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Irish saudade…

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This is my first post on my first thread on this superb forum. I’m a modeller living in North Wales, lucky enough to these days call ‘model railways’ my day job. From commission pieces to kit design, writing books to producing a ready to run locomotive I’d guess you say I’m a Jack of all trades!

I wanted to contribute here but wasn’t sure the best way to do it - as this Irish adventure of mine is still very green. I decided the best bet was to start at the beginning, and share a few posts from my blog, directly on here. Let me begin…

A couple of months ago after an idle conversation with good friend Chris my mind wandered to EMD export units. A lazy morning on YouTube I enjoyed films of units in Mexico, and then, Ireland...

 Last Days of the Loughrea Branch 13
Mixed train at Dunsandle. Usual passenger accomodation on the train was one coach warmed by electric storage heaters which were plugged into the station overnight! John McKegney photo: (https://flic.kr/p/6raSrz)
In my childhood Ireland was this mystical place where the trains didn't have yellow ends. I remember really liking the Lima Class 33 that was issued in a pseudo Irish Rail scheme with 'toothpaste' logo and matching Mk2 carriages. Later I saw photographs of the strange EMD locomotives that looked like a North American GP38 had a child with a British Class 24 - ugly to my young eyes - but somehow alluring too and 'parked' away in the back of my mind as 'interesting'. On and off in the years that followed I continued to see Irish trains - even the first time around of the Murphy Models 141s from Bachmann and how wonderful these looked - but the whole system was all a great unknown and remained so - until that morning a few weeks ago...
You see, as well as videos of Irish EMD locomotives I stumbled upon, quite by accident, this wonderfully and sympathetically edited collection of footage of the Loughrea branch...


Oh my. Oh my word. I was in love - transported to another world, another time. Simpler, greener and wonderfully modellable - a scale that was truly accessible and the personal touches in that video, the older gentleman leaning on the crossing gates, the well dressed lady at Dunsandle doing the gates, signals and what not - the woman walking off to 'town' at Loughrea... moments of real lives, caught forever in cellulose and now digital for us all to enjoy. That joyful feeling of discovery tempered with a melancholic nostalgia...
Talking of that - a recent conversation with good friend James and he reflected:
"A complete tangent now, but I find it interesting that you frequently mention melancholy in the same breath as nostalgia. It seems like the two are integrally linked for you, whereas nostalgia in our society has more of a warm fuzzy feeling to it most of the time. However, the Portuguese have a concept called 'saudade' - a melancholic nostalgia for an absent, treasured something or someone, that one knows in one's core may never be recoverable or able to see or experience ever again. Your version of nostalgia seems to have much in common with saudade".
Perhaps I should consider a re-brand? I do like the sound of 'melancholic nostalgia' though, but for now, reader I shall continue. Those videos led almost inevitably towards books, books to more books and then to OO gauge models - both ready to run and some gentle kit bashing
Evenings spent in front of the fire with this new subject and I found my muse - not Loughrea but the North Kerry - a meandering concoction of several smaller railways that meant a number of reversals at 'terminal' stations on a through route to get from the mainline at Mallow to Limerick via Tralee. The line between Tralee and Limerick in was incredibly beautiful and the photos in those pages stirred my heart. Pen began to trace paper and ideas brewed of ways to distill this character into the space I have available, the usual 1m or so by 25cm.
Initial doodling took inspiration from Loughrea as well as a few stations on the North Kerry - a bitsa station with well kept garden and a tired crossing keepers cottage framing the view.
Further thinking considered a more distinctively North Kerry setting with a single track alongside the platform and a goods shed kicked back either from a loop or just trailing siding. This got as far as some more detailed 'operational' calculations - not often the way I do things but its a while since I worked in OO and I felt like I needed to make sure it was workable. 
Whilst these drawings appear neatly in PAPER (an app on my iPad) they were all drawn calmly and kindly infront of that same fire - the fire than accompanies so many of my modelling diversions. The dog curled up beside me on the sofa, open books on the floor and a brain wrestling with the complexities and challenges of modern life, almost desperately looking for solace. Calmness comes slowly and gently but it's soothing nature adding a further emotional depth to the work.
That is to say that whilst more Irish models are arriving - the Murphy Models 141 and some Irish Railway Models Bulleid opens to kick things off, I'm still not certain which path to take. The last time I enjoyed time on the sofa with an Irish book before I kept returning to the Fenit branch - perhaps it's even quieter story is one that could be told in miniature - especially with the mountains across the water... I'm also very aware of the problems with trying to cram a quart into a pint pot - I want this layout to exude space and calm, much as Kinross did previously - in fact, I have in mind that this project will sit in that space, when the time comes because wheres KBBW sits happily self contained below, I can re-use the fiddle stick supports for Kinross when operating this new layout. For now though, the day dreaming continues and the gentleness that the subject seems to evoke a balm for today's noisy world.
Model railways are the result of our art, formed from craft but created from ourselves. Sharing some of the thoughts and feelings that sit alongside those skills is something I’m keen to continue, my heart beats a little faster for the weed strewn down at heel underdog. Until next time, more soon...

In the weeks that followed I’ve acquired the wonderful IRM A Class and a new batch Murphy 141. Alongside these ‘retail therapy’ purchases I’ve kit bashed a trio of vans from Parkside kits, finished with Railtec decals. A set of IRM Bulleid opens are on order and one of Des’s etched brake van kits will hopefully arrive shortly. Enough to put together my usual style of cameo layout…


Here the assembled collection is posed on a current layout build commission, luring me forwards.

Edited by jameshilton
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Thanks all, a warm welcome indeed.

My website is updated daily, for anyone interested: https://paxton-road.blogspot.com

I still find myself flitting between the Fenit branch and the wonderful Dingle peninsula backdrop or the overgrown and charismatic 1970s feel of somewhere like Lixnaw on the North Kerry. This, I’m afraid, for me isn’t about prototype accuracy but a sort of artistic interpretation of the reference material to hand. I’m under the spell of this ‘rural’ backwater, at least in my preferred late 1970s era - purely chosen because I love the Supertrain colours…

We will see…

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Welcome on board James! You've definitely after falling in with the right crowd here if nostalgia is your thing!

I have your book on Small Layout Design (really enjoyed it, and keep returning to it). I'm looking forward to seeing how this project develops

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If you’re doing the west of Ireland, might I respectfully suggest taking some inspiration from the Galway-Clifden line? There is currently a project underway to restore the line around Maam Cross and much of the trackbed is still intact, if you get the chance to visit. There’s also an excellent book by Jonathan Beaumont about the line. I am aware of it as I drive directly past Maam Cross station on my family’s annual, often month-and-a-half-long holiday to Connemara.

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In my period of interest the humble brake van was still very much on the scene across Ireland. Despite some fantastic wagon announcements from Irish Railway Models this year there is still no sign of a ready to run offering leaving a few kit options to consider...

Until recently there were some lovely 3D printed kit / ready to run options from a chap in New Zealand but the cost to import these to the UK was prohibitive, even when they were available. That really just leaves the etched kit from Studio Scale Models of the larger 30 ton metal bodied example. An order was duly placed and after a few weeks a set of etches, wire and decals and instructions arrived from Des - to which I added a Dapol Prestwin chassis and some Accurascale buffers.


Whilst the instructions say superglue the thing together I thought I'd use solder for strength and it was a good opportunity for some skills practice. It largely fell together without too much trouble, the air remained singed only the fumes of flux and solder and no bad language or burnt flesh. I would challenge the wisdom of the glued construction - I cannot see how that would result in a model of any real structural rigidity. The body is a one piece that folds up to form the rectangle - meaning one corner needs joining on the balcony. If this wasn't soldered I would fear it would always look a little rough, and be prone to unpeeling! 


The footboards and handrails were soldered up to, the former then gluing to the Dapol chassis. 30g of weight was added inside the cabin and then the model primed with a mist of etch primer - left to go off for 10 minutes and then a coat of grey primer all over. I chose Humbrol 133 (no longer available, sadly) for the bodywork and this was airbrushed over the grey. As with the prototype this covered everything!


I masked the guards duckets as I had soldered these in place, and sprayed them with white primer and then yellow before masking the stripes and spraying black. The odd spot of overspray was tidied up with a brush and some more Humbrol 133. A cost of gloss lacquer as a base for the decals was added once the enamel had fully cured.


The supplied decals are a continuous sheet of backing paper so I cut them close to the markings and applied them with Micro-set and Micro-sol. Once all in place, a bit of guesswork really for this non-Irish modeller, I sealed the model with a dull satin lacquer. The roof was rolled to shape, primed and the sprayed with a dark grey. Glazing was added to the ends and the roof secured with glue-n-glaze canopy glue should it ever need to be removed.



And there she is, un-weathered but with a consistent finish that goes across my existing 3 kit bashed vans and matches well with the out of the box finish on the Murphy 141 and IRM A class. Given time they'll all be weathered, but for now, posed with the short train I feel excited to see what is next in this Irish adventure. Until next time, more soon...

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Thanks all.

I've been building the first scenic item for this project - a signal based on the photo that started it all - the double sided level crossing signal at Lixnaw.

This is based upon a modified Studio Scale Models kit - this video was made because I was so excited about it, I will write a little more about it all when it is finished. For now, you might enjoy a quick watch:


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