A column in the most recent DEMU Update suggested it’s well past time to retire the term “Modern Image” as a description.
It made perfect sense in the late 1960s when used by the likes of Cyril Freezer in the pages of The Railway Modeller. Back then, the default “serious” model railway was the archetypal GWR branch line terminus. Only a minority of modellers attempted to recreate the present-day scene, and a generation of enthusiasts had lost interest in the real railway with the end of steam in 1968.
In 2013, “Modern Image” makes a lot less sense. The railway of the early 1970s bears little or no resemblance to the colourful post-privatisation scene of today. Indeed, a layout set in the 1970s is set as far in the past as a chocolate-box 1930s layout would have been in the 70s.
Reframing “Modern Image” to define models set in the past decade isn’t so useful either, There’s no strong cut-off point equivalent to the end of steam in 1968, not even privatisation. In the years 1958 to 1968, British Railways replaced their entire motive power fleet aside from some early electrics. While recent years have seen a lot of new equipment replacing life-expired trains from the 60s and 70s, we haven’t seen a wholesale replacement on an equivalent scale. An awful lot of the 70s and 80s ex-BR fleet is still in traffic wearing new liveries, such as those mid-60s class 86s in the photo above.
Older modellers whose interests are firmly in the steam era will continue to use the term Modern Image through force of habit, and there’s little point trying to stop them. But that’s no reason not to discourage its continued use in magazines or exhibition programmes.
Continental-style epochs never really caught on, but I think it’s better to describe layouts and modelling interests in terms of approximate time period. “Pre-Grouping North British”, “30s Great Western”, “1970s Blue Diesel” or “Post-Privatisation” are seem perfectly adequate descriptors to me.
First sight of a completed Vossloh Eurolight for DRS undergoing testing at Valencia in Spain. Modern environmental regulations mean we’ll never get an equivalent to the roar of a “Deltic”, but it still makes an impressive sound for a modern loco.
It’s not every day Network Rail builds a new signal gantry at the top of the road. This was the reason the curve between Reading and Reading West was closed on Sunday.
There’s precious little freight traffic in the south west of England nowadays, with reduced volumes of china clay, and most other flows short-term spot traffic. So this train rather took me by surprise, especially since I’d been told earlier that it was no longer running. It’s the timber flow from Heathfield near Newton Abbott, and this is the empties heading west.
The operator is Colas Rail, one of the smaller “open access” freight operators. Their locomotive fleet is a mixture of new General Motors class 66s and refurbished older British-build power, including this class 56 dating from the late 1970s.
The locomotive is a lucky survivor. Freight operator EWS inherited the class 56 fleet when British Rail was privatised in the 1990s, and soon retired them in favour of new-build GM power. Many of the locomotives were scrapped with a handful sold to preservationists or smaller operators. This one was actually sold for scrap in 2011, only for the scrap dealer to resell it to Colas Rail along with four others, to be overhauled and returned to service.
So the appearance of this loco in its colourful black, yellow and orange livery was quite a sight, especially as the class 56 wasn’t seen this far west in BR or EWS days.
Reading West is a major freight hotspot. This place sees an enormous volume of freight traffic since it sits at the intersection of two major freight routes, a short stretch of track where east-west and north-south traffic shares the same track. Unfortunately, as this picture shows, it’s an awkward place for photography with trees lining both sides.
Here’s one of Mendip Rail’s small fleet of class 59s with a loaded train of aggregates from the the quarries in Mendips suplying the insatiable demand of the London construction industry.
The “Basingstoke Rattler” in the shape of a three-car class 150 Sprinter. The two units used on this service are unique to the line; they’re the two pre-production prototypes for the successful Sprinter family of trains, and are the only two build as three-car trains with a non-driving centre vehicle.
The biggest traffic flow through Reading West is container traffic to and from the port of Southampton. Here’s Freightliner’s 66587 coming off the avoiding line with a southbound train of boxes.
We move west to the small town of Hungerford, where a westbound express hurries through the station. These Inter-City 125s, now well over 30 years old are still the mainstay of First Great Western’s longer-distance services. In recent years they’ve even been expanding their fleet, taking on surplus trains from other operators. These are still the best trains British Rail ever built.
DB Schenker’s 59202, painted in Traffic Red passes Hungerford with a rake of “Megabox” opens. An American-built locomotive wearing the livery of Germany’s state-owned railway. What is the world coming to?
Dapol’s blue N gauge “Westerns” have arrived! Just like the limited edition Desert Sand “Western Enterprise” it’s an excellent model of an iconic locomotive. Along with the earlier Dapol class 22s and Hymeks, and the Farish Warship, all the major BR Western Region diesel-hydraulics are now available in N gauge, which ought to spawn a few 60s/70s WR layouts. The only missing loco is the short-lived D600 class, and I’m not sure a five-strong class that spend much of their short lives confined to Cornwall would be popular enough to warrant a ready-to-run model.
The Dapol loco is the one in the foreground. The locomotive behind hauling the milk tankers is an old CJM respray of a Poole-era Farish model. It actually stands up remarkably well considering how old it is. It’s nowhere near as detailed, and with innacurate bogies due to re-use of the class 50 chassis, but I think it’s still good enough to run on the same layout as the new Dapol model. A tribute to Chris Marchant’s skill as a modeller.
Given how many of my older Farish locos have died due to split years, it’s a pleasant surprise to find it still runs.
The layout has some new motive power in the shape of a couple of newly-released Dapol diesel-hydraulics. The little class 22 is the first of these.
The class 22s were one of those unsuccessful Modernisation Plan designs. Introduced in 1958 for secondary services, they were victims of the mass cull of non-standard designs at the end of the 1960s. The last was withdrawn in 1972, and despite an unsuccessful preservation attempt none of the locomotives have survived. British N has reached the stage where all the more popular and iconic classes of locomotives have been “done”, so manufacturers are looking at some of the more obscure prototypes.
The “Western” is altogether more iconic, making the national news when the last ones were withdrawn in 1977, and several survive in preservation. Graham Farish introduced the first N-gauge model back in the 1980s, and although it’s still in the catalogue their model is increasingly long in the tooth, so a modern state-of-the-art model is more than welcome.
“Western Enterprise” in its unique Desert Sand livery is a special commision for Osborns Models, a bit of a coup for them since these models were the first Westerns delivered from the factory, some weeks in advance of the more regular blue and maroon versions.
Dapol have come up with an interesting way of coping with the lower valance on the “Western” with regards to fitting a coupler while still allowing the locomotive to negotiate the sort of curves many modellers are forced to use. The model comes with a complete spare bogie, so you have the option of either having a coupler at both ends, or a coupler at one end only with a more realistic-looking front-end at the other. Both bogie and valance are push-fit meaning it takes just a few seconds to switch the locomotive between single and double-ended mode.
Both are very welcome models for anyone with an interest in 1960s Western Region in N, and it’s good to see the mundane in the shape of the 22 alongside the iconic.
The Department of Transport are considering simplified tickets for the rail industry.
Rail Minister Norman Baker has announced plans for a pilot scheme that could see all long-distance rail tickets sold on a single-leg basis and allow passengers to more easily “mix and match” each ticket type when planning a return journey.
Currently the government regulates the price of off-peak return fares, meaning train operating companies are able to price other tickets including off-peak singles more freely. This can lead to a situation where the cost of single tickets is similar to that of returns.
By regulating off-peak singles instead, passengers would be able to choose the most appropriate ticket for each leg of their journey. It could also help tackle crowding by giving passengers more choice over which service they travel on.
At the moment there’s a vast discrepancy in ticket prices between different operators. Some, notably First Great Western change just over hald of the return price for an off-peak single. Others change virtually the same amount for a single as for a return, which make your trip a lot more expensive if your journey is more complex than a simple out-and-back return. Arriva Cross-Country, I’m looking at you.
Yes, I do know you can buy far cheaper Advance tickets, but they require committing to a specific train, and often need to be purchased weeks or even months in advance. I remember trying to plan an itinerary for a circular trip from Reading to Bristol and Derby, and Arriva’s overpriced off-peak singles made it prohibitively expensive.
As with all of these things, the Devil is in the details, and we’re not going to gain anything if it’s just a cover for a substantial hike in the price of off-peak returns.
Dave Jones, formerly frontman of Dapol (Well, “Product Development Manager” was his offical title) has announced his new solo project, with a series of ready-to-run models in three scales.
As he says on the new website:
Starting from a blank canvas and using the best design, and modelling techniques currently in use for ready to run model locomotives, I intend to produce a raft of models over the next few years with my desire for innovation, and forward thinking put into each and every model I make.
The first three products announced are the Class 17 and 23 diesels, and the LNER J94 saddle tank, all three in N, with the J94 and Class 23 also appearing in 0, and the J94 in 00. Some interesting choices there; a couple of the short-lived unsuccessful Modernisation Plan locos that are probably unlikely to be duplicated by any other manufacturer.
Exciting news, and I’m hoping to see him pick up where he left off with Dapol, with models up to the standard of the recent “Western”.
George Osborne’s enthusiastic support of HS2 may just be a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day. Unfortunately Osborne is so discredited and so widely loathed by the majority of the British public that his stance risks undermining public support for the project.