One of our longer-serving members was laid to rest today. Norman was building the club's N-gauge layout 'Dulverton' when I joined the club 25 years ago. He made me welcome and I stayed, although both of us went gradually upmarket in scale, me by choice and he by necessity as eyesight problems developed.
Norman took over the exhibition manager role at a critical time when the then chairman/exhibition manager left, and laid the foundations for a show which has gone from strength to strength. Latterly he found the Southport Model Engineers more met his needs, but he was a regular visitor both to our exhibition and to Jim's barbecues.
An obituary by Jim Ford is in the February 2012 edition of the newsletter.
We must also record with regret the recent loss of Stewart Mason, one-time member of the club and retired Merseyrail traction inspector.
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Yuletide again already, and a modest celebration of the event is held at the clubrooms. For the first time ever this included freshly-prepared bacon sandwiches in addition to the usual crisps, peanuts and mince pies, evidence that the country may be going to the financial dogs but SMRS is still capable of defying the odds and having a good time. The chairman gave a speech in appropriate Churchillian tones, with a touch of Mr Grace from 'Are You Being Served?' thrown in for good measure.
And Joe celebrated not only with winning two of the three raffle prizes but also with a kiss from Mother Christmas. Which he enjoyed the most is not recorded, this being a respectable website.
Finally one must record an example of technical innovation for which the club is nearly famous, namely the illumination of the approved route to the external facilities, by a combination of a white line marking the edge of the path and a new lamp to show it up in all its reflected glory.
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One unfortunate incident occurred on day two of our excursion, when a number of sheep got onto the line and fell foul of a fleet of ballast wagons being propelled towards the worksite. The casualty list was one sheep immediately dispatched to the Great Shepherd in the Sky, and one severely shocked by premature burial in half a ton of quarry bottoms. The latter animal was last seen making good its escape from the scene of the incident, no doubt to consult its lawyer at the earliest opportunity. Two wagons were upended and suffered damage to both woodwork and running gear, testament to the hardy nature of Cumbrian fell sheep.
A happier incident was the presentation to Dr Ford of a memento to mark the start of his passage towards at least partial retirement. This took the form of a sign pointing to the leisure activity of choice for the discerning consultant. The contributors were those who have the most cause to be grateful for his open-house policy regarding sleeping accommodation at his Porthmadog flat.
Some photos and a bit of video are here.
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In quick succession the intricacies of reverse loops, live-frog points and capacitor discharge systems were reduced to a simple matter of an extra wire here and a couple of line breaks there. One surprising fact we learned was that DCC may not always mean fewer wires and simpler connections, whatever its apologists might claim.
Such was the popularity of the subject that the hosts eventually felt compelled to remind the company that they had an early start in the morning and would we please stop talking and go home. School was never like this.
The first question James posed at the monthly presentation meeting was 'Why model Italian railways?' Apparently his aunt was to blame, by taking two young and innocent teenage nephews on a holiday to Italy. 35 years later, he stood up to tell us about progress so far. It was a true multimedia presentation, with photos, books and models all combining to relate the story of Italian steam, which finished with new builds in the 1920's but was still going 60 years later.
For the first time the meeting was held at Ian and Heather's, where a combination of congenial surroundings and good cuisine may well prompt calls for revisits. Comfy chairs, too.
An impromptu tutorial session at the club on Friday, with Ian giving a demonstration of a quick and easy method for making trees, This involved twisted wire, short lengths of sisal, spray-on glue and the scenic scatter of your choice. Such was the success of the demo that he was promptly offered the contract for 130+ trees for Talisker Glen. Regrettably he declined the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with the chairman suggesting instead a communal tree-making session or two, for as many as could be accommodated, or who wished to be volunteered.
The attendance was slightly down, but expenses were too, and the efforts of John and Hilary at the members' sales stall resulted in a record amount being raised over the two days, contributing to a healthy positive equity situation. Good things were said about the quality of the exhibits and of the treasurer's bacon rolls.
Good party, too.
Some more photos are here.
It is sometimes said that railway modelling is a pensioner's hobby, and recently we were reminded of this rather more forcefully than we would like, with the news that Ron Jones has passed away.
Ron was a long-standing member of SMRS, even though he lived in Orrell, well within the catchment area of the Wigan club. Quite what it was that made him prefer Southport I do not know, but whatever it was we are grateful for it.
The incline was an impressive, and expensive, engineering feat, using rope winches to haul not only goods but also passengers, the latter no doubt fully insured against unwittingly becoming part of a high-speed gravity train at very short notice. Sadly little remains of it now, although the shell of the engine house has been restored. But as Ian, the presenter, said it would make a good model, although achieving the correct vertical dimension in anything bigger than 2mm scale could be a challenge.
….just add strudel.
If you have a garden, you need a garden railway, it's as simple as that. Increasingly SMRS members are realising the profound truth of this statement, so it took little persuasion for a group to be assembled for a trip to the annual garden railway show at Llanfair Caereinion. Its proximity to the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway was an added attraction, particularly as the railway had a gala on the same weekend.
The show was its usual tempting self, although apparently a little less well patronised than in previous years, perhaps reflecting the current economic climate. The gala likewise lived up to its billing, and tried hard to replicate last year's special event, namely a complete engine failure whilst carrying one of our members homewards. This time another member managed both to miss the return train and to jinx the next one to the extent that Richard had to be despatched to Welshpool in his AA Rescue MX5 to recover the deputy chairman, who wishes to remain anonymous. The speed with which they returned suggested some pleasure might have been taken with a few B-road bends, but nothing was admitted.
The use of Jim's flat in Porthmadog meant we just had to go on another railway on the Sunday, this time the Welsh Highland. The weather was decent enough for the open coach to be well patronised, and the decision to alight at Waunfawr rather than Caernafon meant real ale and beef baguettes could be consumed at leisure and in comfort before the return journey.
Some photos of the Welshpool line are here and of the Welsh Highland are here.
An excellent afternoon, with hospitable hosts and a modest but friendly crowd. The rain was early but minimal and Liverpool won a famous victory away to Arsenal, so all was well.
Everton lost at home, so forewarned we returned to Southport another way.
Some photos and video are here.
Photo: Rob Guinness
Having observed the format on several occasions from the safe obscurity of the cheap seats, the chairman finally decided it was safe to venture to the front stalls and put on a show himself. And so last Tuesday saw a presentation on the Skye and Dingwall Railway, preceded by cottage pie served by the presenter himself, the chef having been called away on an errand of mercy, no doubt with a cheery cry of 'your dinner for fourteen's in the oven'.
Fortunately the chairman has not got where he is today (wherever that may be) without the ability to multi-task. The fact that, like most of the male gender, the problem was resolved by serial, rather than parallel, job sequencing, mattered not. Both were well-prepared, presented with a flourish, and consumed with appreciation. Enough flattery, the AGM isn't due for months.
I won't trouble you with the name of the raffle winner - you know him so well.
Within the garden curtilage however there was much to keep us occupied. Two tracks are now in operation, although the Cripple Creek elevated 45mm line is still incomplete, with the owner and chief engineer still to get his work/life balance optimally adjusted (i.e. work 0%, life 100%). Both lines worked well however, and a succession of trains in both gauges ran all afternoon. The odd tram also, courtesy of members of the Merseyside area group of the Tramway and Light Railway Society.
Some photos are here and here.
'Life is but a trifle, and not everyone gets the custard'. Such might have been the words penned by one of England's second rank of poets to describe the scene this weekend as our sycamore finally tasted the sour grapes of the tree doctor's chainsaw. Our neighbour's patience had at last run out, and a few brief but well-chosen words to a passing, and perfectly innocent, Network Rail supervisor finally brought timely action.
The intention had been to use a rail-mounted tree-removing machine to extract the offending flora virtually in one go, but this gargantuan device was apparently needed elsewhere on the day, so the more mundane option of tree surgeon contractors was selected. To those not used to such operations the method of work was a little alarming, involving someone shinning 30ft up the tree, tying off with a rope, tying a selected branch with a second rope held securely via a pulley system and a deadweight (a well-built assistant), and using a chainsaw attached by a third rope to cut through the correct, tied, branch downstream of the second rope, such that it (the branch) swung away from the tied-off person, did not fall on the track (periodically occupied by a Merseyrail service) and could be safely lowered to the ground by said assistant.
A rare win-win-win situation, except for the tree of course. Knowing sycamores however, a dollop of blue gunge may not be enough to keep the root subdued, and green shoots of recovery will have to be watched for come next spring. And as for dark storm-tossed winter nights, who knows if the moaning of the wind will be real, or the ghost of the tree come back to haunt us....
I will leave as an exercise for the reader the determination of the correct numbering of the ropes in the photo.
The black and white photos added an authentic period touch, and provoked discussion on the finer technical details which the rest of us could only marvel at. And the forbidden words 'Flying Scotsman' were hardly mentioned, a mere half-dozen times at most.
In other areas John's luck is beginning to run out. He only won third prize in the raffle this time.
This was Frank's first assignment as planning executive, and to ensure a false sense of security was not engendered, the itinerary set by the rest of the group was a particularly testing one.
It was also unique, so far at least, by including not one but two nights in a sleeping car, the first moving (albeit slower than intended) and the second stationary. The results are recorded here, with some photos here.
Memorable for a number of reasons, John winning the raffle again, a demonstration that old plastic, as well as old bones, can be susceptible to sudden brittle fracture, and an excellent buffet put on by the Chairman's significantly better half. When all had more-or-less settled down, Allan gave us an illustrated talk on the delights of 1985-vintage trains in Italy, when most of the stock seemed to be 50 years old and little the worse for it. His priorities were clear right from the outset: the maximum of interesting trains in diverse locations, the minimum of touristy culture, and absolutely no biological infestations*.
A number of lessons could be drawn from the presentation: State-owned railways have a lot going for them, particularly when run by (or at least for) a dictator, small stations need big buildings, the original Pendolino design was a lot better than the re-make, and all water towers must be preserved for when we run out of oil and the strategic steam reserve needs to be activated. And don't sit on garden furniture indoors.
The chairman securing his share of the puddings.
*Late 20th Cent. Glaswegian, trans. 'random bodies cluttering up the photo'.
The 00 locos were clearly something special, and not only because of the jumbo-sized transformer and the white gloves worn by the operator. After some patient tinkering and adjusting, a number of traverses of the circular track were achieved, probably a world first for SMRS. Sorry about the shirt.
Meanwhile much bigger machines were being exercised outside, demonstrating amongst other things that manual control also provides exercise for the operator in ensuring that loco and track stay in contact with each other for more or less the whole time. A warm evening and warm beer completed the festivities.
Some more pictures and video are here.
After the formalities, the buffet was attacked with determination and vigour, and a certain member won the raffle for the third time in four attempts. Statistically, he should now be out of the running until about mid-2015.
The highlight of the evening was Robert's series of presentations, one of the East Lancs Railway, one of the Rufford canal basin, and one of the Crich tram museum. The quality was consistently high, and it was easy to see how some photos had caught the eye of local photographic club judges. Even more impressive was the way it motivated him to get up before dawn to catch the light.
Afterwards, we went home....
A first for the event was the display of the newly-extended version of the SMRS modular layout, boasting not only extra modules but also corner pieces to permit operation in a U-shape. It had mixed success, which is PR code for it didn't really work. Apart from the irregular height of the tables, there was sufficient variation in the horizontal alignment to make the rail joins too uneven for reliable running. A possible solution is to remove the locating dowels and clamp the boards once permanently aligned in a fixed order.
In accordance with best civil service traditions a sub-committee had been set up to make recommendations on updates, which were then put to the club for their approval. After some discussion on the best way of ejecting trouble-makers from the club in a fair and equitable manner, the draft was passed unanimously. We can now sleep comfortably in our beds, at least until the AGM next Tuesday, when a whole new committee get unleashed on the club.
Another curry, another slide show. This time yours truly lectured a captive audience on a trip taken last year to four countries in Southern Africa. The membership collectively failed the geography test at the beginning, and so had to sit through all 150 photos and a ten-minute video, with no time off for good behaviour.
Fortunately the subject matter spoke for itself, and no railway modeller worthy of the name could fail to be captivated by the sight of a freight train storming through the veldt, doubleheaded by twin Garretts emitting more black smoke than the Queen Mary at full ahead both. One such modeller raised the theoretical possibility of modelling such a consist, only to realise just how many wheelsets would have to be strung together, and on more bogies than entries in a Humphrey Bogart lookalike competition. Even a double Fairlie would seem simple by comparison.
A full set of photos (apart from those I haven't got round to posting yet) is here.
The age profile of SMRS edges forever upwards, and tonight we marked Allan's accession to the over-sixties branch of the club. He seems destined to spend a significant part of his new-found membership complaining of blatant discrimination by West Lancashire council, who for reasons of economy have declined to issue him with a bus pass (being not held up in the adjacent photo). What makes it more irksome is that Allan's domicile is within easy walking distance of the boundary with Sefton council, who have blessed the rest of us oldies with passes which are valid for buses, trains, and (no doubt if we had any) trams as well*.
However we did our best to console him by consuming the food and drink he generously provided, and by a presentation of (a) one (1) deluxe picture-hanging set, complete with spirit level, and (b) a set of six (6) pencil sketches of scenes of Southport's Lord St, hanging set for the use of. Favourable comments were passed not only on their quality but also on the fact that they contained no visible traffic wardens.
*No, the blue plastic abomination stuck out on the end of the pier definitely does not count as a tram.
After the traditional fare one half of the attendance went into closed session to discuss the 2011 sleeper trip, planning of which is at a critical stage. This means we have generated more than enough options to thoroughly confuse all concerned, and there is an urgent need to apply a little rational realism, mainly by interpretation of the appropriate timetables. The fact that they are for the winter solstice rather than the summer, and will remain so until long past the point of no return planning-wise, only adds to the confusion.
Fortunately the application of a decent port, and the odd malt or two, soon sorted it all out. What is a little worrying is that no less than nine (9) members wish to go this year. Pity the poor organiser - should we perhaps auction off places to the highest bidders? We could do with the extra funds...
The first myth dispelled was that the name has nothing to do with the size of the hills. It refers to the Pecsaetan Anglo-Saxon tribe who inhabited the area a thousand years or more ago, but who unaccountably failed to get around to building a railway, leaving that task to the Victorians.
A hot-pot meal was provided and the entertainment included a somewhat loosely-organised raffle, won by the same person who was victorious in the Christmas party draw. At least this time it wasn't another bottle of something he didn't drink.
To dispel such dark and (probably) unfounded rumours, we promptly awarded ourselves another night out next month, meal included. Spending our way out of a recession is an economic strategy we could easily get used to.