Thursday 22 September 2011

The end; loss, sadness, joy and beauty.

I was born in 1960 and as a result I only have a few vague memories of working steam on British Railways; being held up to see over the wall at York sheds, lineside from a holiday caravan at Filey and a glimpsed view of a black five from our train heading to Penmaenmawr in'67. For some time after 1968 much of what the railways did and looked like was indistinguishable from the end of steam, apart from doing it with diesels. It's this era where my memory starts to have more substance and fewer holes. It's these memories that drive Morfa slowly onwards.

However I have become unreasonably interested of late in the last couple of years of steam. It's been a bit of a slow burn that emanated from this slim softback I've had for a good few years.

It has some fabulous images within, it's the sort of title that turns up for a couple of quid on the shelves of second hand books at preserved railways and is well worth the price of a pint. (note:- not an open invite to discuss beer price structures and regional variations)  As well as the images it has short pieces by each of the contributing photographers, each a young man in the late sixties. I think it was the descriptions of the scrapes, friendships, youthful folly, exuberance and the sense of being carefree that chimed with my own experiences of being a similar age ten years later on. Even though my particular bag at the time was climbing and walking in the mountains, many themes seemed shared. Recently I was given a stack of Steam World magazines, in the 2007 issues there was a four part series by Ian Krause documenting his time with a camera in '67.  Magazine and book led to an interweb trawl for further words and pictures. I've come up with this autobiographical account by Paul Riley and this tribute by Ian Krause that are well worth a read.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Countdown to Corris 4

After much frenzied model making I can post the fourth and final episode in the countdown series. My Latin American tramway is sufficiently advanced to be able to take decent photos that give a fair impression  of what the finished item will look like. More importantly it's now at the stage where I wouldn't feel too embarrassed at it going on public display. there are a few jobs to tackle tomorrow, and many for after the show, but I can rest tonight as all looks to be under control.

Just to remind everyone that the tramway will make its public d├ębut this coming weekend at the Corris Model Railway & Toy Exhibition. Corris School 10:30 - 5:00 Sat, Sun and Mon, 27th, 28th & 29th August.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Countdown to Corris - 3

Well the in time completion of the Latin American tramway is going to be a bit of a knicker gripper, so I thought that I pop up some photos of a very tasty model that I know will be at Corris on the August bank holiday weekend, and every other day the railway is open for that matter. It's located in the station and museum at Corris, well worth a visit in its own right

It's the 009 model of the Corris Railway itself featuring scenes along the line; Pantperthog, Maespoeth, Corris and Aberllefenni. The model is static at the moment, but non the worse for that. I'm afraid that my photos don't do the even though I removed the glass from the case, you really have to see it to appreciate it.

Monday 11 July 2011

The good book

At the end of last month I heard through the grapevine of the death of P D Hancock, one of the pioneers of 4mm scale narrow gauge modelling. I've always enjoyed his writing in the Railway Modeller and his book Narrow Gauge Adventure - The Story of the Craig and Mertonford Railway was often borrowed from the library when I used to live in York. In part prompted by the sad news, and in part due to a chance find on my friend Nicks bookstall, I find myself with my very own copy. The last week or two have been spent reading it a bit at a time, and what a joy it's been. Quite apart from the lovely models within, the book works so well because it's so well written. There's nothing forced about the prose, it's a gentle explanation of how the model came about; it's easy to imagine being in the presence of P D Hancock himself as he speaks about his creation. Don't take my word for it, find yourself a copy, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Countdown to Corris - 2

Well it looks like I'm back on track with something fresh for the Corris Exhibition. The push button pizza Chwarel Bach is booked to appear over the August bank holiday weekend, and as space is limited I've decided to go with an idea for an even smaller circular layout again with audience participation in mind. I'm well into the build of a Koppel overhead electric loco, and the accompanying board and track are complete aand awaiting scenery to be plonked on top. To give a rough and ready idea of progress an an insight into the future here's a mock up of how the layout should look.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Countdown to Corris - 1

Well, instead of building the Krauss I've built this.

Quite what a Crochat railcar will do on my Latin America inspired tramway I don't know, but I like the look of it and it does sit well with my colonial carriages.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Latin Tangent

Oh dear and it was all going so well; Morfa trundling steadily onwards leavened by the odd stock building escapade for the Ganllwyd Tram and then the notion that it'd be good to have a different micro layout for the Corris Model Railway and Toy Exhibition this August bank holiday. Fatally I decided to give in to some vague Cuban/Latin American leanings and started searching on the net. I started with Bolivia, then onto Cuba and ended up at Haiti. Just look at this gorgeous tramway. I've made a start on finishing off some carriages and an old Roco 0-6-0 body is being forcibly mated to Kato underparts, the aim being to get the bug out of the system promptly.

Friday 21 January 2011


As a man modelling the diesel and electric era, post steam, pre tops, there's much inspiration to be had in the Bradford Barton photo album series of books. Some of my favourite shots are those where the aparent length of the train is visciously forshortened by the use of a telephoto lens. I strted to wonder if it would be possible to recreate this effect using a model after noticing that one image I'd taken with a very mild dose of telephoto had echoes of the real thing. After a bit of experimentation I hit on a formula, train on a curve, rail level camera, stood well back, max tele dialled in, crop the result tight to the train. Seems to work each time, here's one of my latest taken on Morfa. It's worth clicking on the photo to get the full effect with a larger sized image.

 It'll be interesting to see if it works as well once the scenery is in place. There are a couple of snags however, one is that the camera does need to be a good way in front of the train; this shot (with minimal cropping) had the camera a good ten/twelve feet away from the train. The other is that I'm not sure that this style would suit all subjects. I could see it looking a bit weird with pre group or narrow gauge models, a clash of styles rather than any technical incompatibility.

Monday 3 January 2011


Though my railway tastes are pretty wide ranging I've tended to stick to buying model railway magazines rather than those dealing exclusively with the real thing. I have picked up the odd issue when there's been a feature on a particular interest of mine. Until recently I had never considered Modern railways as being worth a glance. Last year i found two large cardboard boxes of old railway magazines at the local skips. I sorted through and put the old copies of Modern Railway magazines to one side while I trawled through Steam Railway and Railway World looking for anything Cambrian. I finally got round to Modern Railways and what an absolute treasure trove those copies from the sixties and seventies are. Because their style of coverage is current news reportage, rather thn looking back, they tend to cover the mundane as well as the memorable.

One feature that took my eye from this 1972 issue describes the new ships for British Rail's Sealink cross channel services. There's much detail in the report but it's the illustrations that caught my eye. Here's one of the obviously posed publicity photographs; just look at the characters.

In the foreground we have long haired specky bloke chatting up the crumpet (I believe that's the correct 70's terminology), just behind the guy with the shades and tash similarly tries his luck with the blonde. they could easily be extras from Life on Mars. It's the period details like this that the other railway magazines seem to miss out, because of their focus on the railway. I wonder if today's Railway Magazine will fascinate in the same way forty years from now.