Thursday, August 30

37401 from ViTrains - Part 1

Now to a new project, this one is for the 1986 era. At DEMU's DEMFEST event at Swanwick a couple of weeks ago, I picked up ViTrains recent Large Logo 37401 ("Mary Queen of Scots"). There are a couple of really good pictures of her in the Train Crazy book, Scottish Class 37s: Part 2 (Nick Meskell) and a Fotopic search will bring more. The object of my project is to detail and weather her as running in summer 1986, about eight or nine months after the 37/4 revolution on the WHL, but during the period when 37/0s were still running too (albeit only on freight trains).

A quick review of photos shows the main defects of this version of the notoriously difficult 37 are the cab windscreens (too high by perhaps a scale 2", and with too little of the 50p shape on plan) and the absence of the large roof panel which includes the engine room access covers and exhaust ports and lies between the circular radiator grille and the no.2 end panel (above the cantrail grilles).

It's a pity about the windows, particularly as large logo livery means that there is a colour boundary between the black cab window surround and the yellow strip surrounding them. This tends to make the error more obvious. On the forthcoming 37/0 in BR blue this won't look so noticable. The roof panel is also a little hard to understand, and trick to fully correct. The options are either to leave well alone, add a microstrip outline to indicate where the edge of the panel should be (but this would then have a recess on the inside which is wrong too), or to cut the roof section out and rebuild. This might be the way to go - more when I get into it...

Anyway, progress to date has been limited to adding lamp irons and snow ploughs to one end, installing a Bachmann 2-function decoder (possibly temporary if I decide to make all the lights independant), and sorting out a Kaydee coupling (actually a Bachmann E-Z Mate because it has a plastic shaft). This was done by cutting the shaft short and then notching it to fit into the ViTrains mount. A glob of epoxy (not shown on the photo below) secures the coupling, and I'm sure that the pulling capacity of the coupling is now related to the strength of ViTrains' mount and not to my bodge. I can't claim credit for the idea - I'm sure I saw this method somewhere else on the web.

More on this project as it progresses...

Tuesday, July 24

Layout Idea - Mallaig Junction Yard

37427 returning to Mallaig Junction Yard from Corpach Paper Mill with a trip freight on the 7 October 2005.

I've been doing a lot more work on the index of WH photos mentioned in previous posts - I'll update the file posted on the Scottish Modellers eGroup files section (see link) shortly. I've been indexing the photos from Tom Noble's Mallaig Extension book (see the review from an earlier post). I also watched Train Crazy's "British Rail Remembered 4 - Class 37s in Scotland Part 1" DVD yesterday, which has good footage of the yard at Mallaig Junction.

The yard would make an excellent layout - it's fairly compact, and has interesting operations. Every freight arriving at Fort William has to run around and/or shunt here, and all the Extension passenger trains pass though the yard. The junction is at the west end, so the yard runs parallel to the Extension. Most pictures taken at this location show all sorts of interesting wagons in the yard, including a wide array of engineer's stock.

It's another idea for the layout, although the rate of change here has been a little faster than in some other parts of the WHL system and so one would have to either be pretty time-frame specific or accept a few compromises. Here, the best period would be 1980-87 (prior to the introduction of RETB), when there were fairly few changes in infrastructure, but the stock changed from Class 27s on everything at the start of the period, through the 37/0 introduction, the large logo 37/0s, the start of the steam service, and the arrival of the 37/4s. The transitions between 27s and 37/0s and 37/0s and 37/4s were quite sudden, so there are limited excuses for having both on the layout at once, although a class 20 was present through most of the period as the trip loco, and this would offer a little variety.

More on this idea soon...

Tuesday, July 17

Scottish Modellers E-Group and The Photo List

Just a quick entry tonight to point you to the extremely useful "Scottish Modellers" eGroup which is hosted on Yahoo! There's a link on the right.

By joining this moderated email forum I've had the opportunity to converse and collaborate with some of the leading modellers of the Scottish Railway scene. The Timber P project mentioned a few days ago has sprung out of this collaboration and the comment on the Blog come from members of that group.

In addition, you can access my Excel file indexing published photos of the West Highland line, which I've been working on recently, and which now includes over 950 photos from 40+ sources, ranging from 1896 to 2007. If you leave a message with your email address in the comments section, I'll email you the latest version, but I keep the one on the eGroup up to date.

Popped in to see Paul at AP Models and collect my latest purchases - the Heljan 27 in its 5380 BR Blue guise, and a red BRT hopper as used on the Alumina trains in the mid eighties.

Finally, the 31 on trial, mentioned in the first post, was at Fort William in July 1958 and is pictured there in BR Fleet Survey Volume 1.

All the best

Thursday, July 12

Book Review - Tom Noble's "West Highland Mallaig Extension in BR Days"

This is my latest second hand book purchase, from Alibris, an excellent internet network of second hand booksellers. You can search over 100 book shops online, although sometimes stock listings don't get updated as often as they might. Great for research, as searches like "West Highland" work really well. I never even knew this book existed!

Tom Noble was probably the source in the 1970s and 1980s (is he still around today?) and this collection of photos, mostly his own from the 1980s and also featuring the work of J l Stevenson, Douglas Hume, John Goss, L A Nixon and, of course Derek Cross and W J V Anderson) gives a good cross-section of photos of the Extension from 1948 until 1988.

An introduction outlines the history of the lines and is followed by a pictorial journey from Fort William (Mallaig Junction, latterly Fort William Junction) to Mallaig, which features not only the more photographed locations such as Glenfinnan and Loch nan Uamh, but also some less well covered sites including Corpach and Annat. This section, although mostly in black and white, also includes eight sides of colour photos. The section includes some unusual workings, notably a class 25 on the extension on an SRPS tour in 1978, steel being conveyed to Mallaig in 1985 behind a service passenger train, and 26034's very rare visit to Mallaig on 26th May 1976, but the emphasis in on the day-to-day.

The next few sections pick out specific items of interest: the sadly short lived use of InterFrigo vans for a trainload fish traffic trial in 1987, a day in the life of 37425 (25th May 1987), and three pictures of the observation cars DE902260, SC1999, 1998 and TODM999501.

A longer section documents the return of steam to the line in 1984 and the development of the steam excursions from then until the publication of the book (1989). Details of the two rakes of stock used are given, and there is extensive coverage of the trains and locos including another eight pages of colour. This section could possibly have been edited a little more harshly, but then I suppose it was the news of the time and the quality of the photography is good. I particularly like Brian Dobb's end on shot of 2005 on a down train storming through Mallaig Junction Yard, sadly a rather under photographed view.

To round off the book, a dozen photos show the Royal Scotsman workings from 1985 to 1988, again with steam haulage.

Highly recommended, particularly for the details around the edges of some of the 1980s era shots, and if you're interested in the early history of what has become "The Jacobite" steam service. Less good for 1950s steam, albeit with some good shots, and there are not many 1960s diesel era photos at all, sadly, although there are a few pictures of the rebuilt NBL Bo-Bos (Class 29s).

"The West Highland Mallaig Extension in BR Days", Tom Noble, Publ. OPC 1989, ISBN 0-86093-429-2

More to come next week...

Wednesday, July 11

Timber P Wagons

Apologies for the picture of the more modern, air-braked, OTA timber wagon at Crianlarich on 25 February 2005, but one of the many problems with this project is a lack of good pictures, particularly non-copyright images, of the Timber P wagons.

This project involves modelling the timber wagons used for the flow of timber from Crianlarich Lower (on the Callender and Oban line) to the pulp mill at Corpach, between 1965 and 1980. The wagons were converted from Plate wagons or from Conflat P’s (themselves converted from Plates). Hence the ‘P’ in the Timber P designation. As far as I am aware, no-one has ever produced a kit for these wagons.

I’ve started off by trying to assemble as much info as possible on the wagons. I already had a copy of a drawing and two official photos from the 1983 Model Railway Constructor Annual. After posting on the DEMU Forum, and on the Scottish Modellers Yahoo group, I’ve been referred to some useful photos in “Power of the Class 26s and 27s” by Tom Noble [OPC], and an article in Model Rail from August 1999 with a couple more pictures. Thanks to Simon Newitt and Phil Holman.

If you have any further info, or are interested in this project, I’d love to hear from you - leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

First Post - Diesels Galore

Hi, and welcome to my West Highland Railway blog, "East of Arisaig". East of Arisaig because Arisaig is the westernmost point on the line (and, indeed, on the mainland railway network). Hopefully I can share some of the research and modelling experiences I've had here.

The loco above is 37026, an Eastfield loco and regular WHL performer at the time, seen at Oban on 3rd April 1985. The 37/0s had less than a year left in fron line WHL service at the time, with electric heat 37/4s being delivered from the summer of 1985.

It's been an exciting time in terms of diesel locos for the West Highland modeller in the last few months, with new Class 27s from Heljan and 37/4s from both ViTrains and Bachmann. Hopefully I'll shortly have my Bachmann Large Logo 37410 to compare with the ViTrains 37428 (a Welsh loco soon to be given a new identity as one of the early Eastfield arrivals). Together with the earlier Bachmann 37/0 and 20, and heavily rebuilt Hornby Class 29s for 1966-1971 (or 22s for the early 1960s), that about covers first-generation diesel power. Sure the odd 24 and 25 came up the WHL, but not usually for long, and on a pretty irregular basis. A 31 was trialled early in the pilot scheme (1958? I'll check the reference) and a 55 appeared on a couple of specials in 1980, but otherwise that's pretty much it until privatisation.

So all of that, plus an interest in the steam operations of the late 1950s gives a lot of options for the modeller in terms of period. My key points would be c.1970 with 27s and 29s in blue and in green, c.1981 with classes 20, 27 and 37/0, and the 1985-6 period with 37/0, 37/4 and the beginnings of the Jacobite steam service.

This month's "Railway Modeller" has the latest article in Ian Futers' "West Highland Wanderings" series, this time concentrating on Garelochhead.

Anyway, watch this space for more soon - cheerio!