More work on Michael’s layout

A visit from Michael today, and we continued to lay track on his little layout.  The main circuit is complete, and we just have to finalise, and lay, sidings on both sides of the layout.  Nothing wired up yet, though, so we were running trains digitally – a bit of a prod to check that the track was level and well laid.


Michael has been busy building Ratio building kits.  A learning process, having restarted making trains at the tender age of 34!

I did get back to the loft yesterday, and progressed legs for a new baseboard……

Posted in Jon's layout ramblings, Layout design | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Let the train take the strain!

My eldest daughter is in central Slovenia, buying hops for the craft brewery, and hiking.  She sent me the following two videos of Slovenian ‘Motorail.’

Of course, it’s best to have the whole train to oneself….

I think this is the same service (from this blog.)

The smallest of countries have the power to amaze and educate in ways that you could have never guessed. That’s what I love so much about travel. Take this example of the car train in Slovenia!

Back in the latter part of the last century here in the UK there used to be a car transport system called ‘Motorail’. A great way of transporting you and your car on long distance routes like from London to Inverness in Scotland or London to Penzance in the far west of Cornwall.  Those services finished at various times and areas around the UK and finally came to an end in 2005. Some 50 years after the idea was introduced by the then British Rail on the London to Perth route around 1955.

I was rather pleasantly surprised on a recent visit to Slovenia that such a service is still in use. With around 12 trains operating daily on the route between Bohinjska Bistrica and Most na Soči.  Not the 400mile routes as in the UK but a mere direct route of around 15 miles taking about 35 minutes.  However what the service does do is to cut out a two-hour drive around a high mountain range pass. Therefore the decision is really easy…let the train take the strain!

A quick drive up onto the platform and a drop down ramp provides access direct onto the flat bed open rail car. There is the option to stay in the vehicle or ride in the 30-seater carriage at the front of the train.  On the route from Bohinjska Bistrica station within seconds you are in a six and half kilometre long Bohinj tunnel. Cut out over a hundred years ago by engineers working for the Austria Hungarian Empire who ruled over this area at that time.

Their plan was to connect its only seaport of Trieste on the Adriatic to the north and the western part of Austria. Thus, allowing easy onward connection to Germany with both imports and exports. As the Suez canal had opened recently at that time the port was in a good position to reap the benefits.  With a huge mountain range of the Julian Alps in the way the tunnel was conceived and built. It runs under the 1,498 metre high Mount Kobla. The rail line opened in 1906.

And Slovenia looks more interesting than Bognor for a holiday….

Posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Thank you Brian for tipping me off that Clan Line was passing through Redhill.  I finally got a look at this wonderful locomotive, and it brought back memories of the last days of UK steam on the Southern Region.

The usual EMU for starters….


Then the main event….


And a full train of Pullmans behind, and obviously Clan Line is trusted – no diesel in tow!


Brian must have been on the platform opposite – I was near the 25 mph sign in the car park next to the junction and behind the buddleia (that is now making it difficult to get a clear view of the tracks!)

Clan Line 35028 at Redhill Station 173S 1349 – on the Chertsey to London Victoria leg of The Golden Age of Travel by Steam. (Surrey Hills circular from London Victoria via Chertsey). Really lucky with the weather, as rain had been forecast. No stopping today – straight through on Platform 2, rather than a halt for the signal at Platform 0. It had almost made up the lost time after a 20 minute delay earlier in the schedule.

Posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Potpourri #1036

Just to get you in the mood for winter….  But this is a cab ride in snow in 2010 – and there was plenty of snow, too!

The Great Model Railroad Museum in Switzerland – Chemins de fer du Kaeserberg – and enormous railway, but good quality modelling too….

“This miniature world has been built on three levels in HO scale. There are more than two kilometers of model railroad tracks used by nearly 120 model trains, which consist of 300 locomotives and 1650 railroad cars. The rolling stock contains freight trains, cargo trains, passenger trains and, of course, bullet trains.”

Following on from my venture onto Continental Europe, this gives some background (with a rather raucous sound track!)

Jago Hazzard is always fun to watch – especially when he takes on a local-ish station, the long disappeared Croydon Central.  It would make a good model, especially when served by the LBSCR, GER and LNWR….

And how about “The Illegal Underground Line in Kensington?”


Posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

ESNG meeting – 5 September 2021

A very small meeting on Sunday, with just the four members.  Perhaps the rest were confused by us moving the meeting forward a week, or just enjoying the late summer weather?

But the four of us had a very sociable afternoon, and were able to hog a running track each.

Three generations of the Southern from Chris…..

German trains from Brian (and a derailed pony truck!)….

More Southern splendour from Derek….

To Berlin and back with Jon…

And in contrast, a Class 31 and Gresley coaches… 


Thank you Brian, for the usual quality view of the afternoon.

And for those of you who think this blog is a little short in s*x and vi*lence, here’s a more educational video from Brian!

Posted in ESNG, ESNG meetings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Going over to the dark side?

I’ve successfully avoided buying European trains over the years – despite being sorely tempted year after year at Stuttgart by ‘Flying Hamburgers.’

But I saw this on N Gauge Forum….

HN4297 Arnold The Berliner Royal Corps of Transport 4 Coach Pack.

The British military train travelled daily through Soviet occupied East Germany to the British sector of West Berlin. It’s arrival in Berlin was at Charlottenburg station. The train ran from 1945 to 1990. During the journey, the train doors were locked, an armed guard was on board and the British military and civil servants would take about 4 hours to cover the distance of 145 miles. RCT, 4-unit pack coaches in blue/beige livery, “The Berliner”, period IV. The specially packaged set comes with historic photos reproduced onto the box, special Train Instructions reproduced from the 1980’s and a short history. Alongside the 4 authentic coaches with UK flag – these are a stunning addition to any collection or layout.

With my family connections with Berlin, this was, I’m afraid, irresistible!  And when it arrived, it was as good as the advert suggested.  It probably needs one or two additional coaches to make up a train, but that may happen in due course. 

I liked the reproduction ticket provided.  Comments at ESNG suggested that ‘Conduct aboard the Military Train’ was no different from South West Trains in 2021.

Of course, a new train needs a locomotive – so a nice DB 141 class appeared off Ebay.


Unfortunately, I then noticed that DM-Toys also had a French Berlin military train.  This arrived a few days later from Germany, no problems buying it despite Brexit.


We’ll give them a run at Sunday’s ESNG meeting.  I suppose I’ll end up with a Flying Hamburger now…..

Posted in Jon's layout ramblings, Layout design | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Blame the horse….

From FaceBook (and a lot of other places).

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?

Well, because that’s the way they built them in England, and English engineers designed the first US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the wagon tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

So, why did ‘they’ use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that same wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break more often on some of the old, long distance roads in England . You see, that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

And what about the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or run the risk of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’, you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ asses.)
Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature, of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass. And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important? Ancient horse’s asses control almost everything……

Posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

ESNG meeting – 1 September 2021

Paul’s assessment was, as usual, accurate….

Another East Surrey N Gauge Group meeting, the first Wednesday night get together I have been to for some months. A good turnout, nearly made double figures. A simple circuit sufficed for the trains that were run from the UK, Europe, the USA and Japan. My full Eurostar set had a rare outing, but ran perfectly. One of my JR Central 373 sets needs stripping down to fix a faulty driveshaft. There is another meeting on Sunday.

Eight members, plus Sean’s Lucas made the hall almost busy, despite a couple of members being missing due to work and holiday.

The usual suspects, including Mr Atfield hopping around by the looks of it!


Paul went European…..


Michael had some new (to him) stock on show….


And has NSE Class 47 on a short passenger train….


Derek had a rather more dated Farish West Country running…..


And Sean and Lucas had an impressive range of HST’s and 800’s on show…..


Simon and Graham also ran some American stock, but I missed those!  But here’s a rabbit instead….


Posted in ESNG, ESNG meetings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Potpourri #1035

I’m not sure this is so true today.  From NGF,,,,

Below I have a quote from a book I’m reading called Trains Unlimited by Tim Fischer which in turn is a quote from the UK Financial Times from 2004. A good point is made and you Britons should take heart from this notion. According to Fischer, Australia mostly follows the British tradition in these matters so we should be gladdened too.


It was later pointed out that….

So far as I can tell most Swiss trains aren’t particularly fast and have plenty of recovery time built into the timetable – that’s how you get things to run on time. I’m pretty sure that British trains have become more punctual in recent years due to increased recovery times – i.e. the timings have become more easily achieved and are less aspirational. My experience of commuting around the West Midlands a few years back was that the service was generally very good. When there was disruption it was often unavoidable.


Last time I was in Switzerland, about 5 years ago now, the service was pretty poor. Lots of delays on SBB, seemingly inexplicably. Certainly didn’t meet the stereotype!

I think our railways are generally pretty good. Like Chris, I find that delays are often wholly unavoidable. We have a very old network, running close to capacity, so the domino effect when anything goes wrong is pronounced.

To say nothing of….

This reminds me of the old Cold War-era joke that the US military was going to mount it’s nuclear arsenal on the back of Amtrak trains…and then leak the timetable to the Soviets.

Posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Potpourri #1034 – Oh deer!

Spotted in Earlwood, next to the Tonbridge line….


And a few minutes later, the train drifting into Redhill….


Paul posted on Facebook this picture of Liverpool Street station in the 1920’s.  What a gloomy barn of a station!  But a few years earlier, it would have been full of lovely royal blue locos, including the Claude Hamilton 4-4-0’s.  In the 1920’s the coaches would still have been teak, but the locos repainted in a pleasant, but not as attractive, LNER green.


Posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment