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The Merioneth Mercury Issue No. 4. Edited by Don Boreham
As this is the first issue of the "Mercury" to reach you in this Year of Grace 1976, it is perhaps fitting that we start with a description of the first Model Railway function of the year - the weekend at Hassocks.
This is always held on the first weekend in January (except when it clashes with the New Year) and this year's function was the seventh in the series. By now it is an established event in the modeller's calendar, one greatly looked forward to throughout the year, and one which is always fully booked; so anyone intending to attend there should book well in advance.
It is not entirely a narrow-gauge function although if this Society and one or two others such as Dick Relph of Cornwall have anything to do with it 16mm scale is well represented - as it was this year: for no less than three members of this small society - Colin, Ray, and myself - were down to speak. This proportion, out of a total of six or seven speakers, is no mean achievement, and, in fact, this society can claim a good deal of the credit for having got the course going at all. It was mainly through the efforts of Colin, somewhat abetted by me, who suggested the speakers for the first two or three years. Now, of course, the Warden is well up in the Model Railway world and is quite capable of arranging his awn speakers. In fact, most of next year's programme was fixed up at this year's meeting.
Just for the record - after all these "Mercury" issues constitute the account of the society's history - the talks given by our members were as follows: Ray's contribution was a talk about modelling figures. You have all seen his work and know how good he is at this type of modelling; and, indeed, seeing that he is a professional commercial artist, this is just as it should be!
Leaving Colin till last, the talk on the Isle of Man Railway was given by me. This resulted from a long-term interest in that line, a lot of old photos and transparencies taken during a visit there in 1969 in the company of Adrian Garner who made a film record of the trip which was also shown. Films always go down well, and this one was no exception.
The startling event of the course, however, was Colin's lecture (which is why I have left the telling of this tale to the last). On a table was a length of track on which stood Persrphone. Having told us that he knows very little about electronics, a statement which I could scarcely credit at the time, and believed even less after what followed, he then described a circuit which he had worked out, the purpose of which was to create an electronic "puff". He then demonstrated it. He had obviously thought of everything - even of the necessity of creating a stronger "puff" when Persephone was pulling hard and a gentle sizzling noise, like a kettle about to boil, for use when she was standing still:
All this greatly impressed the audience, especially one of the lecturers whose subject had been electronics. The result was an extra, unofficial, lecture after the end of the day's programme, one which was entirely inspired by the work done by Colin.
As one who has followed the hobby for many years I am struck by the way in which it has become more and more technical, efficient, and realistic, and this tendency is amply illustrated by the courses run at Hassocks. I think we have now covered practically everything - even the electrical control of steam locomotives - except, perhaps, bridge-building, and this subject will be dealt with next year by Dick Relph who, as a retired Civil Engineer, knows what he is talking about: As he, too, is a 16mm-scale modeller, we can be justly proud of the versatility of this branch of modelling.
We have, for the first time in this the fourth issue of the Mercury an article by a hand other than mine. Before coming to this piece de resistance (French for "girl who puts up a fight"), however, let me remind you that subscriptions for 1976 are now due and that anyone who neglects to pay his sub - still a modest £1 - will have an effigy
made of him by Ray (who, as you know, is rather good at that sort of thing)in to which pins will be stuck at regular and frequent intervals, accompanied by the appropriate incantations which will cause the victim's hair to fall out whilst his models fall to pieces. You have been alerted!
The Treasurer is still Stuart Baker, and subs. sent to him will still reach him even after his marriage in March and Scotland. He also says he hopes he has enough money to pay for his honeymoon without actually dipping into Club funds.
A very important date remains to be announced. This is Saturday. May 8th 1976 at Keen House, Calshot Street, N.1 (up Pentonville Road from Kings Cross, then third turning to the left. Keen House, HQ of the Model Railway Club, is just around the corner on the right-hand side). We are going to hold an Open Day for 16mm modellers that day, starting at 2 p.m. and a notice to that effect will be put in the Model Press. We hope to use the MRC's 0-gauge test tracks so that demonstration running can take place.
All 16mm scale modellers are invited irrespective of whether they are members of this Society or not - so if you know of a suitable person bring him/her to Keen House. Also please let either Colin or me know so that we shall know how many to expect as Keen House can supply light refreshments if an approximate estimate of requirements is forthcoming.
Finally, although membership has to be restricted owing to the exigencies of space, any interested person can become an Associate Member on payment of the usual modest sub. For this he is entitled to attend our meetings (by invitation) and receive our publications. As the latter include a good many narrow-gauge drawings not obtainable elsewhere members are asked not to Xerox these for the benefit of non-members as they would not only be infringing copyright by so doing: they would also be depriving the Club of income! Who thinks we're not businesslike?
Finally, here is the article you've all been waiting for. It's by our very own Dave Bradwell and it goes as follows:‑
TO BOSTON WITH BINNIE - or - TO WALES WITH WYBORN. Being an account of the hazards of Merioneth Membership. Colin had always talked of it, but it was not until I was chipping the ice off my car windscreen at six o'clock one still Saturday morning that I began to realise what could lie ahead Ray arrived as planned and we were off to Wembley where, hopefully, Colin would be alive and ready. 7 a.m. saw us safely on the Ml, moving at great speed in the Binniemobile. Some hours later, however, the happy holiday spirit began to leave us; panic took its place: where was Birmingham? Our navigator/driver had missed the M6 and we were about 25 miles too far north! Hastily we modified our route for the expedition to North Wales: our target:- anything on the 2-foot gauge whether it moved or not. This journey, planned to the last detail in three minutes flat while leaving Don's after a meeting of that great institution, Merioneth, was an attempt to boost our drawing files. Perhaps we could even solve the mystery of the Boyd slate wagon (Does anyone know the prototype of that drawing?).
Our new route caused further problems, one of which was how to get out of Stoke-on-Trent. All roads lead there, but it was only after cleaning the windscreen and Colin's glasses that we were able to get out again and head for our next landmark, Wrexham. After a few minor incidents on the road, our driver came out with a classic: "Can you imagine me driving tanks?" No comment!
The gates of Penrhyn Castle, not being pearly, were a welcome sight and there was even a note pinned there for our benefit. A mid-week enquiry had revealed that, although the Castle Museum would be closed, a visit to the Railway Museum was possible "Let yourselves into the castle" the note suggested, "by reaching through the gates and undoing the catch". Marvelling at the security arrangements of our ancestors, we obeyed, hoping that nobody would challenge us.
We quickly found sufficient obscure items to record, from point levers to a superb Penrhyn Railway 4w inspection coach. In contrast to this latter vehicle was the Dinorwic "Yellow'" coach, a completely different approach to VIP transport. Also to be seen are the Fire Queen, standard and 3' gauge locos, and Charles, sister (?brother - ED) engine to Linda and Blanche of the Festiniog.
As darkness and the temperature fell we tore ourselves away in search of food and sleep. Bangor produced food (eventually) and we moved to Llanberis for sleep (I don't recognise this road: it must be the right one"). We were now perfectly situated for Sunday's tight schedule.
The morning brought a change of weather and we were forced to explore Gilfach Ddu, terminus of the Llanberis Light Rly., ex-Dinorwic works, and home of the slate museum, in real Welsh rain. Light for photography was more scarce in the open than inside the castle on the previous day. Nevertheless, we explored to the limits of our enthusiasm and beyond. The Baldwin 4-6-2 tender engine would have merited our attention for the complete day but we had to be happy with a few photographs taken from the shelter of a lean-to. A model of this machine would certainly be the answer to Don's Fiji 4-4-0, Merioneth's present largest. The quarry buildings are beautiful, even the smallest shed being made with decorated blocks and capped with an ornate slate roof. We spotted signs of life in the Lakeside workshops and were able briefly to inspect examples of Jung and 0&K 0-4-0Ts. Unfortunately the slate museum was closed and its contents thus remained a secret. As our spirits became dampened (or soaked) we took to driving around the yard taking photographs, the car being manoeuvred for the best shot.
As lunchtime approached our thoughts turned to Boston Lodge - our great goal. Many people, including Don, had failed to gain admission to the secret works of the Ffestiniog. Could we succeed where others had failed? The journey south took place with much speculation but we could not resist stops on the way to explore the Welsh Highland route. Particularly fascinating was the southern end of the long Aberglaslyn tunnel. Does anyone still reading this know the reason for the underbridge there? (to stop the trains from falling down a hole - Ed).
6 Evidence of a way up the hills can be seen and Boyd labels "mine buildings" on a sketch map of the area, but I can find no further information.
The rain continued to fall: the moment of truth could be put off no longer: we had to face up to Boston lodge. Dining at Portmadoc station brought us into contact with some F.R. workers and an introduction to the man in charge at the works. The great man was quickly found and his nod of agreement made us sigh with relief.
Boston Lodge can be described only as an amazing place. Any feelings held against the way the F.R. has been developing are immediately dispelled. Here the relics of past glories remain, perhaps in a plie of old castings, a wagon lying round the back of the yard, an England chimney, or, best of all, the works themselves. Exploration will always reveal more, for it is the smaller items which are the most interesting, and about which the least is known.
Yet more rain fell but after photographing as much as possible in the gloom we turned to wagon measuring. Van No. 99 was a suitable candidate and, yes, the weather had improved. Perhaps Welsh Pony could be inspected next before it completely disintegrated. The rule touched the unsuspecting vehicle but we were being watched - the heavens opened again. These sessions must have been amazing to listen to. To give Ray and myself the tape and Colin the notebook was, on reflection, a mistake in organization. We would call out enough information to build the offending thing only to hear Colin asking for a repeat of the first dimension. Eventually we were forced to move the comedy show under cover where there lurked a new-looking van, No. 59. This we later discovered to be an ex-V.O.R. cattle wagon cut down to the F.R. loading gauge. At this point the great man himself reappeared and invited us to the mess for a cuppa - VIP treatment indeed.
Eventually work outside was forced to a halt by darkness and even more rain so we entered the main building to explore further. It was not long before we discovered the works heater, an ancient-looking contraption full of glowing coals. We stood and looked about us for some time while a column of steam rose from our clothes. As expected
the works contained many more gems, including an O&K 0-8-0 (I think) steam laundry, supposedly destined for the VOR. We were tempted to measure up a set of Fairlie frames for Don, who had just made two sets, but thought that a little cruel. All too soon we had to tear ourselves away and face the long haul back to the smoke. Perhaps we could even find Birmingham and lose Stoke-on-Trent. Our nerves prepared for the drive over the mountains (without wellies this time), we thanked our host and left, looking forward to a pint as soon as we reached the English border, and to a return visit before the 1976 season got under way.