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Show report : Cambrian Railex event in Oswestry


A busy summer season for us, having just got back from doing the Cambrain Railex show in Oswestry, Shropshire, A really enjoyable and busy show heres some of the highlights.



Above: This event had been very well planned out and advertised including at the preserved station site were the show was being held.



Above: The Cambrian Station in the town played host to this show, the organisers making the most of the heat wave of recent weeks by placing most of the trade support outside! A brave move!



Above: Our corner in the ticket office! Yes we got a whole corner to ourselves, which I was most happy about, Anna seen here at the start of the day with the layout set up and ready for the days running.



Above: Before we turn our attention to the layout, just wanted to show the pic of the platform outside with the LMS 20 Ton brake and shunter in operation giving rides though out the day. Sadly I did not get a chance to ride this one due to the fact we were so busy.



Above: So on with the show! This was to be a long one with doors opening at 10AM and not closing until 5PM which is a late closing time for most exhibitions, anyhow here is 147 and 762 on the down line at Thornton Gate Station.



Above: Reliability of the stock has now improved, we had no failures at all during the show, this allowed Balloons 701 and 708 to stay together on the works train all day, seen here shunting off the centre road and back across to the yard sidings.



Above: Balloon 710 is seen on the up road station area now sporting a new Tomix chassis, the car did a valiant service all day.



Above: Also working very well, Centenary 624 retuned to service with it new Bachmann PCC chassis, seen here approaching Thornton Gate from Fleetwood.





Above: The final runners of the day as 5PM loomed, Balloons 710 and still fitted with its original brill trolly chassis Balloon 726, the two worked a skeleton service, whilst everything else was quietly packed up in readiness for the mad rush to get home.




During the day the local paper (The Shropshire Star) took a photo of myself with 726 for an item in the following days edition, not the first press coverage we've had and I some how doubt the last! It can be viewed online here: http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2013/07/22/full-steam-ahead-for-fun-in-shropshire-sun/border-21rail-4/



Above: And finally a little gift the layout was presented with by the exhibition manager, a solid cast replica railway works plate, a very nice item indeed but a bit to large and heavy to put anywhere on the layout its self!


All in all a very good day, a few things to sort out and repair before we head off to our next show, that of the Stockport station rail festival on Sunday 4th August.

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Stockport Railshow 2013 : Report


The end of our busy summer season has come with TG's outing to Stockport. For me this has to be one of the best but oddest shows we've done to date, but never the less a really positive experience. It was a bit odd carrying the layout though the subway at Stockport station but oh well!





Above: So lots happening during the day Including the naming of a Virgin Pendolino by Mr Pete Waterman! This of cource ment the crowed has really gathered for the show so we knew we were going to be busy! 




Above: DB also entered an exhibit in the form of Class 60 no. 60020 which stabled in the station for the duration of the day.



Above: And if all this excitement wasn't enough 45231 made a pass though the station on a live rail tour! WOW....



Above: So despite all this going on Thornton Gate was still billed as the 'Main attraction' as seen here on the notice board half was down the public subway that connects the stations platforms... no pressure then! 



Above: As before! Anna sits with the layout as the doors open at 10 AM, for this show id linked up a Netbook computer to show looped video of Blackpool and other related contact throughout the day. 



Above: Due to the level of excitement at Virgin and the work they'd done in promoting us, it was only right that we returned the favour, so the night before the show and sadly a little pushed for time Balloons 701 and 708, which have been working in multiple for most of this season were giving 'one off' Virgin Trains Stockport branding, with this photo being rushed over to Virgin the night before. 



Above: Jubilee 762 was also given temporary Virgin banners for the event, in addition to the balloon cars the stunt went down very well indeed!  








Above: Scenes of other stock during the day in operation, we only had two failures these being 719 (gauging issue again) and 624 (Electrical failure). Although these failures were annoying, they were not that surprising considering the back to back nature of the last 3 exhibitions we've done, having been somewhat pushed for time.


So deep breath and a rest is now the order of the day, Stockport marking the end of 2013 summer shows for us, however we can announce an addition to our schedule, this being the Wolverhampton Model Railway Exhibition on November 3rd and 4th (TBC) this in addition to out final show of 2013 at Bayston Hill Shrewsbury at the end of November.


We have lots to be getting on with repairs and upgrades so keep posted!



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  • 1 month later...
Pantograph Cars, and our summer break.
Hello all, realised its been a while so thought i'd do an update.
Its been a busy summer, I have been grateful for the break in our exhibition schedule, this has given me some time to work on the much needed updates, ahead of our return to finish off the 2013 season, starting with the Wolverhampton MRC show the beginning of November.
I will post again soon, about the layout work, but for now I wanted to share a little ongoing project... A 1923 Blackpool Pantograph Car.
With some of my other projected delayed or on hold for now, Thornton Gate is in need of more single deck vehicles, currently only having the two Centenary Class cars (when they work!).
So I was looking at the large amount of scrap this project has produced, such the numerous Brill trolly body shells, and wondered if they could be used for any Blackpool prototype. The solution ... A preserved Pantograph Class car.
Brill trollies have been used before, in the form of our previous engineering car No.753, which despite being re-chassised a number of times was a complete liability and so was withdrawn at the end of our 2012 session being replaced with Balloon 701 which is more prototypical and due to its brilliant TM-03 chassis, much more relabel. 753 was then broken up for spares and has existed as a half broken up shell in my scrap box ever since.
Second time lucky?
The Brill trollies do look a little like Pantograth cars, and with a bit of work the main body shell can be 'de-Americanised' to give it a more 1920's European look. 753 is also going to give up its tower for the new project. 
One of the key things to do was to capture the shape with in the confines of the existing body shell. One of the ways to do this is to remove the front window frame to give a move wider modern look.
Above: Left the original 1800's looking American Brill trolly cab, Right: The windows widened out with the curved framing removed.


So very much a work in progress. I have tried were possible to keep the car intact. Brill trollies were not manufactured with the best plastic, so tend to be thin and either brittle or very soft. 


Originally I was hoping to keep as many of the window supports as possible, but as none of them line up with the new required window layout of 6 large windows per side, almost all the original frames had to be cut out with new plastic strip and panelling sections built into the shell to create new window frames and to add strength to the car. 


In addition attention has gone into the roof, which on a Pantograph car has the raised vent section sloped at each end. To replicate this I have cut away the end sections of the vet area, filed down the undersides then reattached them pointing down, once filled and sanded this should give the smooth curves required for roof profile of the prototype.




Above: A lot of work required, the soon be be Pantograph class tram seen here with its new TM-03 chassis unit being test fitted, even if it was to remain as a Brill trolly I would have still replaced the chassis. The side frames (which will be pained green) have been selected due to there closeness to the prototype, however they work and look best if fitted upside down! So are due a little bit of modification.


I dont know when I'll get this ready, im hoping soon, maybe ready for November, just have to see how it looks once sprayed in primer.


As for the rest of the layout... watch this space! Another update due very soon!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I assume you're basing this on 167? As soon as I saw that first pic of the Brill trolley, I actually thought of Oporto 273. This did run (briefly!) at blackpool, so would be prototypical-ish. Good luck anyway.


Thanks very much... yes 167 is the prototype im using and trying to re-create, its one of those that it just seemed a good idea seeing the amount of scrap brill shells that had built up! Must do another update as its coming up quite nicely... Thanks for the info...  

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Final Upgrades and the Wolverhampton Exhibition




Hello all, just a reminder were appearing at this years Wolverhampton MRC Exhibition on November 2nd and 3rd.

This will be the first show since Stockport back in August, this has given us time to get the remainder of the major upgrade work done early, allowing us to show case the new developments within what's left of the 2013 season and ahead of our very packed 2014 season.



Above: So first up we have a new 'Sound App' which i've custom developed for Thornton Gate using extracts of audio recorded at the real location and of rolling stock movements in the area. Now im finding along with DCC, Sound is becoming an increasing demand from the public and when done well can really add another dimension. Unlike most systems which use expensive on board chip sets, Our system uses to discreetly placed stereo speakers, which are plugged into a PDA computer running the software, sounds such as traffic and trams are then stereo balanced and played over any stock movement.


How well this system is going to work is anyone's guess, but having fallen in love with the idea when I saw a smilier 'atmos sound' system in used on the layout 'Grange Over Sands' http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/gallery/image/3467-grange-over-sands-1jpg/ 


I knew this is what I wanted for Thornton Gate, but in a more random and interactive form.



Above: The new look! A lot of work has gone into improving the exterior of Thornton Gate, making it more contained and framed better. Thanks to a new top board we now have new strip tube lighting replacing the old spot lamps and tubes. The side panels help to hide the fiddle yard and make us operators feel less overlooked, in addition we now have a large blue fabric area to help raise the back scene making the fiddle area less exposed.



Above & Below: Cosmetically the main layout has also received some attention in the form of new custom printed back scene elements, which have been printed onto self adhesive paper and attached onto the boards. The buildings are taken from photographs of the real location and so are 90%ish correct. After being blended into the foreground scenic with the application of scatters and paint, the end result is really quite good and really helps to lift the layout and give it a real sense of depth and grounding.  





So all being well and tram fleet back together, Thornton Gate can be seen next weekend at Wolverhampton. 





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Wolverhampton MRC Exhibition 2013 - Show Report




Hello all, just recovering after Thornton Gate's appearance at this years Wolverhampton exhibition. 


Im very pleased to announce it was a fantastic success, and I can not praise the Wolverhampton Model Railway Club enough for there professional and organised approach to running this show. The new venue was fantastic, we could park and unload really easily, floor space was more then ample, we were fed and really well looked after by the club staff, and I even got 2... yes 2! plug sockets ready and live right next to our allotted space!


So if your reading this Wolverhampton MRC, your should be very proud and what you achieved, and I wish you as a club all the very best going forward :-)  



Down to the business at hand. All in all we had a very good show, no real failures of any tram cars, very positive feedback from the public and I even got to do some operating for a change!



Above: A busy yard! The new upgrades to the layout for this show have really come into there own, here an additional 'hired in' EWS class 08 shunter joins the resident '04' on the rear line, P'way car no 701 working solo again for this show is seen also stabled in the yard, whist the ever popular 'Kit Kat' centenary class tram no 641 passes on a north bound Fleetwood service. It should be pointed out that this time both Centenary cars ran perfectly during the two day show, a far cry from the normal predictable failure of at least one of them, sister car 624 doing the honours last time at Stockport!

Above: Speaking of 701, during the exhibition Thornton Gate had a visitor in the form of John Marfleet's version of Balloon 701 which normally would traverse the rails of Huncote Tramways Johns own N gauge UK tramway exhibition layout. His version of 701 originating from the same mould as my version. Seen here lined up in front of mine for a photo.


Above: As John's 701 was also fitted with a DCC decoder, it seemed only right that it go for a spin on Thornton Gate's rails, with Mr Marfleet driving of course!

Above: Also, on day two widened Balloon car 719 was bought over to the exhibition for a test run after being out of use for some time. After some testing before we opened to the public, it was pushed back into life and used some of the day, seen here waiting on the down line in the station area. 

So overall a very good weekend, everything worked very well, the layout looked fantastic and we even had our first visiting tram!

Next stop for us if our final outing for 2013, that being the Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury Exhibition on Saturday 23rd of November 2013.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury 2013 Exhibition


Another year almost over... we limp over the finishing line!




Thornton Gate will make its last show of our 2013 season this Saturday at Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury. This is my local show, and its were I cut my teeth doing my first public exhibition about 11 or 12 years ago so I do like to support it, even when i dose suddenly clash with the NEC..... It is a really good friendly and quite large local show, well worth a visit. 



For this one I'm mostly patching the layout back together, after Wolverhampton, however I have been playing with some Japanese lorries which I've added to the layout today... amazingly I bought these two for just £3.00 each!




Above: The lorries really look the part, especially exiting Cleveleys industrial estate.


So a full show and end of season report will follow...after I've got back from the NEC myself, visiting on Sunday... a busy weekend ahead! 



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The night before the show, a quick update.


Have spent Firday evening over at the church setting up... well I say setting up it was more like chatting to other people for half an hour and drinking tea.... however once again were ready for the one day event.




Above: Ready to go.. and thank god (appropriate as were in a church) for the new lighting as the 'house' lights used in he building are just awful, a horrible dim yellow... our lights give a nice clean white glow in amongst the gloom! I worry for layouts that dont have there own lighting rigs!




Above: The few show plaques we have been given (so few shows give you any these days!) have been added and weigh a ton! Before you ask the dedication plaques is for my friend the late Pete Walford who was part of the team but sadly died aged 23 a few months before our first outing back in 2012. Thornton Gate is dedicated to his memory.



Above: An overview of most the layout.... who needs a trackplan!



Above: And finally on test once again our new sound app software, generating the atmos sound affects for the layout..


So were all ready, bring on the final show of the year! 

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Thornton Gate – Review of the year.




Its that time again! The Shrewsbury, Bayston Hill exhibition yet again marks the end of our second season operating Thornton Gate.
It has been another extraordinary year, with many highs and lows, but most importantly the interest and popularly of the project continues to grow, and were very much looking forward to a busy and high profile 2014 season. 
Many new trams have come online and others have had up’s and downs during the year, infact reading news about the prototypes at Blackpool, you realise our 1:148 scale replicas are having just as much of an adventurous career themselves! 
We start way back in the early part of the year when balloon 701 and standard 167 came online for the first time. Both were equally imported developments. 
Our 2012 season had relied heavily on Bachmann US Brill trolley chasses, these however had not fared well with the gruelling demands of an exhibition weekend, with most breaking down at some point.
A replacement was needed and 701 formed that basis. The car, built ironically from a rejected body shell was test fitted with a new Japanese Tomix chasses, type TM-03. I was lucky as this unit almost matched the wheel base of the donor Brills we were replacing. 
Standard 167 was built as my attempt at doing the classic Matchbox Typhoo Tea tram conversion, and utilised a short wheel base KATO chassis also from Japan.
The two new cars gave a marked improvement over the Brill chasses and entered service for our first 2013 show at Craven Arms, Shropshire.
For this first event Balloon 708 was also given a new Tomix chassis and much needed patch repaint, we also welcomed widened Balloon 719, built by my brother Sam, trialling door pods as a post 2011 Balloon. 
Also In time for start of the 2013 season, most of the fleet got new Kato pantograph units, replacing the somewhat crude examples we’d hand built.
Our seconded show of the year was the Totally Transport Festival in Blackpool during the early summer… however given the weather I didn’t see much sun!
For this show Jubilee 762 was re-chassed and returned to use after being robbed for spares during our 2012 season.
Also for the first time 701 and 708 where set-up together and ran top and tail on the P’way wagons in a trial ‘Tram Train’ experiment.
Overall despite the weather Blackpool went quite well, we did however have issues with Centenary car no 624 finally giving up completely, the car having been dogged with issues in its first year. Although repaired for the 2013 season 624 continued to spit gears even on brand new truck sets! The conclusion, the Bachmann PCC chasses which we still have to used with these trams, was totally shot and a new one had to be acquired.
On a more positive note, as we were in Blackpool, at the end of the show after packing up the layout we went over to the real Thornton Gate as not all the team had been there before, with the layout still in the car these lead to the unusual scenario of taking Thornton Gate to Thornton Gate!!
In July we made our third exhibition appearance at Cambrian Railex event in Oswestry, North Shropshire.
Based at the now preserved Oswesrty station, the one day event also featured working trains outside on the former main line.
For our part it was a relatively quite show. Centenary 624 had been rechassised with a new Bachmann US PCC unit and following concerns about Balloon 710 it to was rechassised becoming the 5th tram to run a Tomix TM-03 unit.
With these improvements we managed to get though the show and I even made it into the local paper, along with ‘Coast Guard’ Balloon No. 726!
August bought us back up north as Thornton Gate was billed as the main exhibit of Virgin Trains Stockport Station exhibition. This was a slightly odd experience as the show took place on the platforms of the cities mainline station.
For the event Balloons 701 and 708 and Jubilee 762 were given ‘Virgin Stockport’ branding and destination blinds were changes to read ‘Virgin Trains Stockport’. Admittedly the decision to do the branding was taken only 24 hours before we were due to exhibit so was a little rushed, but none the less well worth the effort. 
This was also the last show we ran the layout in its current ‘overlooked’ presentation form, before major upgrade work was undertaken to improve the presentation and operating experience.
During the show we only had two failures, 624 again, even with a new chassis! And widened balloon  719 with gauging issues.
Stockport marked the end of our summer shows, and so we had a much needed rest and time to repair and service the stock after 3 almost back to back exhibitions.
November marked the end of our season (almost) with the last two exhibitions.
Show five was that of the Wolverhampton Model railway club, this year being held at a new venue for the first time. This show was to be our one and only two day event of the season.
For Wolverhampton we bought forward a number of key updates to the layout, including new lighting and surround boarding and branding including new custom printed hoodies complete with the ‘TG” logo, all in our corporate blue scheme.
Also for the first time we used our experimental interactive sound system, the layout being fitted with speakers and a touch screen PDA computer.
Operations wise all trams were running apart from 719 which was kicked back into life by Sam during the show. The car took it in turns with 762 as they both share the same CV decoder address for our DCC system.
Balloons 701 and 708 ran separately for the first time since the beginning of the year, 701 having almost lost it ‘Virgin’ branding apart from the front red shields. During the removal of the paper ads it was found the glue used was pulling the paint off as well, so 701 received some emergency touching up before the show.
As a result 708 was left with its ‘Virgin’ branding intacted and ran with the branding until the end of the season.
On day one of the Wolverhampton show, we had our first visiting tram car in the form of John Marfleet’s version of Balloon 701, this took to the rails for a short time as well as lining up with our home 701 for a twin photo!
And Finally…
Rounding off 2013 was our local show, the Bayston Hill exhibition, Shrewsbury, this one we ran prity much off the back of Wolverhampton show.
According to the organiser numbers were down on last year, and the future of the show is in some doubt, however it did fall on the same Saturday as the Warley NEC exhibition and being only 50 minutes away from the NEC its not surprising numbers were hit. 
I along with most of the other exhibitors wanted to be at the NEC and would go as visitors the following day! 
On the rolling stock front most tramcars were running but a busy year was starting to take its toll on the stock and the layout! Although all cars did finish the show Balloon 726 which retains its original Bachmann Brill trolley chassis was having issues come mid day, and although not failed it was sidelined on the centre loop.
The two centenary cars ran okay for most the day, but again like 726 were in need of servicing, 624 being pulled early and 641 ‘Kit Kat tram’ might have surcome to a spit gear but managed to finish the day!
In the last 15 minutes of the final hour of the show and our 2013 season all active 11 exhibition cars were lined up for the ‘end of show’ photo, a tradition we started last year. Balloon 701 leads the line up.
So what next? Well….
As it happens our 2014 season is all most fully booked, I’m actually taking bookings for 2015! 
In the meantime we as a team have a lot of work to do. I’m working on some new tramcars, as well as additions to the layout, some elements need replacing whilst others need building! In addition all current tramcars need a full clean and service as well as cosmetic attention, this will no doubt keep us busy until April next year when we do it all again for another year!
But that’s not quite it just yet… No, although the last tram has ran for this year, one or two cars have a final engagement for 2013… more will follow!
Other then that and maybe the odd post about some of the things I’ll be doing, that really is it for this year.
So thanks for following us, and keep posted this thread will jump back into life again real soon!
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Well its that time again....


This year Balloon 701 fiited with its snowplough dose the honers and fights another winter of bad snow fall at Thronton Gate, seen here resting between duties with the crew taking a break!




701 is planned for another special duty in 2014 so will shortly be disappearing and may not return to later next year... and no its not going into route master livery just yet!


Anyway A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Thornton Gate!


See you next year maybe for what is looking like the biggest season we might ever do! More details when I know whats happening! 

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  • 3 months later...

2014- A New Season!

Hello all we're back! And gearing up for our biggest and highest profile exhibition season yet!




Its been just over 4 months since we last exhibited and in this time myself and my partner Anna, have been working on the numerous repairs and updates, required to keep the layout working and looking fresh and presentable.




Above: One of the largest projects was the complete removing and refurbishment of the overhead poles and paved areas. The poles were in a sorry state after 2 years of hard knocks. Anna spent 2 days completely refurbishing, which included a rebuild, making them stronger and less prone to damage.




Above: Here we can see Centenary 624 being used for 'gauging trials' with the yet to be repainted rebuild overhead poles.




Above: Another area I wanted to improve was overall 'stuff' and clutter on the layout, the little day to day items that help make a scene that little bit more real, and here can be seen to results still drying, hundreds of all items bought from an number of cottage manufactures from last years NEC show..

Speaking of which.....



Above: Balloon 701 has been given a very special livery for the 2014 season, that of the Warley NEC exhibition, which Thornton Gate is attending as the only Tramway layout at this years (2014) event. 701 has been turned out in the custom livery with the full backing of the Warley Club and we look forward to being part of the outstanding exhibition, for me a personal dream come true in many respects!



Above: So are first show is only a matter of weeks away that of the Beamish tramway museum model show on the 5th and 6th of April 2014. A lot has really been achieved and we've now ready to reinstated the overhead catenary.


Above: Tram cars have been rolling under there own power again on test this month (March 2014) for the first time since November last year, here Standard class no. 147 makes a round trip taking the centre 'up' line which is not a normal operation as the outer loop is used prototypically but its all part of the first preseason electrics test.



Above: The shunting corner, not strictly prototypical but done in good faith and mirroring other light rail systems in the UK, Hired EWS class 08 waits which some EX BR tube opens in the new and highly detailed compound area, as you can see we have a number of new attentions which we hope will keep the visiting public interested for the coming season! 


Above: We'll end with a look at the resident Class 04 industrial and its new plant wagons, bought as ready to run Farish the wagons are typical of the sorts of things that make there want over time onto light rail networks, still lots of work to be done, but we're hoping to use the class 04 more during operations this year.

Well thats it for now, thanks for reading and hope you'll contunie to follow us thoughout 2014!

Remember our opening show is at the Beamish tramway museum model show on the 5th and 6th of April 2014, and is the furthest North Thornton Gate as been to date!

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  • 5 weeks later...

Beamish Exhibition - The Opening Show of Thronton Gate's 2014 Season


An Exhibition Report.




Above: Sunderland 101 (Blackpool Balloon Class no 703) hiding at the back of the depot due to an electrical issue.


The weekend past (April 5th & 6th) saw us with Thornton Gate in County Durham as part of an exhibition at the Beamish Heritage Museum. For myself and Anna this was the furthest north we've ever been and also set the record for the layout!


We'll come to the Exhibition in a mo, but first I just wanted to share a few photos of the goings on at the museum. As always we had very little time to look around, driving model trams is a full time job! However due to the nature of the museum if you want to get some lunch for example the quickest way is to take the tram to the next town! (You dont hear me complaining! )






Above: The bulk of the service around the site provided by ex-Blackpool cars Pantograph Class no. 167 and Towing Car no. 280





Above: As already mentioned Beamish's resident Balloon Car no. 101 was under repair in the sites depot, luckily the depot staff allowed me into the shed and onboard the tram to take a few interesting internal shots, mainly of the cabs and driving consoles.





Above: The weather wasn't on our side for most of the weekend, rain and fog being the main weather features, this did have a knock-on affect with visiter numbers. The views shows the 'fan' of rails that make up Beamish's tram sheds.


Anyhow on with the exhibition!




In all Beamish was the coming together of 10 tramway layouts all in different scales and prototypes, and for the first time we weren't the only N gauge tramway, as John Marfleet's 'Huncote Trams' layout was also in attendance so it was another case of 'swapping notes' with fellow exhibitors.


John also lent us a N gauge rail camera which he took this footage of a mock balloon cab ride along a lap of the layout, enjoy!




Above: Overall Thronton Gate performed well, the layout benefiting from a number updates and cometic tweaks we've been working on in the run up to this show. In this busy view No 701 can be seen stabled in the compound area awaiting a clear road with trailers in tow as well as our Farish shunting locomotives and assorted plant wagons which now occupy the yard area.


In all most tram cars worked well, however we did have a few recurring issues. Firstly 'Kitkat' tram, Centenary class no 641 began developing issues on day one and had died by the end of the first day, however it was resuscitated and spluttered on for day 2, but now requires attention, I suspect another split gear to be a problem a common issue with the serving Bachmann chassises we have to use to power these cars.




Above: 'Coast Guard' Balloon  No 726 also developed some odd running issue, the tram had been newly rechassised with a Tomix Unit for this year but despite this was running poorly, tripping up on point work and stalling. Unable to fix the issue, by day two 726 was dumped on the centre line, sister Balloon No 710 also began to struggle by the end of day two 'suspected dirty pickups' and was also retired to join 726. Compounding issues further was Standard 147 which also begain to suffer from dirt due to long running hours, the sort that cant be cleaned with a brush on site. 





Above: With the number of available cars getting low P'way tram no 701 detached from its trailers in the yard and was summoned to normal passenger working which it continued to do for the majority of day two. Seen here waiting to join the mainline after detaching from its wagons at the back of the yard (out of shot).




Above: Credit were credits due, currently the only tram to retain a Bachmann Brill trolly chassis, Jubilee car no. 762 continued to work well and has given little grief in its 2 years of service. Originally I wanted to replace its chassis as well, but its one of those 'If it ant broke dont fix it'. Out of all the trams in our fleet 762 still on its original chassis, has clocked up the most hours but continues to run well. The car was one of the last two run in the final hour of day two, running our end of the day ghost service.


In all a very good but tiring show, the 6 hour drive the Friday before not helping. Although things arnt as bad reliability wise theses days the loss of 4 trams in our small fleet has got me thinking we might need more cars to fill the void.


One idea would be to build some 'B fleet' cars using mothballed Brill trolly chassises and spare Balloon shells, the only issue being cost of more DCC chips and the reliability of these chassises. However I am increasingly aware of the high running hours our current fleet is doing and just how much we're pushing these chassises some doing up to 8 hours running over a weekend. It's food for thought, this on top of additional classes of tram car im yet to build or introduce.


A more fuller report about the exhibition can be read here: http://www.gordonstrams.net/BMEpage3.htm

Thornton Gates next outing (with a full and working tram fleet) will be:


The Festival of Model Tramways ,

Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th July 2014

at the Museum of Transport, Boyle Street, Cheetham Hill, Manchester, M8 8UW


See: http://www.tramwayinfo.com/Deffest.htm

Edited by Balloon_726
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  • 1 month later...

Update Time!


Hi all, well its been a little while so here is the latest news from team Thornton Gate.


All in all we did alright at Beamish, but now our attentions turn to the big one... The Festival of Tramway Modelling, Manchester.


In my previous post i mentioned some of the reliability issues we have been faced with and a disre to create a stand in 'B' fleet to aid the long running hours our main exhibition fleet has undertaken since 2012.


Well last month that process started with a new 'B Fleet' car Fat Door Balloon 713 using our newer resin shell cast. 




The prototype 713  was extensively rebuilt and so like so many of the Balloon Car fleet is a totally different shape to many of its sisters, I wanted to try and capture the look and feel of, for what is 80 year old tram quite a sharp modern look.




It achieve this the newer body shell was used the advantage being the resin its cast from allows for major changes and modifications to be done. Such as the removal and replacement of all the body lining and rebuild of the top side window pillers and major rebuild and re-profile of the roof as can be seen in the photo above.




As well as the addition of door pods 713 is also fitted with rather smart under nose cowlings that replace the need for front bumpers and undercages, this ment the construction of a new cowling unit from a cut down cab of another spare tram shell with the addition of new plastic strip section to create a new master unit which using are rapid casting technology could be easily copied in resin, creating identical units for the underside of the tram.




713 then received its first coat of paint, im building this tram to its 2011 condition when it wore just a plain white livery with its new door pods, as can be seen in this photo the open window surrounds have been painted black as have the low profile bumper strips on the noise cowlings. the roof complete with rain strips and pantograph unit mounts (built out of plastic) have been given a coat of matt grey as the prototype wares.




This weekend just gone 713 received its first glazing which was done by filling the window areas with tacky 2 part epoxy resin glue, this goes off in the gaps and forms a strong clear glaze, on top of which printed window lining transfers will be applied, giving 713 the impression of the modern bus style hopper windows which it carries.


As for power drive... Originally 713 was going to be fitted with a reused Bachmann Brill car unit, one we had spare from 726 which it had its chassis swapped, however as 713 presents not only a more modern prototype but also a major development in the modelling quality of the Thornton Gate project, I have found a Tomix unit for 713,  so like all the other balloons 713 can run on a standardised chassis.


Elsewhere Sam (my bother) has been woking on a few developments of his own.
As the original builder of the first 'Fat Door' tram no 719, Sam has been building a second car no. 711 to joint its class mate. Both cars were very similar and use Tomix chassis and have door pods fitted.




In addition Sam is working on our Farish bus giving it a custom livery of Blackpool Metro Coastlines orange and yellow, after a number of comments at exhibition about its incorrect livery. Seen above with 719 which has had its door pods removed and regauged both tram and bus should be ready for Manchester, although its still early days and a lot of work is still required.


So for Manchester in July, we're contemplating running all three 'Fat Door' balloons in front line service, these being No's 711, 713 & 719, if there ready and tested in time. Making we hope for an interesting spectacle come the next exhibition weekend. 

More to follow soon......

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Manchester Alert!




This weekend (19th / 20th of July 2014) is the bi-annual Festival of Tramway Modelling, at the Manchester transport museum.


Thornton Gate is exhibiting for the very first time and hence I've been a little busy, so this update is going to be a bit brief.





Above: Ready for service, all 3 fatdoor balloons are now finished and ready for there life at exhibition. Seen here from left to right : 713 (New for this show), 719 (The original fatdoor now back in service) and its duplicate sister car No 711 (which again is new for this show)




Above: Now getting 3 new cars ready for Manchester has been a real achievement and credit must go out to the team who have worked so hard on these... However this did give us a new problem to solve.


You see Fatdoors are by there very nature 'Fat' or wider due to the extra side door pods, some areas of the layout such as around the back are very tight track wise and so a new issue of 2 Fatdoor could not pass each other with out hitting one another presented its self.


The solution was to unpin and eek out the rear lines just giving enough clearance.




Above: Talking of track, another new addition to the layout has been the inclusion of a programming loop section of track and 6 pin master switch, allowing us for the first time to independently reallocate tramcar main addresses with out having to remove every tram from the main track first. This will be a very useful new feature and should allow us to set up replacement cars to cover potential failures, whilst maintaining 9 running exhibition cars at anyone time.





Another brand new addition is my first N gauge Brush class tram in the from of No. 636 in green 'Metro Coastlines' livery, like almost all my other trams 636 is custom cast from and scratch built master and features custom printed transfers. The inclusion of the Brush Car class solves a missing link in my Blackpool fleet and helps address the dominance of the double deckers on the layout.





Above: The real 636 has for the past few years been used as a test bed for new experimental bogies / Trucks and traction motors... Coincidentally my version of 636 is also being used as a test bed for a new type of customised Tomix chassis which as much smaller wheels and truck sets these being more in scale with the prototype. Seen here 636 (top) with its scale trucks and Balloon 710 (Bottom) on the standard size Brill / Tomix trucks all our other cars use. 636 will be on test over the weekend so we'll see how good the chassis is. If successful we might use this unit for all future projects.





Above: And finally i've relabelled and smartened up our DCC controller units. The new allocation of numbering of tram cars in clearly displayed on the custom printed labels. Hopefully making it a bit easier for the operators and a marked improvement over the biroed labels used perviously!


Right thats it! If your coming to Manchester do say Hi we're stand 36 in the main hall (Hall 1) .

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well iv read this thread from start to finish and I have to say amazing work mate!

I plan on attending the November show and hope to catch up with you guys.

You have inspired me to create my own version of 701 from a Corgi Green and Cream Balloon Tram registered as 715 which was in a bad state.

Thanks again for all the updates, I am really looking forward to the next 1.

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Summer Exhibition Report, Manchester & Stoke-on-Trent.
A very busy back to back period started for us with a 2 day exhibition as part of the Manchester Festival of tramway modelling.
This saw us set up on a very wet and rainy Saturday morning in the main bus garage of the cities transport museum. With lightening and heavy rail pouting down outside we we're glad to be undercover amongst the many vintage buses, and of course fellow model tramway exhibits   
Above: Rolling stock wise all went relatively ok with Brush car no.636 and Balloon no 713 making there first public debuts 
Above: A real highlight for me was the late Saturday evening running at Heaton Park put on by staff for the exhibitors after the show had closed for the day. Resident Brush Car no 623 was laid on and took us on a number of trips along the preserved tramway.
Above: Coincidence? On the day Thornton Gate (The Model) operates its first Brush Car publicly... Heaton's real Brush Car wares a very fitting destination blind! (If that was staged for me... then a big thanks to who ever organised that! :-) )
Anyway at the other end of the line is Heaton's new lakeside tram depot which is normally used for storage, however on this occasion I was allowed inside briefly to snap a picture of Balloon 702 which arrived in the early summer and is finally stored safe undercover awaiting restoration work. Again a big thank you to staff at Heaton Park for letting me inside your shed! 

702 being the second Balloon I've managed to snap this year (2014) lurking in the back of a shed, myself being lucky enough to gain access to sister car 703 at Beamish earlier in the year.
Above: A final overview of the layout in the closing hours of day 2 at Manchester. All in all a relatively good show and again a very warm and positive response form the tramway community and the wider visiting public. At this point all cars had performed relatively well with only standard 147 being swapped with 708 after it had some pickup issues. 

However our exhibition schedule was not over yet!
Above: With the good weather holding, the following mid-week Thornton Gate was booked as a side attraction at a vicars church garden party of all things.
Above: Now I've had bad experiences exhibiting in garages in the past, however for this one day event we weren't to bad, nicely fitting into the garage with the main door open so visitors could wonder in from the garden. 

Operations wise 713 and 636 ran in opposing directions on 'auto pilot' for the few hours of the event, with just myself on hand to talk to any interested parties. A very casual and laid back event!
In stark contrast was the following weekend and event number 3!
We we're booked to appear at Alsager MRC's Stoke-on-Trent exhibition which was based in a local primary school.
Unfortunately we had been included as "Thorn Gate" ????? so I had to go around and armed with some official TG brand stickers, make a few impromptu adjustments to some of the signage. Problem solved!       

Above: Operationally we were doing ok but the many miles travelled and long running hours on the tram stock began to take there toll, once again. Before the start of Day 1 at Stoke we decided to oil as well as clean all the cars, this helped no end. For the second weekend 701 and 708 joined forces once more, operating a permeant way working in top and tail formation.
Another new idea! The inclusion of an iPad to showcase photos of the real Thornton Gate and other prototype images, this saving me from having to carry lots of paper print outs and is a follow up to our trail use of a small PC netbook during shows last year. The iPad being a little more flexible.

So the mad summer rush is over (for Now) we're back at base and readying ourselves for the biggest 'gig' of my model making career, that of course being the NEC in November, speaking of which...... 

I leave you with this screen shot taken from the Warley Club's page on Facebook... TG's 701 doing what it was reliveried to do!

Edited by Balloon_726
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September 2014 Update.



Hi all its been a while once again and im finding myself getting very busy with life at the mo so not had the time to put back into the project, plus I've been having a bit of a rest after the intensive summer exhibition schedule. Sometimes you have to walk away for a little while as the interest is just not there.


However with September rolling on by and the NEC show very much on the horizon, Ive been getting back into gear and working on Thornton Gate once more!


Planning a few updates and possibly to officially 'finish' the layout in time for the NEC! However with constant repair work and upgrade to officially finish a layout is unlikely!


First off some press stuff and this photo and brief write up in 'Tramfare' Magazine following our exhibition at the Manchester Tramway Festival earlier this year.




So what been happening with Thornton Gate?

Well Anna has taken it upon herself to paint and smarten up the fiddle yard and rear of the layout. Personally I was happy to leave it but as she pointed out alot of people have been craning there necks around the back to have a look, and with the NEC coming up it was a good call to smarten this area up.



Above: Half way done, most of the baseboard area and back of the back scene has been painted, the extra programming loop and cabling has been neatend up somewhat as well. Since this photo was taken the remaining outer framework of the two baseboards has also been painted in matching blue gloss paint and a bit of filler has also been used to fill the odd hole and dent the layouts outer frame tends to pick up in the course of an average year.



Above: What every tramway needs a class 66!? In the course of the my time with Thornton Gate we have been given or have picked up a lot of stuff mostly the weird and the wonderful. In the case of our recent Stoke-On-Trent exhibition I was given by an old friend of mine a bag of broken up N gauge locomotives and assorted bits. Believe it or not there was enough parts to assemble awhole working Dapol class 66! So we now have an adopted pet locomotive which cant really get around our curves.... oh well :-)


And now for some gardening......







Above: The houses and back gardens on the layout have been an area which ive been trying to improve and detail for some time now, and slowly over time things have been getting better. Again during our Stoke exhibition, I picked up some N gauge flowers which when cut to size and stuck down do work quite well and help bring a bit of colour and detail to the layout. I must admit i'm still tweaking these a little bit to get them looking right.




Above: And finally with success of my first brush car tram, and its new type of chassis unit over the summer, I have gone and bulk ordered a load of these Tomix units from Japan, learning from previous times when the TM-03 chassis disappeared from sale, I think I have bought Japan's whole supply! This should mean I can add a few new cars for the NEC and may no longer require any more chassis units for the remaining life of this project, time will tell!

Anyway I'm planning of having a full work weekend on the layout this weekend, a number of key areas and projects to complete and will in due course keep this thread updated on the lead up to the NEC show in November! 

Thanks for reading :-)

Edited by Balloon_726
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Gardens look great. Are you still bashing up a pantograph car?

Thanks, Yes I am, its gotten a bit side tracked so its been sitting there waiting for me to finish it, i'll try and see were i get before November... I've got a boat and a millennium car waiting as well!  

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