Category Archives: Railway

Model Railways – Initial Thoughts

I’ve been thinking about model railways for a while, specifically a small N gauge layout as I didn’t have a lot of space in my old flat.

Recently I moved house and now have a bit more space to muck about with. I’ve also got hold of some old OO gauge stuff that hasn’t seen use in nearly 30 years, namely: four engines, assorted rolling stock, loads of track and some controllers.

So now a new project is born: A 5’8″x1′ OO gauge shelf layout.

The engines are:

  1. An LNER Gresley J50 tank engine (68920) in black with the Unicycling Lion BR crest. Made by Lima, it works but is missing it’s couplings.
  2. An LMS “Princess Elizabeth” (46201) 4-6-2 with tender in green with the Unicycling Lion BR crest. Made by Tri-ang, it currently does not run.
  3. A Class 08 Shunter (D3035) in green with the Ferret and Dartboard BR crest. Made by Tri-ang, it currently runs very slowly and noisily (as the real life examples did?).
  4. A Class 101 2-car DMU (M79628 & M79629) in green with the Ferret and Dartboard BR crest. Made by Tri-ang, it runs fine but is missing some detailing on the underside of one of the cars.

2013-05-19 16.05.03

This motley selection, along with the mix of assorted coaches and industrial wagons, is pointing me towards a sort of  heritage line operation. That way, I can legitimately use anything that hasn’t suffered too badly from three decades of storage (and the cack-handed re-painting attempts of a ten-year old Tony), and anything that is knackered could be “undergoing restoration”.

My original N gauge idea would have been something similar, but the excuse would have been for buying stuff I liked the look of, rather that what would fit the time period. I had looked at a few heritage sites, like Foxfield and the Churnet Valley Railway, but one that I kept going back to was the Ribble Steam Railway, which combines a heritage line with revenue generating freight working. This is probably because they still use the line to carry bitumen to the Lanfina/Total plant that my Dad worked at long ago, in the before time.

While a station, engine shed, exchange sidings and fiddle yard could have been squeezed into a 5’8″x1′ N gauge layout, it doesn’t look promising in OO gauge, so I’m afraid its back to the drawing board. Or, more accurately, back to XTrkCAD.

In the meantime, I’m off to Wickes to buy some wood and some shelf brackets.

Crewe, Gateway to Hell

According to figures published by the Strategic Rail Authority for the financial year 2002/3, 773969 people began their rail journeys from Crewe Railway Station, yet only 763846 people ended journeys there. This represents a net de-population of 10123 people in one year alone, by train alone. This is as close to 10000 people as makes no odds to me.

In the April 2001 census, Crewe had a recorded population of 67683 people. If we’re being generous we can round this up to a guestimate of 70000 people by April 2003.

Given these figures we see that within seven years of April 2003, in other words April 2010, Crewe will become a desolate no-mans-land inhabited only by temporary, transient people on their way to elsewhere.

I was there today. Its happened already.

If this is Voyaging, I’d rather stay put

Already this year I’ve travelled more rail miles that in the preceeding ten years. Two Stafford/Preston return trips has reminded me why I avoid the railways like the plague: The Virgin Voyager.

441200731_907ea18696_mSome people might say that they represent a giant leap forward in train technology. These people are probably short, have no sense of smell and enjoy rollercoasters. And are probably clinically insane.

Myself, I’m of above average height, can still smell despite a good few years chain-smoking and hate all fairground rides. I’ll neatly sidestep the sanity issue (I’m typing this on a Datawind Ubisurfer – I must have been bananas to buy it).

My first major moan about the Voyager concerns the piss-awful seats and lack of legroom. Now when I say that I am of above average height I mean that I am about six foot four. This doesn’t put me into the realm of basketball players or circus freaks, but it does stop me sitting in most of the seats on a Voyager. Table seats are fine, if you want to share a table with a drunken Scottish squaddie (are they all AWOL and hiding on the trains, or is it always the same one?), and the priority wheelchair users’ seating has sufficient room, but the majority of the seating would require me to undergo a leg-ectomy for me to use them. I suppose I could sit sideways across two seats, but that is uncouth, yobbish behaviour for the sort of folk who play their music loud in public.

When Charles Darwin designed the human olfactory organs he must have had quite a chuckle to himself when he put in the bits that enable you to smell the unique aroma of a Virgin Voyager. Is a whiff of flatulence combined with a hint of smoke? A solid leavening of used toilet with a dash of electrical burning? Or is it,as I suspect, a full blown massive turd secreted directly on to an electric heater full of cat hair? The reason for this is apparently that the toilet effluent tanks vent into the bodywork, and that the wiring is prone to going shonky. Not even the APT had these features!

103180317_c75db8702d_mBut these are just minor nit-picking flaws, I can almost hear you say. Surely the superior ride quality makes up for them? Well, yes, of course, assuming your idea of a nice journey involves lurching from side to side, up and down, and occassionally backwards and forwards. During the course of typing this, my netbook as been dislodged from the little wanky tray-table no less than three times. I’d have a smoother ride in a Land Rover. Across a bomb site. Under shelling.

2502984106_8cb81fd88e_mAnd let us not forget, the government spent millions between 1959 and 1974 to electrify the West Coast Main Line, and now Captain Beardy is pissing all over this by running diesel trains on it. Money well spent! Its like buying the entire run of Star Trek Voyager on DVD, and copying them on to ropey old VHS tapes, then scrubbing the tapes with magnets before watching them.