, on a par with Peco. Hence most of the points used on the original part of the layout were Hornby and it is these that we are slowly replacing.
Finally this week, we did some long-overdue wiring, wherein we connected a section of the London Loop to the main wiring bus that travels around the layout under the base boards. Up until now this section has relied on the Hornby Point Clips to deliver the power and they have worked rather well too although, unsurprisingly, there was a slight but definite drop in power. Anyway, this week we finally got the solering iron out and the improvement in performance was quite noticeable.
Actually, I intend to make wiring of the layout the subject of a future blog posting or two so stay tuned!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Cloudy Skye

A two-car Class 158
Kyle of Lochalsh Station
The Skye Bridge
En route to Broadford
We took our first ride along the railway line between Inverness and the Kyle of Lochalsh during our Scottish holiday and, although the day was probably the worst of the holiday, in terms of the weather, it was still a fantastic journey - albeit on a cramped Class 158.
Now maybe it was the less than clement weather but, I have to say, I thought the station at Kyle, together with its immediate environs, was mildly depressing and a bit of a disappointment after such a spectacular train ride to get there. It all looked somewhat untidy and rather run down which, for the destination at the end of what is, reputedly, one of the best railway journeys in the world, was a bit of a let down. 
Maybe if the sun had been shining and we weren't being chilled by a cold wind directly off the Sea of the Hebrides we might have felt a little different.
Anyway, with no car and only a few hours to kill before the return journey, we took a bus ride across the new bridge as far as Broadford where we had our lunch and paid a visit to the Skye Serpentarium, a small but excellent place to visit. 
The star attraction for us being Chico the iguana, a real cool guy who looked totally chilled otu and relaxed. Yes I think he and I would have gotten along very well indeed! I wanted to take his picture but, sadly, photography was not permitted.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Well That's All White!

Bridge That Gap!
After two weeks of doing nothing to the layout, due to our holiday, we got right back into it again this week. However, instead of continuing with work in the town (as we probably should have done), we diverted our attention to the cutting between Gunnmere Station and Nigglehead Viaduct.
Now, I must confess, we have never been entirely happy with how this looked when compared to the rest of the landscaping around the viaduct and Saggy Bottom Halt area. It just did not follow on from the rest of the scenery, at least that is what Pete, our 'artistic director' felt and I had to agree with him! In fact the top photograph shows how it looked previously so you can judge for yourselves.
Therefore, before we went on holiday, Dave, our 'chief craftsman', constructed a curved wooden base that nicely linked the bottom of the viaduct with the car park at Gunnmere, just visible in the bottom picture.  This car park has also been made bigger as a result of Dave's handiwork so we can now extend the car park a little as well.
Then, at the weekend, we set to and constructed what, we hope, will be a realistic looking embankment that follows on much more neatly from the valley bottom and, also, better matches the embankment on the other side of the railway.
To build it we used lots of screwed up pieces of newspaper with plaster impregnated bandages (a cheaper version of Peco Landform) on top of that. All of this was then covered with polyfilla and allowed to dry during the week before we start landscaping it next weekend.
The long bridge that spans the gap between the two road over bridges (see bottom photograph) was removed while construction took place. This bridge should sit neatly on top of the landform in front of the road bridge in the middle photograph whilst, on the baseboard in front of the landform, we have marked where a road will lead up to the soon-to-be-expanded car park at Gunnmere station.
Obviously I will be following the progress of this work in future postings.  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More Newtonmore

As there is nothing to report on the modelling front this week I thought I would post another railway-related article following our holiday in Scotland last week.
This time I am focusing on the Caledonian Sleeper which stops at Newtonmore twice during the day - in the London direction at 21:45 and on its way to Inverness at 07:11. This is one of two sleeper services that ScotRail run from London Euston to Scotland - this one being the Caledonian Highland Sleeper while the other is, naturally enough, the Caledonian Lowland Sleeper.
The Highland Sleeper service departs Euston at 21:15 behind a Class 90 and runs, as one train, to Edinburgh. This is, at around 15 carriages, possibly the lengthiest regular passenger train running in the UK and is at the longest permitted length for the platforms at Euston Station. 
Anyway, I digress a little. Upon arrival at Edinburgh, where passengers are not allowed to disembark, the train divides into three portions and these then head off in different directions to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. As there are no overhead wires on any of these routes all three trains have to be diesel hauled and, where once this would have been allocated to a Class 37, a pool of Class 67s are now dedicated to the task.
The Lowland Sleeper service, meanwhile, departs London Euston at 23:30 and heads for Carstairs where the train divides into two; one portion being bound for Edinburgh while the second portion proceeds to Motherwell and Glasgow.
The sleeper service runs every night of the week, except Saturday, and has both First Class cabins (with a single berth) and Second Class cabins (with twin berths) as well as two lounge cars and seated accommodation, for those who do not mind sleeping while seated.
Only one other sleeper service now operates in the UK and that is The Night Riviera from London Paddington to Penzance in Cornwall.
This service was under threat of withdrawal recently but, thankfully, the powers that be eventually saw sense and saved it.
If there is anyone who has not yet travelled on a sleeper train I can whole-heartedly recommend it; okay, you may not get too much sleep but it is a thrilling and magical experience.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


No, the photographs above are not of our railway layout - good though I like to think that is - hahaha!
They were, in fact, taken at Newtonmore Station in Scotland from where I have just returned, having spent last week there on holiday. We stayed in the old station buildings, seen in the top picture, which were sold as a private residence when the station became unstaffed in, I believe, the 1980s.
The station is on the Highland Main Line and is served by trains between Inverness and Glasgow/Edinburgh; plus there is also a weekly service to King's Cross (on Sundays) as well as a nightly Caledonian Sleeper service to and from London Euston.
Many of the trains (including quite a few freight trains) do not stop at this station and since, as you can see, the accommodation is situated rather close to the line, you definitely feel and hear them as they thunder by.
This might alarm many people but it is actually great fun to live so close to a railway line and, personally, I would much rather live here than beside a road since, in between the infrequent trains, it is a very peaceful location indeed.
The train in the lower photograph is the Highland Chieftain which runs daily between King's Cross and Inverness. This train stops at Newtonmore on Sundays but, on every other day of the week (as here), it races through non-stop. The route of The Highland Chieftain is one of the longest in Britain at 581 miles and the journey takes around eight hours. Each day the north-bound Highland Chieftain departs King's Cross at 12:00 (12:30 on Sundays) while the south-bound train departs Inverness at 07:55 (09:40 on Sundays).
As for Newtonmore itself it is only a small town set amidst the mountains just south of Aviemore and, being fairly central, it is conveniently located for easy access to most places of interest in Scotland.
To be honest, the holiday proved to be something of a rail fest for us since we also took a trip on The Jacobite Steam Rail Tour, between Fort William and Mallaig, as well as a ride on a (more boring) Class 158 between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh. Both of these rail journeys are amongst the best in the world with amazing scenery and, if you have not travelled along either route already, I can highly recommend that you do so. The steam journey to Mallaig is especially awesome!
I will cover these trips, as well as other rail-related holiday items, in future postings.