Friday, 21 November 2014

A Start On 119

Having made a sketch plan of the FR's latest carriage, 119, before we left for Hull I stole half an hour at my modelling desk last night to make up the first layer of the first side.


It's quite different to any of the Super Barn carriages that have come before ir.

Although outwardly similar to 2046, the latest WHR carriage, 119 has window pillars which are 50% thicker than most other modern FR vehicles.

I'm supposing that is because the body is entirely wooden framed and is an effect of having fewer pillars - 2046 in common with the other modern WHR vehicles has a steel skeleton which is then clad in wood.

So for me that means using 0.60" strip as opposed to my usual 0.40". In one way it's good because there's more styrene in contact at the bonding points at the top and bottom of each pillar but it's going to take some getting used to when looking at it.

My intention is to use the two sides I make up as masters for making a pattern and then resin casting copies to make the model from in the hope that the following carriage in the series will be more or less identical.

It's one heck of a gamble.....

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Agony Of Choice

I made an impulse purchase in Hull. One of these:


Well, the price was as good as anything you find online, if not better, so why not indulge myself with an early Christmas present?

These outside frame Farish 08's have become very popular with OO9 modellers, especially when combined with RT Models range of etched brass valve gear to fit on it.

But the question is what to use it for?

For a while now I've intended to (get Himself to) build a replacement Mountaineer adding valve gear and some fake bar frames.


Our existing Alco has a very nice body, with the cab re-profiled to the current Fairlie-style outline, but it runs on an inside frame Arnold chassis with tiny wheels and, frankly the whole thing looks very toy train.



I've already got an unmade GEM kit in stock because I'd prefer to build it around the Farish chassis rather than attempt to hack the old one about.

Now, however, I'm beginning to have some doubts.

For one thing the Alco is currently sitting out of use, and although there are and increasing number of FR supporters making a noise about getting it going again for its centenary it's very much at the bottom of the railway's priority list - and with Lyd and the Ladies around there's no shortage of medium-sized locomotives on the FR.

What's more, although Mountaineer had two spells working out of Dinas on the WHR in the early days of the restoration it never got further south than Waunfawr. So it really would be modeller's licence for it to turn up at Beddgelert.

So can I justify another Alco when instead we could use the chassis on one of these?


In Fiji's favour is that it has made a number of trips to Beddgelert - when it was the FR's favourite plaything last summer - and it would certainly look interesting on the layout.

On the other hand we would have to completely scratch build the body.  (I'd probably even attempt the bodywork myself if Himself handled the mechanicals) It would be an entertaining project, but it could be quite time consuming.

What should we do?


Monday, 17 November 2014

Pendolinos, Pacers & Paragon - A Weekend In Hull

It's about time I came up with a proper review of our weekend showing the layout in Hull earlier this month.

We all enjoyed ourselves, the layout behaved itself - even if the operators didn't always - and we came a close 2nd in the prize judged by our fellow exhibitors. (Oh well, never mind.)

This is number 87 snapped at Cemetery Crossing during the show.


Our accommodation provided by our hosts was some the best we have ever had on the road at the Royal Hull, the impressively renovated former railway hotel at Paragon station.

This was doubly convenient for me because not only was it within easy walking distance of the pubs in the evening but I had chosen to travel to Hull by rail.

I'd done this because it was a great excuse to take a trip on the legendary Settle to Carlisle line. In fact as the crow flies it is the most direct route from Glasgow to the Humber.

Actually making the trip, however, requires you to be very resourceful.

Internet rail ticketing sites don't bring it up as an option unless you insist that you want to travel via Appleby. (Just putting Leeds in the box is no good, it'll still only give you trans-pennine options via Manchester).

And when the website eventually admits defeat and brings up the options for your desired journey it turns out to be hideously expensive.

Fortunately I know better and by purchasing a succession of single tickets I was able to bring the price of my journey down to around only 25% more expensive than using either the WCML or ECML.

Another downside of trying to support the S&C by putting my bum on one of its seats is that the service is relatively infrequent - only once every four hours or so - and involves changing trains at Carlisle.

(Last time I travelled over the S&C a decade ago I was still able to get a direct train from Glasgow to Leeds - that's progress for you!)

This is where I almost came unstuck.

Enjoy this pretty picture of Caernarfon Castle and then I'll fill you in on my tale of woe.


The day and night before my journey it had rained. A lot. So much, in fact, that unknown to me and hundreds of other Virgin Trains passengers at Glasgow Central that morning, the WCML was under water at Beattock.

The operator decided to reveal this minor inconvenience to its customers only 10 minutes after a London-bound Pendolino was supposed to have left the station.

I was sitting on the Voyager on the platform opposite, which was due to follow it 20 minutes later, and became suspicious when I looked across and noticed all the passengers disembarking.

Never a good sign, I think you'll agree.

I found a member of VT staff who told me that the line was blocked and no one could say when it was likely to open again.

I spent a few minutes considering my options.

I could hike over to Queen Street, take a train to Edinburgh and then make my way down the East Coast to York & Hull. A walk-on fare on a Friday, however, could be ruinously expense , though, I concluded.

With me having only a hour's connection time at Carlisle for my S&C train - and four hours to wait until the next one - I was on the verge of catching a Scotrail train home to collect my car and drive to Hull when I noticed people climbing back onboard the Pendolino on Platform 2.

Once again I collared a Virgin hostess (or something like that) "So are the trains going after all?" I asked. "Yes, it would appear so." they replied.

So I hopped on for what would be my first ever trip on a Pendolino, which I was rather excited about, reasoning that as it was supposed to leave before the Voyager I was booked on it would give me my best chance of making the S&C connection.

Here's a scene a the north end on the station at Beddgelert, by the way.


A couple of minutes later and the Pendolino is swiftly pulling out of Central station and onto the bridge over the River Clyde.

It is then, and only then you will note, that the Train Manager comes on the public address system and informs us that even though we have left Glasgow (30 mins late) the line is, in fact, still closed at Beattock and they can't be at all sure when it will reopen....

It was at this point that I muttered something very rude indeed under my breath.

About a quarter of an hour later we have come to a halt at Carstairs and the tannoy informs us that the line still flooded and our train will be held here until further notice.

Oh, and by the way, we lied when we told you at Glasgow that the Network Rail engineer was on site - he's not there yet. Sorry about that.

This is not looking at all good. Why didn't they tell us before we left Glasgow? And why did I take the gamble of sticking with the train rather that going home and getting in the car??

(Answer: because I'm too tight to chuck away the £77 I spent on a rail ticket only to have to spend the same again on fuel for my car.)

Perhaps the mysterious Network Rail engineer is on board the WHR construction train Upnor Castle is in charge of?


After a few minutes we moved off and never stopped again until we pulled into Carlisle.

From my letter box sized Pendolino window I could see many of the rivers were in spate beside the line as we climbed Beattock, but I never saw any sign of engineers beside the track or any hint that 20 minutes ago the ballast was supposedly under water.

Anyway, all that really mattered was that Virgin did manage to get me to Carlisle with 15 minutes to spare until my connection departed,  and from my seat on a rather chilly class 158 I saw that the Voyager I had so very briefly been onboard in Glasgow would have got me to Carlisle in time too.

And so I passed a very pleasant two and a half hours meandering down to Leeds on England's most spectacular mainline and onwards to Hull as the last of the daylight faded.

Here's a shot of 87 on a Superpower-style freight duty with a string of B wagons.


My journey home on the Monday started most unpromising.

During the weekend in Hull, while going in and out of the hotel, I had noticed an abundance of bus-bodied 'Pacers' in the station.

I dared to hope that a Monday morning prime business-travelling time service to York would be formed of something more salubrious.

It wasn't!

Still, it was another British railway train first for me. An experience I do not hope to repeat in a hurry.

From York I was booked onto a Cross Country service to Edinburgh.

That'll be late and standing room only, I predicted confidently! In fact the ex-Virgin Voyager was bang on time and comfortably loaded.

My only previous experience of these trains was travelling first class to Plymouth on a Virgin freebie I wangled and it was very agreeable.

I find they ride very well and unlike other people I don't object to the engines being mounted beneath the floor.

But I was disappointed that the only catering was a trolly dolly service - unlike the small shop I remember on the Virgin train - and with my reserved seat being on the aisle, and with rows and rows of airline seating in front of me, I could see very little out of the windows on either side.

Frankly I might as well have been in a plane.

I appreciate that we have an acute capacity issue on the UK's mainline railways but it has got to the point that they really have taken all the pleasure out of long-distance rail journeys, for standard class passengers at least.

Back in Scotland I was in and out of Edinburgh Waverly in 10 minutes and on a shuttle to Glasgow Queen Street - noticing also that the layout of the Tubrostar was more preferable to the Arriva Voyager - and I had an equally rapid transfer in Glasgow onto my last train of the day.

Of course, none of the standard gauge trains I rode were as opulent as the WHR Pullman Bodysgallen, seen here on Bron Hebog with K1.


All the pictures you've seen here were taken by the Artistic Director on his fangled tablet thingy which was able to cope with the hideous sports hall lighting which bathed everything in a horrid yellow glow.

My pocket digital camera couldn't cope at all - this was what most of my pictures turned out like.


The sooner we can get around to building a proper lighting gantry for the layout the better.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

A Very Special Special

A couple of weeks ago the Bron Hebog team lost a dear friend - designer extraordinaire and raconteur Steve 'Stefco' Coulson.

At the Hull show last week we paid our tribute to him by running a special train formed of the rolling stock he had a special connection with.


For those who aren't aware, Steve was a part owner of Britomart, a Quarry Hunslet locomotive bought from the Pen-yr-Orsedd quarry in the 1960's and brought to the FR where he helped care for it.

Britomart was a 'toy' on the FR in the days when the railway wasn't so open to such indulgences.


This model is our 2nd Britomart, which has been built up from a Brian Madge kit. The exquisite outside frame chassis is connected to the motor not by gears but by a miniature rubber band, just the sort of practical engineering solution Stefco would have approved of, and I'm sure he wouldn't have minded that it's still running around in primer.

The second locomotive is the Funkey diesel Vale of Ffestiniog which he was responsible for redesigning to fit the FR.

It wasn't merely a case of hacking the body about, he had to completely re-engineer the machine, moving many of the components and adapting it to have a cab at each end rather than just in the middle.

That he managed to achieve all this and for the result to be so aesthetically pleasing speaks volumes for his talent as a very intuitive engineer.


The last vehicle is carriage 122, a radical prototype he designed and helped to build in the early 2000's applying modern road coach-building technology to a narrow gauge carriage and making maximum use of the railway's' kinematic envelope.

It looks destined to remain a one-off but that's no criticism of the design which has proved very popular with passengers.

I recall that Stefco was very chuffed when we produced this first model of his carriage and, as ever, offered all the assistance he could.

When I asked for a drawing to help make the model he didn't just hand me a basic outline but instead a complete set of the design documents.

All of us on the Bron Hebog team will always treasure the hours we spent listening to his stories as he held court with a pint in his hand and another lined up ready on the bar.

Until our paths cross again some day,  perhaps in 'the embassy', we hope you appreciated our tribute train, Steve.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

DIY - Design It Yourself

I have often said in jest that I suspected the carriages produced a Boston Lodge Works were designed on the back of a fag packet, but now I know this to be true. Well, near enough.

Next up on the list of projects to be tackled is a model of the FR's latest carriage, a modified Super Barn 119.

I approached my usual source in the hope of obtaining a set of plans but all they could come up with this time was a scribbled note of the basic window pillar positions on a sheet of graph paper.

You couldn't even go so far as to call it a sketch.

Fortunately that's all the information I need. I have a drawing of the 1st generation Super Barn (a plan which was redrawn after I pointed out it bore no relation to the carriage they actually built!) plus I also have our models to work from. So there are enough known knowns, as it were.

So the other night it was out with the faithful old drawing board and a nice sharp pencil and created an outline drawing of the carriage in 4mm scale to work from.


Lots of other people, I suppose, would have knocked this up using some free CAD program but this is a very low tech operation.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

To Hull And Back

The team have made it home from the Humber, heading, as we do, in our separate directions.

It was a very enjoyable weekend.

We very much appreciated all the positive comments about the layout in only its second appearance at its full extent - and there's still lots more to do before we'll consider it finished.

I'll be posting some more pictures here in the coming days, but for the meantime here's a snap taken by the Artistic Director of K1 coming up around the S-bend.


If we were into giving our pictures the photoshop smoke treatment this locomotive should properly be hidden behind a huge cloud of steam!

If you came along to Hull and have any shots of the layout you'd like to share please feel free to post them on the Bron Hebog Facebook page. And if you haven't 'liked' it yet we'd be delighted if you did.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Train, Set & Match

Those of you who've made it along to see Bron Hebog in Hull this weekend have been treated to the public debut of the KMX Tamper match wagon.

So for the benefit of everyone else who can't be here with us here are a couple of 'works portaits'.


For the moment it's far too clean - the real one has a much more hard-working appearance - and we need to get some tiny, bespoke transfers produced for all the various instructions and notices which are written on it.


Even though it's incomplete I'm nevertheless delighted to finally have got this long term project made and running on the layout.