Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Chris Newman
With no real work having been done on the layout for about three weeks now, due to the bad weather, work commitments and preparations for Christmas, we are definitely suffering from withdrawal symptoms!
Still, with more than a week off work during the Christmas and New Year period, I daresay we will be able to find some time to do a bit down The Shed. 
In the meantime, I would just like to wish everyone a very happy and relaxing Christmas and I trust Santa will bring you lots of useful things to use on your layout. For me, I am hoping for a static grass applicator but, as they are quite expensive, I daresay I will have to buy one myself in the new year.
The snowy photo above is of Shepton Mallet, Charlton Road station during the winter of 1963. It was not taken by me but is by Chris Newman and I think it is a lovely phoo of the old S&D station blanketed in snow!

Of course, as you don't need me to tell you, we have had a lot of snow here recently, with a particularly heavy fall last Monday morning, the day I was due to go and see Shakira at the O2 Arena. 

Actually, I was beginning to think that getting to London was going to be almost impossible with the amount of snow that fell but, fortunately, South West Trains were running a service, albeit to a revised timetable, and I did manage to get there.

I have never been to the O2 before and it is an amazing venue and Shakira was fantastic - yes, she could shake her hips for me any day!
It was a lovely ride up to the capital too with virtually everything covered in a white blanket - very pretty. Unfortunately, though, in the rush to get to the station I forgot my camera - GRRRRR!.  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baby Talk

Another in a veritable rash of new OO gauge locomotives that are due out in the near or very near future is Heljan's model of a Class 23. This model, I believe, was due for release in November of this year but has been delayed slightly. However, its arrival on the shelves is, I believe, imminent.
Just ten of this short-lived class of diesel were built by the English Electric Company in 1959. It was fitted a Napier Deltic T9-29, 9-cylinder engine of 1,100 bhp (820 kW), driving an EE generator which, in turn, powered the four traction motors. They were numbered from D5900 to D5909.
The T9-29 diesel engine was a single, half-sized version of the ones used in the Class 55 Deltics  and this, together with the similar overall design and external appearance of the Class 23 to that of the Class 55 led to their nickname of Baby Deltic.
The locos entered service between April and June 1959 and were primarily used to haul suburban services around Kings Cross.
Unfortunately, reliability problems plagued the fleet such that, in the early to mid 1960s, a programme of refurbishment and modification took place which improved reliability enormously - apart from, that is, continuing problems with the coolant system.
However, in the late 1960's, BR introduced its "National Traction Plan" in which the idea was to rationalize the types of diesel locomotives in traffic and, in so doing, reduce servicing costs. From this it was clear that a fleet of only ten locomotives, and problematic ones at that, would be a definite candidate for an early demise and so it was that, between 1968 and 1971, the entire fleet was withdrawn from traffic.
Sadly none of the fleet was saved for preservation and all were duly scrapped, the last (D5901) being cut up in 1977.
Fortunately, though, that is not the end of the story because the engine and generator from D5901 was saved and is with the Deltic Preservation Society who installed it into Class 37 37372. Then, in September of this year, the Baby Deltic Project announced that they intended to recreate a replica Class 23 by rebuilding the body of 37372 and mounting it on a set of bogies from a  Class 20.
So let us hope that the Class 23 will soon live again and we can once again be hauled by a Baby Deltic!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

So Swift and Definitely Delightful!

Class 7F 2-8-0 53806 BR Black Early Emblem
Class 7F 2-8-0 53809 BR Black Late Crest
Class 7F 2-8-0 53810 BR Black Late Crest (Weathered)
At long, long last - a ready to run OO gauge model of the Somerset and Dorset 7F 2-8-0 is now available.

I have been waiting for a 7F to be produced for ages now and, finally, Bachmann have done the business. So, yes, we will definitely be acquiring one of these fine and powerful locomotives to join the Black 5 (another S&D loco) in running steam specials on our layout.
Living, as I have done for much of my life, on or near the route of the S&D, the line has always had a special significance for me. As a child I travelled many a mile along its length, usually down to Bournemouth or up to Bath. Occasionally, though, we would travel much further afield to visit relatives in Yorkshire which, as I recall, usually entailed long waits at either Bath or Birmingham - or both.
Therefore, as you can imagine, I was more than a little pleased when Bachmann announced earlier this year that they were going to produce a model of this iconic locomotive and, finally, they have hit the shelves and I will be adding one to our fleet in the very near future.
The locos were designed to haul heavy freight trains over the S&D which, as many of you probably know, was steeply graded on its northern section between Evercreech Junction and Radstock. However, they were not confined to freight trains since they were regularly to be seen on many express passenger trains as well, including the famous Pines Express.
Designed by Henry Fowler, six 7Fs were initially built at Derby in 1914 and were numbered 80 to 85 - later 53800 to 53805. An additional five locos were then built at Darlington in 1925 and numbered 86 to 90 (53806 to 53810). These later locomotives were initially fitted with a larger boiler than the original six but gradually acquired the smaller boiler during overhauls in the 1950s.
The last 2-8-0 was withdrawn from service in 1964 by which time the Pines Express had been diverted from the S&D and most of the freight had gone too. Fortunately two of them made it into preservation (53808 and 53809) and often haul mainline steam specials - just like ours will!
As to which one we will get, I think it will have to be 53809 since this is one of the two that were preserved and, in 2006, its latest overhaul was completed after which it emerged in BR black livery with late crest, as per Bachmann's model.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In The Beginning ...

... was the wood and the wood was with ... well, was with very little else to be honest!
Yes, due to the recent bad weather, together with all of the preparations for Christmas, very little work has taken place on the railway these past couple of weeks and we are beginning to get withdrawal symptoms! Mind you, the enforced break is probably a good thing since, when we do get back to work, it will be with a renewed interest and a definite keenness to make further progress.
Anyway, since there are no new updates, I thought I would turn back the clock to August 2007 and to the first photograph that I took of the project.
This, therefore, is the initial P-shaped layout that was merely going to consist of a twin track loop with a terminus plus a branch line that would start at the terminus and then rise up to travel around to the top right-hand corner of the layout.
A couple of weeks prior to this we had dragged my old train set down from the loft (stored, as it was, in two large aluminum boxes) purely to see what there was and what state it was in with a view to, possibly, selling it on eBay.
As such, we duly set it up on the floor of this room, a former playroom and, as you can imagine, this was not such a good idea since it meant that most of the fairly old track was uneven. Subsequently, we had little success in running any trains but did succeed in getting very sore knees! It was then that the notion of selling it all was being given serious consideration; at least that was until my brother in law suggested that we could run the track around the room on boards.
Well, since then we have not looked back and the railway has slowly grown and developed into what we have today - a somewhat large layout that has taken over both the entire room and our lives ... but we love it!
I go into more detail of the layout's development on my website so, for now, I just thought that it would be interesting to see how it all looked in those early and innocent days.
In those days, too, we knew very little about how to build a large layout and the techniques needed for constructing good scenery. As such this original half of the railway certainly reflects that, especially when compared to what we have done in the other half of, what we now call The Shed. In mitigation I would say that it was never supposed to become such a leviathan and it really has just developed over the previous three years into something that we would never have imagined all those months ago. As I mentioned in a previous posting, we already have plans to revisit this northern section in order to get rid of the crawl-through and, also, to make it as interesting and realistic as the southern section.
It is certainly an eye-opener for us to look back and see how it all began and it does leave us wondering if and when it will ever be finished!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ribble Rouser

Here, now, is the second of our two most recent locomotives to be weathered and, since D8568 will be working the coal depot following her withdrawal from BR, she just had to have a suitable coating of coal dust.
We wanted to convey the impression that her new owners are taking care of her but, because she is working in such a dirty environment, she is always going to look at least a little bit grubby.
Of course, this particular Clayton is the only one of the entire class of 117 to be preserved so it is fitting that we have chosen her to live out a similar scenario in model form. I had thought of changing her name to better reflect her new role and might still do this but I am not sure what to call her.
She, like all of our other diesel locos, does have a sound decoder fitted. However, the only Class 17 sound currently available is from Olivias Trains and this is of the Rolls Royce variety of engine which was, in fact, only fitted to two of the class - and neither of those was this one!
Clearly we will change this whenever a proper Paxman sound file is produced and, apparently, Howes plan to do one as soon as the preserved prototype is no longer in bits.
I would say that fitting sound into these models is not the easiest of tasks since there is very limited space into which a speaker can be fitted. This job is made even more fiddly by the fact that the buffers have to be removed to gain access to the chassis and these are held in place by tiny clips, which can easily get lost!
Anyway, due to this lack of room, we have fitted a smaller speaker than we would normally use and this is installed in the cab space. Subsequently, the sound is not quite as punchy as we would like but it is not too bad. 
Actually, when she is running on her own, she does sound quite acceptable. It is only when we have a larger loco running as well that her sound can get a little swamped.
I have to admit here that I do rather like the Class 17s although I realize that they were a total failure and most definitely one of the least successful of the Type 1's produced. Maybe it is because of their short working life and because of their quirky looks that I like them and this particular one was an obvious choice to raise the dust a bit in the coal depot and for trundling up to the tipper and back.
Of course, as you probably know, there were problems with the initial batch of these models when Heljan first introduced them and, unfortunately, ours was one of those duds - talk about art echoing life! That is why our model has a black chassis rather than a green one since, after waiting almost a year for a replacement, some black ones eventually became available. So we decided to have one of those rather than wait any longer for a green one. Not that is really mattered about the colour since it was going to be hauling coal so black would probably be more suitable!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Look Behind To The Future ...

Now here's a view you don't see too often!
Yes, this a photograph taken from the rear of the London Loop, nicely showing the track and point-work at this particular location. It also allows us a rare glimpse of the line up to the Tipper, which is normally hidden from view.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of available room here, the points at this junction had to be a lot closer than we would have liked, thus resulting in a tighter curve than we really wanted. However, since trains do not normally traverse this loop more than once (although they can and do, quite happily) we did not think that the tightness of this curve would matter too much. 
Anyway, despite this junction not being quite what we had envisaged, we are still very pleased with how this part of the layout has developed and it has produced some interesting features, such as the Brewery, Coal Depot and Fuel Terminal.
In fact so happy are we with it that, once this 'southern' end of the layout is complete, we plan to construct a similar loop at the 'northern' end. The reasons for this being two-fold:
Firstly, we want to make that part of the layout more interesting because, from knowing almost nothing when we started, we have learned quite a lot during the past three years. As such we now feel that this original part of the layout compares somewhat unfavourably with the newer bit. 
Secondly, it will have the added benefit of allowing us to get rid of the crawl-through, which has to be negotiated each time we want to go from one end of the railway to the other - please see below:
We now realize the mistake in having this but, when we commenced our little project, it wasn't envisaged that this obstacle would present  too much of a problem, especially as the layout was, then, confined to that half of the room only. There was never a thought given, at the time, to the possibility of any future expansion. Therefore, once we had crawled through at the start of a constructing or operating session, there was no real need to repeat the exercise until said session was finished. 
Now, though, with the railway having grown to take over both the room and our lives, this hole is a bit of a nuisance since we must dive underneath the darned thing several times during a session in The Shed. On top of that, some of the older members of the family, together with any elderly visitors that we get, find it difficult or near impossible to negotiate it. This means that this part of the layout is out of bounds to some people, which is a pity.
Of course, those of us who are not (quite) so old, also appreciate that it is surely only a matter of time before we, too, find it difficult, as opposed to simply annoying, to have to continually get down on our hands and knees!
So hopefully, come next spring, we should see the start of a major rework of that half of the layout that will not only mark the end of the crawl-through but will, also, result in a much more interesting and realistic 'northern' section as well.
Watch this space...