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Lochdubh - Gateway to the Isles in the 1980s…


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17 minutes ago, Shunter-Fan said:

I am really impressed - both by the speed in which you developed and completed that but also by the precision: For me it is hard to believe it is N-Scale ...

Looking at it, it leaves me frustrated with my inadequate abilities ...  :-(

 

Very, very good work - thank you for sharing that with us.


I’m sorry it has left you frustrated. I spent years poring over magazine and books of modelling I could only dream of achieving but have been modelling since childhood with only a short ‘sabbatical’ whilst in 6th form and uni! These models are created from the heart, but the craft is well honed from years of practice. Rome wasn’t built in a day, choose one element of your work you’d like to improve and work on that. I often do test pieces, change scale and prototypes just to keep learning.

 

This layout was built over a period of about 6 months or so, Wrecsam, which I’ll share at some juncture but is on the blog already, was even quicker. The big advantage of small layouts is the speed at which you can progress.

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Absolutely beautiful!

 

Whatever you do, please don't ever sell it. It takes up next to no space in the home, and yet it provides such a tranquil focus to just drift off and remember some wonderful times and events which obviously have such personal meaning to you on your journey through life.

 

Thank you so much for sharing this lovely little layout with us and I hope you will continue to enjoy it for many, many years to come.

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Thank you - those words of appreciation are incredibly kind. I am sure I will continue to enjoy it for as long as it feels relevant in my life.
 

This made me think about something I’d like to address about the ‘traditional’ view of the hobby.

 

The idea of a layout for life is not something I believe helps us - certainly not me. Whilst this layout holds personal and sentimental qualities it and is largely ‘complete’ it will one day be ‘finished’ too, finished in the way I can move on. Sometimes finished is a few months, sometimes a few years… perhaps longer. That said, it will be finished and I will be left with the photographs, the memories and the art will live on.

 

A good friend, Chris, and I have tried to talk this through in a blog post previously that might help:

https://paxton-road.blogspot.com/2021/12/hilton-and-mears-complete-or-finished.html

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1 hour ago, James Hilton said:

Thank you - those words of appreciation are incredibly kind. I am sure I will continue to enjoy it for as long as it feels relevant in my life.
 

This made me think about something I’d like to address about the ‘traditional’ view of the hobby.

 

The idea of a layout for life is not something I believe helps us - certainly not me. Whilst this layout holds personal and sentimental qualities it and is largely ‘complete’ it will one day be ‘finished’ too, finished in the way I can move on. Sometimes finished is a few months, sometimes a few years… perhaps longer. That said, it will be finished and I will be left with the photographs, the memories and the art will live on.

 

A good friend, Chris, and I have tried to talk this through in a blog post previously that might help:

https://paxton-road.blogspot.com/2021/12/hilton-and-mears-complete-or-finished.html


Some interesting reflections - thank you for the link to the blog post.  I also followed an in-post link to an earlier Hilton / Mears discussion on Motivation and Inspiration that made for another good read too.  

 

I can appreciate @LowerUphamMike’s sentiment - “do hold on to this one” - as sometimes we can be too quick to move on.  I can think of a couple of times I’ve sold up when a project has faltered and then wondered if it really was the right thing to do, and that’s long before I reached this stage!  There is a reason we store away treasures (and memories) to relive another day.

 

On the other hand, as @James Hilton explains in the blog, there is a personal, emotional definition of complete / finished that may not have meaning to anyone else, but is truly right for us.  I think of a project I started a few years ago that didn’t end up in me building a layout: I got all the enjoyment I was after from the online research, so felt no need to do any more.  On that occasion I sold up without any regrets.

 

We’re currently in the process of moving house, to a smaller, more accessible property, but one with far less storage space.  Everything is being sorted - including my model railway collection(s).  There are some things I’ve come across where my first reaction is to tell myself these are things I must hold on to.  But once I’ve enjoyed the memories associated with them once more, I know it’ll be OK to let them go.  After all, it’s not as if I’m running out of things to make, or ideas to explore.  

 

At the end of the day, I know there are still more memories to make up ahead too, Keith.

 

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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The beauty of our craft is the artistic licence to create a vision hewn from experience and love rather than perhaps the cold recreation of a prototype in exact scale miniaturisation...
 

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Lochdubh is nowhere in particular and anywhere too - inspired by visits to the Highlands, train books as a child and Hamish Macbeth it has been a wonderful journey into 'the art' of N gauge modelling. I'm now into adding the 'finishing' touches and these need to be subtle yet important and personal details. 

 

At the top of the ramp a small croft stands at a junction in the main road. Outside a fisherman enjoys some 'fresh air' (Brian McCulloch - who actually helped with the croft by sharing some sketches and dimensions for me to work from). The road sign points to Inverness, yes, but also the less well knock Dunbracken.
 

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Dunbracken is another of the Hamish Macbeth references, as well as a nod to fellow modeller Tom Dauben's 009 creation of the same name - the sign is barely 4mm tall so basically only readable with a good close up photograph BUT I know it's there - and I know the connections it makes!

 

The sign itself? I'll spare you the 'how to guide' but it's a water slide decal on 5 thou styrene with 0.35mm brass rod posts - nothing ground breaking but proving to be effective in this scale.

 

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Connections, those parts of us we imbue in our work - that's what sets this apart from 'playing trains' or 'model railways'. This is art, and I love it. 

 

Lochdubh is almost complete - as in there will not be more to add... but it's not finished. I love it, I love I have it, I love I can switch on the lights and get lost for just a moment, the seagulls mewing, the waves lapping against the harbour and the 37 ticking over at the buffers. 
 

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The picture perfect Scottish Highland terminus that never was - until next time, more soon...

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It's the little touches that make a scene, and like a landscape painter I am often drawn to adding a touch of bright colour on to my canvas...

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In the overall composition these red bins don't stand out, but when our eye traces the scene they spot the familiar form, hi-lighted by their colour and the way they help punctuate the canvas. I could have bought these bins, but they're of my hand and their gently rounded form reminiscent of the blown plastic moulding of the prototype. Lochdubh is pretty much 'finished' and continues to delight daily. It will be some time before I tire of loosing myself inside that small box of dreams. Until next time, more soon...

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Lochdubh is now complete - that doesn’t mean I’m finished, just that I’ve physically stopped adding things to it so that I can focus more purely on visiting it…

 

 

 

In this video I invite you to take a tour of the layout with me as I share its home, its inspiration and composition whilst picking out a few poignant elements. The film ends with a few minutes of immersive content where I encourage you to soak up the atmosphere - before remembering just how tiny this all is - we all have room for our dream model railway, it just needs to be carefully understood, cropped and crafted to be instantly available, somewhere we can frequently enjoy it.

 

If you would like help designing or even creating a model together, I pride myself on working with you to ensure the end result feels as much yours as mine. Get in touch to start the conversation. Until next time, more soon…

Edited by James Hilton
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7 minutes ago, Kevin Johnson said:

Nice video James of Lochdubh. As you were panning around I actually got lost in the layout.

 

It's amazing isn't it - how such a small scene can have such an effect on us! Thanks Kevin.

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“I arrived that morning, across the water. Glimpses first of that infamous pier side location, then sounds as I disembarked the ferry and walked up the slipway, the distinctive idle of an Sulzer diesel discernible above the noise of lapping waves and the cries of seagulls. A short stroll across the road bridge and down the approach ramp and a scene I had lived through photographs in treasured books awoke before me…”

 

Opening prose to the article I penned for BRM. In the meantime, the arrival of 26040 has fulfilled the last of the 'boy hood' dreams of Scottish layouts and I'm resting easy, cosy and content in the feeling that all is well in my little slice of escapism.

 

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The branch-line, if you can describe sixty odd glorious miles as such, that traces the shores of Loch Carron for over a quarter of its wonderful journey didn’t see much freight in the 1980s…
 

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The Friday morning mixed, which lasted until 1984 and the end of the McRats reign, was carrying just parcels and fuel by the end. The glory days of a bustling rail served harbour long gone, the tracks which extended both sides of the island platform onto the pier rusty and severed from the tentacles of British Rail. However, occasional loads appeared at the Highland Terminus in the mid 80s using ‘modern’ air braked wagons. These trains worked as extras to the working timetable, there were occasional deliveries such as here, where the forestry commission needed large quantities of bagged fertiliser. Other notable freight trains were the timber trials, which despite being well loaded have always come to nothing (though there is rumour again that a new trial for the Norwood plant at Inverness is imminent, perhaps we’ll see WCRC 37s at Lochdubh on something other than rail tours in the coming years).
 

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These photos here though, depict 37418 shunting an empty ‘fertilser’ train in 1988. Bulk bags were carried in open air braked wagons, easily removed with a front loader on the old loading dock alongside the run around loop at the station. Whilst 37s were familiar both these freight trains and the type would soon disappear as 156s were introduced following the reopening of the Ness Viaduct in 1990.

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9 hours ago, James Hilton said:

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The Time Machine has gone a little haywire, we seem to be back in the 70s…

 

Back in the seventies would probably not look very different, bar the station nameboard, but there would presumably have bene signals then. A starter would be conveniently 'off stage' but have you thought about how Lochdubh would have bene signalled through the years? Presumably RETB in later years? 

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Good question, and I’ve been picked up on the station signs when attempting to pull off a 70s view previously. 
Signalling is not something I have considered, no - it’s interesting, as you say, because in this instance they’d be off stage anyway. RETB is certainly a good excuse when running 37s, less so with the 26.

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2 hours ago, James Hilton said:

Good question, and I’ve been picked up on the station signs when attempting to pull off a 70s view previously. 
Signalling is not something I have considered, no - it’s interesting, as you say, because in this instance they’d be off stage anyway. RETB is certainly a good excuse when running 37s, less so with the 26.

 

While most signals could have been off-stage, with the low bridge might there have been a repeater for visibility on the station side?  Sorry if it messes things up - I just wondered, Keith.

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I've really fallen for the 1980s Scottish layout day dreams that have been a part of my life since as long as I've known my childhood friend Tim. They come and go, but in N scale I've found the perfect blend of character, modelling and achievable results...


For the next part of the story I needed a few extra wagons - the Farish OBA are a pair I picked up at Warley and can be used for timber or fertiliser traffic on my fictitious Highland branchline.

 

In the early 80s British Rail converted a number of under utilised OCA wagons for the blossoming return of timber to rail, coded OTA. However this is a gap in the N gauge RTR range - so rather than hold my breath for a Farish example (well, they do one in OO!) I've assembled a pair of Chivers kits. Painted and weathered, I think you'd struggle to tell the difference in origin so I'm happy with the results and look forward to seeing these on the back of passenger trains in the next chapter.

 


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They depict two different era of timber traffic on the Lochdubh branch. The OBA were a general purpose air braked open wagon, without stakes they had a limited pay load for timber, but their use proved the traffic was worthwhile and led to the modification of the under-utilised steel bodied OCA to provide the OTA. These distinctive vehicles continued to handle timber traffic into the early years of this century.

 

On Lochdubh, the OBA will operate with the Class 26 - and as well as timber can be utilised to represent the occasional fertiliser trains that ran in the early 1980s. They are 'out of the box' Farish models with the couplings replaced with DG and a weathering wash to the chassis, body and wagon interior making the most of this characterful tooling. A really useful wagon and a lovely model.

 

The OTA will be used in the later period, when Class 37s took over from the 26. They will be attached to the rear of passenger trains as required, as was the case with the real Kyle of Lochalsh service in the same period. I opted for a light blue, which was specific to one particular customer, but all the OTA I can find photos of in the period in question on the Kyle line were blue. These Chivers kits are built 'as they come' with a number of stakes cut off to match the prototype. Fitted with DG couplings and weathered to represent the sort of hard use they would have encountered in service.

 

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The English Electric Type 3, The ‘Tractor’, the British Rail Class 37 is a locomotive I have enjoyed owning in miniature for three decades…

 

From my first to my last they’ve spanned two gauges and three manufacturers, barely touching the plethora of available models over the same period. Interesting, well, slightly, is the fact that the first, the first after ‘the teenage gap’ and the most recent (here) all share the same body form, probably my favourite, the plated split headcode.

 

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For my ‘Scottish’ day dream I wanted another split headcode 37, in BR blue. It needed to have cut away buffer cowling, plated head codes, non plated boiler, RETB aerial but no headlight. Oh and ploughs!

 

A suitable donor model, one of the recent ‘Dutch’ liveried examples, was acquired before Christmas. This more recent Graham Farish tooling dates from the noughties and appears to be a shrunken version of the OO model of the same period, the one that formed the basis for my last three 1/76 models. This means largely accurate and well captured character of these distinctive prototypes. However, as with the OO model the biggest compromise is ride height, that was jacked up by the designer to allow it to traverse trainset curves with overscale flanges. Whilst I don’t plan to do anything with the latter, I don’t have any of the former so lowering was definitely on the cards here.
 

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This post pulls together some photos that have appeared previously to tell the complete story. The model was stripped back to bare plastic in IPA and modifications to the body included removal of the headlight on the noses as well as the access door on the side next to the 3 grills. As the noses are removable they were painted separately (no difficult masking) and Fox decals were used to relieve the slab like blue finish.

 

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Lowering (shown above too) is achieved by some minor surgery. The body has some ribs with clips at the bottom, the latter need carving off. The cab interiors are removed. The lighting contact boards at each end of the chassis are notched, increasing the size of this notch allows them to be pushed lower. The fuel tank is lowered. I aim for around 1mm all around, which captures the heft of these brutes much better. It was pleasing to see how close I got with the latest model (below right) against my previous efforts (left).
 

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On this model I wanted to add more to the chassis and so some photos I took many years ago came in to use (here and here) for building up the speedo drive on one of the trucks. The last thing is adding the brake chains (!) which looks feasible but I’ve not managed to secure the chain to the lever yet (it’s blackened and doesn’t take to superglue very well). I shall persist.

 

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So as things stand today she is sat waiting for weathering, but posed below (and top) on Lochdubh has all the promise of the model I saw in my mind when I started - the feeling of attraction, of warmth to this ugly machine is present, it’s almost like the split headcode is like a face? Anyhow, it’s a long held feeling and one that is wonderful to exercise now in N gauge.
 

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When you’re working on a model, in any scale, one intended to become ‘a lead actor’ the choices you make in what to include and what to overlook are very personal. Yes, there are plastic moulded handrails, no car headlight (yet!) and perhaps other details I don’t see - but this isn’t intended to be a scale precision model, it’s a memory machine, an emotional engine to drive our hearts and tell our stories. I love this hobby, this craft. Thanks for reading today, until next time, more soon…

 

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Complete, yet far from finished. This wonderful N gauge Class 37 is done. Sat on Lochdubh it feels real, it has presence, it has mass, it has character…
 

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In part 1 (above) I talked about both ‘why’ and ‘how’ this model was created, and closed with a tempting photo of her part weathered. The only change from here to there was the airbrush, and the transformation by adding roof and frame dirt and the way this softens and smoothed the transitions in the wash. As an artist we’re telling a story through plastic and paint, informed rather than instructed by the prototype.

 

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A word on method, the bible, Welch’s ‘The Art of Weathering’ gives some ideas on how to achieve these results. Read it, absorb it, practice the craft and focus your attention on what and why you’re working on something. In this case I used a mix of Humbrol 31, 133 and 27004 to blend across the nose and roof panels and along the bottom edge of the tumblehome.

 

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These photos, which allow incredibly cruel close ups compared to the tiny size of the model I hope show just how right the basic proportions of the Farish model are - yet too, how much the lowering, detail and weathering have transformed the donor from a toy to a ‘work of art. Here is a model that literally oozes character.

 

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This isn’t the end of the story, just the beginning. Above, 37035 arrives at Lochdubh with the 11:55 departure from Inverness. We see another new arrival, a Farish Mk1 buffet coach… these models look great and ignite my imagination on this small cameo for now, but the longer term plan for some sort of exhibition layout based on a passing station further up the line continues to fuel the interest in 80s British Rail in the Scottish Highlands. Until next time, more soon…

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Yeah - a 37 ...
Being German, I got in contact with British engines on occasional holidays only, so I cannot claim they are really familiar to me.

But from the very beginning (in the 1980s) both the 08 shunters (on one of which I was given a footplate-ride) and the 37s (and the similar engines related to it) made a huge impression on me ... that size ... that sound ... just great.

And no matter which scale they are - looking at the pictures of these engines has me almost hear the roaring ...

 

Great modelling - you just capture the athmosphere and bring the viewer right into the scene.

 

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6 hours ago, Shunter-Fan said:

Great modelling - you just capture the athmosphere and bring the viewer right into the scene.


Thank you - that one sentence sums up why I do it.

Bringing you right into the scene, enough of my own story evident to help frame your own.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Today is the last chance to vote in the British Railway Modelling awards, I was humbled to be nominated in modeller of the year and would appreciate it if you’d consider voting for me (on the last page) if you haven’t done already:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfVprB4ALfO-BPO2zBXLSPI5UiSDDmfxfHLtR8rqfbj7DokOg/viewform

 


 

In 1985 the first Class 37/4 rolled out of Crewe Works after rebuilding. The work to these locomotives, already 25 years old, included replacing the generator with an alternator and extensive rewiring…

These 31 locomotives, also fitted with electric train heating, were allocated to Scotland and Wales and provided the backbone of regional long distance travel in these areas for another 10 years until displaced by the Sprinter (Today, the type still sees regular service on the mainline on charter, spot hire and occasional infrastructure trains - even freight with timber on the Cambrian from Aberystwyth, not bad for 64 year olds!). In Scotland two distinct fleets were maintained at Glasgow Eastfield for the West Highland to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig (seeing both passenger and freight service) and at Inverness (for the Far North and Kyle lines). In my parallel universe the Inverness based machines also served Lochdubh…

 

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Above, we see 37418, a recent rebuild having arrived at the gateway to the isles with the 8:55 departure from Inverness. Visible behind, 37035, ousted from passenger service lays over having worked a Speedlink service earlier that morning. It would follow 418 with the return freight working to Inverness before a second run down the branch with the alumina train to the smelter at Strathbane.

 

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Here, as 418 has run around its train we get a clearer shot of the aging 37/0, this example was destined to never be rebuilt, running as built until 1996 and cut up in 2000, having served the railway well for over 35 years.

 

Of course, Lochdubh is my N gauge cameo and these models are re-worked Graham Farish examples. You can read more about them here on the blog. Until next time though, more soon…

Edited by James Hilton
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