Monday, 21 January 2019

An Update - (Somewhat overdue).

We have now been to two exhibitions with the layout, Railex NE 2018 in July and the Newcastle &District MRS in November. We were well received at both shows and managed to stir a few memories for folks who had remembered the location.

Here are a few photos, some taken at one or other of these shows but others in our temporary home. Please make allowances for the lack of Photoshopping of the background of some shots.

This is a bridge we have used as a scenic break. The bridge actually existed but not quite in this location. The bridge was close to Ouston Junction carrying the Beamish Wagonway. The left hand track depicted here actually went under the same arch which carried the wagonway. 
The right hand arch crossed the ECML just south of Ouston junction. The track that we have going through that arch is our representation of the line to Washington and Tyne dock. This line actually crossed the ECML by a different bridge, if you can imagine, behind the photographer.
 We thought it would make a tidy scenic break. The photo was taken before we completed the ballasting and scenic work.

Here we show a Q7 (devoid of lamps!) hauling the legendary iron ore train towards the signal cabin. The train is obviously going to have to wait because there is no banker in the siding to the right.

Another ore train. As you can see it is 3/4 mile from Ouston junction, but it hadn't come from there. By now the Q7s had been replaced by the 9Fs. on the ore trains.

The Q7s lasted for a few years but on the less glamorous turns. This one, still with air pumps (which would actually have gone when the 9Fs turned up) takes a rake of empty bolster waggons up to Consett.

Another ore train crosses from branch to main, ready to take on the banker. The waggons in the foreground are for the colliery (not on our model, unfortunately.

The 9Fs were kept busy on other duties when there wasn't an ore carrier alongside at Tyne Dock. On this occasion one of the ten such locos is taking coke up to the steel works.

The K1s that were shedded at Consett didn't arrive until 1962. This is a visitor from Darlington.

The weather forecast is grim so the ploughs are given a test run.  The main line here wasn't really this close to the back of the NCB storage shed but we have had to put it closer to keep the model to manageable proportions. This shed is one of the very few features still in existence - though it is in a very sorry state.

The layout is due to be exhibited at the Middlesbrough show on 18th & 19th May and hopefully at Expo EM Autumn in Wakefield 7th & 8th September. Come along and see it 'live'.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018


South Pelaw in EM will be exhibited for the first time at the forthcoming 

Railex NE on 28th and 29th July 2018.

Organised by the Blyth & Tyne Model Railway Society in North Shields. NE29 9PU

For details see:-

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

A Signalman's Railway.

As the saying goes, "The Driver drives the Guard's train on the Signalman's railway" 

It is this concept that has governed our choice of operating methods and procedures. We don't want to decry those who choose to have computer controlled automatic model railways. It's just not for us.

Our model hopes to replicate the scene at South Pelaw and Stella Gill as it was in the 1950s and 60s. So our control methods for the scenic side of the layout is based on the signal box as it was then.

South Pelaw box had an 85 lever frame, with 6 spares. We have modelled all the turnouts and signals but have not catered for facing point locks nor detonator placers, (though those would liven up things at an exhibition!).

We have added to our panel some signals that would be controlled by our neighbours - slotted distants. And have included controls for turnouts that would have been operated by ground levers.

So our signal box controls 55 signals and 33 turnouts. The Stella Gill box controls including the signal bridge with it's 13 boards, are at present included in the fiddle yard operations but there are plans to make it a box in its own rights.

All the signals are capable of operation and the panel has interlocks based upon our understanding of the system but updated recently by the acquisition of details from the Ken Hoole Centre.

Drivers of trains (now using DCC) will have to observe and obey signals. SPADs will cost a round of drinks for the rest of the team! (orders taken on the back of a Form 1).

All signals have been hand made from etched parts and the usual metal materials, with a lot of scratch building to best replicate the originals. Here's one ready for painting which has a lower quadrant arm for the Down Main towards Ouston Junction and then Gateshead and an upper quadrant arm for crossing over onto the Down Branch to Tyne Dock.

The finished article can be seen in earlier postings on this blog.

Here we show the variety of  what was there before rationalisation in the mid to late 60s. The signal on the left has the section signal towards Durham Turnpike and thence Tyne Dock with the slotted distant below it (just to confuse - not a slotted post). In between is a calling on arm for giving access to the crossover. Then on a little bracket to our left is a shunting signal (slotted post lower quadrant) for crossing over in the opposite direction.

The post on the right is the Home for trains going on the UP Main to Consett or across the junction to Stella Gill.

Away in the distance, in the right hand side cess is a diminutive slotted post shunting signal for crossing over at the junction. See next photo for better view.

This picture shows the tail end of a lengthy operation. Trains of 21 loaded wagons were split into rakes of 7 at South Pelaw for the gruelling climb to Consett. This phot shows the loco picking up his last 6 (would really be 7) from the goods sidings to then cross back onto the Up Branch to collect the brake van before setting off up the bank.

A closer shot shows that there are 8 signals in this view and the driver has the OK to proceed from the tiny rotating NE pattern shunt signal  (Dusty Bin signal) at the foot of the small post.

The turnout that the loco is stood on is one of those that would not have been operated from the box but by the crew with a ground lever - as yet to be added to the model.

Only a few yards further on and we have a traditional NE slotted post shunting signal - with it's tiny friend on the far side of the tracks. This train will eventually join that main line towards Consett but has to go out onto the branch first - to at least pick up the brake van!

For an out of the way, work-a-day railway South Pelaw had some beautiful signals. This one featured as an ornate frame for several artistic photos taken by photographers of the real place.

Careful examination of the right hand abutment of the Pelton Lane bridge will reveal a meat skewer.

The next photo shows what re[placed it a few months later.

In it's hey-day this cantilever bracket must surely have been home to more signal dolls but sources fail to identify any.

The whole junction area, about half a mile long, was illuminated by gas lamps, the remains of one of which is in the foreground (a bit out of focus). Over the bridge you might just see the forest of signals awaiting the drivers concentration.

The driver has got the road (but I don't know where he is!).

The layout is about to go out on the exhibition circuit, but these two bracket signals have been all over already as part of demos for MERG and the EMGS. 

The anonymous Q7 has now been numbered but the frames and motion are still to paint now that it has run in.

The junction nerve centre with its 85 levers is this modest building.

Talking of buildings, this row of railway cottages is nearing completion. The 'snow' on the roof may seem appropriate but it is just Plastkard, put in place for the purposes of this photo.

Can you imagine, being a signalman at South Pelaw, being able to see the mechanical parts of your job out of your front bedroom window?

As I say, not yet finished, there's the roof, drain pipes etc to add but look at the detail. Those doors and windows are not etches, they are painstakingly made from plastic strip and sheet. And the lace curtains -----!

Since the theme of this post is about signals, I have included this rather poor and old shot of the signal box panel. I know it should be levers rather than knobs and switches but you can take realism only so far.

Today's panel is a little simpler since we abandoned DC and the cab control method for DCC. (I can hear Jeers and cheers in equal proportions).

The turnouts and signals are operated by servos communicated via MERG's CBUS system.

Traditional control out on the front of the layout but the fiddle yard is controlled by a touch-screen with two panels . The fiddle yard, again, uses servos for turnout operation and CBUS as the communication means. However the touch screen is a JMRI PanelPro version.

These are not the most up-to-date pictures. The loco spur is no longer there on the blue panel (a long story) and the pink panel now has the touch icons for the signals on the Stella Gill Flatts gantry.

Once the panel is live, the question marks change to proper icons. To select a route the signalman presses the point of entry and the point of exit. and all the intermediate point-work changes to set up the route. There are precautions to prevent conflicting routes. 

The system was not without it's teething problems, mainly caused by a lack of understanding of several aspects of setting the system up. It is workable but still something of a work in progress.

What next?

Well we need lots of operating practice and then the layout is invited to this year's Railex NE at North Shields on July28th & 29th for its maiden voyage. Following that to the Newcastle and District Exhibition  on November 10th & 11th. 

Any offers thererafter, gratefully considered!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Wright Stuff

Thanks to the generosity of a property company in Middlesbrough, we have been able to erect the layout in a large office space for the last few months.  This has enabled us to do a lot of snagging work as well as installing signals, working on the control systems, buildings, scenery etc. We have made good progress although there is plenty still to do (when isn't there?).  A couple of weeks ago we held an open day and one of the guests was Tony Wright.  He took some photos of the layout and has kindly agreed to let us share them online.

A suspiciously clean Q6 pulls a short freight up the hill towards Consett.  Note the ex NER snowploughs in the siding - scratchbuilt by Pete with some inspiration from Worsdell Forever on RMweb.

An O1 waits on the Down Washington for another banking duty.  This picture shows some of the progress in this area with 'Pete's bridge' bedded into the scenery and the NCB spoil tip created.

A 9F prepares to tackle the severe gradients on the Up Consett with a loaded iron ore train.  Some newly installed signals are shown to advantage, with Martin's No 62/67 bracket signal on the left, controlling movements from the Down Consett towards Ouston Jn (left) or right towards Washington. No 62 (the left arm) is an ex NER slotted post lower quadrant, while no 67 (right) is an upper quadrant mounted on a wooden doll - I'm sure this kind of combination wouldn't be allowed nowadays.  On the right we have Richard's superb lattice cantilever bracket with signals 85, 84, 79 and 78 controlling movements from Stella Gill roads No2 Outgoing, No 3 Outgoing and No 3 Incoming.

A busy scene at South Pelaw with a pair of 9Fs starting the hard work up the hill to South Medomsley Junction (where the bankers uncoupled, next to Eden Colliery) while an O1 hauls a set of empty iron ore hoppers en route to Tyne Dock.  In Stella Gill No 1 Outgoing road, a Wilson Worsdell N9 shunts a loaded rake of mineral hoppers.

Another view of the O1, taken from the guards van of the train it is about to bank. The diminutive NER slotted post is No 9 signal, the outer home from the Washington direction.  The arm is raised slightly into the upper quadrant - this is intentional (honest), as many lower quadrant signals suffered this complaint due to worn components.

A 9F stands outside South Pelaw box awaiting further instructions.  Mark's labour of love on the signalbox continues, with the interior work complete he has turned his attention to completing the exterior.  The ornate cast-iron brackets which supported the balcony are gradually being added - the product of a detailed drawing by Mark and laser cutting by York Modelmaking.

Just to show we do allow the odd diesel to appear, a Clayton plus brake tender emerges from Pelton Lane bridge with a mixed freight in tow.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A Peek Through The Windows

(and we don't mean Windows 10)

Three pictures of the inside of Mark's model of the South Pelaw cabin - shots that will be away from the public gaze at exhibitions.

A view from across the tracks - with a telephoto lens!

Signalman Steve, with lots of Brylcreem on his hair!

All the instruments kept clean and polished.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Demolition Reversed

Not really but we surveyed, measured and photographed this bridge before it was demolished and here it is reincarnated in model form.

Pete (Stephenson) Hill overlooks his masterpiece.
The Left hand span is bridge no 26 on the line from Tyne Dock. The right hand span is no 1 from Ouston Junction. The centre span has an identity crisis!
The present day cycleway goes now where the line to Tyne Dock went. (Hallowed ground?)
Scenic bedding in work still to complete.
The two buffer stops at the siding ends were like that in the 50s. Presumably the far one was a replacement for the original NER one after some rough treatment. These sidings were well used. Long coal trains were divided into three shorter rakes for Q6s and later K1s to take up the bank to Consett, 7 at a time.

 The centre span is 3 inches lower than the right hand (in this view) and the left hand span is 12 inches lower than that. Strange but true. The bridge parapet had an unusual rolled top making it a modelling challenge. Most of the stonework is a faithful copy of the original, with each stone individually carved.

The demolition firm will no doubt have made a tidy packet out of selling all these stone blocks - cheaper than quarrying!

Here's the real thing. Mark is under the No1 span. The cycle way is under the far span.

Another structure underway, close to a bridge, is the former NCB store at Stella Gill Flatts. the shed still exists even if the NCB doesn't. It is now a wreck but here is the side face, on which, Phil is learning his building skills, under Mark's tutelage.
To keep the layout under the 40ft limit (you've got to stop somewhere) this model building is closer to the main line, on the other side of the building, than it was in reality. A decision has yet to be made as to what the other side of it will look like.

 The new item here is the NE slotted post signal on the RHS of the picture. What we find puzzling is that the Northern division of the NER seemed to paint some of the ironwork black but some of it, like the balance arms and weights, white. They were repainted thus even when other parts of the national network painted iron work black. This post was substituted in the late 50s but we kept it 'cos we liked it.
Mark's signal box now contains a full lever frame, block instruments - the lot. But not easy to see from here.

 We still have a number of signals to build - hence the meat skewers with labels on but here is one on the way. This is one of the brass posts that were milled for us by Vincent Worthinton on a demonstration stand at an Expo EM exhibition a couple of years ago. The only problem with them is they are quite difficult to solder to with their massive heat sink properties. But Phil is coping!
According to the destination blind, the bus is off to Norwich Thorpe Station - under the ownership of Eastern Counties bus co. However The United Omnibus Company operated similar vehicles, maintained in Darlington. That facility, like North Road Works - gone!

Recently I bought the new NERA book on North Eastern Signalling. I found out from that book that the NER didn't refer to these structures as signal gantries but signal bridges instead. So I've included this again under that pretext.

 Bobbing back to Pete's bridge, here Phil is making up the scenic approaches on a wet and muddy track.

As you can see, there's still lots of work to do.


Saturday, 3 September 2016

The Anonymous Q7 Identified.

Comments in another place about the Q7 featured in this blog were a little premature. The results of the painting and weathering are here to see, in a pose trying to replicate history.

(We have moved these photos from the end of the previous posting).

The top picture is of a product of Darlington Works, the bottom one a Dave Alexander kit.