Sunday, September 30, 2012


So while there were a number of full size locomotives on show at Model Rail Live last weekend, it was of course a model railway show so I thought the next post about the event should feature a model layout. According to the programme there were 16 layouts in total, but my favourite, by a long way, was Polbrock.

Polbrock has been built by Chris Nevard and it's construction has been documented in a number of articles that have appeared in Model Rail magazine and on Chris's blog. I thought it looked really good in the magazine photos, but it was even better in real life, and certainly my favourite layout of those on show.

As you can probably tell from the second photo the layout is actually quite small; in fact it's just 2 foot 10 inches long by 1 foot wide. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in attention to detail. It really is a work of art.

When I started this blog I mentioned that I would probably start with a small diorama to test my modelling skills. I'd assumed that to be interesting to look at and operate a layout would have to include multiple lines or even be a full shunting puzzle layout. Having now seen Polbrock in the flesh I've realised that isn't the case, and I've now got a couple of ideas for single line dioramas of a similar size which, if/when I start work on them, will I'm sure result in a number of future blog posts.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Roundhead At A Roundhouse

Last Saturday I spent an enjoyable day at Model Rail Live which, for the third year running, was being held at Barrow Hill Roundhouse.

I've never been to a model rail show before (although as a child I remember seeing fixed layouts in a number of places) and so wasn't quite sure what to expect. I did know, however, that Model Rail Live like to distinguish themselves from other similar events by having real engines on show and in use as well as the models.

I wasn't surprised, therefore, when the first thing I actually saw was Britannia class 70013, Oliver Cromwell -- named, of course, after the most famous of Roundheads. The engine was built in 1951 and was removed from service on the last official day of steam on the British Rail network in 1968 when it was one of the engines to pull the Fifteen Guinea Special.

There were too many locomotives and layouts in many different gauges to cover them all in a single post, so expect a few more posts as I work through the photos.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lasers On A Train

On Wednesday I was waiting in Sheffield station for my train home from work when this Netwrok Rail maintenance train trundled through. Normally the maintenance trains aren't particularly interesting to me (they are after all diesel powered) but the number of laser warning labels stuck to this one caught my eye.

Apparently it's an optical structure gauging train, which I'm guessing means it uses lasers to check that the rails are still in the right place!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Standard Gauge Transfers

I thought it was stressful enough adding transfers to the two OO gauge coal wagons (here and here) I built, I can't imagine how sressful it would be to be responsible for adding them to a full size passenger coach!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Naked Duck

Having recently been on holiday and then having to spend time catching up on work that had built up while I was away I haven't had time to do much modelling for quite a few weeks. Of course this blog isn't just about modelling so for this post I'm going to delve back into my childhood, via some of my Dad's photographs, so get ready to behold a naked duck.

After Flying Scotsman the UK's most famous steam engine is probably LNER 4468; more commonly known as Mallard. On the 3rd of July 1938 Mallard was recorded reaching a top speed of 126mph breaking the world record for a steam locomotive; amazingly that record still stands. Next year will see the 75th anniversary of that record breaking run and while Mallard will be given a cosmetic overhaul she will, unfortunately, remain stuffed and mounted as a static exhibit at the National Railway Museum in York. Things were, however, very different in 1988 when Mallard celebrated fifty years since her record breaking run.

Preparations for the 50th anniversary started in the early 1980's as she was slowly restored to working order. By the 28th of September 1985 she was once more raising steam as these photos show.

I love these photos as although they show what a sorry state Mallard was in at the time (the rust marks on the tender are shocking) they allow you to see that underneath the streamlined casing the A4 Pacifics are in fact very similar to other steam engines of a similar size. She has a tubular boiler, smokebox door and (in this case) a double Kylchap chimney. I don't actually remember this trip to the National Railway Museum but I know I was there as I actually appear in the left hand photo; I'm the small blond haired child being lifted up by my mother in the middle at the bottom of the photo.

By the 25th of March 1986 the overhaul was complete and Mallard returned to mainline duties pulling a special train from York to Doncaster via Scarborough and Hull. Looking through my Dad's slides I can see that we saw her at York two months later on the 25th of May pulling the Scarborough Spa Express and then again on the 25th of August when the photo to the left was taken. Here you can see Mallard, again pulling the Scarborough Spa Express, racing out of York towards Scarborough; you can just see the National Railway Museum through the bridge.

It's a shame that such an evocative sight won't greet those people who visit York next year for the 75th anniversary of the world record. Deciding to overhaul and return an iconic engine to steam is always a difficult decision to make. A full overhaul often involves replacing large parts of the locomotive that cannot be repaired (often the boiler) and there will come a time when little of the original locomotive remains. When Flying Scotsman finally returns to mainline steam duties very little of the original engine will remain, and I guess the National Railway Museum have taken the view that retaining Mallard as a static exhibit is preferable especially as there are a number of other A4 Pacifics currently in operation and certified for use on Britain’s mainline railway network.

Note that a lot of the information for this post came from Don Hale's brilliant book Mallard: How The 'Blue Streak' Broke The World Speed Record which I can heartily recommend for anyone who wants to know more about this wonderful and historic locomotive.