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David Holman


Haven't done a blog for a while, but decided the trip to Cultra was worth it. Have been looking forward to it since I first got the invite over a year ago, though at times I will admit to questioning my own sanity! Nearly 1000 miles of driving, two ferry rides and four nights away - for just a one day show - certainly make you wonder. Equally, it is a chance to bring a properly broad gauge layout to its spiritual homeland, while the chance to exhibit in the truly wonderful venue that is Cultra all make it worth the effort. Am also looking forward to meeting some of the people on this website too & putting faces to names.

As I've written before, a lot of preparation goes into any exhibition, so Arigna has been given the once over during the last couple of weeks. Tracking cleaning and dusting, plus servicing all the locos and stock. A couple of pick ups needed adjusting on the motive power, while one or two bits of scenery were freshened up as well.

Whether everything will still be alright when I get there is another matter. By the time it gets unloaded and set up on Friday afternoon, the layout will have spent two nights and close to 500 miles in the back of my car, with the small matter of a couple of hours on the Holyhead - Dublin fast ferry as well. The BBC weather app on my phone has been checked several times daily over the last week - and so far all it has shown is that it is not exactly reliable.

At first, Friday's crossing was looking fairly smooth, then got progressively rougher until on Tuesday it was showing 40mph gales off Holyhead. Seasickness is not something I usually suffer from, but my experience of fast ferry is that they bang and bounce across the waves, rather than roll - not exactly ideal for a car full of layout. Since then, things have improved a little, though the next problem seemed to be a full on 'soft day' in Belfast. Unloading a layout in pouring rain is not something to be enjoyed, but again [for now at least], the forecast has put the rain back till after 6pm. There are still two days for that to change, so for now, I will just have to cross everything, make sure everything is stowed properly and hope the weather and traffic gods are kind. For the latter, certainly glad I am not travelling today, or would be spending most of the day just getting out of Kent, if the traffic reports are anything to go by.

David Holman

It was a fine weekend at the Wood Green Animal Centre, venue for the St Neots show. A different sort of hall to the usual school hall/sports centre usually favoured for model shows. Beaten earth floor for one - though it was carpeted, if a little uneven. A big space - am guessing around 200 feet long and 100 wide, so plenty of room for lots of big layouts. Star of the show was Fencehouses, a 2mm fine scale layout, bigger than many 0 gauge ones. It exploits the scenic potential of the scale, yet still manages to major of detail and quality, with lots of scratch built stock. Deservedly won both trophies and well worth seeking out at future shows.

Arigna Town generally worked well. The few issues I put down largely to the [very] different environment from home. My workshop is dry & centrally heated, so a 6.15am start on Saturday morning meant overnight in the car [when there was a frost]. Pretty damned cold in the hall too at first, then the heating got going & it soon became quite hot & very humid. I blame the fiddle yard turntable fouling the baseboard edge on this, so have been filing the edges down a bit to try and cure this in future. Three of the steam locos operated without a crew for the whole weekend. They had come loose on the journey up there & it was not possible to refix till I got home.

What I did have was an excellent crew on Saturday - Mike84C has driven the real thing [9Fs!] for a living, while long time friend and former Chatham Club member Ryk was in the Royal Engineers [did Falklands & South Georgia among many adventures] but is now a vicar & we know how well they go with railways! Many thanks to both.

Doing it all again this weekend at Alexandra Palace. BRM are doing a photo shoot for a future article, so will be busy this week making sure everything is looking as good as possible.

David Holman

Arigna Town in 2016

There are ten shows booked for this year, so will again try to record what transpires.

St Albans went pretty well two weeks ago, with those lovely photos from Tony Wright. These have generated an invite to do an article for British Railway Modelling. Since then invite to Manchester in December has been accepted, but Eurospoor in Holland will have to wait for another year, as it is just before Cultra.

Pontefract was a good weekend, though a long way to drive on my own - particularly coming home last night after a full day's operating. Will have to take an extra night for long distance shows in future, methinks. Pontefract Club helped out with an operator on Saturday, while 'Mike84C' came over on Sunday. An ex railwayman, he proved to be both an excellent operator and very good company, so many thanks Mick!

As shown elsewhere, the layout got the 'Best in Show' award & a very fine trophy it is too. Sadly, had to leave it with the Club, but do have a small plaque now on the layout.

Overall, things went fairly well, though I broke the golden rule of 'if it works, don't fix it'.

Small tank Fermanagh has always had a wobbly driving wheel. Ran ok, but felt I ought to address the problem. At first, couldn't get the wheel nut off, but eventually ground out a slot and used a screwdriver. The solution was a new axle. So, once fitted, cleaned the wheels and boxed up the loco for the show. On the Saturday, it barely ran. No time to look at it until the evening, but soon found a pickup wasn't touching & on Sunday it ran well with the new SLNCR coaches & parcels van.

Same thing with the railcar. Fitted a retaining nut on the draw bar for its trailer, but it fouled the boarding on the points, so had to go! Fine after...

Had checked all the back to backs on the wagons, but limited clearances on the cattle wagons caused rubbing on the back of the axle boxes & Hazlewood slipped to a standstill with them. BtoBs narrowed a bit, though haulage remains a bit marginal, so will have to do some more testing.

Other minor issues included Lark losing its front coupling and Sir Henry buffer locking with brake van 5 on the mixed train. Sod's Law [or should it be Murphy's?] says than no matter how much you test and practice at home, gremlins will catch you out in front of the public and I'm afraid that I have a thing about operation being as near to perfect as possible for folk who are paying good money to visit.

Anyway, things did indeed go pretty well on the Sunday & it can often be the case that the second day of a show is better - something to do with the layout settling into a new atmosphere I think. Hope it doesn't apply to Cultra...

The only problem with Sunday was packing up to go home. Or more to the point, the exit from the hall was via a quagmire and it was raining. Still, everything now back in my workshop & the layout seems ok, while the car has been washed & vacuumed clean too.

Next show is St Neots, actually at the Wood Green Animal Centre near Huntingdon, followed by Alexandra Palace the weekend after. Just as well I don't work much these days!

David Holman

Arigna Town is about to embark on a series of exhibition dates, starting with the three day show at York over Easter. Hence thought it might be of interest to record my experiences in the coming weeks & months as, after York, there is Epsom [25/6 April], Gravesend [May], Bexhill [Aug], Worthing [sept], Beckenham [Oct] and Tolworth [Nov]. York will be the layout’s 4th outing &, as usual, following the previous one at Orpington in January, there is a list of things to attend to.

However, before having a look at this, I would like to share a few thoughts about exhibition layouts generally. Have attended a couple of shows recently as a paying customer & it seems to me that some layout owners are missing the point of why they are there – ie to entertain the paying public. To me, that doesn’t just mean keeping the trains running [realistically too if possible], it also means ensuring there is a decent standard of presentation on the layout as a whole. Things that bugged included one layout where the backscene seemed to have footprints on it, while others had baseboards joints so obvious they were more like earthquake cracks. Then there was the diesel motive power depot where every loco was fitted with sound and ALL of them were running on tick over – there were over 20 of them & the resultant white noise made me feel sorry for the layouts either side. However, would any self-respecting shedmaster waste fuel in that way? One loco on tick over would have been enough, and undoubtedly the effect would have been so much better, also enabling the full start routines to be used too.

Anyway, enough of the soapbox, because I’m only too aware that things do not always go as planned at exhibitions, as the list from my last outing shows:

• Wiring between baseboards two and three needs replacing, due to a serious short

• Loco turntable spindle requires a brass sleeve to improve operation. Likewise, pickups to turntable deck need adjusting

• Austin 7 car – three of the wheels need re-fixing [just one still on then…]

• Bakers/dentist shop had come adrift

• Several items of stock are fouling the platform ramp

• Suddenly, some items of stock were buffer locking, esp cattle wagons going into the cattle dock [turns out what order they are marshalled can cause problems]

• Extra foliage needed behind the Miner’s Welfare building, as found it was possible to see the point lever supposedly hidden behind

• One buffer & set of steps to repair on Brake van 2

• New ‘excursion train’ requires fresh info label for the fascia.

Sadly, none of this is particularly unusual where exhibition layouts are concerned. Compared to home based [fixed] layouts, they lead a hard life. Every show means the baseboards are split up, crated & loaded into a car/van/trailer, then bounced & vibrated over often quite long distances [York is a 400 mile round trip for me], only to be set up again, operated intensively for 8 hours a day over 1-3 days, before being split up once more to be returned home.

Owners & operators also go through it. The long journey to York means I am given Friday night accommodation [could have the Monday too if I’d wanted], but one day shows often mean you have to be there early in the morning to set up. Arigna Town needs about two hours, so a 10am start means being at the venue before eight, which can mean a 5am alarm call, or earlier. Packing up is usually quicker, because stock starts being put away in the last hour, but it is usually up to an hour after the show before I am driving home. Indeed, I often leave the layout in the car overnight [i do bring the stock in], because experience has taught me that tiredness causes all sorts of unwanted bumps and scrapes, to the layout and me, for that matter.

So, one thing I always take with me to shows is a notebook, into which every fault/problem is recorded. It is therefore an unbreakable rule that these things get fixed before I go out next time. Because exhibitions give you an extended amount of [quite intimate] time with your layout, you often notice things that you might not see at home. Any electrical or track faults that might get ignored at home have to be sorted at a show, or you face the embarrassment of being seen with a duff layout – though there are a few who seem quite blasé about this. From time to time, I like to join the punters at the front of the layout, to see how things look to them, while seemingly simple things like a sticking three link coupling can be extremely frustrating when you have 20 people watching you struggle. Hence, it is better to get it all sorted before the layout goes out again.

As well as working my way through the Orpington ‘list’ recently, a few changes have been made. These include painting the gates on the Georgian house & signalman’s cottage [they’d previously been left bare white plastic], removing the buffer stops beyond the turntable, touching up the backscene [mainly to cover up dirty marks made in transit], plus making new stock boxes for the excursion train. The last couple of weeks leading up to the York show will see all locos and stock serviced and repaired/repainted where necessary. Track, wheels and pickups all get a thorough clean, while all the ‘support items’ are also checked. Lights, toolbox, soldering iron, drapes, fascias, pelmets , controllers etc. There is a list of these in the back of my notebook & I shudder to think what I’d do if I forgot a key piece of equipment.

Hence, watch this space, as I intend to add to this blog after each show, so you can get a feel for how things have gone and [with a bit of luck] an insight into some of the other layouts that catch my eye.

David Holman

As it has been a while, thought I'd bring you up to date on what is happening on the layout. Much has been covered in the workbench section, but these notes will try to bring it all together.

The layout is effectively complete, as far as scenery goes, so work since the summer has concentrated on stock and operation. For the latter, new LED lighting strips have been fitted, cutting power consumption down from 480 watts to 150, with [i think] sharper light too. A fair bit less heat as well! The fiddle yard bolts needed attention after the Uckfield show, so these has also been strengthened, while the cassette for the railbus in the fiddle yard has been rebuilt to enable power and alignment without any leads or clips. This simply uses screws going through the aluminium angle & 80thou plasticard base, which then sit on brass plates, which are wired to the incoming tracks. Wrote this up for the Model Railway Journal Christmas Competition in 2013 and in the last couple of weeks heard I'd come runner up. Can't be bad as this gives me two years subscription.

A new project is underway, to build a 'Pilgrim's Train'. These were regular sites on both CIE and GNRI. Mine takes advantage of the new Tyrconnel G2 2-4-0 and a rake of 6 wheel coaches. One of the latter is approaching the paint shop. It is another Tyrconnel etched brass kit. The other two will be scratchbuilt from plastic, using the Alphagraphix card kits as drawings. Am hoping the full train will be available for York at Easter.

Before then, the layout has another outing, this time at the Orpington show [small but very friendly & always with some very good models] on the second weekend of January. This takes place at the wonderfully named Pratts Bottom village hall, just up the road from Badger's Mount. I kid you not...

David Holman

Arigna Town's second outing is coming up in a few week's time - at Uckfield Model Railway Exhibition in Sussex on weekend of 18/19 October. Come and say hello if you can make it. The new 'sliding & rotating' fiddle yard will get its first full test, allowing more stock & greater flexibility of its use. First time out too for 'Lark' my latest loco - a Tyrconnel kit of St Molaga the T&C 0-4-2T.

Sadly, doesn't look like my new rake of coal empties will be there as am still waiting for underframe castings. Likewise an SLNCR parcels van. Bodywork done and another serious full scale weathering job proceeding on all six vehicles, which am photographing as I go along, so you will see how they were built. Slight issue this morning though - was trying to create 'faded maroon' for the parcels van by adding light grey to BR maroon. Unfortunately has dried a decided plum colour. Words like bother and oh dear muttered...

Looks like next big project will be a total refurb of my workshop. Very fortunate in that the missus allowed me to convert our former integral garage, which is now centrally heated, properly lit, plenty of sockets etc. However, that was about 15 years ago, so now needs a serious make over. Am also going to sell on my BR 0 gauge layout, Eatonswell, to make more storage and display space in my 'den'. Hoping to start late October & will post progress as I go along.

David Holman

The main problem with the Chatham Show is that however fired up with new ideas/new toys one might be, it generally represents the start of the summer too & that is never a productive time for model making for me. When I was working full time in education, the summer term was always the most manic & we not so much reached the holidays as fell off work into the welcome stupor of a bit of R&R. These days, we try to go on holiday before the schools break up – simply because it is cheaper and since returning, the weather has not been conducive to being in the workshop with a hot soldering iron. Not that I’m complaining of course.

So, not a great deal going on, though time away from actual modelling can be a good time to do a bit of thinking – especially the ‘what next?’ variety. And here lies the thing. Arigna Town is nominally finished as a model, but hopefully has a busy exhibition schedule ahead of it, so it is a case of keeping things going and creating new interest in model making.

The first/next stage is approaching completion, in the form of a new fiddle yard. The same size as the previous one, but it has seven parallel tracks instead of 4 curved ones and slides on double ended drawer runners. It also pivots, enabling the whole thing to rotate 360 degrees, like the mark one version. A write up and pictures will appear in the layout section in a couple of weeks & it was certainly an interesting challenge.

However, with seven tracks, I will have the space to build some new stock. Not wanting to mess around with the geography & history of my fictitious line, the options I’ve come up with are as follows:

• Track 1 will have space for Railcar B and Railbus 2b, but also room for another railbus eventually, so one of the earlier versions may get built

• Tracks 2 – 4 will have the current trains – mixed, goods and coal. However, the coal wagons will be supplemented by a rake of empties. This means I can then run the ‘mine branch’ will its own engines: hence a chance to raid the Tyrconnel range.

• Track 5 will be able to hold a short ‘Paddy Train’ – either converted vans or perhaps the Tyrconnel 24’ six wheelers, plus the J26. I envisage the latter will arrive with a train of coal empties, which will be picked up by the mine engine [maybe St Mologa or one of the other T&C engines or even a Sentinel]. The J26 will disappear light engine, maybe to shunt the yard at the new power station on Lough Allen. Later the mine engine will return with loaded wagons and the previous sequence repeated the other way round.

• Track 6 is currently reserved for a full cattle train for which ‘Large Tank’ Sir Henry will be built

• Track 7 is ear-marked for an excursion train. Imagine my delight therefore when I read in the latest ‘New Irish lines’ that Tyrconnel have a G2 2-4-0 planned! Do I detect the hand of our ‘Mayner’ here? A rake of six wheelers would complement the loco nicely. My only slight concern is whether a G2 would fit on my turntable, but am assuming the wheelbase should come in at under the 42’ diameter. Perhaps someone can let me know?

So, plenty to do and though there a no deadlines as such, I am certainly expecting the new fiddle yard to be available for the layout’s next outing at Uckfield in October and would hope there will be at least one new train by the time York comes round next Easter

David Holman

I really enjoy exhibiting, especially when things go well. Guess it is the teacher [bit of a show off?] in me. However, I also find the process both tiring and a bit stressful at times & with my layout fast approaching its exhibition debut, these notes are as much a reminder to myself about final preparation as a window to any reader about how I go about things.

I’ve been exhibiting since 1987, with over 50 shows in that time. When displaying my models, I am always conscious of the fact that folk are paying to come and watch, so therefore it is essential to put on a good show. This leads to an important rule:

‘The layout must not only run well, but trains need to be frequent [far more than the prototype] and during any breaks in service, there should be enough interest to sustain the viewer’s interest.’

I’m afraid this is not always the case in my experience - & my own attention span [or lack of it] tends to mean I soon move on if nothing is moving, unless the scenics are very good indeed. Two good examples of the latter were the late Tom Harland’s ‘Bramblewick’ – a North Eastern layout of impeccable design and more recently ‘The End of the Line’ a 7mm model with working radio controlled lorries, which more than entertained when there were no trains. On the other hand no doubt we can all cite 4 track main line layouts with trains less frequent than a country branch or those with more operators than trains and no interest in engaging the viewers. So, what to do…

Preparation is vital and cleanliness is key to that. ALL wheels get a thorough clean [wagons and locos], as does the track before any show & before the layout leaves home [cleaned again after setting up too]. Couplings need a look. I use 3 links, which always seem to get in a tangle, so these need checking again as wagons are put on the layout. All motive power is checked and serviced, a little light oiling, cleaning & adjusting of pickups, plus a quick once over in terms of paintwork & any fine details which may have come loose.

Much rehearsal goes on before a show, to check that each train in the sequence does what it is supposed to. That means no derailments, buffer locking, etc & anything that does is put to one side for attention. At a show I also have a small notebook to record any problems & try to make sure these are attended to before the layout goes out again. Enough spare stock to cope with the odd breakdown is therefore useful.

Testing hopefully weeds out any other issues, such as point & signal control & the loco controllers themselves. I have always carried a spare since a very early show when a short on a loco caused a handheld controller to overheat. ‘Ere mate, did you know your controller is on fire?’ was the comment that drew my attention. It was certainly giving off smoke…

Hopefully, the Show organisers will provide barriers. Personally, I don’t like Perspex screens to keep inquisitive fingers away, but appreciate why some do. At one show, folk were so close to the layout, their heads were encroaching on to the running tracks. One chap seemed keen to look through the ‘hole in the sky’ to see into the fiddle yard. Not sure why, as it was open to view, but after asking him if he wouldn’t mind moving & not getting a response, I announced in a loud voice that if he didn’t move, then the next train would be driven up his nose. He soon shifted!

What you can pretty much be sure of at a show, is that you will spend many hours on your feet and do a lot of talking to people who want to know more. This is very tiring, but can be very rewarding. Many’s the time I have learned something new about what I’ve been trying to model. The worst part of exhibiting, is at the end of the show. All that packing up to do and just when you really just want to get home – which may well be a long drive away. Can never understand why some shows go on till 5pm or later on a Sunday. Most shops shut at 4pm and have lost count of the number of times when the only folk left in the exhibition hall after 4pm are the exhibitors themselves...

My usual routine is to gradually get all the stock packed away as closing time approaches. This is where a railcar or similar is useful, to keep something running for those still left. After that, it really pays to be disciplined about packing up, for this is the time when most damage can occur. Somehow, things don’t go back in the car the same way as you set off so care and patience is essential. Then you have to do it all again when you get home, especially if the van has to go back Monday morning or you need the car for work. Here is where a trailer can score. Unhook, roll into the garage and go to bed! At the next opportunity, the notebook comes out on what went wrong & the whole sequence starts again, ready for the next show.

Weather permitting, will be doing a trial fit of Arigna Town in the car soon, so will post a few pics - as long as it fits ok!

David Holman



These are the cranes I mentioned at the Dockyard & which the late Ted McIlroy made fully working 7mm scale models of. See Mayner's blog/thread on the Fenit branch.


As for exhibiting...


The amount of other stuff that the exhibitor needs to take with him/her is considerable and no doubt I am not alone in being neurotic about leaving something vital behind when I go to a show. So, along with the baseboards, trestles or other supports, plus lighting and pelmets, what else needs to go?

Starting from the ground up, we need a set of drapes, to hide the baseboard legs. These days, they should be fireproof and not be within 15cm or so of the ground. Thankfully, my drapes have been recycled over several layouts, though I still rely on drawing pins [and sore thumbs] to fix them in place. Velcro one day…

Electrics come next. Most shows only give you a single mains socket, so that means several additional multipoint leads. Arigna Town needs four points for its lights, plus one for layout power, two more for buildings, plus at least two more for the spare controller [wheel cleaning] and a soldering iron. And this is a relatively small layout.

Generally, this all goes in what I call my ‘sundries box’, which also includes odds and ends like pieces of plywood [for packing layout feet], eight clip-spots, screwdriver, gaffer taper, soldering iron and a plastic box with all the M6 bolts and wing nuts which hold the various fittings in place. The latter something I dread leaving behind! An additional ‘box’ is an old brief case, which takes the transformers, hand held controller [Gaugemaster], spare controller [H&M Clipper], uncoupling hooks and an A4 file with layout info. One set for me [the wiring diagram amongst it], the other basic info on the layout for folk who might want to invite it to future shows.

Then there is the ‘tool box’. This is my long suffering cantilever box with all my modelling tools, plus a range of minor bits and pieces. Essentially, if I need something that isn’t in there, I can only hope there is a tool stand [like Eileen’s Emporium], or I’m stuffed. That said, if the layout is well built, then nothing should go wrong, but given the state of British roads these days, I am often amazed that the entire layout hasn’t been reduced to kit form, long before I arrive at the destination.

Will be fascinated to know what other folk take & any ideas on keepimg things to a minimum. For me, this is the key difference between the owner/operator [who has a couple of mates along to help at shows] and the group layout which may well arrive in a large van or even a 7 tonner. When Mostyn Yard [a splendid P4 opus] arrived at Chatham last year, the team spent at least 5-7 hours setting up and knocking down. Much as I admire that sort of dedication, I like to be away within an hour of the show closing & the record was actually just 15 minutes, with a 3 board 7mm NG layout.

David Holman

At exhibitions, I often find myself paying as much attention to how a layout is built, as its scenic 'face'. This is because, despite many layouts and many more shows, I am still trying to find ways of making transportation & setting up simpler. My preferred favourite [not yet built I might add] would be an inflatable layout, which could be taken to shows in a carrier bag, but be able to be blown up to many times its deflated size...

This is probably some way off [would need inflatable stock too!], so over the last three layouts have used the same set up. This is the 'Ulysses' frame, devised by Iain Rice in his Small Layouts book. My version has folding trestles, linked by pairs of longitudinal beams. The latter are around five feet long and are bolted together at their ends, which provides reasonable stability. Angle plates at one end of each beam fit into the slot at the top of the trestle.

The photos show the layout set up in the living room [wife out shopping], so I could fit the lighting posts/pelmets and check the levels of the baseboards on the beams. Thankfully, all went well, so the last couple of days have been spent painting the rear and fascias of each board & am now starting the lettering for the pelmets.




David Holman


I may be wrong, but looking at the ‘My Layout’ pages, most contributors have what might be called ‘home layouts’ – in other words, non-portable ones. Well done the Wexford crew though - a nice surprise in the latest RM.

Arigna Town was designed from the outset to be a portable, exhibition layout [as indeed have all my previous efforts] and, aside from the obvious issues of needing to be taken apart & put together again for shows, there are various other aspects, such as transport and presentation, which need to be considered. Therefore, thought it might be worth sharing my experiences of taking layouts to shows over the last 27 years. That last number is a bit scary, but it was 1987 that I first tried exhibiting, with a little EM gauge layout at the Chatham Show.

Arigna Town is made up of 4 identical baseboards, each a nominal 120cm x 60cm. Curved and/or irregular boards may be ideal for some, particularly in portraying a specific prototype, but for me, baseboard size & shape is all about transportation and storage and this size is about the biggest I can manage on my own.

However, when you exhibit a model, there is a lot else that needs to go with you. Legs, trestles or whatever, for it to stand on; power supply, controllers & such, your stock [which needs careful protection], plus a host of sundries including tool box and items for presentation – in particular lighting. Most exhibition halls will not be bright enough to show off all your hard work & indeed may not even be the right sort. I do my painting under normal household bulbs, so when seen under fluorescent lighting, the colours look all washed out.

In recent years, have settled on ‘clip-spot’ type lights, set on gallows type brackets, bolted to the rear of the layout. The clip-spots [i have 8 in all] provide good light, but the gallows brackets were a pain to both store and transport – it is surprising how much room they take up. Hence, have now made some folding brackets, which will hopefully solve that problem. The gallows will also hold the layout pelmet – more of which later. Hopefully the pictures help.

In the coming week, I will be having a trial run to see how everything fits in the car, so will let you know how I get on.

David Holman

The Festival of Railway modelling at Alexandra Palace was its usual enjoyable event, made better by seeing Paul Green's fine S scale Irish layout. Some superb stock there Paul, especially the Achill bogie...

A feature of Allypally is the sheer range of scale, gauge and prototype on show. One that stood out for me was Orange County and 'FS3' model. For that read 1:15 scale, so 3' gauge on 45mm track. BIG, in other words - am sure whole layouts have been built in one of their stockboxes!.

Lovely modelling & it set me thinking that this combination could be used to model the Irish scene. Maybe Clogher Valley, where the steam loco chassis could be hidden behind the tramway skirts. Producing the Railcar or its tractor sibling would be an interesting exercise!

Actually, have pondered 32mm track and 10mm/ft scale for a Clogher model & even gone as far as producing a few drawings. Wheels and track not a problem & would imagine a lot of work could be done in plasticard. In my 7mm NG days, did a lot of this. Locos were initially freelance on Lima chassis, using 12mm plastic water pipe for boilers and plastic sheet for footplate, tanks, can etc. A loco can be built very quickly in this way & if freelance, one can get on without worrying about prototype fidelity. Actually based one engine on a CVR 0-4-2T. Chimneys and domes were either 7mm castings or 'expanded' 4mm ones. Eg cut a GWR 'King' chimney in half & made it longer with some brass tube.

Another scale gauge combination is 'American' 0: 1:48 or 6mm/foot. Gordon Gravett uses this on his Pempoul odyssey. For Ireland, 32mm [0 gauge] track is near perfect for 5'3 and EM [18mm] track spot on for 3' gauge. However, 7mm scale wheels do not scale down well in 6mm. A 5'6" driver in 7mm scale would be 38.5mm in diameter and therefore 6'3 in 6mm scale, and probably have many more spokes. Shame...

Incidentally, just to show I dabble in other things, check the 'American' section of this website for my 'dual scale' shunting layout. Has anyone else tried this wheeze?

David Holman

Why Irish?

Was thinking about this the other day, when preparing some notes for a magazine article and the answer is not easy to fathom, other than the obvious delights and the fact that it makes a very satisfying alternative to the conventional 'terminus-fiddle yard' concept.

I started off in 4mm scale, EM gauge, modelling Light Railway practice. The Colonel Stephen's railways have always fascinated me & we do share a name [my surname, being his Christian one]. After a couple of layouts, one of which was exhibited in the late 80s [Oare], I turned to 7mm NG, mainly because I liked the chunkiness of the larger scale. I also had lots of spares, particularly wheels, in 00 and found that I could build freelance locos on commercial chassis that were visually satisfying and also worked well. When the Hornby 08 shunter came out, the outside cranks made for an ideal base for a NG diesel and it was quickly chopped up and re-vamped the way some of you create Irish prototypes. Lima 08s and 2-6-2T chassis got similar treatment and the High Weald Light Railway appeared in RM in the early 90s. It was followed later by Cranbrook Town, which also got an article, along with several others on various locos and buildings.

Loose End came next, also in RM, a layout I look back on fondly, because it ran well, looked good and introduced me to Gordon & Maggie Gravett, who remain good friends. Bizarrely, after I sold it to a chap near Nottingham, it then ended up in France, in the same barn where the Gravett's Ditchling Green resides. Strange or what? Loose End was a standard gauge, roadside tramway, based on the Wantage. Did my first proper scratch build for it, with the MRJournal's multi part article on how to do it from Laurie Griffin. Gave me the confidence to do a D16 Claud Hamilton after that, then a B17 footballer, so guess loco building fears were largely conquered by them - though I still get things wrong!

the mainline locos were built to get a mainline layout out of my system and now my local club are doing a 7mm oval, I feel I have exorcised that particular ghost and find myself far happier with something more manageable in Arigna Town. As to why Irish - can only re-iterate the charm, and the fact that it something a bit different. That and [on the minor lines at least], the similarities to the col stephens lines. Which is where I came in...

David Holman

As Fermanagh approaches completion, looking at my journal, it will be my 54th locomotive, only 8 of which were bought ready made and all but two of these were substantially altered as well. Of the other 46, 13 were scratch built, though in earlier days some of these were my own bodywork on commercial chassis. 12 were 4mm scale, one HO ( a Bachmann Shay - long story), and the rest 7mm scale, 13 of which were narrow gauge. There have ten layouts in all, with Arigna being the seventh one to be exhibited.

Anyway, this leads me to wonder if other folk keep a modelling journal? I started mine about ten years ago and like any diary, can be interesting to look back on, as well as providing a useful source of notes if asked to write an article. Maybe some of my future blogs will cover a bit of my model making history...

David Holman

Another new phase

With the signals now complete, work on Arigna Town again enters a new phase.

An audit of rolling stock shows I already have more than enough to be going on with for the layout's exhibition debut in June, so now have the opportunity of some bonus time to try and built my second Sligo 'Small Tank'. As mentioned earlier, can't think why I would want to only have the one, as really want to avoid handling stock in the fiddle yard if I can help it. Hence the building of this will feature in my Workbench thread & after months of working mainly with plastic sheet and scenic materials, am looking forward to doing some metalwork again. Fingers crossed, having already built Hazlewood, the new one will benefit from that experience, though it was a while ago and I don't always remember the details!. That said, a look at the instructions shows I made a lot of notes as I went along, so maybe a bit of common sense did prevail at the time.

Due to one of our other clubmembers falling ill, have found myself in charge of publicity for this year's Chatham Show. 14th and 15th June, folks! Not having done this before, it has been interesting to see discover how quickly advertising deadlines come round in the magazines, with mid to late March the cut off for the June editions [which come out in early May - never could understand that one]. Will add something to this site's what's one.

Magazines are often very good in featuring layouts to help promote exhibitions, but RM now need a 9 month lead in, though they will try to do a news item, so you may see a picture of Arigna Town published, but any article not likely before the end of the year. At least have plenty of time to write it!

David Holman

Best laid plans...

Casting my mind forward to June & Arigna Town's hopeful debut, started thinking about operational sequences. When planning the layout, deliberately went for a turntable fiddle yard because this complimented the on scene loco turntable and would minimise handling of stock. Initially thought all was well, but then found that could only fit in 4 roads, not 5, so the railbus & railcar would have to share a track. Again, this seemed ok, but then realised that Railcar B does not need turning, but the railbus does. So, now a question of how to swap them over as part of the operating sequence?

A bit of scribbling found this was possible, with both on the layout at the same time, but this was not really what I wanted. An alternative would be to break the fourth track in the fiddle yard, so each railbus/car only operated from one end. In mind simple minded way, decided this would be ok, until then realised that the railbus would need turning by hand, which is definitely not on the agenda. Bit of a bummer really, though an option would be to use a small cassette on the fiddle yard, so the railbus and trailer could be turned round easily. Have used cassettes on several previous layouts & they are very effective. In this case would use the same aluminium L shaped angle as the 'track' and glue it to some plastic sheet, so that the top of the angle matches the top of the rails. If I go on that route, will share how I manage the electrical connections.

However, another issue presented itself, in that had been initially aiming to run with just the one Small Tank [Hazelwood], but use it to hall both the mixed train and the goods. Guess you have already spotted the fault here - more crane shunting in the fiddle yard! Beat me round the head with it and I get there eventually...

So, looks very much as though I need to build my other Northstar kit before the layout's debut. Given that Railcar B will have taken around 5 weeks of [fairly full on] work, then am hoping can get the second Small Tank done in a couple of months. It is as well I don't have much work on at present [increasingly semi retired], methinks. Equally, am feeling the need for another change of direction, so will probably have a go at the signal for the entrance to the station. Will be based on the splendid 3 arm jobbie shown in the Sligo Album. Main post has two slotted arms [one for each direction], with the secondary doll having a third arm. The two on the main post will be the starter and the home signal for entering the platform road, while the one on the shorter doll will be used to indicate entry to the other side of the loop, eg for the goods and coal train. Have got some Tyrconnel etches for the arms and a range of bits and pieces from Wizard Models. Have use Andrew Hartshorne's stuff several times and more than happy with its quality. The tricky bit will be fitting 3 operating mechanisms on the one main post. Arigna Town is a very simple layout, so anything that expands its operating potential has to be a good thing.

David Holman

The Sligo, Leitrim & Northern Counties Railway opened in 1882 & ran from Carrignat Junction, near Sligo, to Enniskillen. Broad gauge, it remained independent until closure in 1957. While no additions were made, there were proposals for branchlines to Swalinbar [from Florencecourt in 1883] and Arigna. The latter would have left the mainline at Dromahair and run via Drumkeeran, where there had been ironworks in the 18th century, then down the western shore of Lough Allen to Arigna. Here there were coal desposits, which were the basis of the proposal. In fact, there were at least two, the SLNCR’s just mentioned in 1904 and an independent line from Collooney, via Ballyfarnon in 1914. The latter was my initial proposal in an earlier blog, but the former is now the fiction behind my layout.

The reason for the change is partly from the acquisition of Neil Sprink’s history of the SLNCR, but also because the orientation of the backscene on the layout better relects the likely SLNCR route and physical geography of the area. On the map, the station has been rotated 180 degrees, with the line exiting to the east & also moved north of the minor road from the actual Cavan & Leitrim station.

Had the line been built, subsequent history would have most likely followed that of its parent, with railbus & railcar taking most passenger traffic and steam power for freight. However, I still like the idea of the M&GWR/GSR having a hand in the coal traffic, which is the excuse for my J26 tank. Being wholly in the Republic, it seems likely that most traffic would have been to/from Sligo, so a timetable will be created to link with mainline ones at Dromahair.

Had the line been built, I guess it is just possible that it might have outlived the main SLNCR’s closure in 1957, not least because coal traffic could have continued to run & perhaps a link to the new power station on Lough Allen in 1959 would have brought welcome extra revenue. This could even have kept the line open until that closed in the 1990s. My larger version of the Arigna community might even have kept passenger trains running too. If so, the Railcar B could easily have continued into the 1980s, with C or G class diesels on freight. It is something to keep me interested as far as future stock building is concerned!


David Holman

The Christmas period has traditionally been a productive time for me. Generally, there is little on TV [though Mrs Brown 's new year episode was eye wateringly funny, to me at least], the days are short, the weather miserable, so best to stay in and make things.

Initially, got on with casting van sides - three sets of GNRI 9 tonners, plus two sets of what appear to be either SLNCR 'semis' or early Guinness vans. These were then made up into the relevant vehicles, using ABS castings for W irons, axles boxes, buffers etc. The GNRI vans have been sprayed with Halfords red/brown primer, to represent the fitted variety, while the two semis are in the usual Halford's grey. The weathering process will tone it all down eventually, while the lettering [on the GNRI vans at least] is hand done with a white gel pen. Thank goodness for a simple set up.

One prezzy was a Classic Commercials kit of a 1939 Austin van. A more simple, boxy vehicle is hard to imagine, but the castings [whitemetal and resin] are superb. Takes a long time to build though, because you stick a couple bits together, then have to do a bit of painting, then add some more, paint some more and so on. At the moment, it is intended to be the delivery van of Keogh's Model Bakery, whose shop is just behind the station, but as yet am unsure what to do re lettering. Might try Letraset, or alternatively will create a full panel on the laptop and print it off on ordinary paper to stick to the sides.

The rest of the time has been spent planning/fretting over the Railcar, though, as usual, once started things to flow, albeit not always smoothly.

This week, received a formal invitation to exhibit Arigna Town at the Chatham Show in June. In some ways, the layout could go out now, but as mentioned before, there is still a lot to do to make it more presentable and interesting for the public. Nevertheless, all being well 14/15th June 2014 will see the layout's debut at the Medway Sports centre in Gillingham.

David Holman

Starting a new phase

The scenic work has proceeded well & must admit to being pleased with the outcome thus far. Indeed, the layout is now fully covered - though that does not mean finished, as there is a lot of detail work to do. However, will have to wait till after Christmas to add wild flowers, rushes etc [the latter along the ditch] as supplies of coloured scatter are out. So, what next?

At the Reading Trade Show last week, got various castings, including street lamps [s&D models], plus a range of W irons from ABS. Also ordered some new moulding silicon, so have made a new mould from my GNRI van masters. A while ago, mastered the side and end of a semi-covered van, so did a mould for these too and have been casting enough parts for 3 GN vans and a couple of semis. With the Christmas season upon us, it is my habit to move the modelling to the living room. A workboard on my knee and a few basic tools mean I can be creative while keeping half and eye on the TV, just in case anything interesting comes on.

Also planned are a Sligo parcels van, plus another brake, though will have to retreat to the workshop when painting and weathering is done. Acrylic and enamel paints, to say nothing of weathering powders are dangerous things to have on the sofa...

In the new year, the two main modelling projects will be to built Railcar B & before then that wonderful 3 arm signal on the Sligo that protected 3 different level crossings. Wizard Models do all the bits and though fiddly are fairly straightforward to put together. My 3 way will be as a starter, plus two arms for entering one or the other side of the loop. Wizard do a nice operating mechanism, though fitting 3 could well be tricky. Expect rude words.

The other work needed is to make the layout ready for exhibition. I already have a set of trestles and longitudinal beams [as per Iain Rice's idea], plus 10 spot lights, so the plan is to make some more gallows brackets for the Clip Spots. The outer ends of these will be used to hang a full length pelmet, with the layout name, while a folding fascia at the front will have photos of the prototype, as am sure there will be more than a few who are unaware of this delightful line, while even those in the know will question that it had a branch terminus.

A fair bit to do then and that is without the all important running tests. No point in having a model railway if things don't run properly, especially when people are paying to see it at shows. However, a simple branch terminus must, of necessity have periods when nothing runs, so the trick is to keep people interesting with the scenery, buildings and little cameos. A 3D painting in fact.

Hopefully, will be able to post new pictures of these [and the new stock], from time to time.

David Holman

Internet searches

Deep joy today as have at last got a copy of Neil Sprinks History of the SLNCR. And very interesting it is too.

Many thanks to the web and especially Buffers Books, where I at last tracked down a copy in very good condition for just a tenner. Not bad considering it was published in 1980.

However, in my internet searches on the Sligo and now getting some odd results, in that they increasingly bring up pictures and stuff that I have produced myself on this site! Most strange was finding the maps I drew of my Arigna Town branch, as a basis for the layout. Totally fictitious, but now masquerading as reality. Art imitating life or what?

Anyway, quite Possible that the maps will be re-drawn anyway as the Rinks book is making me consider the proposal for a line south from Dromahair and through Drumkeeran. The orientation of the station will then be reversed, which will better suit my back scenes. At exhibitions, it is nice when folk think you are modelling at actual place, but when the Web starts to suggest fact to your fiction, who am I to argue...

David Holman

Scenic work on hold at the moment, for the simple reason that I have run out of materials! Woodlands ground foam is readily available, but less so static grass fibres so am hoping there will be some at the Reading 0 gauge trade show on Saturday week. For those of you not aware of this event, it is truly an Aladdin's cave of everything the modeller could need , a positive bottomless pit of 'wants'. Spending 50 grand or more [assuming you had the funds] would easily be possible. Go for RTR and professionally built stuff and 7 figures is perfectly possible.

More important though is the wonderful range of smaller traders plying their wares & it is the one place where you can generally find everything under one roof. Just hope somebody has some fibres!

Anyway, to get back to the variety theme, found myself staring at a collection of figures [whitemetal] that I had been putting off painting, so decided to make a start. Soon realised why I procrastinated, as really don't get excited by figure painting. Perfectly capable of making a reasonable effort, but just doesn't float my boat. So, have been trying to do the little and often in the hope of getting the job done. Mixed in a South Eastern Finecast Austin 7 as well. Lovely little kit, but again, the amount of faffing about to produce a tiny model is along the lines of the number of tools needed to wire a 3 pin plug [about 47 in my case]. Yet I will happily punch rivets and find tiling roofs curiously satisfying. So easy to see why RTR is popular and why ready painted figures are expensive...

David Holman

Though sort of retired, I still do a lot of consultancy work in schools and after a decent spell of quality modelling, spare time is suddenly at a premium again. Typical, when things were going rather well...

However, as mentioned before, one can have too much of a good thing and driving around from one place to another can give a bit of thinking time. Also, while I can't speak for everyone else, one of the great attractions of this hobby is the variety it affords & must admit I'm starting to get a bit weary of scenic work, having done little else for the last few weeks. I'm also running out of materials! It is surprising how much fibre, crumb, glue, lacquer etc one gets through, so with no time to buy more, there is another reason why scenics will slow down over the next few weeks.

However, in hoping to get the majority of the green stuff done soon, thoughts turn to what next? Certainly need another loco before the layout makes its debut, but am tempted by doing Railcar B first. At the very least will develop some plans and building notes - another technique I use for 'exorcising' ideas sometimes. Drawing layout plans is another, though not in the Iain Rice class [few are], must have drawn many times more than I could ever build & find this a good antidote to starting a new project, before the current one is finished.

Why am I wittering on with this, when I could be modelling? Good question!

David Holman

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed a change in the backscene on the middle board. I'm not quite sure what was wrong with it, but the view was certainly too flat, with not enough perspective to give the scene depth. The latter is a real issue with 7mm scale layouts, for if you stick to around 60-75cm baseboard depth, it leaves very little room for anything outside the railway fence. Hence a backscene of some sort is essential in my view.

Backboards on Arigna Town are integral with the baseboards, so as I became more disgruntled with the middle view of the layout, realised something had to be done. In one of my occasional fits of enthusiasm out came the white emulsion and the whole lot was blocked out to start again. Not exactly easy with some scenery now in place, but a few days of neck and arm ache later, the new scene is in place. As before, most of the painting is with acrylics [cheap tubes sold in The Works], plus felt pens for some of the details.

Hopefully the view looks more typical of the area being modelled & I made regular reference to my 1:50 000 map to do so. It will however necessitate a further change in that to have the Arigna mountain area behind the station, its orientation has had to be turned 180 degrees. Hence will have to re-draw the maps and indeed re-engineer the line to come from Dromahair, south through Drumkeeran and down the west side of Lough Allen.

Before and after picture below:

David Holman

In SE England, it has been half term week, which for a consultant primary school advisor [ex headteacher to boot] like me means some welcome down time. That said, I'm semi-retired these days, so try my best not to work too hard/often anyway. So, an opportunity to get some serious modelling time in...

However, things did not go entirely to plan - probably because I tried to do too much, in too many areas & ended up being less satisfied with my efforts than my usual 'little and often' approach. The moral of this little story is that you can have too much of a good thing and that building a model railway should definitely not be a race - even if you are working to an approximate deadline. Work quality suffers and satisfaction levels fall.

It also reminds me of one of my modelling rules - namely 'stop while you are winning'. so many times, I have found myself trying to do one more job at the end of a session, only for it to fail, with much language unbecoming of a headteacher, though actually, as a profession, I have found we are pretty good at profanities, though never in front of the children of course. Hence I now regularly remind myself that if a particular task is not complete, then it is better to leave it for another day. Nevertheless, procrastination is the thief of time, it is said, and what certainly does work for me is to try and get in an hour or so of modelling at least 4 or 5 days a week. If not, it is very easy for a week or more to go by with nothing getting done & it then becomes ever harder to start again. The antidote should this happen, is for me, to either dig out a kit, or do a bit of research. Happily, the extensive resources of this website are a fine source of inspiration.

Enough of this wittering! There are books to be read, websites to visit and a glass of Bordeaux awaits.

David Holman

Progress at Arigna

The last few weeks have seen the completion of a couple of brake vans [sLNCR types] and a change of focus to the scenic side of things. A total of nine tree 'skeletons' have been made from a mixture of florists and other wire, then coated with layers of filler and PVA, before being painted, ready for 'dressing'. The process seemed to take forever, but when it came to dressing the first tree [an oak to hide the entrance to the fiddle yard], it seemed only a few minutes work with Woodlands Scenics 'matting' and a reasonable representation was in front of me. Planting took a bit longer, as it is important to fit the whole thing into the ground, but while I'm sure I'll want to go back to it, there was much encouragement in getting this first little cameo in place.

Next to the tree is the Station Garage. Based on the Alphagraphix kit, this is in fact made almost entirely from plastic sheet. Essentially a fairly simple building, it will be all the bits and pieces that go with a garage forecourt and exterior which made of break this scene.


The petrol pumps are made of plastic and clear sheet, with filler nozzles coming from suitable looking bits of whitemetal from the scrapbox, while the hose is just wire, still in its sheathing.

The level crossing gates are also scratchbuilt and are hinged, pending some future date when I build up the courage to mechanise them. Over the crossing is a detached Georgian house. Done in half relief, the oak tree tries hard to hide this, while in front are lawns, gardens full of perennials, hedging and a rose arch over the front gate. A mixture of woodlands scenic scatter materials, lichen and fibres - work out for yourselves which is which!

The next step will be the end terrace on the other side of the road, plus the area around the signal box. this will test my ability to follow the ideas outlined in Gordon Gravett's new book, which deals in some detail with the rough ground we find in yards, lanes & the like. Another tree will go behind the signalbox to hide the part relief of the Welfare Club. My workshop is a total mess at the moment, with tubs of scatter material, glue, sprays, filler and goodness knows what else. Scenic work certainly requires a wide range of materials.

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