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November train update

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I never did post any pictures of the locomotive I got for my birthday back in July, the A2 Peppercorn "Bachelors Button":

Bachelors Button

Bachelors Button

This is a very impressive model from Bachmann, extremely detailed and a decent runner, although like my other Bachmann locomotive, the Ivatt 4MT, the electrical pick-ups leave a little to be desired in comparison with the Hornby models that make up the bulk of my stock. When just "running trains" I generally have no problems, but I've noticed a tendency for both to stall on diamond crossings, particularly when there are two consecutive crossings on the same stretch of track (such as the line of my terminus station that services the outer circuit of my layout). The pictures above were taken back in July, and alas the headlight at the top of the locomotive is now no more: it must have broken off at some point without me noticing, and I haven't been able to find it. The one downside to the greatly increased levels of detail and realism on recent locomotives is how easy it is for little pieces to fall off.

I've also been experimenting with some basic scenics:

Grass and underlay

Grass and underlay

Because my layout is on my bedroom floor (and will remain so until such time as I can actually dedicate a room to a proper setup with a baseboard... in the very distant future, no doubt), I can't go down the usual route of applying grass and ballast scatter. Instead, I picked up a 100 x 75 cm grass mat and a 5 metre roll of ballasted underlay. Although not exactly cheap, this has only allowed me to cover a small patch of my layout, and I'm currently debating whether to go all the way and but enough material for the whole thing. The results are certainly relatively impressive and a big step up from what I had before and am still using for the rest of the layout - basically a couple of upside down Hornby TrackMats and some cut-out printer paper. Still, I won't be making any firm decisions till I've finalised the new layout I'm currently planning. Yep, I'll be tearing the whole lot up before too long (one of the few benefits of it just being tacked to the floor is that it's easy to dismantle the whole lot and build something new at the drop of a hat), and am going to attempt something a bit more visually stimulating than the current "three parallel ovals and a station" getup.

Here is is as it currently stands (well, before I installed the grass mat and ballast):

Full layout

Oh, and this is the one other locomotive I've added to the layout since my birthday:

Sparrow Hawk

Another A4 Pacific - however did you guess? This one's a little bit special, though: in addition to sporting the rarely modelled early British Railways blue livery (probably my favourite guise for this class), it's a modified "Sparrow Hawk", normally sold as an expensive DCC Sound model, but altered to be DC and soundless by the good people at Olivia's Trains and sold for less than half the usual price. Excuse the dust - it's been a while since I gave it a clean.

Posted at 10:31 PM in Model Railways

 

May 2011 railway update redux

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Model Railways

The baseboard is no more! After giving it much consideration, I've decided to shelve the idea of trying to fit a bulky, unwieldy baseboard into a relatively small area that I need continual access to (cuz, well, I need some way of getting from my bed to the door) and instead just run the layout on the floor itself on a longer term basis. Obviously, this is a disappointment, as it means I won't be able to do anything with scenery, but on the plus side it lets me make my layout slightly larger, laying the track right up to the edge of the floor at one end of the room and partially under my desk at the other:

May 2011 railway update redux

I WILL have a proper layout on an actual baseboard some day, preferably when I'm living somewhere where I can actually dedicate a room (or part of a room) to it instead of trying to cram it in around the rest of my life. Until that day, whenever that might be, at least I've got a setup that, despite not being in the running to win any awards for realism, at least has a decent length and lets me run three trains at once. Upon getting rid of the baseboard, I took the opportunity to make the most of the reclaimed space thanks to it no longer being propped up against the wall, using up what was left of my spare straight track to extend the length of all three lines, and to fit a "diamond" crossing, which means that each of the two "sidings" of my terminus station connect directly to its own loop of track, rather than having to faff about transferring exiting trains from one line to the other:

May 2011 railway update redux

Currently, this means that the station services the inner and middle lines, although given the tighter radius curves and smaller circumference of the inner line, the plan would be to restrict it to goods traffic. As such, I suspect I'm going to end up picking up a couple more diamond crossings to allow me to instead connect one of the station "sidings" to the outer line:

May 2011 railway update redux

Two trains waiting to leave the station.

Above: Two trains waiting to leave the station.

Printer paper. It makes great underlay, honest.

Above: Printer paper. It makes great underlay, honest.

PS. This post is dedicated to ImportFanatic, who is a huge fan of model railways.

Posted at 9:20 PM in Model Railways

 

May 2011 railway update

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Model Railways

It's been a while since I last posted an update on the evolving status of my model railway, mainly because things have temporarily stalled. The baseboard I mentioned in my previous post on the subject is partly built, though it's currently sitting propped up against the wall doing nothing because I ran into a few hitches, namely...

  1. I misjudged how much clearance I would need to raise and lower it. When it's on the ground, it's literally sandwiched between the unit that runs along one end of my room and my desk that sits at the other.
     
  2. Despite the insulation board I used to build it making it considerably lighter than if I'd used plywood or similar, it's still too unwieldy for me to lift on my own (mainly due to its size). Because it takes two people to lift it, lowering it for use and then raising it when I'm done simply isn't practical.
     
  3. I've yet to secure the insulation board surface to the wooden frame. The superglue method I attempted was a spectacular failure.

I'm going to have to make some decisions before too long about how to proceed - and whatever else ends up being done, I'll probably need to reduce the size of the baseboard, which is a bummer - but in the meantime I've got a temporary layout running on the floor again, this one significantly larger than my last one and consisting of three lines rather than the previous two:

May 2011 railway update

May 2011 railway update

Fairly basic, really, but it has the advantage of being something I can tear up and put back together reasonably quickly if need be. It's nice to be able to run three trains at once, and the horizontal straight sections are long enough that it doesn't feel like they're continually chasing their tails. I'd ultimately want to build something more imaginative than this, but it's nice to be able to actually run my trains for the time being rather than leaving them to gather dust on a shelf...

...particularly as I've made a couple of new acquisitions since I last posted. The first is an Ivatt Class 4MT from Bachmann:

May 2011 railway update

And the second is the Rare Bird limited edition train pack from Hornby, now sold out:

May 2011 railway update

The latter is at least partly responsible for my getting back into the hobby in the first place - it was a case of seeing it in an online catalogue and immediately thinking "Want!" It was originally intended to be released last year and was delayed multiple times, eventually appearing in late March. I was so late to the party in getting my pre-order in that I was pretty shocked when it showed up at my door. The A4 Pacific is my favourite class of locomotive (you can probably tell from the number I have in my collection), and the "Express Blue" livery with which they were painted between 1948 and 1951 is probably my favourite of the various guises under which they have appeared (and in which the preserved 6007 "Sir Nigel Gresley" can currently be seen).

And to conclude, here's a quick crappy quality video of the layout under operation:

Posted at 7:10 PM in Model Railways

 

Getting ready to build my baseboard...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Model Railways

The pieces are beginning to fall into place for my model railway layout. The plan is to ultimately have a setup measuring 240 x 190 cm, with four lines (three passenger lines and one goods line in the centre), a terminus station and a handful of sidings. I haven't thought too much about scenics yet, but would like to have an engine shed and to extend the station platforms to a reasonable length as the absolute bare minimum, and will probably end up covering the baseboard with some sort of grass-like and ballast-like materials to make it look less like... well, a baseboard. I'd also like to eventually add some buildings, trees and the like, and to possibly experiment with terrain elevation for at least one of the four lines (most likely the central goods line, which is separated sufficiently from the other lines to make this feasible).

In the interests of not breaking the bank, however, for the time being I'm going to concentrate on getting three of the four lines, the beginnings of the terminus station and a couple of siding pinned down. I have extra track, acquired in dribs and drabs over the past few weeks...

Track

...and base building materials, picked up from B&Q yesterday, making use of a 15% discount voucher I was handed after buying a bottle of Pepsi Max at WH Smith's earlier this month.

Insulation board Planed timber

The ingredients are as follows:

  • 8 pieces of insulation board, measuring 120 x 50 x 5 cm each
  • Planed timber to make up the frame
  • 2 bottles of PVA glue to stick it all together

The emphasis is on light and portable, which is why I've gone for insulation board rather than wood. The material is light enough to be lifted so I can prop the layout against the wall when not in use (and also means I can simply push the track pins in with my fingers rather than hammering them in), but durable enough that someone could actually walk over it without leaving so much as a footprint if they so desired (though I'll ultimately be fitting legs to the board, so there won't be much of that happening).

Flying Scotsman

In the meantime, unlike its real-life counterpart, which is currently undergoing repairs, my limited edition Flying Scotsman has returned to service. I'd previously written the 20-year-old model off as in need of repair, but to my surprise, when I brought it out recently for one last shot at firing it up, it suddenly came back to life after I gave it a firm shove on the behind. Running it alongside more recent models shows how much standards have improved in recent years - it's slower, noisier (even after oiling), the motorised tender rattles from side to side, and the level of detail on what was once a high-end model nowadays doesn't compete with even the basic Hornby Railroad range - but it's still amazing to me that a 20-year-old train that has spent the better part of the last two decades languishing in a dusty cupboard could spring back to life to readily.

(I know just about every kid with a model railway in this country has a Flying Scotsman, but mine's special, dammit: it has two tenders! It represents the locomotive as it ran between 1966 and 1973, when most railside water towers in the UK had been dismantled and a second tender carrying water was required for its lengthy runs up and down the country.)

Posted at 11:10 AM in Model Railways

 

Another railway video...

Monday, March 7, 2011

...to tide you over until I have some actual news to post about my layout. I've got a 15% off voucher for B&Q, so I'm going to go and eye up potential materials for my baseboard later this week.

This is the current plan, by the way:

Track layout

Posted at 3:42 PM in Model Railways

 

Fresh from Model Rail Scotland

Friday, February 25, 2011

Model Railways

I've just got back from the annual Model Rail Scotland convention, held at the SECC in Glasgow (it runs from Friday through to Sunday). It was great seeing so many impressively detailed layouts (in a variety of gauges, from N to OO right up to O) up and running, most of which left me feeling somewhat inadequate given that I'm unlikely to ever have the time, skill, money and space to build something on even the level of even one of the smaller displays.

The place was absolutely heaving by about midday, so I decided to call it a day, but not before I was relieved of some of my hard-earned cash. Exhibit #1, below, is a weathered A4 Pacific ("Sir Nigel Gresley", named after the locomotive's designer) in early British Rail blue (late 40s to early 50s) livery, produced by Bachmann, Hornby's main competitor in the OO gauge market.

Sir Nigel Gresley

This is the first Bachmann model I've ever owned. Everything I've ever bought until now, both during my original experience with the hobby and since my rediscovery of it this year, has been produced by Hornby. I did very briefly own a Wrenn locomotive (also a Sir Nigel Gresley, coincidentally), bought for me as a Christmas present when I was five or six years old, but it performed horribly and was swiftly replaced by the Hornby equivalent. That experience was so disastrous that I decided to stick with what I knew and always buy from Hornby, but the positive write-ups Bachmann's products have received, and the allure of the rarely modelled early BR blue livery, made this one too tempting to pass it up when I saw it at the Doon Valley Models stall. (The image below shows it alongside the Hornby A4 Pacific "Falcon", in later BR green.)

Sir Nigel Gresley

And I have to say it runs very nicely, about as well as any of my Hornby trains. The motor is a bit noisier than the others, but I've heard plenty of reports of certain Hornby models, particularly older ones, creating quite a din, so I doubt this is a manufacturer-specific thing. Fortunately, the couplings Hornby and Bachmann use are compatible, so hooking it up to my existing Hornby coaches (it's currently pulling the Heart of Midlothian service) is not a problem. In terms of detail, is seems to be somewhere between one of Hornby's "Super Detail" models and one of their more basic Railroad models. It also has a rather nice touch: a driver and fireman. (Some Hornby locomotives come with these as well, but I've never had one that did.)

Sir Nigel Gresley

One aspect I'm not crazy about is the free-moving rear wheel bogey (under the cab). This is an inaccuracy (the real locomotives had fixed rear wheels) designed to allow the locomotive to navigate sharp curves. On more recent Hornby models, the rear wheels are fixed but are slightly raised and simply "float" above the track when navigating curves, a less than ideal effect but one that I prefer to the Bachmann (and earlier Hornby) approach of a bogey that slides from left to right and leaves an unrealistic gap between the wheels and the cab. (This photograph on the LNER Encyclopedia forum shows a particularly good view of the problem. See here for the - in my opinion - preferable Hornby solution.)

As for the weathering, I'm somewhat undecided. Plenty of people swear by the weathering effect, and it certainly looks quite convincing on this model. Especially in the latter years of steam, many of these locomotives were not particularly well cared for and often looked absolutely filthy, so the pristine appearance of a non-weathered model is not especially realistic. Still, it does look a little out of place alongside the rest of my collection, and part of me feels a deep urge to give it a good scrub (despite knowing that that wouldn't make any difference).

Oh, and I also picked up a random selection of wagons (Bachmann as well, currently filled with Lego bricks given the absence of anything more realistic):

Wagons

Posted at 3:47 PM in Model Railways

 

Fooling around

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Short video showcasing my two favourite of my currently operational locomotives - A4 Pacific "Falcon" and Princess Coronation "City of Chester" (plus a special appearance by 9F "Evening Star"). The track layout is just a slight extension of the bog standard Hornby oval plus extension packs A, B and C on the TrakMat. It's on my bedroom floor and not currently pinned down (hence the slight up and down movement of the track in some shots). I'll be starting work on a permanent layout before too long, but this is basically just to give me something to do until I've got a proper baseboard and enough track for my first "real" layout.

Apologies in advance for the less than ideal image quality (I used the record function on my old Canon Ixus 40 camera, which isn't exactly Hollywood-like) and my messy, messy room.

Posted at 3:39 PM in Model Railways

 

Track layout ideas

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Model Railways

With the help of a great program called AnyRail, I've been experimenting with various ideas for permanent model railway layouts. As I mentioned before, I have a finite amount of available space on my bedroom floor, exacerbated by the fact that I really need to be able to move around the room. My plan, therefore, it to build a portable layout - one that makes use of as much space as possible but can be lifted up and propped against the wall when not in use. Having done some measurements, I've come to the conclusion that the largest feasible size of baseboard I can go with is somewhere in the region of 230 x 180 cm. (Theoretically, it would be possible to go for a 230 x 230 square, but this would present problems for storage - 230 cm is not all that far off the height of my ceiling.)

230 x 180 is pretty reasonable when all said and done - it's not massive, but it gives me room for something a heck of a lot more interesting than the bog standard oval that comes with Hornby's entry level train sets. Here's what I've managed to cook up:

Track layout

With apologies to Hornby, from whose most recent track plans book the above layout draws heavily - specifically TrakMat Extension 1 (the terminus station at the bottom) and Layout 4/13 (the turntable and sidings).

Basically, it's a three-line affair, allowing me to run three locomotives at once - one on each line. Technically you can run more than one train on a single line, but given the inherent variations in speed (even between different models of the same locomotive type), and the fact that with standard DC operation (as opposed to the flashier and more expensive DCC) you technically control the TRACK, not the train(s) on it, collisions will invariably occur sooner or later. According to AnyRail's handy calculator, this layout has a total track length of a shade under 33 metres - not bad when you consider the size of the board. This includes the three main loops (blue, orange and purple in the diagram above), sidings (green) and other miscellaneous areas (grey).

I consider the concept of a continuous loop (i.e. with the trains going round and circles) a necessary evil. While there's something to be said for the added realism of an end-to-end layout, I can't say I'm thrilled by the idea of having to constantly sit next to the controller and continually stop and start the train as soon as it reaches the end of the line. That said, I've tried to give the impression that the railway is in fact larger than what's visible on the baseboard: at the top and bottom left hand side I've added branches of straight track that lead off into nothingness, and will probably end up concealing the fact that they just lead to dead ends with a couple of tunnels or something similar. I've also tried to make the best use of the available space and work in as much straight track as possible - the curves in model railways are, as a necessary evil, far tighter than they would be in reality, and long trains can end up looking a tad silly going round them. I suspect I'll ultimately end up trying to conceal at least one set of corner curves (probably the top right) with the addition of some raised terrain and a tunnel.

I'm getting slightly ahead of myself, though. This layout is far from finalised (I designed the bulk of it this afternoon, and have at least a dozen alternate designs ), and I haven't even built the baseboard yet, let alone started accumulating all the track and materials for scenery I'm going to need. This will ultimately be something I create in stages, governed by time and money. My plan it to have a fully functional layout at all times if possible, but I'll be starting small and piecing it together bit by bit. Things like tunnels and raised terrain (something I've never attempted before) will no doubt be the final pieces added to the puzzles, so initially this is all going to look a bit basic. Still, even at its most rudimentary stage I'm sure it'll be a big step up from the TrakMat layout:

Layout on Hornby TrakMat

I'll keep you updated on the project's progress.

Posted at 7:54 PM in Model Railways

 

How to stop your model train from squeaking

Friday, February 4, 2011

Model Railways

You will need:

  • One (1) bottle cork
  • One (1) unbent paperclip
  • One (1) bottle of lubricating oil (approx. £3)

Using the paperclip and cork as a makeshift eye-dropper, apply a single drop of oil to each of the pivot points on the valve gear, linkage and axel bearings of your squeaky locomotive, plop it on the track and watch it glide away with nary a squeak or a squeal. This is hardly a hallowed trade secret - the instruction manual that comes with any Hornby model will tell you to do the above (including the nifty cork/paperclip trick) - but I'm amazed at how quickly and easily the most obnoxious of squeaks can be cured. My Evening Star started making an almighty racket after less than twenty-four hours and I was terrified something was wrong with the motor, but it turns out it just wasn't sufficiently lubricated at the factory. Now it's once again the quietest and smoothest-running of my three working locomotives (soon to be four, provided Hornby finally manages to release its long-delayed Rare Bird set, and provided I managed to get my pre-order in before all 1,000 pieces were snapped up).

How to stop your model train from squeaking

By the way, I'm still trying to figure out the best solution to fitting as large a layout as possible into my bedroom. I'm still leaning towards creating some sort of portable baseboard, possibly on legs, that can be put away when not in use, but another solution would be to scrap the baseboard idea completely and simply construct as large a layout as possible running around the outer edges of my room. Of course, that would mean foregoing anything beyond the most basic scenery and would also be a nightmare from a vacuuming point of view (and for some reason this house gets incredibly dusty), so it may not be a feasible solution. It would let me have a much bigger layout, though.

Posted at 1:21 PM in Model Railways

 

Cheap and cheerful

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Model Railways

This is the "Evening Star", my newest purchase. The real locomotive was the 999th of the British Railways Standard range and the last steam engine to be built in the UK. It was actually singled out for preservation before it had even been constructed, which tells you something both about the speed at which diesel and electrification were sidelining steam AND that the powers that be already realised that one day people would mourn the passing of these great coal-guzzling beasts. "Evening Star" is part of the 9F class which, with its ten driving wheels, long driving rods and sheer length, always struck me as more stylistically in tune with American heavy duty locomotives than their British counterparts. They were designed as freight trains but were also put to use hauling passenger services... which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned, because I don't have any freight rolling stock.

Evening Star

Evening Star

"Evening Star" has been a staple of Hornby's catalogue for ages, and I always wanted one during my initial forays into the hobby some twenty years ago. This particular variant is part of Hornby's Railroad range - basically less expensive, less detailed models, often made from older moulds. I picked mine up, unopened, for £40 - a very good deal if you consider what it sells for direct from Hornby. It's a fairly recent model - locomotive driven, with sprung buffers and the finer, more realistic coal in the tender than the big clumpy mound that was the norm for the better part of the last 25 years. And apparently this counts as "less detailed"!

It also runs extremely well, hurtling along with the power knob set to 50%, where it takes my A4s to around 80 or 90% to achieve the same speed. I attribute this to the smaller, more numerous driving wheels which provide plenty of traction. I'm slightly surprised, given its length and the fact that only the two-wheel bogey at the front of the locomotive has any sort of side-to-side movement, that it can handle second radius track (Hornby's curved track comes in four radii, with the tight first radius generally reserved for small goods locomotives), but I've been running it in for the past couple of hours (half an hour in each direction, both forwards and backwards) without any derailments. (Actually, I've yet to see a single derailment since getting back into the hobby.)

Evening Star

Evening Star

All in all this was a very worthwhile acquisition. My "Flying Scotsman" is currently at Pastimes, being restored to working order, but it's likely to be March before I see it again, so it's nice to get a bit more variety on my layout instead of just having my two near-identical A4s passing each other every few seconds. My next objective will be to have a serious think about what sort of permanent layout I want to have - shape, size, number of lines, etc.

Posted at 12:42 PM in Model Railways

 

Train pics

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Falcon, pulling the Heart of Midlothian service, prepares to leave the station...

"Falcon", pulling the Heart of Midlothian service, prepares to leave the station...

...while on the other line, Quicksilver is just passing through.

...while on the other line, "Quicksilver" is just passing through.

Falcon stops to commiserate with Flying Scotsman, currently out of order. Ignore the fact that the liveries are from two completely different eras. Ignore too the stack of SIMPSONS DVDs in the background.

"Falcon" stops to commiserate with "Flying Scotsman", currently out of order. Ignore the fact that the liveries are from two completely different eras. Ignore too the stack of SIMPSONS DVDs in the background.

Quicksilver and Falcon pass each other on the implausibly tight curves of a space-strapped model railway.

"Quicksilver" and "Falcon" pass each other on the implausibly tight curves of a space-strapped model railway.

What d'you mean, 'That looks nothing like York Station'?

What d'you mean, "That looks nothing like York Station"?

Various shots of the details on Falcon. (Quicksilver is from a slightly earlier, less detailed batch.)

Various shots of the details on Falcon. (Quicksilver is from a slightly earlier, less detailed batch - note the less convincing linkage in shot 2.)

Various shots of the details on "Falcon". ("Quicksilver" is from a slightly earlier, less detailed batch - note the less convincing linkage in shot 2.)

Three locomotives take five.

Three locomotives take five.

I continue to be stunned by the sheer level of detail and accuracy in these models. For comparison, here's a recent photo of the real thing. (Six of the 35 A4 Pacifics have been preserved, four in the UK and two in North America.)

Posted at 2:17 PM in Model Railways

 

Full steam ahead

Friday, January 21, 2011

Model Railways

Until the age of about 11, I was obsessed with model trains. My late granddad bought me my first train set at age 4 or thereabouts - a simple "OO" gauge freight tain and oval track loop from Hornby. (He himself had a far more impressive setup in the larger "O" gauge running the entire length of his loft.) Despite their highly temperamental nature (rolling stock accidentally becoming uncoupled, locomotives constantly derailing at the corners, etc.), I became absolutely hooked, and for several years all I wanted for birthdays and Christmasses were new trains, track and carriages. It was always steam locomotives - I had no interest in diesel and electric trains - and my favourites of all were the A4 Pacifics, majestic, streamlined beasts builts in the late 1930s for the London and North Eastern Railway, one of which, 4468 "Mallard", holds the world speed record for steam traction (126 miles per hour).

I'm not entirely sure why my interest in model railways declined, but I'd hazard a guess that it had something to do with the amount of time, money and patience required to build and maintain a really impressive layout, plus the fact that even a modest sized setup requires a great deal of space. (For several years, I had a two-line circuit that occupied a good two thirds of my bedroom floor. I had no space for anything else, and actually getting around the room was virtually impossible.) At around the time I started secondary school, I got rid of all my track, controllers, coaches, wagons and accessories, and packed my four favourite locomotives (three A4s and one A3, a limited edition Flying Scotsman) into the back of a cupboard.

Flash forward a decade and a half, and for some reason the passion has been re-awakened in me last December. I'm at a loss to explain why, but it might have had something to do with clearing out the aforementioned cupboard and rediscovering the locomotives, along with various Hornby catalogues, a booklet of track plans and an incredibly battered book full of photographs of A4s. Fairly soon, I was perusing the stock in Hornby's online catalogue and playing the "if money was no object..." game. Come Christmas, I received some money and decided to put it towards a fairly straightforward train set. Being the A4 enthusiast that I am, I settled on the Yorkshire Pullman set and found it on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price (well, given the RRP, at any rate):

Yorkshire Pullman

Of course, things have changed quite a bit in the last decade in a half. The locomotives are now more detailed and more accurate (and more expensive) than ever, require less power than their predecessors and now seem to be exclusively engine-driven (the last time I set eyes on a model train, the Hornby steam models were distinctive due to the motor being placed in the tender). Oh, and they're manufactured in China now. I pressed ahead with my rampant spending spree, picking up a couple of track extension packs (to allow me to create a double loop rather than the fairly uninteresting single oval that comes in the set) and one of those self-assemble railway station packs (to make the layout look less sparse). A few days later I also bit the bullet and ordered what I later discovered to be a limited edition of 1,500: the Heart of Midlothian train pack which include a locomotive (the A4 Pacific "Falcon") and three coaches.

I was glad I did, because a couple of weeks after Christmas, everything except the main item - the Yorkshire Pullman set - had arrived. As such I was glad to have a train and some spare track to mess about with... and was even more glad when the set finally DID show up, nearly a fortnight after dispatch, and turned out to be the wrong item. (I was sent the SHEFFIELD Pullman, an easy mistake to make, but still - grrr!) Naturally, it was packaged up and returned to sender, with promises of the correct model arriving "shortly". (It took an additional week to reach me. None of this, as I'm sure you'd agree, is the sort of service you'd expect to receive given the £15 delivery charge.)

In the meantime, I'd discovered a problem: the locomotive from the Heart of Midlothian pack didn't like performing left hand turns. It was absolutely fine going clockwise around my loop of track (and therefore only ever having to turn right), but flip it round and try to send it the other way and it would invariably short circuit the entire loop within seconds. I was at a loss to explain this and was just getting to the stage of sending it back to the supplier (not something I was looking forward to, given its limited edition status and the fact that they had sold their last remaining stock to me) when I discovered a model shop a mere bus ride away from where I live. "Bring it in and let me take a look at it," said the fellow behind the counter. I dutifully did so. "Here's your problem," he said, and pushed the locomotive's chassis back into place. (It was previously out of alignment, causing one of the connecting rods to brush against one of the wheels during - you guessed it - left hand turns.)

And here are the results:

Layout on Hornby TrakMat

OK, so it may not be the world's most thrilling layout at the moment, but I've got plans for it. Space on my bedroom floor is fairly limited, so my aim is to construct a sort of table with foldable legs that can be propped up against the wall when not in use. That will allow me to design something a bit bigger than the setup in the picture above without worrying about not being able to move from one side of the room to the other. (I must admit, though, that I'm slightly surprised by just how effortlessly it all runs on nothing more than a sheet of glossy sheet of paper (Hornby's scenic TrakMat) laid on top of the carpet. My last layout had a dedicated cork baseboard and trains derailed on it constantly. The track and/or locomotives must have come along leaps and bounds since then.) I envy those who can dedicate an entire room to their layout. (And of course there's also this.)

I'll take some more pictures of the layout when I get the chance to in daylight, but for now, here are a few snaps from last week of the Heart of Midlothian service on its lonely run round a single loop of track through some very blue, carpet-like countryside:

The Heart of Midlothian

The Heart of Midlothian

The Heart of Midlothian

The third shot shows Falcon next to her older, less accurate, dust-clogged and currently non-functioning sister, Mallard (in for servicing as I type this).

PS. A word of warning to my fellow Blu-ray aficionados: while I do intend to keep up my "BD impressions" posts (and currently have a bit of a backlog which I'll hopefully get round to over the next few days), the expense of a model railway hobby does mean that I'm going to have to be a bit more selective about the BDs I buy. In practice, all this really means is that I'll be relying a bit more on rentals than I did in the past, but it does mean I'll be less likely to blind-buy non-UK discs.

PPS. By the way, anyone with an interest in model railways living in or near the Glasgow area should definitely check out Pastimes on Maryhill Road (towards the St. George's Cross end). It's an absolute treasure trove of rolling stock and the gentleman who runs it, Gordon, is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.

Posted at 9:30 PM in Model Railways