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'Upper Isis' by Countryside Models, TLC/Modernisation/Restoration project


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I have just become the new owner of a wonderful little layout called 'Upper Isis' after a recent random Ebay 'is this item of interest' suggestion and with only 50 minutes to go....! A 6x8' L shaped GWR branch set around the WW2 period, though now missing a few of the details to fit that period. Originally built by Countryside Models as a commission build, the layout featured in the September 2010 edition of Model Rail.

 

More recently it was used as a display piece in a model shop and a little crudely modified to suit its new purpose, a through station instead of terminus to allow a unit to be used as a shuttle, some sections of code 100 let in in place of the original fine scale track to facilitate uncoupling ramps and various bits of scenery to repair, oh there's also a bit of 3rd rail to remove as it was going to be altered to a more Southern feel by the previous owner.

 

Underneath the odds and sods that require attention though is a superbly built layout, I'm most pleased with it. So far all I have done is remove a bit of dust so pretty much as purchased. I'm initially planning to replace the code 100 sections then make new backscenes, as though the originals are nicely painted and suit the layout well they are now somewhat distorted and tatty in places, perhaps go photographic? Then there are many scenic bits to repair, especially where one section is removable, big gaps have appeared around the edges. 

 

And then stock to buy, build and modify, I've been out of 4mm for many years so had to borrow a few items from a friend to give things a test!

 

Toughest thing to decide on will be time period. Do I stick with WW2, some of the buildings have their windows taped up and the signalbox name plate is lying in the undergrowth as was often the case during that time...! Or do I bring it forward 10 years or so in to early BR. Or slightly later, hmm, decisions decisions......!! 

 

 

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Edited by Dinmore Manor
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What a fantastic item to stumble upon! I downloaded all of the info from the original Countryside Models website as it was such a inspirational small space layout. The only downside in my mind was the sharp-ish corner curve but otherwise it seemed very convincing with a consistent finish to everything. The later uncoupling ramps do jar a bit, so it will be good to replace them.

Looking forward to seeing how you get along with this.

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Certainly so, was a real 'impulse' purchase, the pictures on the listing were poor but after a quick Google and browse of the builders website I knew I had to have it...! It was later modified/widened by Countryside Models by over a foot and all the track relaid, with the addition of the  'military' siding in front of the original goods yard, maybe the curve is more gentle now than originally as per the website pics?? 

 

 

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All things considered, it seems to have survived its trials and tribulations (- so what exactly is a 'tribulation', anyway?), pretty well.  I've seen worse damage after being dropped or trodden on at exhibitions, so yes; eminently restorable.  

 

What does never cease to amaze me is how some people insist upon putting totally wrong period additions and out-of-scale toys into carefully constructed scale and period-specific set pieces.  Just goes to show how thoughtless some people are, doesn't it?  Hey ho.  No-one on here would do owt s' daft, would they?  What a great find ! (Wish I'd seen it myself!, but still; nice to see it's 95% still in good condition.  

Here's what parts of it used to look like... 

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Fwiw, the curve immediately in front of the half-timbered cottage looks to match the original, but beyond that it is much eased, and I note that two points in Dinmore's photos have plastic wing rails to the frogs and so are probably Tillig.  I can understand the use of those as a) their code 83 rail is very similar to code 75 and so easy to knock 7thou. off the height over a couple of inches and they'll match well, while b) these larger radius Tillig points have flexible sleepering, so they can be bent slightly to fit a new design into largely existing geometry much more easily.   The only problem with Tillig (apart from their delicacy!), is that the sleepering is 'equalised' rather than laid perpendicular to the 'main through road' - a particularly European feature - but since people are happy to use Peco which always* uses the straighter road as it's main track, (so meaning that a siding or bay which goes straight on while the 'main line' curves around the corner, not  prototypical practise), I cannot see a problem with that, especially when the sleepering is hidden behind a bank of trees.  [* 'Y's and crossings apart, of course.] 
Shame the signalbox has been lowered; how now would the signalman see over a van or coach in the loop to see what's happening on the main line?  Still.   Easily rectified, and at least the original box looks to be intact as the new groundframe... 

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Thanks for taking the time to post those pictures and background info Andy, I have a copy of the MR issue in the post to me, look forward to seeing it.

 

Those pictures have me sold on sticking with the WW2 theme, shame all the vehicles etc. have gone but it will give me something to do! I'll build a new base for the signalbox, don't worry about that! Does look somewhat odd on the ground! I'll try not to spoil it......!

 

Mike 

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I've noticed that the signal box has been moved a bit since the first incarnation of the layout, to accommodate the track improvements, and is now in a slightly inappropriate location, with the run-round loop between it and the mainline, making it harder for the signalman to exchange the single line token with the driver. Is it possible to position it nearer the end of the loop, perhaps on the platform side of the line, as that would also give the signalman a better view of the tracks in both directions, being on the outside of the curve? The points for the far end of the run-round loop would probably be locally worked from a small ground frame, so no problems regarding their distance from the signal box.

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19 hours ago, Dinmore Manor said:

Those pictures have me sold on sticking with the WW2 theme, shame all the vehicles etc. have gone but it will give me something to do!  

.....

 

Mike 

Oxford is your friend wrt vehicles; although they don't do the Austin K2 (they came from w/m kits, as did the Morris staff vehicle), they now do several excellent alternatives, including a (smaller) Morris staff car, while EFE provided the bus which was merely repainted.  

(Generally speaking, requisitioned buses were not repainted in camouflage when used by the RASC but a few were and I chose to use one as it helped define the WW2 atmosphere I wanted to create.  Brown coaches and white roofs repainted dark grey (as per my photos) ought to help with that too, as did the 2250 class without cab side windows and the pannier in black with plain 'G W R' on its tanks in white.  Most of the WW2 posters seem to be intact, but if any are missing, 'Tiny Signs' is your friend there...) 

Were I to do the bus again, I would grind away the rivets which hold the chassis in place: dismantle it - which would make painting easier - and add at least a driver, if not a few more forces passengers either approaching to unload a train, or departing having just done so.  

There's an excellent book on that subject too; 'Run Away Somebody's Coming' by Robert Houghton, which explains a lot about what the RASC was and how (and where) it operated.  Well worth reading... 

WRT wider issues, there's a post from 2013 on this site which discusses the subject [search for 'GWR in World War II'] and there's also a book on the subject by Tim Bryant called "The Great Western at War, 1939-45" which I'd recommend too.   Finally, there is a pamphlet on WW2 camouflage patterns (of which the well-known and easily-remembered 'Mickey Mouse' is but one) - but sadly I can't find it to quote its details to you.  It is worth noting, however, that every vehicle was different - applied by its crew mostly - with the paints they were given; paints which did not always allow them to copy the 'official guidance' owing to tone, colour or even the amount they were given, so you can 'go to town' on variety and have a little fun.  The carefully-copied-from-the-book examples which one finds at vehicle rallies today does not necessarily provide a realistic guide, going by the few photos available of actual war-time British RASC vehicles, but they are definitely your 'best evidence'. wrt what they actually looked like. 

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  • Dinmore Manor changed the title to 'Upper Isis' by Countryside Models, TLC/Modernisation/Restoration project
Posted (edited)

Thank you for providing so much detail again Andy, I need to do some research and start looking out for various vehicles/vehicle kits etc, the publications you mention will be going on my search list too! It will be fascinating I'm sure, just as I can tell it was for you having read the Model Rail article which arrived through the post today. 

 

I carefully removed the 3rd rail yesterday and the 5 uncoupling ramps, shall replace to short code 100 sections within the station and reinstate the original headshunt at the weekend, so a little bit of progress atleast...! 

 

Mike

 

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Looking much better for the removal of the 3rd rail....

Edited by Dinmore Manor
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For the first time in many years a GWR Railcar visits the platform of Upper Isis Station, back to the beginning perhaps you could say..? 

 

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Nice enough model but why does it have to be geared to do a scale 300mph at the expense of good quality low speed running...?! 

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Work has commenced this afternoon with the recommission of the storage sidings, unlocking of the sector plate and getting all the infrared sensors back up and working properly. The previous owner having utilised a separate fiddleyard. 

 

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Then the Pway gang moved in and got shot of the code 100 rail sections within the station, Fred looks pleased with his days work. 

 

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Edited by Dinmore Manor
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The Pway gang worked wonders over the weekend with the code 100 ripped out and replaced by new code 75, now awaiting the arrival of some ballast wagons. Sadly poor Fred, who featured in the last photo, is no more having been violenty removed by an alien force, sights of UFO's had been reported. Ok, I forgot he was there when cleaning up loose ballast with Henry the hoover...... Ooops 

 

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A GWR wartime brown coach has appeared on the layout courtesy of a good friend who suddenly appeared with it having painted it last week, nice little surprise! 

 

An order of military vehicles has been placed and a field gun kit, so be plenty of things to start building and weathering in the coming weeks. 

 

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Wartime brown is a bit of an unusual sight, it certainly makes for variety. I find the compression of the embankments interesting, it's unnoticeable in anything other than the overhead shots. It's a useful tool for space saving and disappearing lines offstage. I think that I will pinch that Idea for possible future use!

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