Sunday, 4 November 2018

If you can't take anything nice...

...then don't publish any photos.

I always try and be positive about model railway shows, and attitude that I find helps a lot.

But today I returned from a show feeling, well, disappointed. Even my wife was surprised at how little time I spent there.

It was a local show that I've always enjoyed in the past, in fact, one I think has consistently punched above its weight. But this year it did nothing for me. Unusually I was even more disappointed when I reviewed my photos. I really didn't think any of them showed a layout in a good enough light to be shared, except for one I've photographed a lot in the past, and another that to be fair I couldn't get a good shot because of people who stood in front of it chatting. That, incidentally, is my perennial complaint about this particular show. People take up a position and stay there for ages.

I suspect some layouts went down very well with a lot of the attendees, especially those featuring mainline running or lots of locos on shed. That is fine, I know they aren't to my taste but I do understand why others love those styles of layout. I'll also be honest that having looked at the list of layouts booked to attend I knew not many were my cup of tea. Not that cups of tea were easy to get at the cafe, yet again.

So what didn't I like, choice of prototype aside?

I'm going to pick out some big themes, some of which aren't always wrong, but were in the context of the layouts today.

Backscenes that were too low, had very visible joins and weren't an integral part of the scene.

This was compounded by several of the layouts having narrow baseboards. Narrow baseboards can work, but they need thought to be put in to how they are blended into the backscene and the balance between railway and scenery.

Animals and vehicles placed in ways that looked unnatural and placed without observation of the real thing. A silly example of this was a herd of cows on a steep slope that clearly were from a set designed to be used on a flat field.

Outdated scenic techniques, especially trees and grass. Last time I checked it was 2018, do you really think that glueing down acres of out of the packet scenic materials is good enough to put on public display?

Coming up to date is loco sound that doesn't sound quite right in an exhibition hall., which I recognise is a challenge.

And finally, that dreadful feeling that the out of the box models were the best thing on some layouts.

No, actually, that the saddest thing was the lack of imagination and aesthetic elements in favour of simple triggers like "Oh look an MPD layout with lots of lovely locos"

I know I never have, and never will, exhibit myself, but my point is the same show has done so much better in the past. Those three or four layouts that, in addition to the crowdpleasers, raise the standard of a show to the "must go to" level were, for me, so noticeable by their absence.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Further Progress

A lousy photo, but a quick snap to show progress on my "quick" Barclay well tank build.

Whistle and clack valves should be finished tonight, along with rear frame extensions.

I was originally going to keep it in black, but I think it will end up in green.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Seeing the Wood for the Trees

Rails Round the Rectory might be a micro layout, but it still required seven trees to form both the wooded end of the layout and to balance that out visually at the graveyard end. In the past, the few trees I've made have been knarled and sparse Welsh hillside ones. An overgrown rectory garden calls for quite a different look.

Somewhere I have a detailed plan of the trees in the garden at Cadeby, for use if I ever build the larger version. On RRtR I decided generic Woodland Scenic armatures would suffice, with differences in leave and branch materials to give a sense of variation. This sped up construction considerably.

The slow bit comes with the post-construction trimming. I haven't started that on this one so it looks rather too dense and has those telltale horsehair loops. The loops need two cuts, to remove part of the material otherwise they still look like loops. Apart from removing the majority of the straggling branches the other main trim is to cut in horizontally to give a more layered effect.

I've never managed to finish counting the trees in our current garden. In places, they are as overgrown as the ones at Cadeby were. In reality, that means there is much less space between them than you would expect, and very few of them have a clear shape. I did think about trying to replicate that, but the catch would be losing some of the possible viewpoints on the layout. I might yet fill in some of the below canopy gaps with substantial shrubs once I've discovered what does and doesn't work as a cameo view.

I've been struggling to get decent photos of the layout at this stage in its construction. It really needs outdoor lighting

Trying out possible combinations of trees.
Looking back at this I realise I made an eighth tree that I seem to have lost somewhere 

Thursday, 30 August 2018

An Irish Interlude

"So what is his latest excuse for lack of progress on Rails Round The Rectory
and The Eaugate Light Railway?"

Well, apart from the mysterious appearance of even more chickens in the garden, and a major reorganisation at work, the biggest non-modelling reason has been my first cycling holiday for three years. In fact, now I come to think of it, my first holiday at all since India two years ago.

There were two peripheral "visits" to narrow gauge sites. Once again I passed through the bus station at what used to be the Ennis terminus of the West Clare, and in theory, I cycled along the route of one of the two narrow gauge railways, indeed, the only railways, on Achill Island.*
The quartz quarry on Achill Island
This was the least interesting of the two. It was gravity and horse worked, running from Achill Quartz Quarry to the pier at Darby's Point**. I say in theory because although the quarry was visible I couldn't discern any trace of the route itself, nor even say with confidence where it reached the sea.

Getting to Achill Island involved three days of cycling from Clonbur, a few miles from Galway, and up the coast to Westport. Westport has several attractions of note, including a 15" gauge railway in the grounds of Westport House and several brilliant pubs and restaurants. For model railway enthusiasts the name will be familiar from Iain Rice's plan for a model of Westport Quay. In his usual way, he paints a picture of a wild and desolate place where he spent his honeymoon.  In recent years the site has been built over and is hard to recognise from his description, but the route from the Quay to the junction at Westport station forms part of the Great Western Greenway which continues on to Achill Sound, just one bridge short of reaching Achill Island itself.

On our rest day in Westport, as well as visiting the aforementioned pubs and restaurants, I walked the Quay line. It loops far south of the town through open countryside.

The next day we cycled along the main part of the route, and I've got the T-shirt to prove it. At times the greenway diverges from the railway line, but the route was usually still in view. The further we went the more bleak, wet and windy the landscape became. This, remember, was in August.

And the photos reflect the weather.
The steam era engine shed at Westport

Current end of the Quay branch

Looking from the site of Quay station to where the quay sidings started. There were goods platforms here, I think.

Westport House Railway

Many of the bridges still exist. Soon after here the line begins to get more wild

Newport Viaduct

A train passing by must have been really exciting if you lived here

It really is bleak

On the outskirts of Mulranny

A distant view of Croagh Patrick

Mulranny Station

360 degree panarama

Achill goods shed

Achill station

*Typically, having struggled to find historic maps of both Achill Island and Westport before the trip I found reliable sources almost as soon as I was back. Had I had them in advance I would have taken some very different photos.

** At least it ran to Darby Point according to Beaumont's definitive text. The historic maps seem to show it didn't.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

A Prelude to an Irish Interlude

CIE 071 class EMD JT22CW series diesel-electric 073 waits patiently at Westport Station whilst pit props are loaded. Behind it is the remaining spur of the line to Westport Quay