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I have been continuing with the wiring of Glenmutchkin, but have hit a snag; one that I should have been ready for – the wiring of the slip,  I had been aware that a diamond crossing was a challenge to wire and I was suckered into thinking that the switches on a slip could over come the challenge,  Well I go that wrong…….!!

The basic problem is that there are a choice of two routes through a diamond crossing and each route requires the polarity of the crossings to be different.  The diagram below, which shows how a diamond crossing needs to be wired, should illustrate the problem.  The only solution to this is to power the crossing polarity by way of an approach turnout – if you really don’t have one to set the polarity with, then you are going to have to resort to some switches – but at least it will give you a good excuse to interlock the diamond crossing with some signals to remind you on which direction it is set!




Hopefully this is clear that the crossings on the diamond crossing are activated by detecting the direction of the switch on the approach turnout.  If it is set for straight ahead, then a train can’t travel over the crossing and therefore the parallel line can so the polarity of the crossings are set accordingly.  Conversely, when the approach turnout is set to the branch, the line across the diamond can be used and the polarity is set to suit.

The principal with the diamond crossing needs to be heeded when the crossing is replaced with a single slip as I have, but it does get more complicated because the switch of the slip can also lead to a different route through the crossings.  The crossing to the left of the slip is the more straight forward as it is only activated by the approach turnout.  However the right hand crossing is more complicated as if the approach turnout is set for the branch then it always needs to be in the red polarity whereas if the approach turnout is set for the main, then it then needs to be controlled by the slips switch.




Hopefully the diagram above shows how this works.


The irritation I have, in addition to having wired it up wrong already (!) is that the approach turnout is on a different board to the slip.  To reduce the number of wires crossing the boards, I have decided to simply use a duplicate point motor for the approach turnout located on the same board as the slip.  It is expensive but rather more simple than the additional wires.


I am pleased that I don't have a chain of slips on the layout; I reckon they would bust my head working out how to wire them!

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  • 3 weeks later...

In my last post recounted the difficulties that I was encountering correctly wiring up a slip and the technique I had arrived at to overcome this,  This precipitated various bits of advice including an alternative approach provided by Richard.


Richard’s solution is certainly a little easier than my approach to wire and does not need an additional point motor to run the extra switching required.  It is, however, slightly less idiotproof in use than my version – this is because once the approach turnout is set for the branch in my version, the whole of the run was also set electrically.  On  Richard’s version, it is also necessary to decide whether the main line to yard is to be set for the yard.


This is what it looks like as a wiring diagram and it is important to note that the approach turnout (A) is also operating one of the slip’s switches too.



My get my soldering iron out now, so I can then start to play trains!

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  • 1 year later...
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With regard to the single-slip routes, I have found it necessary on an operational level (ahem...) to fit crude interlocking type stuff to prevent both straight-through routes being set together, which as you are aware doesn’t work from a crossing polarity angle for either one......



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On 27/07/2019 at 21:13, bcnPete said:

Great progress - looking fab and I spy a bit of Thurso in there :yes: :D


Actually Wick more than Thurso Pete.   Although I concluded that the station build true to scale is a tad big so will be shortening it slightly.



On 25/07/2019 at 10:29, Izzy said:

With regard to the single-slip routes, I have found it necessary on an operational level (ahem...) to fit crude interlocking type stuff to prevent both straight-through routes being set together, which as you are aware doesn’t work from a crossing polarity angle for either one......




Yes, I have been warned about this.  Something that I have not yet sorted though!


On 25/07/2019 at 08:29, Brinkly said:

Looking forward to seeing Glenmutchkin (and yourself) at Scaleforum Mark. 


Kind regards,




You to Nick!



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Well, it is twitching quite a lot anyway……………..


A significant day in the life of Glenmutchkin over this weekend, as I have got a significant proportion of the trackwork which has been laid operational.  Admittedly I have an electrical issue in the branch bay (something is wired backwards!), the fiddle yard has not yet been linked to the layout and the single slip still has not be corrected but it works…………..



This is my Lochgorm Bogie (Clyde Bogie series)  built by John James.  The body is not quite sitting right on it, which is why there is a bit of bouncing; which is a bit worse when it runs faster as below. will be sorting this shortly.




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With the need to load the layout in the back of a van to get it to Scaleforum looming, I have been pressing ahead with the creation of travelling boxes for the boards.


Despite being pretty simple, they do take a long time to make but those for the main visible boards are at least all now complete – and here they are on parade!




A bit more on the detail on their features and how I built them can be found here



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Mr Tatty, 


I am going to ask a very strange question. To explain, I am very interested in the colour of the sleepers when the ballast is "Cinders" I have been doing some experiments with various tins of humbrol paint. trying to find a nice balance of dark grey/brown to appear out of the dark black cinders. I have noticed above your track is looking natural when so what colours have you used? 





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On 14/08/2019 at 04:15, DougN said:

Mr Tatty, 


I am going to ask a very strange question. To explain, I am very interested in the colour of the sleepers when the ballast is "Cinders" I have been doing some experiments with various tins of humbrol paint. trying to find a nice balance of dark grey/brown to appear out of the dark black cinders. I have noticed above your track is looking natural when so what colours have you used? 






Hi Doug,


I am arguably struggling with the same myself; and indeed the texture of ash ballast.  So let me explain how I am laying the ballast/colouring track and what is still to be confronted.


Colour of sleepers


I use ply sleepers following the Brook Smith technique.  I pre-dye these first with Jacobean Oak wood dye.   I also give my track a good scrub with a toothbrush prior to laying, this takes a bit of the dye away, lightens the colour and emphasises the grain.


The problem with this is that they have changed this from a spirit based formula to a water based one and the effect it now has is terrible; it does not seep into the wood in the way that the spirit based type does and has a tendency to clump in globules.  I am lucky that I had enough spirit based dye to just about see me through this layout; leaving this as a problem for the next one!


Ballast Laying


I have been using Attwood Aggregate's ballast in their extra fine grade in dark grey.  I did try and use what they call road dust but found that this was so fine and lightweight that it moved about a bit when even using a low surface tension fixative.  It thus created rather unconvincing ridges etc and had to be removed.  The extra fine grade has slightly more mass to it and largely overcame this (but it still needs a lot of care and time not to give an uneven surface.  Attwood do produce a cinders colour, but I am not sold on this and will probably used crushed coal when I get to the MPD.


I use Pledge Klear Multisurface wax as a fixative (the modern version of Johnsons Klear) applied with a dropper.  It is actually a form of acrylic varnish (I think) and has almost no surface tension.  I do this in two or even three applications.  The first is dribbled in very carefully so as not to disturb the ballast and give the undesired ridges.  This is sufficient to secure the ballast but it is pretty weak..  This has the advantage that if there is a bit you don't like it can be easily scraped away without causing any damage. 


A day later, once this has dried I flood it again (and then repeat this again a day later).  This gives a much more solid finish.


Colouring the Ballast


This is still to be done, but I do have the experience from Portchullin.  I will be doing this with an overall wash of a slightly gunky dark grey and it will be applied over everything, ballast, sleepers and even rails to pull the colouring together a bit.  By using a wash, I am aiming to leave the underlying colour still grinning through, so there will still be some colour delination between both the sleeper and ballast.


Actually, I found on Portchullin that it was the texture difference between the sleeper and the ballast that makes them distinghable.  


I would also observe that ash, when dry, is a very light colour but when wet goes pretty much black, so there is a pretty wide difference of colours that might actually be right!


Colouring the Rails


I have presently painted the rail in 60% Railmatch track colour and 40% brake dust.  I think it remains too dark but I have in mind doing an air-brash mist at the completion of everything else.  This will be a light coat and will deliberately wander onto the ballast to give the impression of the rust flecks that do spill onto the ballast in real life.


And the final thing, which I have only seen on a handful of layouts, will be to use a dirty black on all the grease points around turnout switches, fishplates etc.  Very characteristic of the bullhead rail era - so why is it so rarely depicted?







Edited by Portchullin Tatty
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Thanks Mark, 


So far with my track I am looking at using Woodland Scenics cinders which is a basic black. I have been testing on a half meter of track I have run through a number of humbrol colours including track colour 179, too dark, Light grey 64- too light 


I have found that colour 29 Dark earth matt appears to be the best colour I have found as a contrast with a brown tint. 

The reason for all this is the track is mostly down to my small plank but I need a colour to paint it all. Once I started going back over the last few MRJ's I noticed that the 2mm South Pelaw in 271, the colour of the track looked right. The ballast being cinders with sleepers being obvious but not over the top in a contrasting colour.


My search will continue for a nice selection of colours that are repeatable. 



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  • 4 weeks later...

The advantage of a railway company using standard building designs is that you can get to use them more than once.  Thus Portchullin’s goods shed will be getting to have a new lease of life on Glenmutchkin.


I think my goods shed is the oldest model that I still have and over the years it is fair to say has suffered.  Some of this is simply the thirty six shows that it has done with Portchullin (hell………thirty six shows…….!) and almost as many years, as I was about 17 when I made it.  However the main issue was the manner in which I built it, with minimal bracing over the top of the entrances.  This has lead to it breaking its back and despite several attempts at repair, these have never been long lasting.  So it is time to do it properly to allow its reincarnation on Glenmutchkin.




The key to the repair was to introduce a metal skeleton frame inside the model to strengthen it – particularly across the rail doors.  This is something I now tend to do at the outset with any largish building I build to contain warping.  The frame is invisible from the exterior – the view above shows the frame that I made with the first side attached.




The frame was made with some 3mm square and oblong section brass, with gusset plates – there was a fair amount of metal so it got close to blacksmithing at one stage.

Once the frame was inserted, the model was given an overhaul to repair the other dinks and marks that it has acquired over the years.  There were a fair few, as can be seen.




I also to the opportunity to install gutters and downpipes; something I had been meaning to do since I was 17………a bit of a shameful shortfall, given I am a chartered building surveyor!






I am pleased with the results and the model is now much more robust so it should do at least another 36 shows!  Whether its owner can will be kept under review!


My goods shed is based on the Orbach drawings of the shed at Garve (the August 1952 edition of the Model Railway News).  The prototype was swept away in the 1970s and whilst there are a pair of the smaller sheds still remaining (notably at Brora), there are no longer any of the standard Highland Goods sheds left.  The last to go was in Golspie about two years ago and I did manage to both photograph and measure it before it went.  Here are some views of it before it was demolished (with thanks to Ian Ford):





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Part of the concept of the back-story for Glenmutchkin is that it is at the end of a long line so that locos need to be serviced and it was also at the foot of a steep gradient, so trains need to be banked out of the station. All this is creates a lot of thirsty locomotives that would have needed servicing and attention – so it will have a busy motive power depot.

The Highland Railway’s water tanks tended to be of a similar style with a tank made of sectional components and rounded head, base and corners. There is nothing available from any of the manufacturers so it was obvious these need to be scratchbuilt.

There remains one tank of this type still in situ, at Altnabreac and in addition to this, there are drawings from Eddie Bellis of the Kyle’s water tower plus that at Garve by Henry Orbach. I have elected to build a pair – one of Kyle and one of Altnabreac (the latter being the smaller).



Kyle’s water tank from the early post steam era. Photograph with permission from Armstrong Railway Photographic Trust, JM Boyes collection.


Starting with the tanks, I laminated a series of strips of plasticard to the right height and then used a belt sander to put the chamfer on these before then making them up into a box.



As with most of my stone buildings, I use Wills random stone plastic sheets; now available from Peco. On far too many occasions I see this used with panels butted against each other; either on corners or even worse on the flat. Unless the stones are toothed into each other, this screams as being incorrect even to a layman. Therefore, it is best to form corners either from a sheet cut vertically and then chamfer the inside faces so that the coursing is retained for its full length even on the cut face.

This means that courses line up from side to front without any silly jumps, as can be seen below. This technique can not be used in all examples and sometimes it is necessary to actually tooth panels into each other by cutting corresponding dog teeth into adjacent panels.





I find that the mortar courses on Wills sheets are a bit too deep and because lots of others use it its pattern is a little too obvious; so it looses its realism (or maybe I am just so sad that I can tell a material by its stone coursing!!). I get over this by part filling the mortar courses with a plastic filler – which is basically dissolved plastic in a solvent carrier (lovely and smely!). This tends to distort the sheets as it is only applied to one side so I first laminate the sheet to some thick (1.5 or 2mm plasticard). Due to the volumes of solvent to be sloshed around in constructing buildings in this manner, it is important to allow for the solvent to escape – regretfully I have a number of coach roofs which many years later have mushy sections where the solvent has been trapped and has distorted the plastic in its efforts to cut through it and escape! I thus drill regular holes or slots in the backing plasticard, which you can see here:


Whilst the desire to mask the coursing pattern on the Wills sheet might seem a fair amount of bother given the need to reinforce the walls with an inner laimanate, I think the effect is worth the effort. A blast of grey primer shows that the coursing and texture of the stone is retained but equaly it does not look like everyone else’s!


The use of the laminations does give the advantage that slots for window frames and doors can be created. These allow an etching to be slid in, either from below or behind. They can be slid out again for painting and make this aspect a breeze to do.



And this is where they have got to; the guts of both done but with a chunk of detailing and some basework still to be done.



But lets sign this post off with a fine HC Casserley picture of a Superheated Goods using the MPD as a headshunt in the 1952. This photograph is used with permission and is now part of Colin Brack’s collection. He has a substantial on line collection of photographs (including the JM Boyes collection) with a good proportion of them being of the Highland’s system – you can loose many an hour in his flickr site – this being a link to his Dingwall & Skye album. https://www.flickr.com/photos/irishswis ... 2664/page1




Edited by Portchullin Tatty
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'It appears the photostream you seek doesn’t exist'  - when I tried the Dingwall and Skye Flickr link, this was the message that popped up?


regards, Alastair M


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One of my pet hates on model railways are buildings that float a fraction above the ground because they have been plonked in situ, not bedded in.  For me, it completely destroys the illusion and I can get quite wound up about it when I see it (…..and it is pretty common, so this is fairly often!).


Occasionally, I actually do attach the building to the baseboard and “scenic in” the ground around them but more normally I construct a base into which the building sits.  This gets embedded permanently and then the building sits into a slot that is formed into it.  I have also seen the building being built in two parts, with the base being affixed to the ground and the building slotted onto them.  Peter Bond did this for me with the signal cabins for Portchullin.  This is the base for the larger water tank:




The large water tank is more prominent as it is located closer to the baseboard edge and is to the rear of the main focus of the MPD area, the trackwork between the shed and the turntable.  It is also adjacent to the coaling bank and as a result I decided to make this now and as part of the base for the water tank.




The smaller of the water tanks is designed to mask a baseboard joint in a rockface/embankment.  The base (below) will thus be split into two halves when it is fitted, each sitting on adjacent boards – a neat way of not having the San Andreas fault line running through a rock face!  The rather prominent hole in the coal bank will be the subject of a future post, as there is something a bit different planned for this!




I have also started the painting of these, which had a fairly characteristic design with the border in a red/brown and a cream central panel.  It is important to recreate this and as it is fairly eye catching, errors will be instantly visible.




The straight edges weren’t too difficult to achieve with masking tape; initially the horizontals and then the verticals a day later.  Peeling back the masking tape was a thrill to see if it worked!




The scrolls at the corner was a concern throughout the construction of the water tanks but I did hit on an idea I think is rather nifty.  I sprayed the same red/brown on some transfer paper (thanks Chris!) and once it was dry, used a domestic hole punch to create disks of transfer.  I then cut them into segments that were a bit bigger than a quarter of the disk.  They were then applied as a transfer to each corner.




Actually, it was pretty easy once I got going – I definitely spent longer thinking about it than I did doing it!  I am pretty pleased with the outcome, much neater than my hand could manage!





Edited by Portchullin Tatty
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  • 3 weeks later...

More progress has been made with the pair of water tanks and they have now reached the stage where they are effectively finished.




The stonework was painted by picking out each stone in different colours.  I think there is a real art to this as when I see others do this, I often think the colour differences are unrealistically abrupt.  I find the trick is to use a core of two colours that are close to the general colour that you want – in my case Humbrol Matt no 5 & 64.  Put these in separate palates on a mixing dish and dip into these to create a combination of the two.




By selecting two relatively close colours, you can alternate from all one to all the other and any mix in between.  Adding very moderate amounts of a stronger colour difference, in my case Humbrol Matt 66 and 62 which are a darker grey and a leather brown adds a bit of variety but in each case they still need to be mixed in with the two core paints to keep the toning consistent.




Even with this work the colours didn’t seem quite real, so I completed two additional steps.  The first was to use some matt varnish that I knew the matting agent was a bit gone on – this gives a slightly translucent milky effect over the whole and drew the colours together a bit.  The second was to use Abteilung 502 weathering powders – black smoke, ashes grey, gunmetal and rubble dust (primarily because these were the only colours I had!).  These need to be used with care, as it is easy to put way too much on and you can’t generally get it off again!  However, at low level and to the coal bank I have been pretty liberal with particularly the black smoke as such areas were far from clean!




The weathering to the water tanks was dealt with slightly differently, although it also started with the use of the acrylic varnish with the defective matting agent (that’ll be how I found out it was defective!).  I then used a Humbrol dark grey was with downward brush strokes and then wiped off with a piece of kitchen roll, again with a downward stroke.  A few additional marks, especially to the panel joints, with AK Interactive weathering pencils.


The water effect was another accident flowing from the defective matting agent – the milking was far from desirable on the black base coat of paint.  Thus, I wiped it off once it was semi dry and I got most of it but where the remainder was still there, it added a bit of texture to the surface, as if there was a little disturbance to the water that affects part of the surface not the whole.




By reference to the prototype, I made a heating stove flue and spigot for the water bag from brass rod.  To form the bends it was necessary to have a pair of additional tubes inside each other to stop the tube collapsing on the bend,  The canvas section of the leather bag was formed by a piece of heat shrink sleeving but with a little 5 minute araldite in the centre such that as this starts to cure a degree of shape can be put into it and once fully cured it will stay in this shape.




The operating rod was based on that still largely apparent at Altnabreac and I have assumed this also had a ladder even if this has now gone.  There is no watering bag to the smaller of the two water tanks as I propose to have some water columns, but that is a story for another day!




A further story for another day is the rather odd post sitting in the middle of the coaling bank; but that story will be fairly soon!


IMG_6198 (2).JPG

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