Dear Members

We hope that despite all the current restrictions on our daily lives you are all managing to keep active, particularly as we all have a common interest in railways from 12 inches to the foot and all the scales down from there. Currently enjoying a sabatical from UK Railtours has given some of us new found enthusiasm to get on with the layout in the shed. Scenery is continuing apace but the old chestnut of electrifying a large number of points still looms. It is therefore of great interest when each week Keiths tongue in cheek guide to railway modelling appears. I look forward to his helpful comments, especially when he can tell me which wire goes where, how to solder and what is a CDU?
Perhaps, it will just be easier to sit back and enjoy reading another of Malcolms travels and from Lance remember how and why we all became train spotters.
Finally, you should have received an email from Andy regarding the planned virtual AGM, so if anyone wants to stand for committee, chairman, treasurer or secretary please contact him before the 31st October. 

Have a good week and as always stay safe.


Phil and Nigel

Please email all submissions to  or



Histoires de France


With Brexit once again taking centre stage on the news my thoughts turned to happier times when it was possible to go there for holidays and not have to worry about the neighbours reporting you for such shocking behaviour.
For those of you who have been fortunate to visit rural France you will I am sure have noticed that railway architecture is remarkably consistent, and that the buildings often survive long after the railways have closed. The level crossing keepers’ houses are a case in point. It is not just the buildings that survive – I came across a remarkable amount of equipment such as weighbridges and point levers that are slowly disappearing under the encroaching grass and brambles.



This is St. Paul near Labouheyre in the Landes department, south of Bordeaux. The branch line ran to Mimizan from the main line from Bordeaux to Biarritz. More of this later.
The track had not been lifted in many places, but because of road changes right at the junction, the line was severed. Amazingly a functioning signal remained with all of a few metres of track left to control!
The red and white board signal is a carré or stop signal. It displays two red lights, and below a single white light for go, when the board is rotated ninety degrees. The yellow board is a distant, warning the driver to be able to be able to stop at the next signal.




At Dinan in Brittany semaphore signals were still in use in the early 1990’s when I took these photos. As you will see the signal levers in the box are set at right angles to the track.





The two-car diesel train is typical SNCF for branch lines and secondary routes for the time.




This is a Picasso railcar in the sidings at Labouheyre in 1993. I think it was probably out of use by this date.
The main line through the station is on what is probably one of the longest sections of completely straight track in France. Due to gradients it is not possible to see that far along the line. I found an overbridge from which I took a few photos.



9290 with car carriers heading South.
The World Railway Speed Record was set on this stretch of track in 1955 by a class CC1700 locomotive at 155mph, which remained until 2004 for a loco hauled train.



At Labouheyre station I was able to photograph trains from the low platform level. An Engineers’ train came into the yard and the crew were surprised to be photographed. One of them came over to talk to me, and I explained that I wanted to photograph a TGV. He then pointed to his car in the yard, a rather beaten up 2CV, and we set off along the road alongside the railway for a short distance, turned into a dirt track by the line and stopped abruptly. He then pointed to a signal over the line and I scrambled up the ladder and on to the gantry. A train was visible on the horizon travelling rather rapidly towards us and I managed to get a single shot in before it hurtled past just under my feet!



It was one way of getting a photo without the wires getting in the way, but certainly not one I would recommend!!
Returning to another trip to France this time in 1994, I was in Nevers, in the centre of France. One of our group found there was a steam hauled train on the Sunday morning doing a circular tour around the branch lines locally. The locomotive was an American built 2-8-2, 141R420 hauling 10 carriages. We puffed along single tracks well overgrown in places and stopped at a few long-closed stations. The lines may have been retained for freight, but there was not much evidence. We eventually stopped for lunch at a station with both passenger and freight trains.
The loco crew did a run past for us and the loco had impressive acceleration. It was a very relaxed business and we were able to go on the large footplate. The fireman was complaining that the briquettes he had in the tender couldn’t be handled by the mechanical stoker, so he had to use his shovel. Just as well he didn’t have a lot of main line running to do!





We were able to look around some of the long-closed stations and make use of the facilities. You should recognise both the travellers in these photos!




Finally, French railways are a gift for the modeller as almost anything is possible. In 1992 we were on holiday near Royan, on the Atlantic coast north of the Gironde. The following photos ar of a train on the preserved line known as Les Trains de Mouettes. The train ran slowly through the sunflowers and the passengers quickly realised I was following their progress and waved more each time they saw me.




There are many preserved railways across France including some narrow gauge lines. Unfortunately, since I first travelled to France many of the rural lines have closed and the future for the remainder is uncertain due to the continuing depopulation of the countryside.

I have some more photographs to share with you as and when I get the slides scanned and work out where they were taken!




755410 pauses in Royston (Herts) loop working 5Q54 from Bounds Green T.R.S.M.D to Norwich C.PT T.R.S.M.D after Tyre turning work at Bounds Green.


A Twenty first Century Trainspotter. Part 2


“Where do you start?”


I start off this next part of my series with a question for you. ‘Where do you start?’. That’s right how did I begin my voyage into my interest of the railways and very likely this was the first question which many of you would be asking yourselves too when you were at this situation. See with the generations covered by the members of the model society, there can and has been may ways in which we would start our journey into our interest of the railways, however over the year’s times have changed and it has changed how trainspotting is also.
If you were to go back to the mid to late twentieth century, you could quite easily say that trainspotting was completely different to what it is now. However, as the times change so does every interest someone might have, and this is what can lead us to asking questions as to what to do if we are just starting to take up an interest. It happens with every hobby and interest imaginable. There will always be questions asked and questions which you may come across, but as the title suggests the first question, you’re always most likely to begin with is simple:

Where do you or I start?

When I began to take up my interest in the railways, I started off with nothing more than just a small compact camera, a notebook and a small tripod. Nothing too fancy or expensive but just the basics and we all start off with the basics. If you decide to drive, you must start with basic control of the car. If you decide to start music lessons, you will maybe start off with the basic chords and notes to the instrument you’re playing (you get the understanding of where I’m going). As some of you are ex great northern men, you’re bound to have an idea of where I live and where I began my trainspotting career. When I started to take photos and videos of trains I was in my early to mid-teenage years and honestly, I had no clue and understanding as to how in-depth the hobby would go and what I was also letting myself into in the future.
I wasn’t one for mixing with lots of people when I was younger, so no surprise did I decide to start trainspotting on my own and develop my knowledge and understanding not just of photography but also the railways itself. As time pasted by my knowledge began to grow and as it began to grow, my confidence also began to grow with it too. As I had been so used to just staying in my home town and watching trains, it soon became very repetitive with the then first capital connect class 365s, class 317s and class 321s and it was getting to the point where I would like a change and start seeing different types of trains.
My first big adventures happened on the very well-known East Coast Main Line running from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley and a mainline of which many of you will truly love and know. You may recall me writing my past experiences of such trains at Hitchin when I was still in my pushchair. Well I decided that I would revisit my past and start taking Photographs and videos at locations such as Hitchin, Stevenage, Welwyn North or Hatfield. As I began to expand on the areas I was visiting, I began to find that I was enjoying myself more and more and even though I was by myself most of the time, being able to see a much more varied selection of trains was keeping me occupied and positive even when times were difficult at school and even at home.
However as time continued to keep going and not showing anytime of stopping, the East Coast Mainline had done very good business for me and I wanted to start going further and further away on the national rail network and start going to completely unknown places and also beginning to try and make friendships within the railway community. As I love the comforts of the Cambridge branch and East Coast Main lines, it became clear that I was missing out on a lot of railway interest and opportunity’s within to be able to see completely different trains that I didn’t even know about. One thing I was beginning to do regularly was to purchase a ‘Day Travelcard’ from Royston to London with all the areas and start as early as 0400 in the morning and finishing as late as 2300 on the same day, purely and simply because there was so so much to see which I’d not even seen before.


66789 ‘British Rail’ Passes Ivy Lane foot crossing in Royston working 6L37 Hoo Junction up yard to Whitemoor GBRF L.D.C


 950001 pauses at Downham Market working 2Q08 from Cambridge C.S.D to Derby R.T.C.


When I began to go to new places, I found that this was the time when I was becoming ‘outdated’. Roughly ten years ago I started making friends in the hobby, unfortunately which only a handful have remained, yet life is like a train journey with its many stops. You meet some people on the way who just stay on the train for a few stops, however some people you gratefully meet stay with you for all the journey and to this very day. One such person you may know is Mr Daniel Turner who is part of the Model railway society and to this day he has been a very true friend and has helped me to where I am to this day through the thick and the thin and also he has helped me to get to where I am also within the railway community.
I first met Daniel in London on the West Coast main line station of Bushey in the suburbs of Watford. We just bumped into each other. He happened to be filming at the stations and I just happen to get off a train at Bushey when he was still there filming. As I walked up the platform, I was holding just my shabby little tripod with my compact battery powered camera, whilst I noticed Daniel has a big bulky DSLR camera, with full focal lens and battery packs etc. This made me realise that yes, I was outdated, and I did need another new camera to try and get better quality photos and videos when I would go out and go trainspotting.
So, remember this was ten years ago. I’m now 25 so this would’ve made me 15. I was very interested and wanted to know what set up Daniel had, how he used his set up and importantly also; What would be the outcome of the set-up which he had. Daniel was very helpful and as class 350s, class 390 pendolinos and freight trains past us alike, he was patient, and showed me the runs of how to use a then to me very complicated camera, to be able to produce high quality photography and videography of the railways and trains that we so loved.
This is where that big question comes into play again:

Where Do I start?

 So there we go again. Daniel started to give me insight into using DSLR cameras and what they’re capable of doing but I found myself again having to ask myself, well what Camera would be suitable for me and yes you’ve guessed it where do I start in finding a camera and using a new camera. Just like my journey whilst trainspotting, we will always have to ask ourselves that question because we will all come across times where we will be starting something new and we won’t know quite what to do. But as described and spoken about above, it is not always a scary process and in actual fact nearly all the time when you start something new it can lead you into somewhere else, but that is all depending also on the individual and whether it’s what they want to do. What I mean is that sometimes we WON’T know where to start but thankfully with the help of good friends, I managed to start off well with my journey as a trainspotter.
So to this present day now, I continue on with my trainspotting when I can and I venture to all parts of the country and it’s a blessing that I can and we can within the society. Trainspotting also led me to start my journey within model railway’s and like us all we had to start somewhere and it has given me more experience to aspects of model railways, whether it be building them or running a complicated train diagram of trains and stock moves you name it. I’m happy to report Daniel and I are still messing around and I like to wind him up now and then but other people and friends are sometimes what you need to just give you that boost and the start what you need into answering that question of: “Where do I start?”
Next time I will look over the two main line that are the East Coast Main line and West Coast Main line and give you an insight into what it is about them that we like, comparisons and differences and how popular these lines are to this day and before for trainspotters.



92043 leads 5M16 from London Euston to Wembley C.S. Sidings at Willesden Junction back in January of 2020.









Time to refer back to your plan again. Hopefully, apart from the changes that you had to make when you found that you couldn’t fit the whole of Kings Cross on the board, the plan is more or less correct and of course you thought about the wiring as well. You did didn’t you? Oops you didn’t! Well now is a good time to work out how the points will work, where you will need track sections and isolating sections.

The track sections are only really necessary if you are going to use more than one controller and run more than one train at the same time. If you are sticking to the simple train set scenario then you can skip this stage all together but I am sure that you will regret it later. The isolating sections are required at the end of each dead end platform road for instance so that you can isolate the incoming loco and put another on the opposite end to take the train out again. If you are running DMU’s for example then you can skip this bit as well. And if you want to be really lazy or wiring is really beyond your understanding then you can just change the points with your finger. If this is you why did you start the layout in the first place? I would suggest that you just stick to a simple circle of track a la train set.

Assuming that you understand the basics of wiring then we will now proceed with the pit falls that you will doubtless now encounter. So to make this as simple as possible, for those who are struggling with how a simple circuit works, I will now try and explain. A circuit is only ever two wires probably from a power source (controller, battery etc.) via a simple on/off switch to the point or section of track that you wish to operate. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Of course there may be lots of these and therefore lots of wires and at this point it looks complicated but it isn’t really. Using different coloured wires helps rather than all black. Try tracing a wire when they all look the same (sorry if BLM object to this).



So from your plan you know where each track section is and where each isolating section is. To start with the simple bit an isolating section only needs two wires, one from each side of the rail break via an on/off switch on your control panel of which more later. So of course you did remember to put the rail break in didn’t you? If not it is time to now put a cut in one of the rails. A mini disc cutter is ideal for this but a hacksaw can be used if you don’t mind hacking through the track with great difficulty. Now the next issue. You remember in the last part that you carefully painted the sides of the rails with rust coloured paint. Well now is the time to try and remove some from the rail where you will need to solder the wires. You will also need to drill a small hole for the wire to pass through the board so that you can hide the wiring underneath. (I do mean a small hole. It does not require a half inch hole honestly).

Now it is time to solder a suitable length of wire to the rail. A soldering iron, assuming that you have one and sort of know how to use it, gets very hot. It is therefore recommended that you do not pick up the hot end by mistake. It hurts believe me. Melt a small amount of solder onto the wire and rail and then bring them together. That is the theory any way. In practice the rail will still be dirty and the solder will simply run off and melt the sleepers. No matter no one will notice by the time you have finished adding weathering etc. In due course and after much swearing and cursing the wire will finally adhere to the rail. One down and quite few more to go. Time for a break and a cup of tea.



With all of the isolating sections finished we can now move onto the track sections. Whilst it is not always necessary and some don’t bother I recommend a break in both rails and therefore two wires back to a double throw double pole centre off switch, which will be placed on your control panel so that you know what it does. I will try and explain what this switch does later. I did say that it is one wire to each rail here and not both to one. If you did this then you will have a short circuit which will provide you with a very interesting fault that will take many hours to figure out, since if you have made this mistake you will have no idea how to rectify it.

Moving rapidly on before we get to bogged down in sections we will deal with the really simple bit which is the points. Well it would be simple if there were only two wires but at this point (excuse the pun) I will now introduce a third wire called a common. (no not a big open area). I am assuming here that you are using Peco point motors or similar as I don’t think that you are ready for the really clever ones yet and I am not ready to try and explain these either.

A Peco point motor has two coils (of wire that is). When one is energised it will move the point blades one way and when the other is energised it will move them back again. If you want the term used on the big railway these will be described as ‘normal’ and ‘reversed’ but you don’t need to know this anyway. Each coil therefore needs two wires connected to it so we are back to the simple two wire scenario again. But one wire from each coil is a ‘common’ and can be joined together along with all the others from all of the point motors. With it so far? Good. The other wire from each coil now needs to be routed back to the control panel along with the common wire. How this all works will become apparent when we discuss the control panel I hope.

If you have managed to keep up with all of the above then by now you will have quite a few wires hanging down underneath the layout. These will all now need to be routed back to wherever you are going to have the control panel. Hopefully you will have made sure that all of the wires are long enough to allow this but you will find that there will always be one or two that are a bit short no matter how carefully you measure them. This is I’m afraid another one of sods many laws. You will of course need to either replace these or lengthen them by joining another bit of wire to them. It is usually a good idea to use the same colour as it will help later but from past experience of sorting out problems on other peoples layouts this advice is usually ignored.

There are now a couple of ways to route the wires back to the control panel. The simplest is to just leave them hanging under the layout like a birds nest. Many opt for this version and it is ideal for making sure that in due course you will manage to pull wires off as you store items under the layout. Of course as you eventually find one fault you will of course manage to pull yet more wires off in the process ensuring many happy hours lying under the base board with a torch held in your mouth to leave both hands free to try and locate the one wire amongst all of the rest. Now you can see the advantage of using different colours.

The second method is to simply pin them up using cleats or similar. This is OK but can still produce a similar result to the one above and make it even harder to find the faults when they occur. Plastic trunking could also be used to route the wire which will keep every thing neat and tidy and of course make it yet harder to find any faults.

You can of course route the wires through suitable holes in the cross members of the base board which will help to keep them out of the way. Now if you drilled the holes before you put the boards together then you will find this relatively easy. If you didn’t and you now want to drill them this can be achieved by lying under the board again with a torch in your mouth whilst trying to hold a drill at the right angle (ideally 90 degrees to the cross member. If you can manage this I will be amazed). Never mind any old angle will do so long as you don’t manage to drill into the baseboard surface or even through it.

Moving quickly on I will assume that somehow all of the wires are now routed back to the control panel position and we will discuss this in the next part.












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Answers next week.


1. Which railway first introduced proper dining cars into Great Britain in 1879?
2. When were regular passenger services between Cuffley and Hertford North inaugurated by the London & North Eastern Railway?
3. In what year did the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway absorb the Lancaster & Preston Railway?
4. How many tunnels were and are there on the Great Northern Railway between Kings Cross & Hitchin?
5. Which standard gauge railway in Devon was physically unconnected to the rest of the British Railway network?
6. What was the name of the first six-coupled locomotive built by Timothy Hackworth at Shildon in 1827?
7. Which was the last former London & North Eastern Railway Gresley A3 Class Pacific to remain in service with British Railways, being withdrawn in  January 1966?
8. Which was the last of the former London Midland & Scottish Railway Princess Coronation class Pacifics to run with the original streamlined casing?
9.  Which large concern acquired control of the Corris Railway in 1878?
10. What caused the premature closure of the Jersey Railway in 1936?



Answers to last weeks Quiz.


  1. Wendy, John and Michael.
  2. Tequila.
  3. William Henry Harrison.
  4. New Mexico.
  5. [a] "Blue Moon", reached no 1, [b] "Blue Jean", no 6, [c] "Blue Velvet", no 2, [d] "Blue Orchid", no 9 and "Blue Eyes", no 3.
  6. Lake Michigan.
  7. Knot's Landing.
  8. Semolina.
  9. Kelly Holmes.
  10. Severus Snape.
  11. Chicago O'Hare.
  12. Peter Sellars, Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine.
  13. Detective Comics.
  14. 273.15 K.
  15. William.
  16. Earl of Bute.
  17. Klapka.
  18. Kennington Oval (1872 and 1874-92), Lillie Bridge, Fulham (1873), Fallowfield Stadium , Manchester (1893), Goodison Park , Liverpool (1894) , Crystal Palace (1895-1914), Old Trafford (1915), Stamford Bridge (1920-22) and Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (2001-2006).
  19. Ringo Starr.
  20. 75th.