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Late February means it’s time for our annual pilgrimage to the frozen North and Model Rail Scotland. This year’s trip started a day early on the Wednesday, for reasons that will become apparent shortly. First stop was to stoke up at the Little Chef just off Jcn 16 on the M6 (Crewe), our usual breakfast stop for this trip.

Several en-route photo opportunities had been discussed but in the end we went to a favourite from last year; Docker, on the WCML in Cumbria. Upon arrival, a search on Real Time Trains quickened the pulse as the ‘logs’ to Chirk was due. Almost as I finished reading the words the unmistakable pounding of a 56 drifted into auditory view and we prayed for the sun to stay out. And stay out it did, I still can’t believe how lucky we were. Subsequent shots of an unliveried 350/4 and a Plasser tamper pushing a trolley-thingy were nowhere near as good with the sun in (even after adjusting the white balance).

From there it was a short hop to Greenholme by which time the rain came on. The intermodal DRS 66 working which normally flies through Atherstone was reduced to a crawl on the climb to Shap and made for interesting listening. A mental note and reference shots were taken of this excellent location and then it was onwards and upwards to a sadly freight-free Carlisle station. The first night stop was at Moffat, staging post for the final thrust in the morning. If you’ve never visited Moffat I can thoroughly recommend it, plenty of good hotels and restaurants in a beautiful setting in the Southern Uplands, and after breakfast only an hour to Glasgow.

The subject of Thursday’s attention was a 35-year old successor to the famous ‘Blue Trains’; the Class 314. This recording session had had a very long gestation. Following a steer from a DEMU member in early 2013 (thanks Peter), a session had been set up for February last year, but was cancelled at the last minute when the host called in sick – doah! Luck was on our side this year and thanks to First Group and staff at Shields Road this veteran unit has now been captured for posterity. No model yet as far as I’m aware but a set of recordings ‘in the bank’ nevertheless. We never thought we’d see models of Lion / EM1 / Blue Pullman etc so someone will do one eventually.

Friday and Saturday was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends but sad news was to arrive. My very good friend and ‘chauffuer’ Richard had to drop everything and leave for Manchester where his aged father had taken a turn for the worse. Sadly he died not long afterwards but Richard was fortunate enough to get there in time.

The rest of the show wasn’t quite the same, and getting myself and all my stuff home was interesting with no transport. Plenty of offers were forthcoming from fellow modellers and traders passing through the Midlands, but everyone was leaving on Monday. As I needed to get back on Sunday the services of Virgin & London Midland were called upon. An offer of £92 First Class was grabbed with both hands. My camera, recording gear and show purchases went to Manchester with Richard. The stock boxes that would fit in Charlie’s already-bursting van went to Leeds, and the rest was kindly taken by Fiona of DCC Supplies back to Worcester and I will be re-united with them all at Leamington show. Oh, and my car was stuck at Richard’s house, half an hour from home.

Recording sessions for later in the year are shaping up nicely. Nothing I can divulge just now but suffice to say that there are some interesting and innovative things in the pipeline. Finally, with the assistance of Pete Harvey we will shortly be launching a range of 'easy-fit' resin underframe tanks incorporating loudspeaker enclosures, to make high-quality sound much easier to achieve. First examples will be for the Heljan 26, 27 & 33, with a set for the Bachmann 40 currently in development.


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