First steps on the fiddle yard

It’s been a long time coming, and god knows I’ve had many second thoughts about bothering at all over the last couple of years, but finally I’ve made a start on the fiddle yards required to complete Culreoch and hopefully get it back out to the occasional exhibition.  I’m still working to the plan posted back in November.

Really, I thank Ian Pepper for the kick up the backside – getting me a load of ply strip for pretty much buckshee.  Then my conscience compelled me to actually get on and use it!

So, after a bit of thought I have built up the ply sandwich type beams by way of making a start.  I’m desperate not to balls it up this time – so won’t be rushing. At this early stage though, I’m impressed by this form of construction – nicely resistant to bending and torsion (twisting).


Each is labelled to remind me what length it needs to be (less 12mm, though!) and what it is intended for.  Here: a rectangular board side and an outer side for one of the two ‘oddball’ curve boards.


Lots.  I was pretty bored by the time I’d painted this lot, inside and out.  Long edges are to be trimmed maybe on a table saw to square them up, then also painted to seal against moisture changes and consequent warping.  Might as well go belt & braces.

I need now to trim these and drill out to accomodate legs, before I can think of starting assembly.  I have produced the beams for all but one board – my hope is the final board will be made to size and take up any constructional tolerances on the remainder, despite my hope for close-to millimetre accuracy on the cutting bench😉


Snaps from the SECC

I’m not usually a big fan of Model Rail Scotland – for the same reasons as folk grumble about Warley.  However I have to hand it to the AMRSS, and particularly their exhibition team this year – the layout list included most of my favourite layouts from within the AMRSS clubs plus a few excellent visitors.

The hall is bl**dy dark, and some of the layouts had minimal lighting.  My wee digi-compact couldn’t really handle the low light but here’s the best I could do:


Inverboyndie, by Greenock MRC (I think). Very Banff-ish, and very nice too.

Glasgow (0)

Muirhead, by Dumfries MRC.  Captures a distinct south-western flavour.

Glasgow (1)

Muirhead, by Dumfries MRC

Glasgow (5)

Calla, by Keith of the 57 Study Group – despite being only part-finished, it just had something about it which ‘clicked’.  One to watch out for.

Glasgow (4)

Calla, again.  My photos don’t flatter it, nor convey its appeal to me, but… trust me.  I think it’s the flow of the track plan and the basic civils.

Glasgow (7)

Glenfinnan, by Bill Wood. Some great craftsmanship on this wee, Futers-style oval layout, particularly in those buildings.

Glasgow (6)

Hewisbridge. Border Counties inspired and an all-time favourite of mine. It was in a particularly dark corner of the hall.

Glasgow (8)

Dubbieside by Allan Goodwillie. Featured a nice wee Barclay but it was always zipping around in the gloom too fast for my slowww shutter speeds.

Glasgow (2)

Alloa – this wee Barclay 0-4-0DM ran brilliantly.  Seen here in the brewery sidings.

Glasgow (3)

Alloa – brake vans await their next working.

Glasgow (9)

In Alloa’s fiddle yard, this was my “train of the weekend” – Hornby Clan on a mixture of fish vans.  Although the work of several modellers, it was a very cohesive, very believable looking train.  Not sure about the realism of Bachmann’s gasometer in the background though.

So if these were my favourites, do you think I’m blinkered to only ScR prototypes? Yes, almost, but not quite. Blackgill was also great to see again, and good to hear it was running better than on its debut shows. But I barely got near it through the punters, and hence have no photos.

A brief December update


By my standards, a hive of activity!

It’s been even quieter on the workbench and layout than I’d expected this year, for various reasons.  However, in the last few weeks I’ve been nailing together a few LMS and BR(M) wagons from Ratio, Parkside and Airfix parts, often mixed together and then augmented by various gems of castings by Mr Franks. This is how my wee working area looked before it got cleared for the arrival of the wrapping paper and sellotape.

I might scribble down a few more words on this topic when I get the last remaining parts added, but for now that’s all from me in 2015.

Have a good Christmas everyone, and best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year.  I look forward to both hearing from and hopefully seeing you all in 2016.




After some hand sketches, I decided planning of the complex geometry to complete the circle for Culreoch would be a good excuse to start learning Autocad. As you’ll see, I’m very much just feeling my way around, learning how to get the programme to draw and dimension in the ways I would like.

Geometry for the reincarnation is coming along.

As presented, the measurements are pretty ugly but I think displays all the key dimensions I would need to build it. I am likely to revise the RH curve to ease the 1067mm (approx 3’6″) radius. On the other hand, should I tighten the curve to take up less floorspace… I don’t know.

I imagine I will build most of the boards to the drawing, and then adjust the sizing of the final one to take up the tolerances and fit it all neatly to the existing layout.

Any thoughts?


Fifty years ago the last revenue trains ran over the Port Road (actually on 12th, although formal closure was 14th).  Other than demolition trains and the short incursion of the Ayrshire and Wigtownshire line from Girvan in the far west, Galloway and its towns and villages would become devoid of railways.  Its memory endures – a little bit ironic really.  Had the line survived would it have gained the same level of interest?  Probably not.
Anyway.  I note the anniversary and I’m sure the other modellers who recreate the Galloway lines’ heydays will also bear it in mind as they work on their layouts.

Meanwhile, back in the present day I have had enough inspiration to push on with some modelling.  A couple of years ago, John Howell gave me a bundle of very useful duplicate magazine articles and some photocopies from his files.  Amongst a few which I had no need for at the time was an article on prefabricated provender-type stores – not the Ratio kit reinforced concrete type, but a timber and asbestos cement panel style commonly used as fertiliser depots.  A few bits of plastic later:


It’s turned out allright, given I’ve never got on with plasticard much before. Rainwater goods would finish it off nicely.

Stock-wise, not very much going on.  45480 is the last of my Black Fives to lose its Hornby driving wheels, this is my second one on Markits drivers.  After a spell pulling Dave’s Mk1 set around Wharfeside the other night it’s running acceptably smoothly. Wee lick of paint and it’ll do for now – the Fives still need a lot of work to look the way I want them to.


Additionally, I have a Bachmann Standard 4 mogul under conversion to EM.  This is nearly identical to the first locomotive I tried and failed to regauge back in 2007-2008, but this one appears to be going to plan.  1/8” axles remove the excessive slop in the cast chassis, Gibson wheels are fitted true to the axle using a pillar drill as a press: works a treat so I’ll probably revert to these wheels for future conversions now I can get them fitted square and true.  They look better than Markits which are a bit wide in the tread for my tastes.

I have a few tweaks to do to the crankpins now and then I intend to make my own return crank to replace the chunky cast original which has been a weak spot on many of my other locomotives.  Without it’s valve gear it runs really quite well – and that’s really pleasing when I think of the nightmare I had with the previous model.  Again it will benefit from running in for a few laps up in Glasgow.

It would have been nice to have this mechanically finished as a nod to 76073/074 by the 14th but I haven’t managed it.  I’m using the excuse of having no valve gear rivets🙂

More anon, unless the Beeching axe fells this blog as it did the prototype…

The sun sets on 2014

Happy New Year folks.  I think last year came out net positive, but I’m glad to see the back of it just the same.

Forecast is for another sparse year on the modelling front for me, but I hope you all do better – and keep letting me know how you’re getting on to help me stay in touch and stay inspired.🙂

Errors and Omissions Accepted?

The Scottish Region Study Group took Alloa to Warley show the other weekend, and gladly I joined the team.  All went well other than I suspect age, wear and tear getting to some of the toggle switches.  Most issues we had were ‘operator error’:

Chas plays disinterested 'bad cop' to Dave Franks, who's trying eagerly to talk his way out of the red card he's been given for some misdemeanour.  Two members of the public look on bemused...

Chas plays disinterested ‘bad cop’ to Dave Franks, who’s trying eagerly to talk his way out of the red card he’s been given. Two members of the public look on bemused…

Alloa is pretty good really.  The fearsome looking main panel is mitigated by some basic colour coding (by route) with some basic electrical arrangements which mean the number of silly errors are reduced.  Exhibitions are hard work, and however professionally you approach them fatigue does set in.  People do distract you.  And sometimes your mind just glazes over.

But over the weekend – and since then – I’ve given a bit of thought to the whole issue of how layouts are controlled.  I’ve never seen a good control panel.  There’s impressive size, impressive complexity, impressive craftsmanship.  There’s computer control, DCC handsets and there’s working lever frames.  But all seem to have pretty clunky ergonomics and sketchy indication of what’s going on out there on the layout.

So I thought, let’s have a think about the errors that occur, and what might be done to design them out or at least minimise their likelihood.

Whenever Culreoch goes back out (if…) then the layout’ll be unfamiliar to everyone involved.  It’s all very well me knowing which switch I wired to which gizmo – but it needs to be clear to everyone else that will lift a controller.  So this blog post doesn’t aim to preach, it’s to record my thoughts for later reference.

What do I need from a control system then?

  • Clarity and simplicity for the user
  • Ease of construction
  • Ease of repair when the layout is on show
  • reasonable cost

And how do most operating errors seem to occur, thinking back on previous shows?

  1. Conflicting moves
  2. Points incorrectly set (facing or trailing)
  3. Train runs into an electrically dead section
  4. Incorrect signalling for move
  5. Conflicting signals
  6. Signals not reset after train passes/departs etc.

There may be more, I can always add to it.

I’ve taken the view that the mimic panel is probably the best way to lay out the information and controls, and thought a little about how each numbered error might be minimised using only the control panel design:

Issues 1, 2, and 3 above ought to be made obvious by control panel illuminations.  Perhaps rather than a single ‘dot’ of an LED to indicate what controller (if any) is powering a section, a frequent recurring indication ought to trace the route.  Then it might be more obvious where power is set, and where it meets a dead or incorrectly set section.  Similarly point routing might be usefully clarified by a traceable line of illumination – whether this is combined with or additional to the power indication is yet to be considered.  I like the idea of the set route being brighter, other live sections being slightly duller, and isolated sections unlit.  Issue 1 should be backed up by electrical isolation such that collisions are prevented.

The signalling issues 4-6 arguably are preventable by interlocking them with each other and/or with routes set.  However I think this would add complexity and adds to the number of reasons the layout could grind to a halt.  A better solution would be for an error indication to be displayed clearly.

So there’s the theory: operators will make fewer errors if a panel is clearly laid out and concisely provides all relevant information.
I’d offer a sketch but have yet to decide how a continuous run bit of Port Road ought to be operated – pretty fundamental!