Author Archives: Tim Hall

TT?

Triang TT Class 31

Back in my teenage years I used to have a TT3 gauge layout. It was all dismantled when I went away to University, and when I returned to the world of model railways in my late twenties I switch to the more readily available N gauge. The track is all long gone, but most of the rolling stock, such as this class 31 diesel, survives.

TT3, three-quarters the size of the already extablished 00 gauge, was introduced by Triang in 1957. But sales never reached critical mass and production ceased by the late 60s, by which time the significantly smaller N gauge had appeared on the horizon. TT3 never completely died out, but has long become a specialised scale reliant on kits rather the 50 year old ready-to-run models. Even now you still regularly see TT layouts at exhibitions; there were two at the Eastleigh show last weekend.

It was a different case in the former East Germany, where TT became a popular scale in the days of Communism. Manufactured by Zeuke, who later became Berliner Bahn, and are now Tillig, it remains in production today. Just as in OO vs HO, British and German models shared a track gauge of 12mm, but have different scales, Britain’s 1:00 to Germany’s 1:120. The reason, as in the larger scales, is that it’s impossible to get a dimensionally accurate model of a British steam locomotive to go round corners, and having an underscale track gauge is the least bad compromise.

In recent years, other manufacturers have entered the 1:120 TT market, including Arnold, the long-established Gernan brand now owned by the British Hornby group.  Prompted by this, and by rumours that some of the original Triang tooling still exists, there’s been a long thread on RMWeb about the possibility of Hornby bringing back TT in some shape or form.

It’s not going to happen, and the realist in me knows it makes more sense for Hornby/Arnold to follow up their N Gauge Brighton Belle with more British N. Which is precisely what they’te now planning on doing.

But it’s always fun to speculate. If Hornby did venture into British TT, what should they make? And should it be 1:100 to match the old TT3, or 1:120 to be consistent with the continental models?

Were they to stick to the old 1:100 scale, I’d suggest models representing the same steam/diesel transition era as the old Triang range. The possible initial models might be the following:

  • Class 47 diesel
  • Standard class 5MT 4-6-0
  • Mk1 coaches, initially TSO, CK and BSK
  • 16t mineral, Vanfit, 5-plank Highfit and BR brake van

That’s essentially a cross-country secondary main line in a box. You could even sell the whole lot as a train set, perhaps with two of each wagon for a decent length train, along with a double-track oval. I chose the 47 as the most numerous diesel class, and the Standard Five because it ran on multiple regions.

Were they to choose 1:120, the fact that there already is a British outline ready-to-run locomotive in the shape of the class 66 diesel made by Hobbytrain suggests a very different approach. Instead of the mid 1960s, instead go for the present day. Start with a range of modern British loading gauge wagons that run on both sides of the channel; intermodal flats, Cargowaggons, Polybulks, steel carriers etc. If successful, then perhaps expand the range to include some British multiple units, perhaps a Voyager or 170.

But all this talk makes me want to get out my old TT3 stock and see how much of it still runs. I’ve considered both a small shunting layout using Peco HOm track (Designed for HO scale metre-gauge models), or just getting an oval of Tillig sectional track to use as a test circuit.

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Secrets of Angels Trailer

Karnataka have released a trailer for their new album “Secrets of Angels”. Pre-orders should ship in early March.

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Lonely Robot Launch Party

John Mitchell, Heather Findlay and Steve Hogarth

John Mitchell held a launch party Lonely Robot’s Please Come Home on Monday 23rd Feb at The Lexington in London. It was a star-studded event, with attendees including Steven Wilson, as well as the many musicians who’s guested on the album, such as Heather Findlay and Marillion’s Steve Hogarth (above)

Heather Findlay duetting with John Mitchell on

Although the event was laregly a meet-and-greet, John Mitchell did play a short acoustic set accompanied by Liam Holmes on piano, and joined by two of the guest singers who’s appeared on the album. Here’s John and Heather duetting on “Why Do We Stay”, one of the album’s highlights.

Kim Seviour singing

Touchstone’s Kim Seviour was the other guest on stage, for the song “Oublette”. The album, perhaps the first essential progressive rock album of 2015, was released on the day of the event, and you can read my review here.

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White Willow cover The Scorpions

Scorpions songs work remarkably well with female vocals and spiralling clarinet.

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Kyrbgrinder announce new album

Kyrrbgrinder - Chronicles of a Dark MachineKyrbgrinder, the dynamic metal power trio fronted by drummer and vocalist Johannes James announce their long-awaited third album “Chronicles of a Dark Machine” on Cherry Red Records.

It’s released on March 2nd, but you can pre-order it now from the above links.

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Lonely Robot – Please Come Home

John Mitchell - Lonely RobotJohn Mitchell is a well-known figure in the British progressive rock world, lead guitarist of both Arena and Frost*, and frontman for the current incarnation of 80s veterans It Bites. Now, after more than a decade as a member of multiple bands at the same time, he’s finally launched a solo project, Lonely Robot.

John Mitchell plays the majority of instruments himself aside from drums by Craig Blundell. Guest musicians include Mitchell’s Frost* bandmate Jem Godfrey appears on keys, and Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth who finds employment on piano on a couple of songs. Legendary virtuoso Nick Beggs also makes an appearance on bass and Chapman Stick. Likewise Mitchell handles the majority of the vocals himself, although he’s joined by guests including former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay, Touchstone’s Kim Seviour and Go West’s Peter Cox. Finally, voice actor Lee Ingleby provides background narration right across the record.

The end result is a varied but hugely impressive album. It goes from dense guitar-heavy industrial prog-metal to gorgeous ballads to uptempo 80s-style pop-rock, with imaginative arrangements that frequently veer off in unexpected directions. There is plenty of fluid lead guitar, but this is an album about songcraft and atmospherics rather than a guitar-chops record, and Mitchell keeps the solos short and to the point. It’s all given the sort of clear and crisp production we’ve come to expect from anything John Mitchell is involved with.

Highlights include the guitar-shredding instrumental opener “Airlock”, the beautiful duet with Heather Findlay, “Why Do We Say”, the ambitious and kaleidoscopic title track, the somewhat Tangerine Dream-like “Are We Copies” and the soaring ballad “Humans Being”, featuring a guitar solo from Nik Kershaw. But this is one of those albums that doesn’t have any filler; every song has something to commend it.

While there are certainly echoes of It Bites and of Frost*, this record is its own thing, and despite the variety it hangs together very well as a coherent musical whole. The various guest artists all enhance the record without stealing the show, and the end result is the first essential record of 2015 from the British progressive rock scene.

Thus review also appeas in Trebuchet Magazine.

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Panic Room – Velocity

The opening track from Panic Room’s 4th album “Incarnate”, on Reverbnation

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Nightwish – Élan

First taste of the new Nightwish album, with Floor Jansen on vocals and lots of Troy Donockley.

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45 years ago today, on Friday 13th Feburary 1970, Black Sabbath released their eponymous debut album. Just like King Crimson’s “In The Court of the Crimson King” a few months earlier, it was an album that sounded quite unlike anything that had come before, and launched a whole new genre of music. Has any album remotely as groundbreaking as those two been released in the past decade?

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Five of my Favourite Bridges

Liberal England is trying to resurrect the old fashioned blog meme with “Five of my Favourite Bridges“.

Not that it’s easy to pick just five, but here are five that have made an impression on me over the years.

Photo by Geoff Shepherd/Wikipedia
(Photo by Geoff Shepherd/Wikipedia Commons)

The Royal Albert Bridge

We’ll start with Brunel’s famous bridge across the Tamar linking Devon with Cornwall. Because the approach spans are on a tight curve with a 15mph speed limit you get a good view of the bridge from the train window while crossing it, and the low speed does make it feel like you’ve crossing into another country.


(Phoro by E Gammie/Wikimedia Commons)

Barmouth Bridge

Back in the late 1970s the timber viaduct across the Mawddach estuary was being eaten by worms, and the cost of repairs was used as justification to close the Cambrian Coast railway, which was said to be losing too much money. But wiser councils prevailed, the bridge was repaired, and it’s still possible to travel by train up the top left-hand corner of Wales. Crossing the bridge at high tide it feels like you’re on a boat rather than a train.

The Globe Inn in Lostwithiel, viewed from across the river in the evening light.

Lostwithiel Bridge

The only non-railway bridge of the five. This medieval pack horse bridge across the river Fowey links the railway station to the pub, neither of which existed in the 13th century when the bridge was first built. But what more can be asked of any bridge?

A pair of BLS

Tellenburg Viaduct

Switzerland is full of spectacular railway engineering, and this graceful viaduct is a faviourite of mine. It dates from 1915, built to carry the Bern Lötchberg Simplon main line across the Kander valley a mile south of Frutigen. The rather more utilitarian concrete structure alongside is a later addition, built in the 1970s when the railway was doubled to cope with increasing traffic.

Castlefield Viaduct

Castlefield Viaducts

This is not one bridge but several, and the combination of railway bridges at multiple levels and canal basins forms a kind of Victorian spaghetti junction. Some of the railway viaducts are still in use, one has been reused to carry the trams of Manchester Metrolink, though the most impressive one visible in the background has been disused since 1969, and now has trees growing on it.

What are your five favourite bridges?

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