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Signing up, as a first step to doing something really. I need a safer pastime so have alighted upon railway modelling, something I had a brief interest in as a child, two HO 'Jouef for Playcraft' trainsets then a couple of years of Railway Modeller/Model Railway Constructor, all now up in the loft. Inspired by memories of travelling by train in Ireland from the 60s onwards, mainly Belfast/Larne ports to Derry but once Dún Laoghaire to Sligo in 1972*, the flat-faced NIR Class 70 and the frowning CIE C Class sum it all up for me. So I have an inkling for an impressionist NIR, ex-NCC, precast concrete, somersault signalled, unfenced, Italianate demolished, Larne line type halt - simple offset loop with siding with a desultory NIR Class 70/104 railcar/freight operation, hulking spoil wagons, Pandoro containers and corrugated RUC station backdrop on something like a 6x1 baseboard. More 80s than 70s, more container flats and cement bubbles than brown vans and ex-carriage underframes, more green corrugated than grey... Impressionist because this may never have actually happened, the product of an overnight traveller’s lack of sleep. Let’s call it Ballyshane NIR. *black crockery in the buffet car, now there’s a detail for you!
Next project is another Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit, this time a 'DE' (Diesel Electric) as the 70 Class was originally designated. On current plans, the model will be finished in original maroon ('red') and oyster grey livery, not the later blue uppers, maroon lower sides - apologies to those who knew and loved it, but the latter colour scheme, though smart enough when clean and seen in good light, is to my eyes one of the dullest railway liveries ever, more so even than UTA Brunswick Green and not a patch on those that preceded or replaced it! But as they say, 'de gustibus, non est disputandum'. Although I was a fairly frequent (mostly holiday seasonal) rail traveller in NI on the Bangor and Northern Counties lines during the 1960s and early-to-mid 1970s, the existence of these sets basically passed me by. I was conscious of two basic types of railcar, which only much later I found out were called Multi-Engined Diesels (MEDs) and Multi-Purpose Diesels (MPDs). So varied were the cars in each of these types that it was not clear to me at the time that they were successive and (apart from a couple of dual-role trailers) incompatible generations of railcar; my first attempt at a model comprised two or three Playcraft (HO) coaches, a 'borrowed' Tri-ang Blue Pullman motor bogie squeezed into one end of the brake coach, a plasticine MED cab at one end of the set and a plasticine MPD cab at the other. This was replaced by a repainted Metro-Cammel DMU which was what I'd always really wanted but was only able to get when Tri-ang restored it to their range in 1970, after several years out of the catalogue. So to me at the time, the 'DE' was just another variant in a widely-varied family of UTA/NIR railcar trains. Nowadays, I know that the 'DE' was the final generation of railcars built by the Ulster Transport Authority. And that whereas the MEDs and MPDs were truly pioneering designs, the 'DEs' were much more conservative, bodies built locally around a British Railways 'Hampshire' DEMU power unit. Having achieved the long-term reliability that seems ultimately to have eluded the MPDs, this became the pattern until quite recently, with 80 and 450 Classes following (and the latter in fact re-using the engines from retired 'DEs'). Having about 1991 obtained photos and tabular specifications of the 'DE'/70 Class in the second edition of 'Irish Railways Traction & Travel' and in CP Boocock's 'Irish Railway Album' plus UTA works drawings from the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum (courtesy of Mark Kennedy), I made my first model of the type back then. This project will essentially be a repeat of that model, with some modest enhancements. While 6-car sets (a power car at each end) were common on NCC main line express services (and later on the GN to Dublin), 3 cars were common elsewhere, notably on the Larne line. Power on my original set was a Tri-ang Hornby Hymek motor bogie, with minor cosmetic modifications, fitted into the front of a modified Hornby Mk2a TSO coach. For the new model 20 years later, I considered various alternatives to construction, including plasticard overlay sides and different donor coaches. But for a good balance between accuracy, ease/speed of production and quality of finish, I opted to use the same basic donor-coach-hacking method as last time but with a different approach to the power car bodyshell. This time the power is to be provided by a modified Hornby HST 5-pole motorised chassis and as even less of a Hornby Mk2a coach would be needed, I opted to use a spare Airfix Mk2d bodyshell as a basis. I had originally bought two of these for converting into trailers for my good old Tri-ang 'Blue Pullman' but that can now wait! The real 70 Class had new bodies with wide passenger windows which were about the same size as those on BR Mk2 coaches, though with three vertical ventilator stanchions, not two. Colm Flanagan's most impressive 6-car set, as seen running on 'Bleach Green' I believe is formed from Hornby Staniers, two lengthened for the longer power cars, and thus has passenger windows which are rather narrow, though benefiting from the ability to use Finecast Flushglazing which gives it a very fine appearance: http://newirishlines.org/2009/09/27/the-utas-finest-train/ Colm has also made a model using the Worseley Works etched sides, and these provide the correct, wider passenger windows (though a half-window just behind the tall side grilll on the power car's RH side should actually be ahead of it): http://www.lmsncc.org/class_70_dmu.htm At any rate, to adapt 'The Rifleman's Creed', there are many ways of modelling an 80 Class, but this one is mine! Here are the basic components: one Hornby HST chassis (with 5-pole motor), one Airfix Mk2d bodyshell, and two Hornby Stanier unpainted composite coach bodies. Rather than using the Staniers' chassis/underframes, which are a bit crude and need many modifications, I will - as I've done on some other models - fit buffer beams and solebars directly to the bodyshell and make a new, clip-fit floor/chassis unit for the two trailers. The power car's underframe will be a modification of the HST one, which will save some of the trouble of converting a Mkk2a one, as described for the last project, the 80 Class. Thanks to the internet and several books I didn't have back in the early 1990s, - notably must-haves'The UTA in Colour' by Derek Young and Colm Flanagan's 'Diesel Dawn' - I now have many more reference pictures than I had back then. So I hope to be able to improve on some details, although I believe the original model is basically accurate, apart from the narrower passenger windows in the trailers. …to be continued!