A film-maker extraordinaire

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This month's presentation was by Jim Ford, and featured a series of short films by Geoffrey Jones, who in the 70s and 80s was a pioneering freelance film producer, working by clients such as Shell and British Transport Films.

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His output was small in quantity but high in quality, featuring painstakingly-edited musical soundtracks rather than spoken commentary, and all the better for that.

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Afterwards Jim served one of Fiona's famous hotpots, the lady in question being otherwise engaged in important medical work in east Lancashire. Fortunately she returned in time to partake of her creation, which seemed only fair.

Back to the USA

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Regular readers will have noticed that Allan Trotter's name keeps cropping up on the reports of monthly talks, most recently with presentations on an American theme.

Well, he was at it again last month, with another lecture in the series, this time entitled 'Amtrak – trains and travel'.

This was an extensive illustrated account of the US train operator's many and varied operations, both passenger and freight. The variety of cars used was immense, making full use of the available loading gauge to tailor the user experience to that required for comfortable, if not particularly fast, travel. The fact that the world capital of private enterprise deemed it necessary to have a nationalised rail network was not lost on the presenter, with appropriate reference made to the contrasting effect of multiple franchises in the UK model.

Like in the UK, modernisation meant a big cutback in route mileage, but at least Amtrak had the excuse of strong competition from the airlines on the long transcontinental routes. And a more relaxed view of engineering standards led to some unusual but effective technical solutions, such as attaching freight containers to the back of passenger trains using little more than a couple of bogie sets.

Of course SMRS is not backwards in innovation either, as the talk was advertised in the local press, attracting a number of non-members not only to attend the talk but also to join in the subsequent discussion. A promising blueprint for the future perhaps.

We have control - digitally

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There are those who prefer to remain permanently in the steam age, where turnouts are operated by solenoids (or by the human hand) and signals are resolutely mechanical in their workings.

David Fenton, of Megapoints Controllers is not one of these. His hobby is creating digital controls for model railways, in particular for points and signals.

Last Tuesday he gave an enthusiastic and high-energy talk on the subject to a well-attended meeting.

His throwaway comment 'my day job is designing supercomputers' was a clue to the type of electronic trickery involved. Fortunately most of the complexity was buried well out of the way in the circuit-board, and once set up it needed only a flick of a switch to command servos to move. And not just move from A to B, signal bounce was not only on offer but demonstrated, with the option of random height and speed of bounce or, remarkably, parameters tailored to the BR region or European country of choice.

Single-switch route setting was an enabled feature, to use the jargon, and mimic boards were also available. And in case a dozen switches were not enough to play with, multiple boards could be daisy-chained together.

By the end of the meeting the tried and trusted point motor had been well and truly cast into the outer darkness of antediluvian history. The only problem for existing layouts would be the expense of changing to the new system, but for new starts the digital option certainly has its attractions. And yes, you can use the system with DCC.

US railways - filling in the gaps

Last Tuesday we had another USA familiarisation session, this time with Allan showing slides on a trip to the States when digital cameras where unheard of and you had to think before pressing the shutter, to conserve film for what was actually worth photographing.

The talk concentrated on main-line railroads, showing just how long a freight train can be, and just what proper sleeping car consists should consist of. For the record, the latter includes an observation car, a baggage car, the all-important restaurant car and a transition car to allow high- and low-level cars to run in the same set. Just shows what you can do with a decent loading gauge.


Party time again

It says on the front page of this site that we are a social club. Indeed it could be said (but not by me) that we do more socialising than modelling, at the club anyway. Last Friday was our seasonal offering, with a Chinese meal from our local ethnic minority restaurant and presents distributed by our very own Mother Christmas, newly returned from the Continent courtesy of a twin-engined aero-sleigh.blogEntryTopper

Colorado countdown - continued

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To get the most out of a holiday, preparation is essential. So Jim considered it his patriotic duty to ensure all members, whether or not participating in next year's Colorado trip, were fully advised of pertinent facts.

Hence his talk last night '
The development of railroads in the USA, with particular emphasis on Colorado’ . The title describes it well, we were taken through the history of early railroads, which spread quickly through the eastern states but only slowly through the western ones, reflecting the general state of development at the time.

Progress was compared and contrasted with the UK, the most noticeable differences being the USA's use of lightweight, steeply-graded and slow running tracks, to suit both local geography and the long distances between stations.

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The talk was preceded by Fiona's excellent multiple-choice US-themed supper, featuring bean stew, Colorado chilli, peach cream pie and New York cheesecake. The attendees considered it their duty to partake of all on offer, if for no other reason than to facilitate adjusting their taste buds to the American Way.

Long gone but not forgotten

Fifty years is a long time, but to many people it was only yesterday when the Southport to Preston line was closed. Always impecunious, it was a prime target for the cost-cutting accountants of the Beeching era. However it is still fondly remembered, and in the clubrooms last week Tony Kuivala delivered a fitting eulogy, in the form of a presentation scripted by Ian Shulver describing the history of the line. This included much detail on the building of the line (in several stages) and on the stations, yards and other infrastructure, most of which has long been demolished and built over. One can but wonder what might have happened if the line had survived - Virgin Voyagers from Southport to Blackpool? Pendolinos to Prestwick? blogEntryTopper

Late but worth the wait

Well the exhibition has come and gone, and despite being held nearly two months later than usual it was an unqualified success. Fears that the change of date would affect visitor numbers were unfounded, with good support on both days. The weather was a bit cooler than we are used to, with some rain, but the crucial times for setting-up and taking down were in the dry, although the latter was a touch darker than previously, thanks mainly to the clock change.

As it happened, an unplanned water-related event in the sports hall might well have caused us to cancel a September exhibition, but by the time November came round the school had made sufficient temporary repairs for the hall to be usable, albeit with some shuffling-round of exhibits. Next year will also be a late-year event as several members, including the all-important exhibition manager and chairman, will be spending most of September playing trains in the US of A.

Back to (steam) school

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A club night with a difference - instead of meeting at Portland St eleven of us congregated at Jim and Fiona's for lessons in steam driving. After calling the register (and requiring tardy members to sign the late book) Jim gave a short talk on live steam modelling, using an assortment of locos from early to late eras to show how the hobby has developed. Then we were paired off with tutors to be shown how to prepare and run real steam engines. Such was the interest shown that the lack of any form of signalling, tokens or even the most rudimentary block working on the single-track line made incidents highly likely, even inevitable. Fate did not disappoint, and there were several reportable dangerous occurrences, although fortunately without injury or damage.

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As the light faded Fiona called us in from playtime for school dinners, an excellent curry with real alcoholic wine, and cakes from the tuck shop to follow. Quite how the two of them considered this to be a suitable activity for their wedding anniversary is a mystery, but the evening was a considerable success. One member even admitted that he was considering the option of acquiring a modest 16mm locomotive. Battery electric unfortunately, but we all had to start somewhere.

Shipping news

Never let it be said that we are a one-trick pony, with no interest in quadrupeds of a different hue. When Allan offered to show more of his 35mm slides (remember them?) the long list of possible topics included ships as well as trains. So a couple of weeks ago he gave an illustrated talk on shipping of his acquaintance, many going back to his early years in the Glasgow area. Not surprisingly ferries featured prominently, including those to the Isle of Man, across the Clyde and even the odd cross-Channel train ferry. As always, it was an informative and entertaining trip down memory lane, amongst subjects in most cases long gone.

An historical railway

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Richard returned to the rostrum recently, to educate, entertain and inform us regarding a railway close to his heart, namely the Leicester and Swannington. With the cunning we have become used to, the retired law lecturer not only described the history of the line but also intertwined it with an appeal for information concerning how to progress a search for a long-lost relative associated with the line long ago. The resultant discussion did not provide instant answers but kept everyone awake, which is a bonus for our meetings nowadays.

The bidding begins

A new committee and a new way of doing things. For some time there have been stirrings amongst the membership to get on and build layouts, casting off the subtle shackles entwined around them by successive generations of armchair modellers. A touch of poetic licence perhaps, but there is definitely a mood of change around.

So recently we had a session at the club where members were invited to pitch for space, time and resources to build, modify or extend their preferred creation. Three rooms are available for modelling (plus the garden of course) so there was plenty of scope for imaginative uses of the space. No less than seven bids were made, all of which generated questions, comments and occasionally mild scepticism. Some were brand new, others variations or improvements to existing layouts.

The committee now have the unenviable job of deciding which are most worthy of progression in the short- or medium-term.

Twin speakers

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The last two monthly meetings have both featured talks from amongst our membership. In March Mike extolled the virtues of his favourite locos (Class 37s if somehow you weren't aware), demonstrating both a wide knowledge and considerable enthusiasm for the machine - not for nothing does his email address include the word 'growler'.

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And this month Ian gave an unusual and stimulating talk on the Railway Posters of the Big Four. This was an illustrated tour around the ever-evolving styles of advertising posters used by the pre-grouping railway companies. One felt that whatever more modern adverts have gained in accuracy and targeting their chosen audience, they have lost in charm and attractiveness.

Spring comes early

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Still officially winter, but spring-cleaning (and decorating) is in full spate at the club, with Hilary leading the charge, and woe betide anyone not doing their share, not holding the brush the right way round or simply not getting out of the way quickly enough.

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The results for the downstairs half are impressive, with pastel colours definitely in this season, and years of accumulated dust and grime definitely out. What upstairs will turn out like we cannot wait to discover.

New rails for old

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It comes to us all eventually, worn out, unfit for purpose and not conforming to specification. Such was the diagnosis for Merseyrail's Up line between Southport and Birkdale, the recommended treatment being wholesale renewal. Also on the hit list was replacement of the level crossing outside the clubhouse, or at least the parts at ground level.

So for nine days the line was closed and the big boys moved in with Class 66s, ballast wagons and other fancy stuff. And we did a bit of external building maintenance, but that's another story.

Festive fun at the club

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Christmas is upon us again, and to mark the occasion a celebratory meal was arranged at the clubhouse.

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By common consent this was of the chinese variety, notwithstanding the differences between the Gregorian and Chinese calendars.

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And afterwards narrow gauge trains were deployed upstairs, possibly a world first for our N-gauge layout. Don't ever say we don't know how to have fun.

Rails (and food and drink) in the North

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Last week saw the latest in Jim and Fiona's themed evenings, this time based on all things northern. We were treated to a variety of foodstuffs of northern English and Scandinavian origin, followed by a composite video of various railway-related activities covering the same topography, right up to the farmost tip of Norway.

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Robert's birthday was marked in what is now the usual manner, with Hilary ensuring it was not only remembered but celebrated with an appropriate gift-wrapped gift.

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The event was preceded by a Bring a Saw party, a first for the club that involved a unique opportunity to spend several hours reducing the size of the woodpile created by the refurbishment of Ford Mansions. As an appetite-raiser for the main event it was certainly effective, although it has to be said the pile of timber was still of significant size at the end. Fiona's soup was good though.


Paverpol - a versatile modelling medium

Last Tuesday we had a guest speaker at our monthly meeting, as described by Frank:


'This was a double first, the first time for a 'show you how' on a talk night and the the first time we had a speaker from outside the club circle, the related-to-club-member Shirley. The demonstration showed the model qualities and applications of paverpol, by building lattice card under-frames over which were stretched pieces of Terry's old T-shirt.

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Terry also provided occasional input, such as the use of texturing techniques to create rock faces and water effects, including waterfalls and spray. When dry, the material becomes rock-hard and waterproof, so it is suitable for garden railways. It has been tested to survive the elements for five years. Product details from paverpol.com or simplysculpt.co.uk.'



A railway life - still going at full steam

Last week's talk was a milestone in the life of one of our members, indeed Peter's whole life may well have been leading up to that moment when he gave his presentation on 'My railway life'. That fact that he is a score of years younger than many of his audience was no handicap, and in truth he has experienced almost as much variety in the world of guided transport as many of his elders. And it is likely, even inevitable, that more is to come, considering the many and varied opportunities for misdemeanours whilst working on the Ratty.


The meeting was hosted by Tony, who arranged for a local food purveyor to supply an adequate number of portions of chicken and chips, with trifle to follow.



Showing off for forty years

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Last weekend saw another milestone in the club's history, namely our fortieth exhibition. Now it is also the fortieth anniversary of the club's foundation this year, which leads me to conclude that we have, on average, held one exhibition every year for the last four decades. A university education is never wasted. This year's exhibition was by no means average, with Tony pulling out all the stops, not to mention the odd start or two, to produce something special. A big anniversary needs big layouts, so the reasoning went, and so Liverpool Lime Street, Kirkby Stephen West and The Great American Railroad all put in an appearance, and all took home cups for their trouble.

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One of the games we play before, during and after an exhibition is to predict the effect of the weather on the attendance. Classical climate theory suggests that good weather is not good for numbers, as the public head for the sea front, whilst a certain coolness makes them look indoors for entertainment, such as we just happen to provide. And a deluge is very bad for business, as potential customers take one look through the net curtains at the water bouncing off the Astra Sport XLS, and stay indoors to watch the footy on the telly. However this year revisionist global warming surprised all the pundits, as despite a warm, sunny weekend the footfall stood up remarkably well.

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Mention must be made of the party, or more properly The Party, which went off remarkably well considering Ford Mansions was two-thirds of the way through an almost total knock-down and rebuild. Fortunately the proprietors had ensured that the beer cellar, the food kitchen and the railway garden were in full running order, so all the essential elements were in place, and much appreciated by a discerning clientele.

The only potential downside to report was how close my neighbour's garage came to being filled with a large quantity of wooden barriers on the Monday after the show. Certainly leaving the door up was a good an invitation as one might wish for, but the magical disappearance of a large quantity of railway clutter might just have rung some alarm bells…


Another talk, another cellar

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This time the talk was given by Peter and the venue Paul and Sammy's ground floor flat with added basement. The theme was German Railways, based on Peter's visit in 2010 to participate in (or some might say lead) their 175th anniversary celebrations. To quote our chairman 'we were shown a plethora of locos, steam and electric, some dating back to the 40's, others more recent. Then down to the basement to look at Paul's railway empire.' blogEntryTopper

When SMRS met SMEC

We at SMRS are always willing to extend the hand of fraternal greeting to our fellow-strivers in different scales and gauges, and not always merely to point out the superiority of our own particular choices. Southport Model Engineers have a lot in common with ourselves, and visits to their extensive premises in Rotten Row are always a pleasure.

The latest visit resulted from an invitation to deliver a talk related to the 40th anniversary of Southport MRS. Jim and Tony made the presentation, based on the club history recently compiled by Ian. As Jim indicated at the start, the talk included stories and anecdotes excluded from the written publication in order to achieve the PG rating necessary for maximum circulation. Unfortunately as this is a PG-rated website, you're not going to find any of them related here either. The best part of two-score SMEC members and SMRS visitors attended and all stayed to the end, which tells its own story.


Another pensioner

Birthdays seem to come thick and fast in our club, thanks to Hilary's careful record-keeping. This time it was Terry's benefit season, with presents of Scottish firewater and of an oversize mug to imbibe it from, not to mention a card and a cake. And when all the jollity had died down, Derek lectured the assembly on narrow-gauge industrial diesels in the north-west. Not for the first time, several members of the audience knew more about the subject than he did, but in a collective act of mercy tempered their remarks, for which he was grateful.

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The celebrations continue

As you might think, it was not enough to celebrate our 40th on just one day. The excitement just kept on coming. so we just had to go to the Southport Model Engineers to mark the event further. As usual they were friendly and hospitable hosts, with a number of locos available to ride behind, drive or just admire from the safety of the clubhouse. The weather was a little damp to start with, but we are well used to such minor problems, and eventually it runs out of rain anyway.

Frank took the photos.



Reality cine


Another film night, and Allan gave us more vintage cine film to enjoy, this time of the various railways in the Isle of Man. Much has changed between then and now, but the railways possibly less than most, and it was interesting to compare current operations with that in past times. And just for variety, Allan finished off with a short film of a mysterious and slightly sinister character, depicting social life in probably Germany in probably the 1930s. Just where, when and what was uncertain, but a number of very helpful suggestions were made, such as an 'At home with the Brauns' documentary, early anti-smoking propaganda, or my favourite, a spy training film.

Forty years old, and maturing nicely


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.


Steady as she goes at the AGM

This year the AGM, held at the same Bowling Club venue, was a fairly low-key affair, with Chairman Frank expressing surprise at having been in charge for a whole twelve months, and with no electoral challenge to prevent another year in office. The rest of us, of course, know the value of a willing volunteer, or at least of one who has run out of reasons to avoid the status quo. The only change was Richard standing down as a committee member, to be replaced by Derek.

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.

The talks go on, and on


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.

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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.

Over the border, with postal orders at the ready


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.
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Burscough revisited

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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.

Nostalgic romance meets romantic nostalgia

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Things ain't why they used to be, and probably never will be either. However this does not stop SMRS from revelling in past glories at every opportunity. One such chance came last Tuesday, when Allan presented a series of films, not on DVD, not even on VHS, but on good old steam-driven cine. The projector was a deluxe model which did not need winding up every two minutes, which was just as well as the programme included no less than six reels of celluloid.

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.

Partying hard at Sefton St.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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An Italian Extravaganza

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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.

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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.

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To add to the jollity two birthdays were celebrated, Hilary's diary ensuring that neither Robert nor John escaped with their significant dates unremarked.

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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

A Cumbrian Lancashire night

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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.

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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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A Brum picnic, with added Jedward

There is a (thoroughly undeserved and slanderous) rumour that SMRS only exists for the beer and skittles, and railways are purely incidental, at most a means to an end. Totally untrue of course, and the fact that the modest refreshments carried with us on yesterday's trip to the Warley show all but incurred excess baggage charges, is a complete irrelevance. The single large suitcase and the solitary medium travel bag did have to last us all day, through the rigours of breakfast on the train, lunch at the NEC and tea on the way home. And thanks to Hilary no-one went hungry.

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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


More Cumbrian adventures

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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.

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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.

Tram and chips, twice


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.

Circling around Formby

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Last night marked a new venue for the monthly talk, Dave and Yvonne's 17th-century farmhouse on the southern edge of Formby. After an excellent hotpot served in a low-ceilinged dining room/lounge (complete with expansive sofa, log fire and real-ale bar) we listened to Terry expounding on the origins and building of his latest award-winning layout 'The Circle Line'. This is based on a now-defunct Manchester to Sheffield route, modelled in N-gauge on a circular baseboard.

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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.

An exhibition to remember

Last weekend was that of our exhibition, just in case you didn't know. What we didn't know was whether the national doom and gloom would rub off on the event, or if people would support us as well as they have in the past. In the event it was memorable for all the right reasons, with attendance up, no significant organisational hitches, and a satisfied clientele on both sides of the barriers (which incidentally are ours now, thanks to the generosity of the Bolton club). One or two exhibitors and traders dropped out at fairly short notice, for a variety of reasons, and canny manager that he is, Tony always had a back-up plan to ensure there were no gaps. Even the rain held off until the end, when it made up for lost time with a biblical deluge just as we were packing everything away in assorted cars and vans. Good for us, morally strengthening, and all that. And as for VIPs, not content with the Mayor of Sefton we also had the High Sheriff of Merseyside amongst us, a full-blown colonel in full sword and medals.

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.


When I'm 65….


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.

Over before it started


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

Down to the last Derek

Two events of note at Tuesday's well-attended meeting at the football club (apart from England's lacklustre draw with Ukraine of course). Ian gave a presentation on I K Brunel - the Early Years and Derek the Younger made his farewells before removing himself to about as far away as he could get from us, Australia to be specific. We were assured it was nothing we said, but purely for family reasons, and he would keep in touch via the magic string of email and internet.

Corris in the rain, and sun


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

Firing up on the Ratty


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.

Playing trains in the Presidential Suite

Well not actually playing trains, more enjoying a slideshow of more of Tony's railway experiences, which seem to be accumulating faster than he can relate them. On this occasion the monthly meeting was held at Southport Football Club, for reasons of variety and of licensed bar availability.

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.


A double dose of steam


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.


The Porthmadog and Llyn, Isle of Man (South) and Cripple Creek Railway

Why have one garden railway when you can have two? There is no sensible answer to this question, so Jim and Fiona's annual birthday barbecue (his birthday, as hers ceased some time ago, at least for official purposes) was a double-tracked affair, with a Thin Controller, a Shedmaster, a Master of Ceremonies and a Head Chef all gainfully employed in ensuring proceedings ran smoothly. And so they did, despite the odd rain shower and one slightly alarming incident when a train on the upper track took the direct, gravity-assisted pathway to the lower track. Fortunately only minor damage resulted.

Some more photos are


Bowing out in style


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.


Playtime in the garden again


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.


The sleeper trip does a foreigner

It's June, it's raining, so it must be another sleeper trip. This time the vigorous new management team (average age 61 years and 9 months) took the bold decision to visit both halves of the Auld Alliance. Not deliberately, you understand, that might have been too much even for our polynational diversity-friendly members. It just happened that after going to Kent via Edinburgh (doesn't everybody?) it seemed to be a mere blip on a fast-moving horizon to extend our reach under the Chunnel to Paris. And, a world first for our excursions, wives and/or/but-not-both girlfriends might come to.

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.



Another encyclopaedic discourse


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.


Modernism rules, but briefly


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.



Tracklaying on Talisker


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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Summer has arrived - official


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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The good, the bad and the lawyers

Most people can be quite defensive when their chosen trade or profession comes in for criticism. Not so Richard, however. Last night he fearlessly exposed lawyers as the prime movers behind a series of railway-building bubbles in the early years of the industry, each larger and more crash-prone that the one before. His presentation showed, with the devastating clarity that comes from rigorous research, that greedy capitalism was at the root of 19th-century railway mania, and lawyers had their grubby little mitts all over it. The fact that MPs didn't really want to know was no surprise, and neither that ten years is along time in both business and politics, so the same scam can be repeated several times on a forgetful and gullible public. There were a few mutterings amongst the audience that nothing had changed, and certain modern-day railway companies, and their political cronies, were just as bad. Such scepticism is totally unfounded, of course.

Richard's full confession is

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Bears in the woods - official

Sunday marked two events of potentially momentous proportions, a new French president was elected and West Lancs held its annual Teddy Bears event. The latter was probably more significant in Hesketh Bank and environs, not least because SMRS were involved in no less than three layouts in the engine shed. Mike's 009 and Terry's N gauge models were installed next to the West Lancs live steam layout, and performed well all afternoon, to appreciative audiences. Outside in the relatively-speaking real world Irish Mail and Montalban took child-sized bears and their human minders to experience close encounters with their grown-up cousins in the Wild Wood. As the article in today's Independent has it, a little bit of nonsense is the secret of a sane life.

Some more photos are

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A garden for all seasons


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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Chequebook modelling is alive and well


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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Yet another feeding frenzy


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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Back in the garden again


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.

The chairman has resigned, long live the chairman


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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Spending in large-scale

Model railway shows come and go, but just occasionally a big one makes an impact, and not just on the wallet. Last weekend five members ventured to the Peterborough show ground for the annual jamboree of the 16mm Association. This is a biggy in more senses than one, with lots of traders, a respectable number of indoor garden railway layouts, talks, demonstrations and a real 12-inch-to-the-foot scale Penrhyn locomotive to admire. The total damage after we emerged blinking into the sunlight at the end of the day was well into four figures, with a certain doctor spending the bulk of that on one railcar. Note that for insurance purposes the model cannot be taken out of its bank vault without the close attendance of the British Transport Police SWAT team. Richard is therefore modelling the position of its virtual stunt double.


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


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Back to school again


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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Eighty years young


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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That was India - for now


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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Southport goes Caledonian


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

Some more photos are

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Rails at Burscough


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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Advancing on the Italians


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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So good, we did it twice

Twice in two months, that is. So impressed were we of our efforts in November, five of us returned to Ravenglass for more trackwork at a time when the Cumbrian winter should have been at its coldest and most unrelenting. We therefore prepared carefully, with ample supplies of warm clothing, alcohol and haggis, and accommodation in the railway's hostel, which had the benefit of central heating. By taking the precaution of becoming members, the rate was reduced to a mere £5 per night, or an even more mere £3 for the unwaged retirees amongst us. The bunk beds were still a challenge however.

Apart from a brisk wind the weather was relatively clement, and good progress was made with securing new track to new sleepers, and bedding them in with new ballast. This time no sheep were harmed in the making of new permanent way, although a life-expired specimen was spotted in a line-side field, complete with attendant buzzard.

Some more photos are

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Corris, cobblers and custard

To let you understand, as they say north of the (Scottish) border, two-thirds of the title refers to elements of the excellent cuisine on offer at the monthly talk, and the reminder to the subject of said talk. The Corris railway has been a favourite of mine since I first visited it four years ago with fellow members of SMRS, and it was inevitable that sooner or later I would lecture the club on its finer points, of which there are many. This does not include some fairly unpronounceable Welsh place-names.

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

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An old exhibition manager fades away


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

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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A carry on at Christmas


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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Sleeping around Scotland

'Twas a dark and stormy night, and a dozen members braved the elements to hear Derek the Elder present a talk on the last 17 years of sleeper trips. I suspect Heather's cooking was at least an equal draw, but whatever the reasons a good time was had by all, a mixture of reminiscing by those who had been on a trip and wondering what all the fuss was about by those who had not. Probably the most interesting aspect was the statistics:18,500 miles covered, 22 rail routes, 11 ferries and 11 islands, to name only some.


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A fistful of shovels

November brings not only fogs and gales but also the annual Ravenglass track week, notwithstanding the fact that it lasts a fortnight. As before, a select band of SMRS members volunteered their services to shovel ballast, hump sleepers and do anything else, within reason, required of us by the railway authorities. A novel factor this year was the choice of sleeping quarters, namely 'Elmira' one of two Pullman sleeping cars kept at Ravenglass station. Built nearly a century ago its history included a period serving as an ambulance car in the First World War.

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.

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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

* * * * * * *


Wiring (almost) without wires

Another month, another meal (shepherd's pie and apple pie, separate plates, if you were wondering) and another talk. This time Allan made a late substitution to speak on Electric layout control - how to Maximise the Fun. And it was not just the title that was unconventional, the form of presentation eschewed modern technology and reverted to old-fashioned chalk-and-talk, complete with school easel. A minor sop to modernity was the use of a whiteboard, sorry neutrally-coloured rewritable display surface, and assorted pens in primary colours.

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.

Why go Italian?


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.

Reforestation, one tree at a time


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.

Exhibition time again

Well that was the exhibition that was, and a mighty fine one it was too. The organisation at the new venue seems to have settled down nicely, with everyone knowing what needed to be done, and for a change actually doing it without being asked. There were no significant problems during the event, which speaks volumes for the Hon. Exhibition Manager's planning, which started a good eighteen months ago and continued to at least the Sunday afternoon.


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

Another man down


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.


A slippery slope in Somerset

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This month's social featured not only bangers and mash but also a talk on a little-known feature of Somerset's old railways, namely the Comberrow Incline, built to help transport iron ore to Watchet harbour. The line's heyday was the late 1800's, but thereafter it declined steadily, until in 1917 it suffered the indignity of being commandeered wholesale for the war effort. True to its calling the Ministry of Munitions took no prisoners, and blew up the engine house. This was allegedly done to make removal of its contents easier, but possibly also to ensure that no enemy invader could enjoy the spoils of war and smelt Somersetshire's iron without having to work really quite hard 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.

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To waken.…

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….just add strudel.

Welsh railway gardening

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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.

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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.

Awayday to the metropolis

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The Big City (i.e. Liverpool) is not a place we visit often, but last Saturday a group of four ventured to the metropolis at the invitation of the Lancashire area group of the Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers, to quote the long title. With three garden railways already in existence in the club, and a fourth seeking detailed planning permission, there is always interest in seeing how others do it. Also the length of run at Bob Bilsbarrow's excellent 45mm line allows visiting live steam locos to show off their paces without fear of suddenly running out of trackway. A certain care is needed when running multiple trains on the single-track-with-passing-places line to avoid traffic management incidents, but this merely adds to an already strong sense of realism.

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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

Photo: Rob Guinness

Scottish Skye lines

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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'.

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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.

Trains, planes and strawberries

Jim and Fiona's barbecues are events to be savoured - generous hosts, real ale, live steam railways and, this year at least, warm weather and the Red Arrows. Admittedly these last two were a bonus rather than main menu items, but nonetheless welcome for that. It was good of Sefton council to organise the Southport Air Show on the same day, as it meant that the forty or so guests had not only steam trains to enjoy but also vintage flying machines, that included a Spitfire, a Lancaster and a Vulcan, plus nine Hawk trainers flying at high speed closer together than any sensible risk assessment should permit. Regrettably the surrounding foliage restricted the view a little, such that one member was heard to remark that the one item of essential equipment that an aircraft photographer should always have about their person is a chainsaw.


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.

The tree of life is dead, long live the stump


'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.

However it was clear that those involved knew the ropes, and moreover could count to three without once getting confused as to which rope was which, and which branch should not be sawn through because it was home to the tied end of the first rope instead of the second. In all it took three days, with barely a tea-break and only brief luncheon intervals. So Network Rail got value for whatever sum they paid out, the neighbour got her drains back into her sole possession, and we will get more light and fewer leaves in the garden, despite having no right in our lease to even step out of the back door.

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.

Specialist subject: Every steam engine since the Rocket

Last Tuesday saw our monthly Eat, Drink, Show, Tell & Drink evening, this time featuring a beef stew and a presentation by John on LMS CME William Stanier and his locomotives, in that order. But it could have been about virtually any other aspect of the UK historical steam scene, such is our member's breadth and depth of knowledge.


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.

The 17th sleeper, under new management

The summer solstice saw a half-dozen SMRS members, whittled down by natural selection from an original nine contestants, depart on the annual sleeper trip.

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.

The latest in our series A Night to Remember.....


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*.

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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.

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The chairman securing his share of the puddings.

*Late 20th Cent. Glaswegian, trans. 'random bodies cluttering up the photo'.

A double dose of steam

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As the summer solstice approaches, the need for steam becomes unstoppable, so much so that no less than four live steam locos were fired up at the clubhouse last night. What made it unique was that two were of the 00 persuasion, using the magic technology developed (or at least marketed) by Messrs Hornby. So while Jim and George laboured to generate heat and light on Talisker Glen's trackbed upstairs, Richard and Derek did similar things out in the garden, specially manicured (and lit) for the event by Tony.

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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.

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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

So good, we do it every year

AGM time again, and this time we do it in style. The commodious venue of the Hall St cafe, complete with buffet, and a cabaret to follow, in the form of a slideshow by our very own award-winning photographer.

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This time the gang of four looked relaxed and confident, as if they knew that the recent tinkering with the constitution had put them in an unassailable position, election-wise. The fact that no-one dared oppose them spoke volumes. However perhaps they have over-reached themselves a little, by allowing the election of an ordinary member, not part of the ruling junta, as a sop to democracy. The electee, as it happens, is a retired lecturer in law, already making his presence felt with a number of points of order. Watch this space...

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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.

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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.

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Afterwards, we went home....

Out in force at West Lancs

The West Lancs Teddy Bears day is firmly established in the SMRS calendar, and not just because one travels half-fare if one brings one's teddy bear. This time one member was given leave to fire Irish Mail whilst four others were deployed to run a variety of layouts in the engine shed. This included the in-house live steam layout Hundred End, aided by two members of the local 16mm Association group.
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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.

Taking a constitutional at an EGM

Two nights ago saw the rarest of events at the clubhouse - a well-attended EGM. The occasion was the revision of the constitution, which was considered to have fallen behind the times in several crucial areas, and in need of a re-vamp.

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.

Eat, drink and be entertained

It seems that life is one long social event these days, with another lunch club meeting at Hall St cafe - notice the hand creeping slowly towards the wine bottle when the attention of other members is diverted elsewhere. The occasion this time was a talk by Tony explaining the nature of the footplate disease which has held him in an iron grip for many a long year, since Steamport days to be precise. It covered the early years, from when Stephenson was barely in his grave, to (almost) modern times, with a promise of Part 2 next year if we don't behave.

Steaming through the deep South


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.

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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

Ageing gently, like a good Scotch should


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.

Burns Night for real this time

Following on from the practice run in September, the real Burns night in January. A limited edition of twelve celebrants were admitted to the proceedings, which included not only piping in the haggis (courtesy of a very small and very tinny set of plastic bagpipes), but also recitations, graces and prayers in the customary manner. Some of the accents were more mid-Lancastrian than Midlothian, but the spirit was entered into in full measure. And Tony as usual did us proud in the culinary department.

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...

Peak line presentation

The events come thick and fast this time of year - the London Season has nothing on SMRS. This time it was Ian, educating and entertaining us with a trip along the Peak Line from Ambergate to Chinley, with the help of mainly black-and-white photos of some vintage.

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.

Born to eat (and drink)

Yesterday evening saw one of the highlights of our crowded festive calendar, namely Tony's steam soiree at chez his. As well as ample food and drink, a choice of choice railway videos was on offer, not to mention (yet) another pep-talk by our very own Dear Leader. This time he graciously chose to emphasise the national belt-tightening that lay ahead in 2011, and its possible effect on our local prosperity. Apparently another penny on the annual subs. was a distinct possibility.

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.

Winter draws in, and nights draw out

Barely a year seems to have gone by and here we are celebrating Christmas again, with a party at a new venue, namely a cafe designed mainly for employees at a small town-centre industrial estate, but opened in the evening especially for us. Two of the Chairman's better halves excelled at the catering, and the Chairman himself took advantage of a captive audience not only to deliver his traditional end-of-year harangue but also to show 160-odd slides of the Docklands Light Railway. It seemed more.

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.

Toasting the Duke of Lancaster

Today, as any fule kno, is the very day of Lancashire, when in 1295 the first elected representatives from Lancashire were summoned to The Model Parliament.

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.