Ac­cord­ing to Chris…

His grand­chil­dren call him ‘Grand­dad Trains’ and he’s been a ded­i­cated railway mod­eller since the 1960s but, de­spite pop­u­lar leg­end, Chris Leigh doesn’t re­mem­ber when di­nosaurs roamed the Earth!

Model Rail (UK) - - Contents -

Chris Leigh guides us through the build process of last month’s cover.

Isn’t it strange how the im­promptu of­ten works so much bet­ter than the planned? For last is­sue’s cover, Richard asked me to reprise the De­cem­ber 1965 Model Railway Con­struc­tor cover, with the words: “re­ally make it look wet and cold, the kind of weather that drives you in­doors to a chair be­side the fire.” I’ve never minded a chal­lenge! The ‘Westerns’ were, by a large mar­gin, my favourite diesels. My first sight­ing of one was in Au­gust 1962 when my brother and I were trainspot­ting at Iver. The pre­vi­ous week, Roger had been to Iver with­out me and re­ported see­ing a strange new lo­co­mo­tive in ‘beige un­der­coat’. Its num­ber was D1000 and it was on the Down ‘Cor­nish Riviera’. The fol­low­ing week I was with him, and we saw D1006 Western Stal­wart. It was ma­roon and it looked fan­tas­tic. How could any teenage spot­ter not be in­ter­ested? A trip to Read­ing Gen­eral fol­lowed to see one at close quar­ters. I be­came par­tic­u­larly fa­mil­iar with them stand­ing at the plat­form end at Read­ing, as so many of the ex­presses stopped there. As we trav­elled fur­ther and my in­ter­est in sta­tions took us to Wilt­shire and Glouces­ter­shire, I man­aged a few jour­neys with ‘Westerns’. Change, how­ever, was swift in the 1960s. All too quickly the railway de­cided that it needed a new cor­po­rate im­age and the nov­elty of the ‘Westerns’ and, in­deed, the whole Western Re­gion diesel-hy­draulic fleet was ini­tially oblit­er­ated by a blan­ket coat of Rail blue, fol­lowed al­most im­me­di­ately by with­drawal. Look­ing back, one of my favourite im­ages of the hy­draulic era is a ‘Western’ stand­ing at the plat­form end at Read­ing. It isn’t a par­tic­u­lar ‘Western’ or a spe­cific oc­ca­sion. The two pro­to­type pho­to­graphs show it all too clearly. The first was taken in those early days, around 1962, and D1038 Western Sovereign is on a Down Swansea ex­press. Six spot­ters sit along the plat­form edge. De­spite how it ap­pears, they are not in any dan­ger – the track slewed away from the plat­form at that end. In the sec­ond pho­to­graph the spot­ters have grown up. It’s the twi­light of the ‘Westerns’ and D1051 Western Am­bas­sador has its num­ber dis­played in the head­code as it makes the Read­ing Gen­eral stop with an Up ex­press. The neg­a­tive has gone miss­ing and this cut-out print is all that I have left of that mo­ment. While I was build­ing the dio­rama for this month’s cover, I ex­per­i­mented with a side-on shot which, I think, cap­tures well those mo­ments with a ‘Western’ stand­ing at the plat­form end (main pic­ture, above). I failed to use any­thing to block out the clut­tered back­ground, and one fig­ure has a huge mould­ing mark on his back, but the light and the at­mos­phere are just right. I cleaned up the fig­ure and held up a back­ground sheet, but some­how the cor­rected shot did not cap­ture the at­mos­phere. Think­ing back, nei­ther of those pro­to­type shots was planned. They were just quick snaps. Like the shot above, they are bet­ter for it. Note: I should add that my col­lec­tion of model ‘Westerns’ was based around the Lima model with its hor­ri­ble front ‘shelf’ un­til the Heljan ver­sion came along. I re­worked the cab roof of one Heljan model to cor­rect the shape, but then the Dapol ren­der­ing of the Class 52 fi­nally got things right. The model used in this month’s pic­ture is D1030 Western Mus­ke­teer. It is a much-re­worked Heljan model, with re­shaped cab roof, etched grilles and cast de­tails. I bought it sec­ond-hand from a large col­lec­tion of WR diesels ac­quired by Train­s4u in Peter­bor­ough, mainly be­cause it saved me hav­ing to open it up and fit a crew. The pre­vi­ous owner did a great job of the de­tail­ing, so thank you – who­ever you are.

D1030 stands in the rain at the plat­form end. The pic­ture was taken to show the boy in the pud­dle and the gush­ing pipe, but to me it cap­tures a fa­mil­iar scene.


Above: Some time in the mid-1960s, Satur­day spot­ters line the plat­form edge as D1038 waits with a Down Swansea ex­press.


Be­low: Fast-for­ward a decade or more and the ‘Westerns’ are on their way out, at­tract­ing adu­la­tion from fans at ev­ery stop.

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