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Model Railway Express News Bulletin 27 August 2014


A big thank you to our contributors

By Phil Parker

As I was editing the letters, it occurred to me that we are seeing an ever wider selection of names appearing in MREmag.

This is a really good thing. If you are a recent contributor then thank you for taking the time to start or continue the discussions in our magazine. If you are thinking you'd like to get involved then please send an e-mail to the editorial address.

We'd love to hear from you.

Have Your Say

Having your say - Wed 27th August 2014

By Phil Parker

Shunting with passengers

Nick Stanbury is absolutely correct with his comments about shunting loaded passenger trains. The fundamental principle is that all movements must be made over locked facing points. Regular, planned shunting movements would only be authorised where Facing Point Locks and fixed signals were installed - unplanned or emergency movements always require unlocked facing point blades to be clipped and scotched.
When I was Station Manager at Sheffield in the early '80s, we had two such planned moves. Each weekday, the 10:18 Poole service would arrive in two parts. The Leeds portion, usually consisting of 4 Mk2s, arrived first at about 10:05 on Platform 6, the loco would be detached and run forward, and the Class 08 station pilot attached to the rear to draw the coaches back into the centre siding north of the station. The Newcastle portion, 6 or 7 vehicles including the catering car, then arrived, also on platform 6, and the Leeds coaches were propelled forward and attached to the rear ready for departure. The bay Platform 4 was also used occasionally for the arrival of the Leeds portion, although this was not possible if the train consisted of more than 4 coaches plus the loco.
Nick is also quite right about the problems that could be caused by passengers. To avoid problems with passengers joining, the Leeds arrival would always be announced as a terminating train, with the Newcastle portion announced as the Poole train. However, as at the time this was, I think, the only passenger train regularly scheduled for haulage by a Class 08, we often had problems with "haulage bashers" delaying the shunt move by joining the Leeds coaches on arrival and then "flailing" out of the windows, blocking the driver's view of the shunter's handsignals from the leading coach.
The other move involved a Summer Friday overnight service to (from memory) Newquay, where 3 or 4 coaches would be placed in Platform 4 at about 22:00 ready for boarding by Sheffield passengers, and drawn out via the north centre siding for attaching to the main train which arrived at about 23:30.
Bernard Hulland


Further on the topic of shunting of passenger trains, this seems to be something the Swiss Railways do not flinch from!

On my through coach between Cologne and Chur last Sunday the Intercity express splits at Basle SBB as the DB coaches go through to Zurich with a reversal and the SBB coaches are added to another train for Chur. This was accomplished very swiftly and smartly by a neat little electric shunter, which was either very new or very well cared for, which picked up our coaches as soon as the DB locomotive had come off and rapidly took us up the yard and then just as rapidly backed us onto our train some platforms across.

Interestingly the lookout issue did not cause a problem as the shunting loco was driven remotely by radio control by a shunter standing in the corridor connection! All done without fuss in about four minutes.

Roger Hobson
Usually from Essex, currently in Switzerland


As a trainspotter in 1962 I have happy memories of the Western Region’s premier expresses being shunted, with passengers, into a good yard!
There had been major landslide on the West of England main line and everything, from the Cornish Riviera express down, was diverted around the Devizes branch. The problem was that the trains were longer than the station loop. So the passing procedure involved the up Cornish Riviera running slowly through the station, into the wrong section under the control of a guy with a red flag and then setting back into the up goods yard. The down Mayflower would then run through and the up Cornish Riviera would then continue to Paddington.
When Phil visits my model of Devizes, on his October trip to Australia, I will demonstrate the manoeuvre.
Peter Lucas


Unusual Train Moves

Isle of Man
Peter Dawson considers he was the last commuter on the IoM.
In 1991 I stayed in Port Erin and surprise, surprise, used the trains a bit.  One day, returning on the last train from Douglas, instead of running in to the shed as usual, the loco ran around its train.
Where are you going I asked?. 
To Castletown came the reply, to replace the evening bus.  Jump in if you want.
At Castletown the loco ran round and after a few minutes a double deck bus pulled in, a load of commuters got off, joined the train, got out their newspapers and books, and carried on reading as if nothing had happened.  Apparently the roads were closed for the Southern TT practice so the train did the job.  OK, it may not have been a regular commuter service but they were commuters, and I wonder where else a steam train could replace a bus!
British Rail, Southern Region
My most unusual train movement occured when returning from London down the Dartford loop one late afternoon.  We stopped at a signal and I overheard the driver on the phone saying to the signalman, 'I'll push it!'.
Apparently a freight just ahead had broken down.  No way could an 8EPB shove a freight, but after what seemed only a few minutes an up passenger stopped cab to cab and someone clambered  over. 
Shortly after we moved off...... backwards, as far as the previous station, giving the unforgettable sight of two trains moving in the same direction on adjacent tracks.  Passengers were detrained (or whatever expression you would like) and told to use their tickets on bus services.  What rule allowed this movement, I know not!  Could it be done today with centralised signalling?  Should it have been done with manual signalling, again I know not, but it did allow passengers to get off and to get home with minimal disruption.  Which is more than can be said for many hundreds of others as the line was subsequently blocked for several hours!!
Bob Fleming


Sound on Layouts

Giving locomotives a voice is nothing new. I have a Mainline model of Royal Scott with what was called "Electronic Steamsound". This had a printed circuit board with a small speaker in the tender to which you attached a PP3 9 volt battery. It worked by simply having contact that wiped a metal half-sleave around the middle axel on the tender to create a simple chuff chuff sound. Even this of course was predated by Triangs mechanical system which was a form of metal clicker on the tender axle.

David Rhodes

Editor: Early sound generator are "interesting". I have an AGW whistle and horn sound maker. You can judge how effective it is from this video. Hmmmm.


Sound has come a long way since it started out. My abiding nightmare is of those switching yard layouts that have the constant drone of the loco accompanied by the incessant ding ding ding ding. I do enjoy watching those layouts but the noise can become intrusive.

Some people say steam sound has a long way to go to be realistic, however I would counter that by saying, how many people bother to tune their decoders to the correct chuff rate or coasting rate or cut off? Most people will probably use the factory settings. I only have one steam sound loco the Beyer Garratt which is very quiet and when at idle is hardly discernible. There are random sounds that cut in but on the whole it is a good sound chip that is not intrusive.

I have sound diesels but again if they are tuned correctly should not be intrusive. In my youth I spent time at stations, sheds and Swindon works, I do not remember a cacophony of sound from locos unless there was the odd safety valve blowing. The noisiest locos I remember from my youth were a double headed pair of type 2 hydraulic (CL22s) at Didcot, they sounded like skeletons dancing in a biscuit tin quite awful!

When DCC arrived it was dubbed a gimmick that would never catch on, now it is the future of our modelling, likewise sound is an extension of that (and DC). Obviously there are still many modellers around for whom DC still holds sway, but young people brought up on XBox etc. want realism (gimmick or not) and I would say sound is here to stay and will grow in popularity. Sound is not bad per se, it is the volume and indiscriminate use that encroaches, when I am not using a particular sound loco on my layout I power it down. Perhaps operators need to do that a bit more often.

Andrew Carter


Letters on sound at exhibitions has me thinking about my home layout.  I don't have DCC and am thinking of using an old stereo system and Peter Handford tapes or CDs.   If I had the skill I would organize the segments so they coincide with the timetable, but probably won't accomplish it in my lifetime.

Richard Davies


Needs versus wants

I have to say I fall into the collector category, although it was never my intention to do so. I’m just a sucker for the wonderful models that just keep on coming through, albeit slowly recently.

Having had allegiances’ to the Midland region of British railways, and then being raised in Leicester where granddad had an allotment adjacent to the Great Central, meant that I would frequently see A3 Pacific’s, V2 and B1 named locos and therefore just had to love them too. Back in my early years we didn’t have much choice in locos, so imagination played a great part. Now with such a vast choice I choose the area of Leeds to loosely ( very loosely )model thereby creating a reason for running ex LMS and LNER types side by side.

Why my collection now includes Southern T9,N15,BB, and other assorted types along with a ex GWR Grange and 28xx I really can’t explain, other than to say in the world of model railways, we can do just what we like I suppose.

On the cost side, I too in my younger family raising days had a very limited budget, but now as I’m getting older I do have more disposable income to support my hobby, and so to will many others with the passage of time. Keep on modelling, (collecting)……

Dave Richards


Perhaps income isn't the main factor in determining the purchase of a  new "must have" item; I'd suggest priorities have a bigger part to play  in the decision.

In my case, as a single 60+ male who is "of independent means" (i.e. not  earning, on benefit or retired), I can pick and choose what I spend MY money on - no wife or kids to feed (though I have an aged dog which produces large vet's bills; no mortgage or rent to pay and I never go on holidays or trips (the dog hates cars).  So, I should be the ideal "mark" for new models!

However, I sold over two thirds of my locos and much of the rest of my railway four years ago and now have about twenty locos suited to the area I would be modelling if time permitted.  The big problem is time - I am not a collector, I'm a modeller, so keeping my large assortment of road vehicles in boxes does bug me.  I am restoring and using two old tractors and a forty year old Land Rover: they take most of my free time and money and, as I can (and do) use them, they take priority over the railway.

I realise that, perhaps, I am not a typical railway modeller: the railway almost takes second place to scenery and I have little interest in modern railways.  Actually, perhaps I am a typical modeller - my railway is something for relaxation and enjoyment and not a passion that overrides everything else!  I fear spending over £100 on a loco is but one reason that I haven't bought a new one for some years: I did buy some "more appropriate" locos and rolling stock for the period and area I want to model when I sold off my stud, but none were new and none were over £70, let alone £100 and "better" coaches were all under £20!

OK, they are not the most detailed or accurate items, but I won't be too close to them most of the time and I can still enjoy the sight of a train trundling along my coastal line, which brings back memories of my childhood!

John Allen


Western Region Pullman Formations

Further to Richard Simmons request and John Cherry’s contribution.

Here are details of the ‘Blue Pullman Standby Train’.
Terry Bye
Editor - Pullman & CIWL News


Model Railway Shop Closures

Being resident in Germany, I can confirm this situation.

I live in Northern Germany, equi-distant from the cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Hannover, each being some 50 miles away.

Within this area, there are also medium size towns of approx 40,00 - 50,000 population, each some 30 miles distant.  The town I live in is relatively small - approx 25,000 population.

First of all my local model shop closed (some 10 years ago).   Then the model shops in the other towns stopped selling model railways, and eventually most closed.

Now there remain only the few in the cities, and they do not all sell model railways.
Having studied the situation and seen the changes in interests taking place, I have found that the reasons, whilst are varied, the main ones are:
Demand for ever more detailed models has meant ever increasing prices, until we have reached the stage that the average German child/young person, cannot afford to purchase model railway items, even though the manufacturers have sought to entice youngsters with relatively cheap "starter sets". I believe that the only manufacturer who really seriously moved into this area was Hornby with their "Railroad" range. All other appear to have just paid lip-service and not followed up their "starter" sets with simpler, cheaper models to encourage people to expand their initial purchases.
Then of course we have the changing interests and life-styles of the younger generation. Video games, and all the associated hardware and software are far more interesting to the younger generation who are not really railway orientated as part of daily life. The means of travel is based on planes and cars these days, and railways play a minor part.
Whilst other reasons also play a part, I think that, broadly speaking, these are the two major reasons for the decreasing markets for model railways.
Some 30 years ago, I decided that, whilst the models were excellent both in detail and technical development, they were now out of my financial range, and I gave up modelling German railways. Apart from a  few selected items, for nostalgic reasons, I have returned to British railway models. So far,  I am still able to afford these, although, on a limited income, I do not know for how much longer this can continue.
For what it was worth, I did, at that time, say that  German model railways would price themselves out of the market.   Whilst that may not have completely happened, it has certainly gone a long way down that road.
Clubs do still exist and there are large exhibitions, but the number of private, home layouts has dwindled drastically.
Is the British model railway market going the same way ?
Stuart May


I model Japanese N scale, and every so often go to Japan for a look at their railways. Last time I was there I met a mate in Tokyo and he took me to Akihabara, two stations to the north of Tokyo.

Within about 300 yards radius from this station he took me to fifteen different model railway shops! Not easy to find without a guide, many are upstairs above other shops. A vast variety of new and second hand items can be found there. The average Japanese railway modeller only wants the latest livery on a model, and as the various Japanese railway companies change their liveries almost with the phases of the moon, a lot of almost new, but older livery models are always on the market, often at very low prices.

I did find a second hand set of the 1960's Tokyo-Osaka express 'Tsubame' (Swallow), the Japanese National  Railway's crack train at that time, at a good price, and bought other items as well, but even with N scale, the weight to carry onto an airliner does sneak up.

So, from this, one can assume that the model railway scene in Japan is thriving!

As an aside, Akihabara, also known as 'Electric City' because of the many electrical and electronic shops there,  has two stations, one at right angles  above the ground level one, both served by JR suburban train, and is a very busy location.

Bill Pearce


Mikron Taunton

I too am sad about this shop closing although I have never been there. ANY model shop closing is unfortunate.

However, I have come across the firm a few times at swapmeets and the like and have to say I was put off ever going to the shop by the self-obsessed attitude of the young guy from the shop who was staffing the stand. If he had had a more positive and sympathetic attitude I would definitely have visited the shop. Whether they would have sold anything I wanted is a different matter. I am sorry to introduce a negative element to the topic but these sort of things DO matter.

Rod Allcock

Editor: I'm sure that most of us could tell tales of the oddballs who clutter up the nether regions of model shops whilst never actually buying anything themselves.


Thorpe Hall

Sorry chaps, its not near Norwich, but is on the western side of Peterborough and is clearly visible from the Longthorpe Parkway.  Thorpe Hall is now a Sue Ryder Hospice/Respite Care centre and, as a matter of interest they are trying to raise £6m to build an extension.
Terry McCarthy


Plea to Hornby

Could you please produce more varieties (ie, names and numbers) of the Gresley A4 as depicted by your limited  train pack "The Rare Bird":   BR Blue, single chimney version of 60024 KINGFISHER.

It would appear that this version of the A4 is indeed a "rare bird", for the market has dried up.   The majority of the A4s, whilst undergoing a change of livery, spent over 20 years with  single chimneys.   Just 4 being fitted with double chimneys from new.   The rest only being so fitted for the last 8 or 9 years of their life, ie from 1957 onwards.
The only major difference, apart from the change to Brunswick Green livery, would be to produce the different tender versions, the moulds for which already exist.
Stuart May


Railmobile and Other Oddities

What a great idea! I want one, in real form as well as model. Maybe I could design something based on the Minic Motorway system. I am begining to have problems with the number of cars on my layout (I'm a classic car enthusiast too), so this my be the answer to having the road clogged up.

I have to admit that I am certainly drawn to models of one-offs and oddities for my rolling stock in general and I can see why they sell well. No matter how prototypical we all want to be, something unusual and different can really add to the interest on a layout, especially at exhibitions.

David Rhodes


So, you think that the Railmobile is one of the weirdest rail borne vehicles ever!  Well it actually seemed to work and it at least has wheels on each corner.

If you want odd, try this, the Patiala State Monorail Tramway at the railway museum in Delhi.  I am not holding my breath waiting for a model of this, but I would buy one in a flash if it was ever produced.
Bob Fleming


Holiday photos

Here's a contribution from my holiday in the US in 2012.

1. Georgetown Loop Railway, Colorado

2. & 3. The Durango & Silverton, Colorado

4. Grand Canyon Railway at the Grand Canyon

Steve Grantham


Bachmann have recently released their Class 101 with speed whiskers.

This must have been one of its first duties working the 12.00 Leicester North to Loughborough on the 21st August 2014
Tony Elliott


Join in the discussion - send an e-mail to:

In the case of e-mails published in MREmag, individual responses from the editor are not usually sent unless there is an issue to be raised or answered. Our thanks to all those who contributed their thoughts, questions and answers which develop the topics covered above. A special thanks to Pat Hammond, Brian Macdermott, and Trevor Gibbs for their regular features.

 If you have suggestions for the model manufacturers to consider, or if there is anything else you would like to discuss within the British railway modelling and collecting subject base of this magazine, please send me an e-mail, giving your ‘first’ name and surname (no pseudonym please) to Please read the Notes for Contributors and keep your postings to a reasonable limit, as well as being positive, polite and definitely not libellous.

Anonymous comments cannot be published. Your contributions will be edited for readability and acceptability within the unbiased policy of the magazine. Care will be taken not to alter the views expressed but they remain those of the writer of the e-mail and are not necessarily shared by the Editor.

Any photographs supplied for use must have been taken by you, or you have copyright clearance for MREmag to use them.

Event information is reported as supplied and taken in good faith. If you are planning to travel a long distance, you are advised to check the website or contact the organiser to make sure everything is going ahead.

 Remember! The manufacturers are our friends - not our enemies. They read this magazine and so, when you comment on their products, you are talking directly to them. Choose your words carefully as you would with a friend.

Hints and Tips

Hints & Tips No.871 - An alternative to Wetting when Ballasting

By George Pitman

I got very frustrated when trying to pre-wet the ballast pile as recommended by all the experts. I tried a couple of different sprayers but one was bad and the other one worse. It seems like it is extremely difficult to thoroughly wet the ballast without disturbing it in some way. So in desperation, I tried something else.

I went out to the garden shed and cut a little piece of landscape fabric. It's that black plastic stuff that water runs right through but weeds can't bust it. I just laid the piece of fabric on the ties and flooded that with the sprayer. Then I lifted it off. Voila!! It's all wet! A little bit of ballast but only a very little bit stuck to the fabric and a little bit was on the tie tops. But the ballast itself looked pretty much undisturbed. I took a credit card and scraped it along the ties and got all of the stragglers back into place. Then I glued as normal.

I found out that the credit card trick works after the glue is applied also, to take care of any ballast that gets displaced by the glue up onto the ties. The caveat is that I am using the cvmw tie strips and I am applying the ballast before the rails are down so it's easier to scrape with the credit card. But having rails on might work better to support the fabric slightly off the rails to keep it from contacting the ballast..

I also discovered that the wet water mixture doesn't have to be sprayed onto the fabric, you can just pour it on.


Gainsborough Model Railway Society

By Neil Burgess

Over the bank holiday weekend I paid a long-overdue return visit to Gainsborough Model Railway Society's East Coast main line model - the term "layout" doesn't really seem adequate to describe it. The model dates back to 1953 and is housed in a former school which is now the Society's clubroom. As the illustrations show, it's enormous and fills the building; there are walkways alongside the line for visitors, but it's very much a matter of single-file traffic in many places.

The model is a representation of the East Coast line between Kings Cross and Leeds, with selected major stations like Retford and Doncaster along the way, plus several smaller ones. There are several levels and trains appear and disappear en route; but they actually go from A to B rather than simply circling the system. Control is by a sequence and by block bells, each main station having at least one operator - two in the case of those with goods yards. This is a kind of model which was once quite common - including those shoehorned into domestic spare bedrooms - but is less popular today. Its interest is more in the operation and atmosphere than in the strict reproduction of actual stations; though anyone who knows the locations will see that their character is there.

The photo above shows Kings Cross from above the tunnels, with the loco yard on the right.

Here is a closer view of the loco yard which, like the prototype, is more than a little cramped.

He we see the arrival side of Kings Cross with a Great Central "Immingham" 4-6-0 on the left and P2 "Earl Marischal" on the right.

Gainsborough was served by both the Great Northern & Great Eastern joint line and also the Great Central's original main line from Grimsby through Sheffield to Manchester. Great Central prototypes feature strongly among the locomotives on the model, including this 1A class "Glenalmond" (LNE class B8) "Lord Kitchener of Khartoum"

The photo above shows the operator at Retford, while below we have Hitchin.

Although various features of the prototype are omitted - most notably the flat crossing allowing the MS&LR line to Sheffield across the East Coast route - the model does convey something of the atmosphere of the station.

If anyone is in the north Lincolnshire / north Nottinghamshire / south Yorkshire area, the model is well worth a visit. The next open days are on the first Saturdays of October and December and also over the Christmas / New Year holiday period.

More details on the Gainsborough MRS web site.

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