Last week, after a short illness, one of the greatest influences on my model making career and someone who played a significant part in me ending up in my current job, Dave Elbourne passed away.
I first met Dave at the Leamington & Warwick Model Railway Society in the early 1980s. He was involved with Pat Taylor and Keith Foster in building a Scotish layout - Macduff. As I recall, he was building track, the first time I'd seen anyone doing this.
Dave went on to build his own Magnum Opus - Scotland Street Yard. This was a revolutionary model being an almost scale (actually, sligthly longer) model of a shunting yard in Edinburgh. At a time when most layouts were long and thin, Scotland Street was almost square.
At the front of the model there was a shunting yard, split into two electrically so the operators worked either the front or back, passing wagons between them as required. At the back the main line ran through, operated usually by a DMU on a shuttle controller.
All this was accomplished with DC control. There was not such thing as DCC in those days but Dave worked for British Telecom and so was well versed in electrical systems. In fact his job provided a handy workshop in Kenilworth with enough space to assembled the layout for work between shifts.
One of his ideas on layout wiring stays with me. Long leads dangling from control panels are easily damaged in transit, make this up as a separate item with a plug at each end, and you reduce the chances of damage. OK, this means more soldering but hopefully the result is greater reliability and a less stressful setup at each show. It certainly works for me!
A winner of the Railway Modeller Cup in 1988, the layout was very popular at shows and Dave certainly enjoyed taking it out - which is where I come in. You see, Dave wasn't quite so good at organising operators and several times he would appear at the club on a Thursday night and ask if anyone fancied a trip to a show that weekend.
With no ties, I usually did and certainly enjoyed many thousands of miles with him and the layout along with several traditional Little Chef meals on the way back home on the Sunday night.
As I got into the hobby and started kit building, Dave encouraged me. My DJH 02, the first serious loco I built, did a few stints on Scotland Street, although its width limited the places it could shunt. If I'm honest, it didn't run as well as Dave's Portescap equipped shunters anyway - these had to run flawlessly as poking at stalled trains towards the front of the layout was impossible.
Dave had grand plans and acquired quite a pile of kits for future projects. Some of these were generously passed on to me for little or no money. The 07 at the top of this post was the first. Dave had built the chassis but wasn't going to get around to the body so this became my second kit built loco. It was the mainstay of Melbridge Dock over the years and my pride and joy, partly because it ran so well since I didn't build the working bits. After it was stolen, I made a replacement but couldn't get the lubricator mechanism to work like Dave did.
Later there was a Class 17 - passed over simply because one would be perfect for the layout and Dave wasn't going to get around to building it. I received the kit for no money on condition I finished it for a particular show. I did, but being whitemetal, it weighted a ton and needed considerable work on the pickups before it would drag more than itself along, something that disappointed us both.
I have no idea how many shows we attended with the layout but they were all good fun and it was a pleasure to be involved with the project.
There is a page about both the prototype and layout here.
After a really intense time building Scotland Street, Dave lost his finescale modelling mojo (the work workshop became home to a RC car track) but took up collecting vintage Triang models. Since I was (and still am) into the operating accessories from that firm, we had another shared interest.
One of my fondest memories was when we took my layout, Melbridge Dock to Colchester and I found a satellite car on a second hand stall stand. While my Dad operated the layout, Dave and I were sat on the floor playing with this thing. Visitors to the show could just see the satellite flying up above the backscene every few minutes and must have wondered what was going on. If they found out, they probably wondered why a recipient of the RM Cup was messing around like that enjoying himself and not doing some proper modelling!
Eventually, Scotland Street was sold to a club in Edinburgh and I helped him deliver the model to its new owners. We even managed a quick stop at the prototype along the way. I'm pleased to see the model still exists and still looks good.
Another fun moment involved Dave's collecting and the club Thomas the Tank layout. Having bought a couple of battered Hornby Dublo Co-Bo locos, Dave produced one mint model and then used the leftover to build a nice model of BoCo for the layout. Obviously the model needed a face and this, as with all the other models on the layout, was fashioned from Milliput filler.
At a show, most people loved this as it wasn't common to see the character modelled. Children saying "BoCo" in a Yorkshire accent is great fun. However, one gentleman wasn't so pleased, spluttering that a valuable collectible had been destroyed. Despite explaining that it was made up from the broken bits of an old model, he couldn't be pacified.
After this, Dave moved away from the Midlands. The last railway modelling I saw him show was a selection of Lego trains with his son Alex. Like everything else he did in the hobby, the display was professional and entertaining.
Thanks Dave for all your support and encouragement when I needed it. Beyond the modelling help, simply being part of the operating team was good for me and really great fun. I think I need to go and have a Little Chef Works Burger, the usual driving home treat, in your memory.