The other side of the track

Month: July 2020

On the Permanent Way

Well, work will shortly resume on the Boltorr branch. I have a further aim. That involves using a second space in our cellar… Mrs Hill doesn’t know yet…

But this is my ambition:

Well, I have to finish a few other jobs first…

I really wanted a roundy-roundy, but space precludes this, particularly as I’m intent on keeping visible curves at as large a radius as I can. The branch and china clay depot will be transportable in case I decide to exhibit at local model railroad shows.

Our attic does have space for a pretty impressive circuit with the possibility of a couple of scale half-mile stretches and twelve coach and forty wagon trains, but it gets to about 120F/50C up there in the summer, and I just don’t know how cold in the winter. HVAC and insulation costs preclude practical consideration.

What lies beneath… Boltorr dam, St Boltfrey’s Cross and a trig point up on the tor

7′ ¼” – Brunel

Where did the ¼” come from?

“Standard” / “Stevenson’s” gauge, around the world is 4′ 8½”, 1.435 m, seemingly a fairly arbitrary dimension. But Brunel begged to differ. The only true gauge in his mind was seven foot. Other gauges were “narrow“, and 7ft whilst costing 12% extra in infrastructure costs would add a whole lot more in size and weight capability as well as high-speed stability.

The ¼” came from the necessity for gauge easing on curves, and actually didn’t make much difference elsewhere, so…

The railway to Plymouth was built on Brunel’s gauge but didn’t survive past 21.05.1892 when the entire GWR network was converted to standard gauge overnight.

The last vestige of Broad Gauge still exists on the waterfront on Sutton Harbour, Plymouth, UK, amongst the most extensive system of cobbled streets in the UK.

Broad gauge – Sutton Harbour some years ago… Nice Volvo, btw
Still there today…

Thanks to @Malcolm Harrison & @Brian Moore for the images…

Hifi Philosophy v:1.0

… In the meantime, my music listening strategy…

Now. Do LPs sound better? Probably not.

Do they sound different? Probably yes…

My hifi (’60s term) is centred around the vinyl/analogue route.

Is that necessarily better? Well, it depends which way you look at it.

The Marantz CD-74. A very fine machine

I bought my first CD-player in 1984. It cost a comparative fortune. The sales guy wouldn’t even say how long the laser would last for. He hazarded, “A couple of years?”

It lasted a lot longer than that, fortunately.

My first CD was Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms… don’t judge me. In fact, in those days CDs were so expensive you bought them on a sort of subscription scheme. However, I still have this one in my CD stash, I have to grudgingly admit. But heck… You had to be there. That’s my excuse. And it sounded pretty good, in a CD sort of way, which I came to learn was, no crackles… no soul.

Sade – Diamond Life

In 1984 the last vinyl LP I bought for maybe thirty years was this one, Sade – Diamond Life. I still have this one too. But this album still sounds great. I still have a couple of LPs nearly 20 years older than this one. They still sound great. And although I didn’t realise it at the time, CD/digital, made women sound crap.

Well, actually I sort of knew this before then. But it wasn’t so much the digital, but that hifi did a bad job on women’s voices.


Once upon a time, there was such a thing as a hifi shop. Bristol, my hometown at the time had three or four pretty good ones. My goto was up on Gloucester Road Parade. I’ve forgotten the name… sorry guys.

However, if you went to audition some element you’d take your audition record. In my case I had two; Joni Mitchell – Hissing of Summer Lawns, and Donna Summer – Donna Summer.

I always found that if you could get the female voice right, the rest of your hifi would follow. And it needn’t cost a lot. Like life, all your sound system needed was balance…

To be continued…

Boltorr, and Beyond

This blog really centres on a tiny portion of an imaginary railway which crosses, what in our universe is, Dartmoor, Devon. Now when I say imaginary, I don’t mean that King Arthur will be catching the local on his way to slay dragons… It really could exist, but maybe a tiny fraction of a dimension away,

As modelled, Boltorr will be a cameo style layout. That is just a fragment of a railway just a step or so on from say, a diorama. What seems to differentiate a UK model railway from a US model railroad is that one looks at a scene, the other manages to represent a whole railroad

Boltorr sits in our basement. The cellar is sectionalised and consists of three unfinished spaces. One holds the framework of what will become a halt serving a village and secluded country hotel, and some military sidings.

Boltorr when it first moved in…

The basic layout was planned using AnyRail and used Peco Code 75 track templates. The basic layout is below, fairly accurate, except Peco Bullhead has now been incorporated into the actual track plan.

Boltorr… The theory… My world in 8ft x 2ft

“Where is the railway?”, I hear my US friends saying. Another day.

So far…

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”

This is actually the second iteration of v.1.00 kind of bit the dust. It was a WordPress blog, as is this, but tbh, I hadn’t really looked at it for over a year. But recently I thought I’d resurrect it, so I played about with page templates and stuff like that. The worst aspect of the previous version is that it required a lot of image editing to got all the pictures to fit and align. But I couldn’t get it to work.

This version’s easier in that respect, but I messed up when transferring the SQL database to the new template… In fact, instead of backing it up, I deleted it…


This is my new blog, with a more friendly image placement menu.

The goods yard at Princetown, Dartmoor

Welcome to v.2.00. It will still be focussed on the mythical railway line across the river valleys, villages, farms and the wild moors on the Devon and Cornwall borders. Still fixed in a time-warp vaguely lodged between the 1950s and the early 1980s, and with a slightly alternative history which fits my universe, if not anyone else’s. But it’s my universe, okay? And you will like it…

There will be diversions. Maybe my opinion of the day, or pontifications on music, hifi, bicycles even. Who knows?

And honestly, I know this is all for my benefit rather than yours, but like I said, “It’s my universe“. v.2.00

So. Dumnonia is back. Apart from a year’s absence, there was the small issue of screwing up my SQL database. But no matter. I’m back…

This time, it’s all about me…

…And my model railway, music, hifi, bicycles and life in general…

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