Sunday, 2 May 2021

120 not out - Bonnie Dundee's 3rd Innings

Some positive news from the east coast, this time from the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, who announced on Monday: 

"Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway are proud to announce the arrival today of historic locomotive ‘Bonnie Dundee’ after a complete overhaul. On long term loan to Cleethorpes from the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway Co. Ltd, ‘Bonnie Dundee’ was built by Kerr Stuart in 1901 to operate at the Dundee Gasworks.

Rescued by preservationist Ian Fraser in the 1960s, the locomotive spent many years operating at Ravenglass before being taken out of use requiring extensive repairs. After negotiations between the two parties, a deal was drawn up that in return for the long term loan, CCLR would fully fund the overhaul of the locomotive. This has been undertaken by John Fowler Engineering of Bouth."

Given a tip-off that steam would be raised on Friday 30th April I re-arranged my working week and headed for the coast. The forecast was for showers... 

A superb job has been achieved by John Fowler Engineering, gone are is the somewhat "agricultural" valve gear that was there pre-rebuild and the paint finish is almost shiny enough to see your face in. Not bad for 120 years old...

I was invited to observe a test run to Kingsway and back, the power of the loco was apparent, whilst not up to full 'Ratty' strength there is certainly enough power for anything the CCLR will need, although a run up the bank on the Humberston extension (still sadly out of use at present) will be an interesting experience.

Light engine runs over, it was agreed that the next passenger departure would be steam hauled, with engineering staff observing from the train. So a few lucky members of the public got to ride the first public passenger train 'Bonnie Dundee' has hauled in may years. DA1 was included at the Lakeside end of the train in order to allow the train locomotive to be released at Lakeside loop, with DA1 drawing the train into the platform, a consequence of not running through to Humberston.

With the loco off on a second round trip I headed to the floodbank to get some shots at the lineside, it was really interesting to watch the reaction of the public on the adjacent footpath to steam being in use on a Friday afternoon.

The final turns of the day were made top-and-tail with ex-Fairbourne Railway 'Rachel', which replaced DA1 at the Lakeside end of the train, 'Bonnie Dundee' shunted DA1 into the yard and then joined the Kingsway end of the train. 

Having watched another journey depart and return, I realised that it was time to head home. I took quite a few photos, the full album is in Flickr - Bonnie Dundee Returns! You may have noticed that the weather held out, it was a real shame not to be able to enjoy a pint in the Signal Box Inn, but that can wait for another day. I didn't see any rainfall until I was reaching the top of the Wolds on my way home and then a deluge as I crossed back into Nottinghamshire.


Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Alas Wells Harbour

The future of the Wells Harbour Railway has come into the spotlight this week, and it looks as though we may lose another classic seaside 10 1/4" gauge railway, hot on the heels of the loss in 2020 of Kerr's Miniature Railway in Arbroath. The reasons for concern at Wells are very different to those at Arbroath. This statement has appeared on the website of landowners Holkham estate:

"The current operator of The Wells Harbour Railway notified Holkham in Autumn 2020 that he wanted to stop running the railway service in the next year or two. He asked Holkham to give him a new 10-year lease so he could sell the equipment and the lease to a new operator."

"The current railway was designed to help holidaymakers at Pinewoods get into town and back to the site in the evening. Today the need is different, to help day-visitors get from their parked car or from the town as close as possible to Wells Beach."

"Over the next 12 months we will involve Wells Town Council and other stakeholders in Wells in discussions about this opportunity to improve the visitor experience. That may involve altering how, where or when the railway runs, or replacing it with other ways for visitors to move to and from the beach and enjoy the best of what the Wells and Holkham area offers."

The railway's current owners, Gary and Alison Bracknell, have responded as follows on the Facebook 10 1/4" gauge group:

"We are the current owners of the Wells Harbour Railway and asked Holkham in October last year to enquire about getting a new 10 year lease on the Railway.

We were told that the lease was NOT GOING to be renewed at the end of its term and subsequently then told by Holkham that they also had no intention of buying the Railway from us."

Reading between the lines, I get the distinct impression that the Holkham estate have the impression that a land train between the town/car park and the beach would be cheaper to run than taking on the railway. No doubt they also feel the cost attraction of avoiding more specialist skills required for track and rolling stock maintenance compared to rubber tyres on a road that someone else maintains... Maybe they also think it is somehow "classier"? But it has no soul, no history, no real sense of adventure. It certainly wouldn't make me want to visit the town.

I first saw the WHR in September 1996, it wasn't operating on that occasion but my notes show that we travelled on the nearly Wells and Walsingham Railway that same day. It was nearly a year later, in June 1997 that I did get to travel on the WHR, behind 'Edmund Hannay' (D. King, 1971).

By 2010 'Edmund Hannay' was out of use, replaced by Alan Keef steam outline locomotives delivered in 1998 and 2005. The Miniature Railway Museum Trust were able to borrow the locomotive for display at the 'Rails to the Sands' exhibition at Cleethorpes, where it sat alongside 15" gauge 'Blacolvesley' and opposite my own 'Shifting Sands'. As Trust secretary I prepared, mailed out and filed the loan agreement. Whilst here the locomotive changed hands, eventually being sold again to the Hastings Miniature Railway.

'Edmund Hannay' had been built for the original owner of the WHR, Commander Roy Francis, who later went on to create the longer W&WLR the other side of town. The original back-up locomotive had been 'Weasel', a simple 4w internal combustion machine (D. King, 1980) that I later saw in the hands of MRW Railways in 2016, before being sold on.

I finally returned to Wells in August 2019, to ride behind 'Howard' (Alan Keef 74, 2005). By this time the railway had three Alan Keef machines plus coaching stock renewed by the same builder. The true transport function of the railway was apparent, when we asked for a return ticket we found they didn't sell them as most passengers did not make a there and back trip in one go! I had questioned why they needed three locomotives but the intensity of the operation was soon apparent.

What may now be my last look at the railway was from the floodbank, looking down at the town end station. From here the basis of the estate's "issue" can be identified, the new town car park is off shot to the right in the distance, the infrastructure changes to move the railway to run there make any change unlikely compared to using rubber tyre on tarmac.

If the end does come I'll be incredibly sad to see the WHR go, a classic seaside line, so simple in it's execution and despite what the land owners think, still doing to job of moving people from A to B, as it has done since 1976.


Friday, 23 April 2021

Homeward Bound

With the passengers long gone for the day, and the light fading fast, a short works train formed of an Alan Keef K12 and one wagon heads back to base over the Beck Bridge...

(in reality I've fitted a new, more appropriately clothed driver to the K12 and re-fitted the original generator load to my 1-plank wagon.)



Saturday, 17 April 2021

Skale Tree Surgery

In my last posting I mentioned my disappointment with the current generation of Hornby 'Skale Scenics' trees compared with the older, now obsolete range. I had asked for a couple of these as a birthday present last year, largely on the basis that the buyer could get them directly to me via a well known internet platform. Both are the larger ones in the range to be more suited to 7mm scale. On the face of it, as advertised by Hornby they look pretty good (left), but what actually arrived was less satisfactory (right), squashed into the packaging and with over-zealous application of very clumpy foliage.

Having unpacked the tree (a R7221 Lime) my impressions were still not good, the old Skale Scenics trees were either a wire armature or stamped metal armature depending on whether 'Pro' or 'Eco' ranges. These trees have a plastic armature, but on the plus side it is quite detailed, as we will see... The leaf foliage itself isn't too bad, and I suspect this is actually a rebranded or sub-contracted Noch product. 

Deciding to try and make the most of what was in front of me I decided to strip back the foliage and see what I could do. I found that rubbing the leaves made them fall off, so as many as possible were collected in a tub for potential re-use. Underneath the heavy leaf cover was a sort of polyfibre material, which could be pulled away from the armature. Some wouldn't budge so I soaked what was left in warm water and this loosened off the remaining material, leaving the bare armature.

The armature is painted brown, far too brown for realism and needed to be repainted. I opted to prime the armature with grey primer as I wasn't convinced acrylic paint would stick without it. I then used a matt brown spray to get the basis of a tree colour. I did then paint the trunk and branch areas with my own blend of colours to get the effect I wanted.

New foliage was added using Woodland Scenics medium green foliage fibre added to the branches using PVA. My supply ran out before I was finished so another packet was quickly sourced via eBay. The new packet completed the job and allowed some patching up where I had been a bit stingy stretching out the old pack! Once all was in place and dry I sprayed the foliage fibre with ultra hold hairspray and then sprinkled on the original leaf foliage material via a tea strainer. Just as I finished the hairspray ran out...

Finally I gave the trunk and branches a coat of Humbrol aerosol matt varnish, to overcome the gleam created by the hairspray on the painted surfaces. Guess what? I now need a new can of that too...!

Overall, I am pleased with how this has turned out, this will certainly find a place on the new layout once it gets underway. The another tree received at the same time awaits similar treatment, and I am weighing up the options for a couple more trees for the project.


Sunday, 11 April 2021

Go and tell it to the Trees

I realised recently that one of the potential stumbling blocks on my planned layout was that to look effective it would need trees bigger than anything that could be made using sea moss. I had pinned my hopes on a couple of Hornby 'Skale Scenes' examples but to my disappointment the current generation are not as good as the old ones I used on 'Old Quarry Line'. More on them another time...  

For some time I've been meaning to attempt to create a tree from scratch influenced by, if not following exactly, Gordon Gravett's methods. This has been undertaken as a test build, and without a firm commitment to actually use it. 

Not wanting to do things by halves it is 20 cm tall and 20 cm wide, definitely a 7mm scale tree. It isn't species specific but if anything a few more branches might have made it fill out a bit better.

Construction was from florists wire of two thicknesses, lots of twisting, bending and cutting to get the shape. Fuse wire was used to bind the lengths forming the trunk and florists tape wrapped around to add some shape. It didn't look quite right so DAS modelling clay was used to add some extra thickness and some detail to the trunk (such as cut off branches), and fill the area around the roots.

This is the only picture I managed to snap during construction, I've started to add my bark mix to one of the branches, this is grey tile grout and PVA glue mixed with a spot of brown paint. Applied all over this gives a reasonable base colour but I then painted a slightly darker colour all over using acrylic paints and dry-brushed to highlight the texture.

Foliage is based on a Hornby Skale Scenics (old range) foliage matt, teased out and held in place using PVA, with additional colouring from Woodland Scenics and other ranges added over hairspray. A blast of matt varnish over the trunk and foliage hides any sheen from the adhesives.



Sunday, 4 April 2021

Diorama Developments - To The End...

Diorama developments must go in pairs, as I was building the bench for 'Humberston' this piece of Slaters 7mm scale fence was also in the works. A relic of my childhood "attempts" at O-16.5 modelling it was covered in a dubious coat of glossy brown enamel paint. A bath in Dettol soon sorted this out and with a little cleaning up the piece was useable.

I had used a piece of this fencing on 'Stuck in a Siding', a diorama that I built a few years ago depicting a derelict 15" gauge coach, very much inspired by the 'Abandoned Miniatures' page on Facebook. I also used this scene to experiment with making a puddle in the fashion of Gordon Gravett. The coach largely hid the fence from view in normal conditions so here the diorama is seen without it.

For this use I had added a woodgrain effect and distressed the planking a little to make it look a little less cared for. I did the same with the recovered section, as I wanted it to match... For in an audacious bit of diorama tinkering I have extended the originally 140mm long scene to match the 220mm of 'The Path To' and 'Humberston' (I guess that makes 220mm the new "standard" length!).

I managed to get the fence to join neatly enough to fill the gaps, touch in the paint finish and add diagonal joins in the cross-members. The actual join is nearly invisible. The junk pile has been moved and supplemented with a few extra pieces including an A1 Models bonnet front. I have managed to match the hanging basket liner ground cover from the original piece, as well as adding areas of Martin Welberg weed tufts and some longer Peco tufts. To give extra variety I added some rock outcrops at the back from home-made plaster castings and concrete area in the foreground, simply card covered with Green Scene concrete texture paint, and then weathered.

The plan had been to add the skip frame flat wagon seen in a previous posting, but late on in the process I had a rethink and decided to rebody it (again!). A few years ago I built a representation of the Sherwood Forest Railway' s skip framed open wagon on a much modified RCL skip frame hiding a Peco chassis (and undersized wheels) underneath. A bit on the featherweight side it has never really been used, and at the diorama viewing angle the undersize wheels were too apparent so I have transferred the body to the the more accurate chassis. The real wagon lacks the central bar along it's length so this was also removed. The Black Dog adaptor and flat wagon body have been transferred to the chassis prepared last year as a scenic item with broken axleboxes - waste not want not!

With the wagon in place on the diorama with the original carriage the revised scene is completed, new basswood strips were added front and back to hide the join in the MDF base and with this the opportunity taken to rename the diorama 'To the End'.

An investigation has been launched into the whereabouts of the missing full stop! It was there when I put the letters on... The overall result is (I feel), a much better balanced scene than the original.

I may yet add a figure to the scene, as with 'Humberston' this helps with scale, the perils of being a multi-scale modeller!


Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Diorama Developments - Humberston

I have managed to get a picture of the 'Humberston' diorama with both the figures and the train in place.

The figures and bench add the finishing touches to the scene and help set the scale, always useful when displayed in the same cabinet as some of my O9 scenes!

As is always the way with these things, the extra work on 'Humberston' prompted some work on one of those O9 scenes, more next time...