Chiltern Model Railway Exhibition 2018 #1

Time out with Mr Atfield on Saturday, visiting two shows north of the river (Thames).  We started at the Brentwood toy fair.  These things are a real lottery for ‘N’ gauge – it’s OK if you want to buy Hornby or buses, though – but there was a lot on offer today.  I was lured into some Farish van, especially when the trader accepted my optimistic offer.

Then on to Stevenage and the Chiltern Model Railway Exhibition.  We took about 25 minutes to find a parking space, but once inside there was plenty to look at.  We’ll start, as ever, with the small scale stuff, and a second post will have a few other things that caught my eye.  Not much detail – just photos – as I didn’t buy a show guide.

Law Junction was, I believe, from a Scottish club, and showed a stretch of 4 track electrified main line.  Tidy modelling, and conveyed the wide open spaces with trains in the landscape.

The Bridge at Remagen was meant to be at last year’s show, but had to drop out.  Most interesting modelling of WW2 railways, with loads of German military trains and other hardware.  I see that I missed a picture of the actual bridge.  This was certainly one of the highlights of the show….

Next the 2mm finescale, Great Western department.  Both photos taken from the end of the layout, when the improved appearance of finescale is most obvious.  First Llangerisech….

Then the enormous Kingswear.  Must be set in WW2 again, as you can see the Spitfire chasing an Me110 in the background.

Rannoch captures the bleak character of one of Britain’s most remote railway stations.  If you get off the train at this moorland halt, there is nothing much for miles!

Smaller still is the amazing Forth Railway Bridge in ‘T’ scale.  This isn’t so much a model railway as an architectural model with something moving.  But so impressive!

Moving up in size, Mauch Chunk was perhaps my favourite, with an accurate model of the Central of New Jersey station.  This lay on the opposite bank of the Lehigh River to my favoured Lehigh Valley Railroad.  Another example of how impressive USA prototype layouts can be when they use UK modelling styles and techniques.

I liked the idea of modelling the miles of yard tracks by starting the fiddle yard in the open.

A Baldwin ‘Baby Face’ diesel enters the station.

‘Camelback’ locomotives were probably unique to the north-eastern anthracite lines.  This Reading 0-6-0 switcher is full of character.

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ESNG meeting – PlayDay 14 January 2018

Just the eight of us at yesterday’s PlayDay, but we had a pleasant afternoon running trains.  We quickly put together a large circuit…

And Simon was soon running some USA freight…..

Dave brought his quarry along, and was testing locomotives on the layout….

Paul filled the fiddleyard with Japanese tank wagons…..

Then put together a ‘whole circuit’ van train.  About 132 bogie vans, if I remember correctly.  Not quite the club record!

I ran in my second Farish NCB O4.  At just £49 from Rails, it would have been rude not to buy it!

I then ran a couple of Southern Pacific good trains.  The grey 70-tonner looks tiny against the Alco S4 switcher, but both managed a sizable goods train (though not up to Paul’s standards!)

Meanwhile, Derek was super-elevating the track on the new club N-mod corners.  A length of string under the outer sleepers PVA’d in place seemed to do the job…..

The only complaint about the afternoon was that we didn’t have enough takers for a visit to the curry house….

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Modular model railways – the pros and cons?

Dave emailed me recently about exhibiting our ‘N’ gauge modular layout at local exhibitions.  His comment was (in part)….

Hi – not having much success with exhibitions at the minute. The larger ones don’t seem interested in modular layouts….  We seem to have more success at places that put on exhibitions which are second to the main attraction – like Rural Life, Bluebell and Gaugemaster – or smaller shows.

My response was (in part)…..

A lot of shows will tend towards ‘scale’ layouts, so are not interested in our ‘anything goes’ approach to exhibiting. Which is a shame, as there are usually a number of rubbish generic ‘OO’ tail-chasers at most big shows. And we all know that a modular circuit does get plenty of viewing from those who just like watching the trains go by.

The modular approach might be classified as being not scale enough, or too much fun and not enough rivet counting?  However, I remember doing the Gaugemaster show in 2016, and on the Sunday Paul took over the outer two tracks with Japanese Bullet trains, whilst the inner two ran mainly UK stock.  And we had lots of spectators, who appreciated the unusual and interesting trains, and perhaps the way the Kato stock stayed on our trackwork at high speed.

It is interesting that the latest focus in the free USA web-zine, ‘Model Railroad Hobbyist’, is the ‘TOMA’ concept – The “One Module” Approach.

With TOMA, the idea is to build your home layout using portable
sections, and to complete each section all the way from bare
benchwork to a finished module section with all the scenery,
details, structures, and bridges totally done. If you have signals
or lighted grade crossings, they all work. In other words, each
TOMA section is completely finished before going on to the next
TOMA module section.

Rather than just have a “still life” layout section, TOMA thinking
encourages you to add flattop staging to both ends of the
module, then go ahead and run trains. No need to wait for the
entire layout to get into operation. With TOMA, the idea is to
experience the entire breadth of the hobby from beginning to end including ops – but because you’re doing your layout just a small piece at a time, you can get to completion a lot more quickly.

Now I’m impressed that the hobby in the USA is moving in that sort of direction – possibly due to the space for basement size empires becoming less common?  And of course they have had ‘N-track’ and ‘One-track’ around very successfully for years.  But we’ve also been doing it for years in the UK.  Firstly in layouts that do expand, and secondly in modular layouts.

I also replied….

For modular layouts there is potential in the Alpenbahn approach (and also to some degree in N-club), where the appearance of the modules is uniform, and they are based on a consistent location, so that put together they are ‘scale’ enough for most exhibitions. Our trouble is that our interests are too far reaching!

I am not sure that our membership would be interested in building a consistently themed set of modules, that would pass both as a ‘fun’ layout, and on occasion a ‘scale’ layout.  But maybe it’s worth thinking about?

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Virgin on the unreadable?

An article in the papers today caught my eye:

Virgin West Coast train firm stops selling Daily Mail

Virgin Trains has announced that it has stopped selling the Daily Mail newspaper on its West Coast trains.

A spokesperson for Virgin said it regularly reviewed products sold on its trains, adding that “after listening to feedback from our people” it decided to stop stocking copies of the paper.

A Daily Mail spokesman called the decision “disgraceful”.

Last year, stationery chain Paperchase apologised for a promotional giveaway in the Mail following criticism.  The Virgin spokesperson added that when it stocked the paper, which it stopped carrying in November, it only sold one copy for every four trains.

The spokesperson told the BBC that the paper had never been stocked on its East Coast trains under the management of Virgin/Stagecoach.

And Drew McMillan, head of colleague communication and engagement at Virgin, told staff in an internal memo: “Thousands of people choose to read the Daily Mail every day. But they will no longer be reading it courtesy of VT. There’s been considerable concern raised by colleagues about the Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment.”

“We’ve decided that this paper is not compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs.  We will continue to offer The Times to customers, but we won’t be stocking the Daily Mail for sale or as a giveaway.  This won’t suit all of our customers or all of our people – it’s certain to draw some criticism. But we’ve listened to many colleagues over the last few months, and we feel that this is the right move to take.”

There’s more where that came from!

Now (sorry Mail readers), I have a lot of sympathy for Virgin.  A glance at the front page of the Daily Mail (otherwise known as “The Hate Mail” or “The Daily Fail”)  can depress one on the brightest of mornings.  However, I did wonder about equivalents in the model railway world.  Who might not sell what?  How about….

Rail Unions ban Graham Farish from staff shops

A union spokesman said that the lack of a guard in all models showed support for management and a total disregard to the safety of the operators….

Samsonite withdraws sponsorship of TINGS 

It is rumoured that the well-known luggage manufacturer Samsonite will withdraw sponsorship from the N-Gauge Show.  A spokesman for the company stated that the inappropriate use of their products, especially rucksacks, to assault other model railway enthusiasts had caused them to rethink their policy.  However, a TINGS organiser was hoping for new sponsorship from Lynx or Brut, and free samples would be offered to any member of the public carrying a rucksack…..

(For those not in the know, unwashed rucksack carriers are rumoured to frequent TINGS and Warley, using BO and bags to fight off other enthusiasts and get the best bargains.)

Any (slightly libellous) examples welcome as a comment!

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Holborn Viaduct

This is a layout idea that has been bumbling around for a few months.  It all started with a thread on RMweb, describing some possible ideas for the 2mm Association Diamond Jubilee layout challenge.  This involves developing a cameo layout with visible dimensions of 600 x 240mm.  That’s a tiny space, but it’s surprising what one can come up with in the space.  Perhaps not surprisingly, many ideas were urban, where the railways didn’t have much space anyway.

So this is the design that caught my eye, based on the old LCDR Ludgate Hill station, just to the north of the River Thames, and a stones throw from at least three other stations.  It didn’t stay open for long, but the remains of the station lasted until the Thameslink remodelling, completed around 2012.

The layout sketch below shows the station in its early 20th century form, with some wonderful pointwork.  The bottom two lines go to Holborn Viaduct station, just off the plan.  The top two drop down to Snow Hill and then through to Farringdon and to the north London stations.  Early last century, there were services across London, and visiting trains from the Midland and LSWR.  Plus masses of cross-London goods, that continued into the 1970’s.  These lines, greatly modified, now form the route for Thameslink services.

And this is how the layout might look, though this is the post-war look after that nice Mr Hilter from the Ball and Compass (Monty Python reference) thinned out the buildings during the 1941 Blitz.

And here’s a view early in the century, with all buildings intact and a train of private owners wagons – empty coal traffic – heading north.  In our era of gas central heating, it is easy to forget just how much coal traffic there was from the northern and midlands collieries down to London.  Every suburban station would have had a coal yard, now converted to a car park or blocks of flats.

This drawing from ‘The Engineer’ shows the remodelling of the original station, abandoning one platform, still early last century.  The pointwork is marginally simpler!

To model this sort of pointwork, one would have to work in 2mm or one of the larger fine scales.  Otherwise, the clearances in ‘N’ for frogs and wing rails would just not work.  Here we see an attempt to draw that complex pointwork in ‘Templot’.  It does show how accurate many of the large scale Ordnance Survey maps are – the map can be tied in very well to the Templot trackwork.

But it’s when you look at the site in the context of its surroundings that one sees the potential of the area for a model.  Here’s the circa-1900 plan.

And here’s the circa-1950 equivalent.  The trackwork is noticeably less complex, and with a little further simplification would be buildable in ‘N’.  The track centres might need to be slightly increased, from the absolute minimum 6′ way of the prototype (22.5mm or so) to the PECO standard of 27mm, to fit everything in.  Holborn Viaduct station has lost all its loco spurs, and gained longer platforms for 8-car suburban EMU’s.

It’s when one draws some distances on the maps that one realises how small the station is, and how good a model it could make.  The three lines below are 1m, 4′ and 6’6″ long.  All could make a good layout.  The walls of Ludgate Hill station make a natural scenic break to the left.  For the longer layout, the overall roof does the same job to the right.

I like the idea of a hollow ply half-door forming the basis of the layout, strength being added by the raised railway on the viaduct.  Trackwork would have to be hand-laid – code 40 would be ideal.  A lighting ‘proscenium arch’ a la Iain Rice would limit the views left and right.  Perhaps the foreground could be made more interesting by assuming a few buildings survived the bombing, and the whole area hadn’t become waste ground and car parks.

Operation would be interesting.  There was a busy commuter service into Holborn, and I believe that the platforms at the bottom of the plan were used for non-passenger stock and van traffic.  And the two lines to Snow Hill dropping below the station carried a range of cross-London goods traffic, with a range of locomotives from the Southern and other regions.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the design is the fiddle yard.  For home use, I might leave the Snow Hill lines unconnected, and then add a fiddle yard or loops onto the end of Ludgate Hill station.  For exhibition use, a second set of loops could be added to the Snow Hill lines, but this is becoming a large layout.  Perhaps a continuous circuit, with a double ended fiddle yard would be best, allowing you sit and watch trains running through Snow Hill.  The end curves would have to be a reasonable size, not less than 15″ day, to allow for steam engines to run freely.  I’m still thinking about this question.

The other issue is the size of the boards.  With all those points, it’s difficult to find a natural place for the baseboards to join.  A 6’6″ half door is transportable, but may be a stretch for most cars.  And it might be difficult to get it out of the house – I had enough trouble getting the 6′ x 2′ Kuritu into my loft!

Finally, here are a couple of photographs of the area.  The first, taken in 1953 I think, looks towards Holborn Viaduct with the Snow Hill lines dropping under the signal box to the left.  The second shows Holborn’s overall roof earlier in the century, when there was still a small engine shed to the right.

EPSON scanner image

So there it is – (one of) my (many) dream layout(s).  I doubt whether it will ever get built, but there is a delightful model there for someone.

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ESNG meeting – 3 January 2018

First club night of the new year, and despite the Chairman not being there due to anti-social working hours, 13 members enjoyed a varied procession of trains on the layout.  Mind you, Ian doesn’t look too excited by proceedings in the picture below, or perhaps it was the Treasurer’s conversation skills?

There was a strong American flavour contributed by Simon, Ian and Graham.  Here, Simon’s Con-Cor PA-PB-PA set head an express parcels train.

And Ian’s Metra double-deck push-pull rake ran as well as it looked.

Meanwhile, Paul was filling the fiddle yard with Japanese tankers, preparing for the usual long goods train.

Derek was running an Longmoor Military Railway ex-WD 2-8-0 and passenger stock.  The WD looks rather more impressive in blue and red than the more usual BR grimy black.

And Peter contributed, amongst other things, two more early German multiple units.

All in all a good social evening!

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More on the detail trap

More on the detail trap from The Erratic and Wandering Journey….

Out of Context?

I recently re-blogged René Gourley’s post, in which he quoted Marty McGuirk’s comment on Georgia O’Keefe:

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”

This is a lot deeper than an initial reading might suggest: O’Keefe was talking about identifying the essence of something, so that it can be drawn out. She was not, necessarily, talking about eliminating every detail, but making the point that you can remove some of the distractions from what you are trying to portray, to make your creation clearer.

That said, I think a degree of caution is necessary when translating Georgia O’Keefe’s words to our hobby.

Our models are not static 2-d representations attempting to emulate the impact of distance on stereoscopic vision which makes judgements of size and distance based on relative angular displacement (“perspective”). We have depth as well as height and width. We actually have twice as many dimensions to play with, for we also have time, allowing movement, which in a painting may be portrayed by blurring some of the detail, and things which are far away and indistinct may come closer and resolve into exquisitely made tiny parts on a model.
Say, for example, that you are building a model of an industrial steam tank engine. There would be levers for opening the sand pipes, with flat rodding and various cranks running from the cab down one side to a sandbox, with a crank and rod running across the back of the smoke box to a sandbox on the other side. For the sake of illustrating the point, this is a scratch build.
How do you best represent this? In theory, you should have some rectangular strips of brass, pinned and soldered at each joint, using the head of the pin to represent a rivet or bolt. That would provide the ultimate in detail. Of course, if you were working on a 5” gauge live steam engine, it might well be assembled to work, but as you come down the scales, you get a point where the extra detail of doing it the “hard way” gets lost in shadows, so unless you are building for a competition, is it worth bothering at all? Possibly not, once you get down to Z gauge, maybe, but even in N Scale, a complete absence of the rodding may not look right. So, what you can do, is use a piece of wire to represent the rodding, cranks and joints: if you feel really adventurous, you might even squeeze parts of it flat, to improve the looks. This would work well on a “layout quality”/“3 foot rule” model in most scales, including 7mm scale, but especially so for scales smaller than this (I know, ‘cos this is what a friend has done). [b]But[/b] – and this is the crucial point – it still needs to be bent in the right places, and in the correct direction. You don’t simply take any old piece of wire and 30 seconds later say, et voila! No, you take care to select a piece of wire that is noticeable but not obvious, and measure and bend carefully. Say 5 minutes. Still easier and less time consuming than doing it all with separate pieces, and far better than leaving it out.

Another example. Geoff Forster, of Penhydd and Llangunllo fame, emailed me today about this and that, as you do, and went on to say:

“I was comparing two recent 16T mineral builds with an earlier example that I put together. The latter has etched ‘V’ hangers, brake lever, ratchet and safety links, whereas the new builds have just had the kit parts refined, and a wire brake cross shaft fitted. Can I tell the difference on the layout, can I heck, which begs the question is it worth going the extra mile in 4mm scale?”

Geoff went on to add that shape, colour and texture are more important than detail -which can be simply suggested by these three – in contributing to the wider scene, a sentiment with which I agree and which Geoff demonstrates oh so eloquently…

My take on the O’Keefe reference is not that you simply omit features, but you decide on how you are going to represent the features – in this respect, I am put in mind of what Allen McClelland unfortunately called “good enough”. I say “unfortunately” as the phrase is ambiguous and could be interpreted as settling for second best, when really it’s about asking what level of detail is required to suit your purposes. If you are operations-focused, then moulded on details will be more robust, yet will still catch the light. You also need more stock, and the fist- and time- saving features of freight cars with mould details are not only substantial but essential. If you are details-focused, where close-up viewing of your models is the order of the day, then moulded on details are definitely not if interest.

As René pointed out, “Marty is right: don’t sweat the details, unless that’s your thing, in which case, don’t expect anyone else to notice.”

But whatever your choice, you still make a neat and clean job of it: craftsmanship and workmanship are always necessary.

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