A partly shaved cat……

trimbush 1

Now North Ballachulish is finished other than routine maintenance, and the new layout Greenbooth is still in baseboard design (I’m contemplating getting some Tim Horn Laser cut boards), I thought I’d get on with some outstanding projects from New Hey days. Not least of these is A2 Pacific 605326.

Eastern Region aficionados of course will identify this loco as “Trimbush”, hence the post title, and it was purchased a couple of years ago at a show at a very knock down price, to haul the Blackpool excursion train on Ian Worthington’s “Glaisden” layout. Seeing as inevitably invalidate the manufacturers warranty as soon as I open the box by taking the thing apart to convert to EM gauge, as far as I’m concerned the cheaper the better, if it needs fettling as an out of the box model, it gets fettled. I win, and the trader gets rid of some remaindered stock, win / win.

Of course you can’t win em all, some are beyond redemption, the DJM J94 being a good case in point, a mechanical dogs breakfast. I did buy one in Hattons bargain sale last year for a very cheap price, but its going to have to be re-chassied, new motor / gearbox and wheels to make it an acceptable runner on the new layout. More of which at a later date. I’m not a person to wish ill will on anyone but in the case of DJM I’ll make an exception, whilst I’m sorry for those who lost money “investing” lol,  I was actually glad to see DJM go bust. I can only see it as good for the hobby in the medium / long term.

Back to the well kept topiary however, for the record I’ve used Gibson wheels. The Bachmann tender had stub axles so I used flangeless top hat bearings before fitting the wheels to stop them flopping about.  The main wheels were quartered using a GW wheel press and quartering jig. A brilliant tool, it ensures the wheels are both properly quartered, and go on straight and perpendicular.  There’s still work to do of course, the connecting rods need bushing before being put back on, and the crankpins tided up and filed back, before the final denouement of soldering the return crank back in position. Weathering then beckons so its already to go before Wigan show in October.

trimbush 2



Bracknell. If the world had piles, this is where they would be.

We are off out on the road again this weekend, to exhibit North Ballachulish at the showcase Expo EM Spring in Bracknell, centre of the known concrete architecture universe and generally a soulless dump. This annual show however makes putting up with the place for a weekend worthwhile.  http://www.emgs.org/events/exhibitions/?event_id1=56

This has meant a bout of wheel cleaning this morning in preparation for the show, nothing facilitates good running on a layout than clean loco wheels and clean track, both wheels and track get a good clean each day before running, and if the hall is particularly dirty, sometimes in between as well. It pays dividends.

cleaning wheels.jpg

For those not familiar, the EM Gauge Society, ( http://www.emgs.org/ )  of which I’m a member, holds two exhibitions each year, they used to be known as Expo South and Expo North until it was decided to rename them Spring and Autumn as it was felt the connotations with the term “t’North” put people off going. Its bloody grim up here dont’y just know 🙂

Its a good opportunity to come along and see what the Society is about – with the advent of ready to run EM track from PECO, on show this weekend, and some manufacturers making noises about supplying RTR locos, and one actually doing so in EM, now’s a good time to be coming over to the finer side.


North Ballachulish in print

Pleased to see the layout featured in Model Rail’s special edition this month. To say I’m more than pleased with the results of Chris Nevard’s photos is an understatement 😉 I’d written this around a year ago so to read it again was a bit of a “Did I really write that”but I hope it explains some of the ethos of building something which was for me very different from my previous layouts.

I’m now going to have to get some extra copies to laminate the pages to put on the BS boards at front of the layout now though!


NB MR SpecialNB MR Special 2


York Show

North B oil (2)


I’ve said it before but always worth repeating, York show has always been one of my favourite shows to attend as an exhibitor. https://yorkshow.org.uk/

I’m taking North Ballachulish this year and really looking forward to it, not only is it one of the friendliest of the big shows to do, its also a good chance to catch up with old friends, exchange some banter and have a few beers with them in what has to be the real ale capital – well at least of Yorkshire 😉

Its a bit extra special this year as the Rochdale Group has two other layouts on show – Tony Bucknell’s “Harkness”  and Karl Crowther’s “Hebble Vale Goods”. Three EM gauge layouts all from the same group, got to be a first!


Where next?

As North Ballchulish is now finished (barring a decision after Preston to put another 2 or 3 small trees at the back to break up the long open stretch), thoughts have now turned to what next, or more pertinently where.

Whatever it was it was going to be a lot smaller, 1 car and two operators small to be precise, and for the last year or so have been toying with the idea of a Spotland Bridge Mk2, ie a branch with an industrial line, having a growing collection of industrial locos both steam and diesel.  last year I picked up a superb book of Bill Hudson Transport Books https://www.billhudsontransportbooks.co.uk/ Industrial Locomotives and Railways in The North West by Gordon Edgar.


The front cover picture is of Yates Duxbury Paper Mills at Heap Bridge, (or Ape Bridge if you are a local) about 3 miles away from home and contained some quite inspirational pictures of said complex that Id not seen before. The line was reached via a branch off the Bury Knowsley St – Castleton line (Now part of the ELR, and the trackbed is still visible as you come across the motorway bridge) Now I didn’t want a straight copy, Ive had my fill of prototype modelling with New Hey, but I did like some of the track layout.

Around the same time our local free advertising magazine  had an article in it about a proposal to build a line off the Bacup branch up to Norden where I live, so it wasn’t hard to put 2 and 2 together and come up with the idea of Greenbooth, the next village up the line which had among other things a textile works as well as a quarrying industry at Ding. The village doesn’t exist any longer, it was all demolished in the 60s to make way for Greenbooth Reservoir, the site is now under a hundred feet of water!

The basic idea therefore is a small branch line termini with a line leading off into the industrial site. Fiddleyard at one end only although there will be a single line run through at the other end ostensibly to another part of the works and Ding Quarries. Station building will be that at Stacksteads to continue the East Lancs theme and the various industrial building will be taken from those at Yates Duxbury as well as some based on the very few photographs of Greenbooth itself. A few point templates have been printed off Templot and put in situ on 2 x 4 by 2 foot 9mm ply boards to see how it all fits before getting it all down on Templot.  Watch this space 😉

All quiet on the Preston front.

Skip4The first show of 2019 beckons for North Ballachulish this weekend at Preston.


It also marks the great unveiling – the plain sky blue backscene has now gone. Whilst the layout has been stored in the garage at home since Manchester show, the back boards took a little trip to South Manchester, where the superb artistic work of Mike Raithby took place. To say I’m pleased with the result is the understatement of the year, they really have caught the atmosphere of the West Highlands brilliantly.  It was tempting to display the finished result  on here first but I really want to see it actually on the layout before I do any photographs of it. In the meantime here they are in their protective “Stiffy Bags” ready to load onto the van tomorrow.

Backscene covers

Exhibit one




North Ballachulish is out at the Manchester show http://www.mmrs.co.uk/exhibition/  this weekend, as a current member of MMRS and one of the former exhibition managers there its a sort of homecoming in a way, although my first and foremost show will always be Rochdale.

Its all a bit heavy coming after the Warley weekend and taking Eskmuir down to the NEC., but we enjoy it and look forward to taking layouts out. Eskmuir was for sale last weekend on E Bay (Its now sold) and we got quite a few queries about it which caused me to think how little Joe Public knows about taking a layout out on the road.

That is often echoed by some of the comments which you see both Facebook and the forums where the ill informed have a tendency to fire off when they see a layout which has not a lot happening, things stuttering or anxious operators with soldering irons in their hands who are failing to engage with Mr X Spurt on the barrier (X being the unknown factor and Spurt a drip under pressure). The fact the layout has been dismantled at its last show, bounced around in a car or van to take it home for a good few miles, is probably in storage between shows, has been bounced around in the back of a van or car for a hundred miles again before being put up at the show doesn’t register with Mr Spurt.

Most layout owners are wary of the first hour operating at a show. You can test the layout the night before for all its worth, but its only when you actually start to properly operate it that the dry solder joint, the slightly misaligned track or the mysterious short circuit manifests itself and calls a premature halt, or at best a slight hiccup in operations. Even later in the show, things can move or break requiring things to halt whilst efforts are made to put right.  What is criminal is a layout getting a fault and then the owner doing bugger all about it as I witnessed at a big show a couple of years ago.

I recall taking New Hey to Nottingham and within a half hour of the show opening a short occurred which took out the whole of the down circuit.  The layout ploughed on using only the Up line, and we managed to keep things moving albeit on only half the layout. Despite having a detailed wiring diagram it took Martin Edmondson and myself well over a hour to find the problem, which turned out to be one single strand of wire which had worked out of  in a 25 pin D connector linking the fiddle yards to the front of the layout,  and had touched another wire causing the short to the whole of the down circuit.  Possibly someone had brushed against the cable getting under the layout, possibly it was the layout settling, who knows, but as all things in life, shit happens. We did sweat (and swear) a bit over it though!

As you can see from the images of last weekend layouts break down into quite small bits – its unrealistic after all the man handling and transport to expect them to work perfectly first time all the time. I just wish Mr X Spurt would actually acknowledge that before engaging keyboard warrior mode.


Backscene again…..



BS stitch

I used to be indecisive but I’m not too sure anymore……….

Having had a play around with photoshop and stitching three photographs together which I took a couple of years back when I was last in North Ballachulish, I’m rather taken with having this done as a photo backscene rather than trust it to watercolours and my brush skills.

Moves are now afoot to see if this would translate successfully as a 13 foot by 15 inch continuous sheet which would be pasted to the backscene boards. We shall see!

Pot holder!

What a good weekends exhibiting! Layout ran well plus ending up winning the best in show pot. My thanks to David and all of the Skipton group who put on a great weekend and big thanks to the North Ballachulish road crew: Martin Edmondson, Phil Taylor, Ian Worthington and Ian Bowker for the sterling operation and support.

Oh and the new aerial addition has gone down well 🙂


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And yes, the pot has been used !dav