Last Saturday saw a momentous event in the SMRS calendar, namely its official 40th birthday. The exact date of its birth is not known, but May 11th seemed to be as good a date as any to celebrate four decades of messing about with models.
Thirty or so members crowded into our clubrooms to enjoy the occasion, fortunately the garden was able to take up the overspill. The weather was a little damp to start with, but brightened as the day progressed.
And progress it did, with a fine barbecue at lunchtime, complete with liquid accompaniments, the running of celebratory trains indoors and outdoors, a heritage bus tour of the town, a trip on the Lakeside Miniature Railway and an excellent dinner at the Auberge restaurant, complete with Paul Salveson as after-dinner speaker.
What more could we have wanted? If you said clothing with an anniversary logo and specially-commissioned 00 gauge wagons, yes we had those as well.
Some photos are here, and Richard's video of the garden railway is here.
The layout reports and reports by officials likewise confirmed that we were progressing well on all fronts. Which can only mean a big trip-wire not far ahead.
Two more talks to report on, one by Tony in his continuing series of footplate junkiedom, delivered like a true addict at a new venue, Hilary's pied-à-terre just off Lord St. Half-way through the meeting there was a knock on the door and a shadowy cloaked figure slipped into the room. To a man, and woman, we stared in fascinated horror, trying against our better judgement to glimpse the scythe that must surely be hidden in the all-enveloping folds of his (almost certainly not her) one-piece garment. For whom did the bell toll? was the thought in everyone's mind, who is due to be ushered into the next world, unpaid national insurance contributions notwithstanding ?
The collective sigh of relief misted up all the windows as the hood was thrown back and we realised it was only Jim, wearing his newly-acquired djellaba, a souvenir of sunny Morocco. He rapidly proved the solidity of his human credentials by consuming the last remaining portion of fish and chips with an enthusiasm no ethereal harbinger of doom could ever show.
The second talk was at Southport FC, where we eschewed the proffered option of the Everton v. Arsenal game on TV in favour of John describing the merits of Black Five locomotives, with a depth of knowledge and eye for detail that we have come to expect from our foremost expert on all things mainline steam. To demonstrate the various design options taken up at different times he brought along a number of models from what we suspect is a large collection. Fives with steam domes, Fives without steam domes, Fives with dummy domes he had them all, and moreover knew when each variety was favoured and why. Morrisons supplied the cold collation of sandwiches.
it was a nil-nil draw by the way, so we missed little.
Recently a significant fraction of the membership travelled north for that exhibition of excellence, ModelRail Scotland. Hilary, as well as providing two suitcases' worth of comestibles to sustain the party, also penned the following description:
'We set off for Preston on the X2 bus at 8.09 from the Monument on Lord St. Arrived at Preston bus station for hearty full English breakfast at 8.45. then a quick trip on another bus to the station to get the train (Virgin) we boarded successfully. Tony contrived to seat us all together, no mean feat as the party numbered ten.
Entry to the exhibition was painless due to nobody losing their tickets. Tony had employed his cunning plan, i.e. he kept hold of all the tickets. Various stands were there to educate the non-adept of us in the fine arts of scratch-built wagons, buildings and track. The German Railway Society aimed to encourage us to show interest in all things DB. One of us (Peter Clare) is already converted.
Whilst the ScaleFour Society displayed the arts of accurate 4mm to the foot modelling and the N Gauge Society boasted of having 5000 members, are there really that many people with good eyesight and little hands?
Our Terence and Millsy gave a great performance on the Circle Line layout despite being severely hungover from the previous nights friendship drink with the locals.
Kinloss Models showed off their Tees-side steel layout depicting the 1950s-1960s steel industry. The dirty end of the model contains furnaces which turned raw iron into steel and the coke ovens that provided the fuel for the blast furnaces. The relatively clean end shows the heavy engineering works and the stock yard with numerous specialist steel-carrying slag ladles and hot-metal wagons.
Peacock Cross showed the railway and tramcar scene in Glasgow in the 1930s-1970s giving a wide range of locomotive and rolling stock inclusion.
For the diesel enthusiast there was Millig Yard which depicts a large marshalling yard providing wagon repairs and loco servicing facilities, set in the BR blue era.
The children were kept entranced by Larchlap to Candleford in G scale.
Well we all had a brilliant time and if you want to know more come with us next year and see for yourself how great it is.'
If it's worth doing once, we can get away with doing it again. This time the 'it' was Rails at Burscough Year Two, organised by Tony to publicise the Merseyside area group of the Tramway and Light Railway Society, and I suspect to minimise withdrawal symptoms from having to wait until September to hold the next SMRS exhibition.
As before it operated smoothly with no significant problems, the public came in sufficient numbers to ensure financial viability, and the heritage bus service was an added attraction. No less than three SMRS members exhibited layouts, Derek's Walmer Bridge, Terry's Circle Line and Mike's Layout With No Name (now Layout With A Name after the name-this-layout competition).
Some photos of Walmer Bridge are here. Somehow I didn't have time to photograph anything else.
First up was Glasgow tram transport of the early sixties (complete with an impossibly young Allan in shorts), followed by scenes of sunny Southport, the ss Teal on Lake Windermere, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Bo'ness, the Royal Train, a Pullman and a Motorail train. The waves of nostalgia were powerful enough to threaten drowning, but nobody would have noticed.
For the record, the meal was braised pork with winter vegetables and a Hilary special trifle, grade 3.
Any excuse for an SMRS party, and last Friday there were two, George's nth birthday (where n is a large positive integer, as my old maths master used to say) and of course Christmas. This time a local take-away establishment was persuaded to take-in a large order for Chinese food, to be laid out in the front lounge for a disorderly queue to form itself around.
In the rear lounge Jim disguised himself as Father Christmas (being the only one with the stomach for it, not to mention the beard) and distributed assorted hand-picked gifts. These had been thoughtfully acquired by Hilary over twelve months of industrious searching at exhibitions, swap-meets and eBay listings, to ensure we all got exactly what we needed, rather than what we actually deserved.
The chairman then gave a short speech, for which we were grateful. It reported on a successful year of club activities, acknowledged the hard work put in to make it so, and looked forward to more of the same during the coming year, no.40 in a steadily-increasing history of the society. Which Jim will write, any month now.
Just occasionally our social events have a theme which combines a number of elements into one harmonious whole. Last Tuesday was once such event, when Jim and Fiona hosted an evening of food, wine, video presentation and railway running session that flowed like the Tiber through all things Italian.
A full score of members and their wives braved the cold to eat, drink, watch and play. Jim carefully edited his images to show only part of their Tuscany steam tour, thus ensuring we will have to hold at least one more event on the same lines.
To add to the jollity two birthdays were celebrated, Hilary's diary ensuring that neither Robert nor John escaped with their significant dates unremarked.
The finale was a fireworks display that took full advantage of the clear, still night to show off the flashes and bangs to full effect. One minor drawback was the lack of a cross-wind to carry the spent rocket sticks into the neighbours' garden, so for once the ubiquitous safety helmet might well have been a good idea. And warm woollen mittens.
Some more photos are here.
A bit of a mixed bag on Tuesday, as Tony hosted the regular monthly social evening. As befits Lancashire Day the record turn-out (17) enjoyed a traditional meal of hot-pot and Eccles cakes, before turning their attention north of the county to listen to Peter's account of his adventures so far as a driver on the Ratty. Somewhat surprisingly he doesn't seem to miss the previous job in the Revenue at Bootle hardly at all. Both spouse and dog have settled in at the company-issue mansion at the far end of the line, and there are rumours of a Dalegarth Model Railway Club starting up already.
Another matter of import raised was the club's upcoming 40th anniversary celebrations next year. As well as lunch at a local hotel, the appointed day will include visits to the Model Railway Village and/or Miniature Railway on the seafront, before heading back to the clubhouse for a barbecue, in glorious May sunshine. As a start, some commemorative mugs have been obtained and these were released for sale on the night. A vote was also taken on choice of an 00 scale wagon to be commissioned, a replica of one of the few private-owner wagons known to have local connections.
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At the entrance to the show we met up with Malcolm (of India trip fame) looking very spry after a partial lower skeleton renewal. It was such a success apparently that he is thinking of having all the rest done before joining us for the next foreign trip, to Colorado.
Seeing Jedward reunited after more than eighteen months in retirement alone made the trip worth while, irrespective of any train content. Of which there was much, although old hands did suggest that the show had, at least in size terms, passed its peak a year or two ago. For us newbies however it was all we could do to take everything in. Fortunately the comestibles came to our rescue, although not quite all six bottles of wine were consumed. Yet.
Some more photos are here.
If it's November it must be the Ravenglass track week, or one of them at least. This year six members, including our Dalegarth correspondent, ventured out on the Ratty to lay sleepers, dig ditches and generally pretend to be helpful. Four of us stayed at Heywood House, the Ravenglass railway's own hostel, although for three the visit was shortened a touch by the weather, preferring an early return rather than spending the best part of the day getting the worst part of the Cumbrian weather.
The day of work was preceded by a day of pleasure at the Workington MRC exhibition, a world first for most of us. It turned out well worth the effort (train plus bus) with a good variety of quality layouts, including live steam in a number of variants. Also on display was a wide range of used 00 coaches at reasonable prices.
Some more photos are here and here.
SMRS members rarely miss the opportunity to do things in a big way, to 'go large' in the modern idiom. And so a recent trip to the Fylde coast saw a double dose of trams, with Tony running Harry Moore's 'Southport in the day of the tram' at the G-Wizz garden railway exhibition at Lytham, and Jim, Richard and Marilyn joining in with a tram trip to inspect the Blackpool illuminations. This was done in slightly novel fashion, taking one of the new trams southwards from Fleetwood. As well as making car parking easier, this avoided potential traffic problems with the old Blackpool Tramways.
Inbetween another doubling, this time of fish portions at the (alleged) best fish and chips in the north of England, namely Seniors at Thornton Cleveleys. For Tony to have difficulty in clearing his plate is testament to the quantity provided, and the quality did not disappoint either.
Two major learning points emerged, one being that even a hardened 00 steam enthusiast can be won over by today's selection of modern-image 2mm scale diesels. The other is that scenery-building is considerably facilitated by having a wife with not only the appropriate modelling skills but also a sufficient supply of paverpol. This is not a pharmaceutical of dubious provenance but a fabric hardener used for making sculptures, easily diverted to creating elements of the model landscape.
A slideshow of pictures is here and a photo stream is here.
Next year is our 40th, and something special will be needed to match this year's and mark the anniversary. Can't wait.
For Tony yesterday was the moment of truth, when he could no longer claim to be merely retired but had to admit to full-blown pensioner-hood. However he showed his ability to multi-task had not dimmed with age, combining birthday celebrations at the club with a detailed briefing for members on their roles and responsibilities for the exhibition, suddenly only a few days away.
We were duly impressed, not only with how one so old could be so active, but also with the standards expected of us this weekend. Only the best will do, unfortunately.
The double-headed Llanfair show and Welshpool gala in many ways symbolises the best of our hobby. An opportunity to stock up on essential kits and other bits and pieces, to keep the kitchen table well covered during the winter, combined with a gentle meander through some bosky Welsh countryside on a train composed of varied and interesting rolling stock.
And as often as not in fine late summer weather, just before the shorts are put away at the end of the season, in favour of stout corduroy and well-Goretexed anoraks. Not that the summer ever really got going.
And so in expectation of fine weather, a good crowd, lots of things to buy and at least one new loco to ride behind, Richard, Tony and Derek set off for Llanfair Caereinion, via the usual stop-over at Jim's Porthmadog residence. We were not disappointed in any of these respects.
Apologies for the flight of fancy, it will not happen again, for a while at least. Some photos are here.
They say that if you can't see Corris station from the museum then it's raining, and if you can see it it's still raining. A little harsh on the Dulas valley perhaps, and for one day over the August bank holiday it was very warm and very sunny. That day Tony spent down a mine, to minimise the risk of sunstroke. For the rest of the time three of us plus Ian (another Corris member) ran the newly-completed Walmer Bridge live steam layout at the exhibition in the village school, to the great delight of the exhibition manager and the modest amusement of the visitors.
This time we had the luxury of multiple vehicles, so cramming all the layout into one was fortunately not necessary. As before the layout and its attendant locomotives ran faultlessly all weekend, with Frank's 'Richborough Castle' proving conclusively that manual control is perfectly adequate for an indoor layout. And in the intervals spent above ground Tony gained his Preparing and Driving a Model Steam Locomotive proficiency badge, Grade 3 (seniors class).
Some photos are here.
They say there is a pyromaniac in all of us, and recently Tony's inner fire-raiser was given full rein on a return visit to the Ravenglass railway. What is cut down must be burnt up, despite a soggy substrata that required a mini-canal to drain surface water away from the chosen fire-ground. Fortunately the wind carried the smoke away from the track, so ex-chairman Peter and his fellow-drivers could continue timetabled services without interruptions, or respirators.
Tony is able to report that Mr Mills and his significantly better half are now installed in permanent accommodation at Dalegarth (right end-terrace in the photo), although the latter is still commuting.
Experienced presenter that he was, Tony did not start with the main feature but with a taster, in the form of a short film of steam around Bury. The interval was marked not only by sandwiches courtesy of Morrisons but also by a video of Jim's recent barbecue and steam-up, complete with authentic derailments. The evening was considered enough of a success for at least one return visit to be booked, although at the current rate more will be required to keep up with the deputy chairman's exploits.
Last weekend saw not one but two live-steam layouts on show at the West Lancs summer gala, with new layout Walmer Bridge alongside the resident Hundred End. And just for variety Mike brought his current 009 layout on the Sunday. Six SMRS members were in attendance in one capacity or another (including the vitally important one of critical spectating) plus five from the local 16mm group to lend a bit of technical competence to the task of running steam all weekend.
Outside the engine shed six full-size locos competed for the available track space, but inside no less than twelve miniature versions operated, albeit not all at the same time. And much to the relief of the owner, the event proved that Walmer Bridge could fit in his car, and the vehicle could even be driven legally. Corris here we come.
Some more photos are here, and if you can stand it, here.
Some more photos are here.
Retirement planning is a necessity nowadays, according to HM Government. SMRS were faced with this requirement recently when it became clear that Saltash was starting to feel all of its fifteen years and in need of spending more time with its rolling stock. Consequently a big party was arranged in Victoria Park by the Woodvale Rally organisers, with lots of other layouts and other attractions laid on to ensure Saltash's last public appearance was one to remember. The fact that the usual venue at the RAF station was deemed inadequate for such an event speaks volumes for the layout's standing in the modelling world - the media story of asbestos in the taxi-ways was of course merely for public consumption.
And so for 48 hours Saltash was the star of the show, with large numbers of the railway fraternity coming to pay homage (or at least an entry fee). The all-star supporting cast included Terry's Sandale, Ian's Shell Cove and Eastbank MRC's Binns, together with numbers of SMRS members that on occasion reached double figures. No doubt conscious of the need to put on a good show, the layout ran well all weekend, with just a dicky controller to remind us of who was actually in charge and to test our on-the-fly maintenance skills. A bonus was the distribution of exhibition flyers to anyone coming with ten yards of our pitch, at least 800 judging by the diminished level of stock at the end.
And the fate of Saltash once Monday morning arrived with no work to go to? A temporary home in a garage whilst Jim's capacious cellars (to be renamed Dunshowing) are refurbished to the necessary high standard. Rumours that personal GPS systems will be provided to avoid visitors becoming disorientated in the maze of corridors and layout rooms under Maison Ford have yet to be confirmed, but seem entirely believable.
Timing is everything, so it is said, and Richard and Marilyn got theirs spot-on yesterday, with a rare sunny day in this weird summer to host their first official 16mm Association garden railway event. The railway and its landscaping were carefully fettled by the respective specialists, beer and sandwiches prepared, the SMRS official urn filled with tea water and a barbeque planned for later in the evening. A good dozen turned up from near and far to drive trains, sit in the sun and/or hold earnest literary discussions, with teacup poised delicately between thumb and forefinger.
The Ruff Lane Quarry Railway (Phase 1) is a continuous run with varying gradients and tight-ish curves, with the added feature of a ground-level traverse through a man-shed that also houses an 00 layout. A lift-up section allows access to the far reaches of the 16mm line, whilst also targeting unwary operators at head level. A short section of 45mm track represents the beginning of a main line. We understand outline planning permission has been granted to permit extension of one, or possibly both, gauges in a north-westerly direction across the rear of the garden. The water feature at the far end is in urgent need of encirclement and bridging, and we look forward to further visits in due course to inspect progress. And more of the same weather please.
Space does not permit a detailed account here, save to say that six members traversed the Scottish lowlands three times in two directions on three different routes, did a Glasgow-Euston sleeper for the first time, and visited three railways in the Garden of England. An unexpected bonus was a visit to the Hornby Railway Exhibition at Margate, which turned out to be a better-than-expected nostalgia-fest. And Chatham Dockyard not only gave for most of us the first opportunity to explore a submarine (but not alas fire off any torpedoes) but also to try some local real ale at their very own micro-pub. Such was the success of the trip that next year's event may also be WAG-assisted, and possibly involve more foreign lands to the immediate west of the UK.
Some more photos, which will be added to as and I get round to it, are here, and a more detailed description is here.
With the rise of the internet the role of the encyclopaedia seems doomed to diminish and disappear, but the speaker at the recent monthly talk is a walking, talking version of such a tome, at least as far as British steam railways is concerned. On this occasion John rummaged around his very comprehensive cranial database and gave us a detailed account of the history of those magnificent machines, the A4s and other streamliners of the LNER.
And no-one dared ask 'Isn't Flying Scotsman an A4?' Probably just as well.
Most SMRS members are fairly traditional in their approach to layout control, but occasionally something new stirs in the circuits, and for a short time a revolution is threatened in the way we do things. Fortunately for the ultra-conservative wing of the club it was only Peter fiddling with the wiring on Portland St Lower to demonstrate his DCC locos. Joe provided the necessary technical supervision and the essential level of threat should normal service fail to be resumed at the end of the evening.
However the transformation to Schorndorf station went without a hitch and a small selection of German/Austrian locos were tested successfully, along with some of Dave's sound-equipped locos. And afterwards almost all of the wires were put back in their right places.
It seems no sooner that the ex-chairman has absconded to Cumbria than he is back again working on a layout. Using his new iPad Ithingy he has supplied photographic evidence of developments regarding the main line for Talisker Glen. One suspects Allan has done most of the tekkie bits, but progress is progress nonetheless, and we should be grateful for it.
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There are certain tell-tale markers for the arrival of summer at Portland St. One is the regrettable exposure of certain parts of certain lower limbs to the fickle elements, another is the sight of grown men grovelling in the garden trying to get the track sorted and to run trains, simultaneously. As can be seen, both indicators were present on Tuesday evening. Yet the sun did shine, and the track was fettled (sort of) and trains, or at least locomotives, did run.
For the first time in recorded club history two live steam locos ran on the track, even double-light-engine, if that is the correct term. And the near-universal adoption of radio control means that there was far less running about after errant items of stock, which is a big improvement for the operators, at the expense of the entertainment value for the spectators.
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Richard's full confession is here.
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Some more photos are here.
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The arrival of Spring means something just has to be made over, renovated or just plain and simply tarted up. This year the garden was the chosen victim, and before it could lodge a protest, demand a recount or call for a second opinion it was dug up, levelled and gravelled, to produce a totally new look which its own mother would not recognise.
The result is hopefully a low-maintenance multi-purpose leisure facility which will enhance the external railway modelling experience. At the very least two new benches means we have at last somewhere to sit and watch the trains go by (Merseyrail or 16mm, depending on what happens to be running at the time).
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There are many ways of acquiring a new layout, the simplest (but probably not the cheapest) is to buy one from someone who has done all the hard building work. There are those who hold that constructing the layout is the primary source of modelling pleasure, but Hilary is not one of their number, as evidenced by a recent home delivery from Heywood MRC.
Fears that modifications to the front door portal would be required to effect entry of the layout turned out to be unfounded, although as can be seen the model is no small thing.
In the end only one question remained - would you buy a second-hand model railway from such as these?
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One could be forgiven for thinking that socialising has a higher satisfaction rating than modelling in any SMRS members' survey. However the truth is that one has to eat, and why not in convivial company at Tony's, with the householder himself providing both the sustenance and the entertainment? We couldn't think why not either, so Tuesday evening saw us enjoying not only a cold collation but also Episode 2 of Confessions of a Footplate Junkie. This included more adventures with the Duke of Gloucester, and trips on the North York Moors railway and the Ffestiniog.
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For some people, mid-April is a touch early for running railways in the garden. However that particular branch of the fraternity is a particularly hardy one, so attending a steam-up of the newly-renamed Madog & Mersey Railway in south Liverpool had no terrors for selected SMRS members last Sunday. In the event the weather was kind, with a warmish sun competing with a coolish breeze all day, the result being a modest score-draw.
About a dozen turned up and spent a pleasant afternoon driving live steamers and battery diesels around a complex circuit which required just a little more route-learning than we could quite manage in the time available. However collisions were relatively few and relatively minor, although the owner did later discover what might have been a chunk of loco at the trackside. No-one so far has owned up to any loss, possibly as to do so might indicate a lower standard of driving skill than they would wish to be known for.
Last night's AGM in the Bowling Club's meeting room was unusual in at least two respects. Firstly we had a change in the committee, and secondly the evening included a guest speaker. The change involved Chairman Peter stepping down to spend more time with his new railway. This allowed Chairman Frank to be elected unopposed and without even having to issue a manifesto, let alone canvas support from the electorate.
The finances were in a surprisingly healthy state, as a result of a good exhibition and regular fund-raising throughout the year. The absence of the treasurer may have caused a few to wonder if he was otherwise engaged in spending the accumulated largesse in the Bahamas. However we were assured that he was not only still in the country but also still having to work for a living.
Otherwise the business was uneventful and relatively swiftly concluded, allowing us to partake of Terry's hand-made crisps and sandwiches and of the adjacent bar, before reforming again in an orderly fashion for the talk by John Pavitt. John is an Australian with a life-long interest in UK modelling, in particular the Somerset and Dorset, and gave an interesting account of the development of a large and detailed layout of the S&D for the Australian exhibition circuit. A feature of the speaker's modelling career included the wisdom of marrying a wife with similar interests and no little modelling ability. The layout was therefore a distinctly family affair, with sons contributing also in due time.
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On the way back we diverted via the UK's longest railway viaduct at Welland for a quick photo opportunity, before returning to Richard and Marilyn's cottage bolthole in picturesque Braunston for rest and recuperation.
According to the map there should be a viaduct around here somewhere….
Next day we treated ourselves to a trip on the Great Central Railway, where with impeccable timing they laid on a 1960s steam gala, featuring seven steam locos, a DMU, a garden railway and a real-ale beer tent, complete with live music. The sun shone, the band played and all was well in the world, although the forthcoming credit card bills may bring us back to earth for a rather hard landing.
Some photos are here.
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As Allan had barely started on his list of exam questions when the invigilator called time on his first talk, a re-sit was almost inevitable. And so it was last night that Allan embarked on Part 2, after Hilary had been invited to make a guest appearance in Tony's kitchen (and while she was there cook two courses for fourteen hungry members).
As before we were given insights into economy of wiring in a variety of situations, including return loops, controllers and point motors. The GPO background was a clear influence, although how he ever managed to attach wires to tortoises without attracting the attention of the RSPCA, was beyond at least this attendee.
As the photo shows, Allan had his audience in the palm of his hand, freshly washed for the occasion, with Liverpool's 3-0 drubbing of Everton only a minor distraction. The list of subjects to address is still lengthy, so Part 3 is high likely.
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If it's a birthday with a big number attached, it's worth celebrating twice, at least. And Joe did just that, with a modest event at the clubrooms on Friday followed by a larger affair at the Gild Hall Formby on Saturday. As can be seen, one of Joe's predilections was well catered for, and rumours of a Deltic or two were circulated as a strategic smokescreen.
And seeing Joe bopping the night away in the bosom of his family made one hope that we might all be so lucky come the day of our own big eight zero.
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A year nearly to the day since India was taken over by SMRS, and the Chairman felt his emotions were sufficiently under control to risk telling non-travellers what it was really like. A dozen members attended the deputy chairman's residence last Tuesday to partake of stew prepared by the chairman's wife in a brief lull between packing for the move north to take over the Ratty. Apparently the number of boxes full of such essentials as railway DVDs, railway magazines and railway models rendered the change of venue necessary, in only for the sanity of said chairman's wife.
The quality of both sustenance and talk was up to the usual high standard, with the latter provoking a strong sense of wanting to return amongst those who had attended the first time. The fact that the chairman labelled the slide show as merely Part One of a continuing saga, suggest he was not immune from such thoughts either.
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It's not often that SMRS moves in such wholesale numbers, but for the second time in a week a full posse headed out from Southport, this time to ModelRail Scotland in Glasgow. Three were working for their living, with Terry and Peter exhibiting Terry's layout Jacksonville Yard, while Allan and fellow-members of Eastbank MRC showed off their layout Andersonville. To show solidarity no less than six supporters travelled north by bus and train, with only a brief interlude at Preston for second breakfast.
The show itself contained some impressive layouts and more traders than even a well-stuffed wallet could satisfy. Two layouts were deemed to be of a sufficient standard to receive the ultimate award, an invitation to the SMRS exhibition for 2013.
ModelRail is a large exhibition, and careful preparation was required to ensure a successful visit. The key elements were food and drink, prepared in some abundance by Hilary and enjoyed on both outward and return journeys, and at lunchtime. The latter event made full use of the exhibition's catering area, much to the surprise and no doubt envy, of adjacent patrons. However the workers were not forgotten, and a tin of highly-prized gourmet food was delivered by special courier.
The excitement took its toll however, and the journey home could easily have been mistaken for a sleeper service.
A review of the event by Terry Tasker is in the March 2012 edition of the newsletter.
Some more photos are here.
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It is rare that a new exhibition venue is created, but today was a novel experience for the citizens of Burscough, a combined model railway and tramway exhibition, no less. Organised by Tony, that veteran of many a long SMRS show, on behalf of the Merseyside area group of the Tramway and Light Railway Society.
With such a pedigree, its success was all but assured before the start, and it was not long into the day that it was clear that objectives were being achieved and mission statements were being vindicated. The venue was unusual (think Liverpool's Albert Dock in a more bijou and diminutive size) as was the selection of exhibits (trams and small-scale trains, no traders). The public came in encouragingly large numbers, including no less than ten SMRS members, many of whom paid for their admission. Even the sun shone fitfully on the wind-ruffled waters of the Leeds and Liverpool canal, in-between hail showers.
It was also one of the chairman's last public engagements, before applying for the office of Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds, to facilitate taking on a proper job at the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. Here he is seen with the exhibition manager making the most of a rare photo opportunity with a local press photographer, who didn't know any better:
The layout is Terry Tasker's Jacksonville. Also featured above is Ian Shulver's Shell Cove.
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It may come as a surprise to many to learn that there is a UK-based Italian Railways Society, with membership well into three figures. Two of their members are also SMRS stalwarts, and recently Jim and Allan braved winter snows and Virgin Pendolinos to attend an IRS function at Keen House, London, home of the, sorry THE Model Railway Club.
Clearly a good time was had by both parties, with chianti on the evening menu to fortify themselves against the weather and/or train delays.
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Some more photos are here.
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Wisely the chairman decided to get this particular presentation out of the way quickly at the beginning of the year, notwithstanding that this required the presenter to prepare two talks in quick succession. However at least he won a raffle prize second time round.
An edited version of the talk is here.
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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.
The star turn, however was the weather, which seemed determined to make up for previous mild winters with a blast of ice and snow which would dent the resolve of even the most fervent global-warmist. Perhaps there is a difference between weather and climate, and one frozen robin may not make a winter of discontent, but the intent to impress was definitely there in abundance.
SMRS members were likewise summoned by Jim and Fiona to celebrate with Lancashire hotpot, Chorley cakes, Eccles cakes and assorted local beers. This was followed by videos of local steam railways in their heyday and of our own model railway exhibition in the vintage year of 1989. The latter allowed us the doubtful privilege of spotting our younger selves preserved on film, with haircuts and clothing styles to match.
With the skill of the professional presenter he did just that, just enough, not too much. The interest generated led him to believe, for one brief, tantalising moment, that soon he might not be the only club member with a significant investment in all things digital. The reality will kick in soon enough....
Click the link to download a brief clip: Richard
However a garden railway is by its very nature exposed to the harsh glare of an autumnal Indian summer, and one in particular in a leafy Ormskirk suburb was captured on camera by your roving webmaster. Retirement brings many benefits, the ability to work on 32mm tracklaying uninterrupted for hours on end being just one of them.
Dulverton has long since been sold, but its spirit lives on in the clubrooms, thanks to re-discovery of the nameboard which once adorned the front of the layout.
Regrettably, the Chairman still wears short trousers on occasion.
Eleven members attended, tempted no doubt by the quality of the bill of fare and the hope that they might avoid the washing-up. Apparently all of Tesco, if not all of Southport, was emptied of prime haggis specimens to feed us all. Even after seconds a slight surplus remained, so doggy bags were rapidly constructed of tinfoil and clingfilm, to ensure nothing went to waste.
As can be seen, the cheap seats were well populated, whilst those who had the foresight to enter the viewing lounge promptly were careful to select the better-upholstered seating.
So it was said, and so it will be done. New boards, a new track plan and a new(ish) team will hit the deck running, or at least jogging gently, from next week. Watch this space.
He wishes. However the running nights will take place, and we will encourage members to not only show off their hardware but also explain why they spent their hard-earned cash on particular models, and what tweaks they have made, or would make if they felt brave enough.
As is traditional in cinemas, a considerable amount of snacking on popcorn, crisps and peanuts was undertaken, supplemented by ice creams sponsored by a member of the audience. Regrettably the latter items were dispensed not from a tray borne by a buxom young usherette but from a plain plastic bag wielded by a chairman fast approaching middle age, and not necessarily looking any the better for it. Real ale was also consumed in moderation.
The evening was enlivened by an introduction to the film by a member of sufficient vintage to have actually been present during some of the shooting, albeit as an interested passer-by rather than as a paid extra.
The mission statement was adhered to with reasonably accuracy and success, as the weather steadily improved during the weekend and the crowds flowed through the model railway tent. The deputy chairman's selection of a near-door position (to maximise the breeze potential) turned out to be a prescient one. Numerous exhibition leaflets were scooped up by the visitors, and both layouts behaved themselves. The fact that one was advertising the Corris railway as much as, or even slightly more than the SMRS-branded product, was either not noticed or politely ignored.
An excellent evening organised by a friendly and skilled bunch of modellers. Plans are in hand to return the compliment at the SMRS clubhouse, although our garden railway may appear a mite weedy by comparison.
The official title was the 2010 Three Peaks by Rail Challenge, to which Our Leader rose in triumph, to subside again rather quickly once it was all over. Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, in that order, in case you were wondering.
His main interest apparently was using maps and clever software to link the moving images directly to the buildings and other structures along the line. Not the most exciting research one might think, but what might have turned out to be a rather dry presentation was enlivened by the presenter's obvious enthusiasm for the subject and his desire to preserve the archive for the good of his adopted city. The actual showing of the film was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it experience, the four clips lasting less than five minutes in total. Something to do with the amount of film that hand-cranked cameras of the period could carry, and no doubt the amount of cranking that could be undertaken before repetitive strain injury set in.
The finale was a repeat of one clip 'improved' to show how it might look from a vantage point inside the carriage, complete with images of wooden doors and windows and a dum-de-dum sound track. The Liverpool museum trying just a little too hard perhaps.
The average age of SMRS members is slowly creeping up... Another member hits the 65 anniversary, with curry and cake to mark the fact.
A few more photos are here.