Youtube Channel Recommendation: Strathpeffer Junction

A very recent addition to the ranks of model railway channels to which I am subscribed, this layout is based upon the railways northwest of Inverness in the 1980s and 90s, when BR had been branded Scotrail in the region, and Class 37s (“Tractors” ūüėČ ) ruled the roost; it is in the very early stages of construction inside the gable roof attic of a house, which for obvious reasons of space is a favourite of modellers.¬† Pity that there’s less reason than ever that one might have access to an attic in this day and age.

At the time of writing, progress has been limited to the conversion of the loft and the construction of the frame members of the baseboard.¬† The layout has an interesting concept for it’s fiddle yard, whereby a lower baseboard contains the trains that will climb up inclines to reach the upper scenic baseboard where all the action is, and eventually disappearing down another incline to return to the fiddle yard.¬† Almost certainly easier to accommodate in a limited space than a helix at either end, whilst still allowing for gentle gradients.

Being a fan of highland based layouts ever since visiting the Strathspey Railway back in 2016, I look forward to seeing what this guy makes of the imposing scenery and the often-beautiful Scottish railway stations.  There will also be an element of physical triumph when the layout is complete, but more on this later.

The real Strathpeffer Station

Interestingly, as the Disused Stations page reveals, Strathpeffer was a terminus in reality, owing to a failure to obtain permission to build a line through the town and having instead to run the line through Achterneed to the north.¬† The line was refused permission to run through the land of William MacKenzie of Coul House, forcing construction of the line to the Kyle of Lochalsh to run through the nearby Raven Rock, resulting in gradients of 1 in 70.¬† The landowner’s son later retracted the objection to the line, but by that point the Dingwall and Skye Railway Company had expended huge amounts of capital on it’s diversion, eventually running out of money at Stromeferry.¬† The Highland Railway had to step in, buying the DSR and completing the line to Kyle of Lochalsh twelve miles onwards.

Its a fascinating story in it’s own right, one that creates an interesting “what might have been” scenario.

An inspirational layout

This is where the story takes a somewhat tragic, yet hopeful turn.¬† The builder of the layout suffered a spinal injury sustained while white water kayaking, which amongst other outdoor pursuits had supplanted his childhood love of model railways as he grew older.¬† Given the majestic nature of his surroundings, I can’t say I blame him.

We can expect to see the effects of this dictating many of the features of the layout, which has already been designed to be used while sitting on a chair as standing for any extended period of time is sure to become painful.¬† As a disabled person myself (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), I know first hand about having to work around your limitations, except in my case it involves utilising my concious mind in order to compensate for what I cannot do unconsciously; socialising therefore means running a gauntlet of examining a group’s reactions in order to know when to join a conversation, when to elaborate and when to stop talking.¬† If you’ve ever wanted to know why we elect to spend so much time alone, there’s your answer.

It is early days for this layout, and there’s no telling what the river of inspiration will deliver to a man over time – my own layout has proven this surely enough! – but I definitely look forward to seeing how it develops in order to give him the most comfortable and satisfying experience.

Youtube Video Recommendation: 8 Old-School Tips for better Hand Filing

Clickspring is a Youtube Channel dedicated to the intricacies of making clocks, which I can only assume is why they feature this excellent video on hand filing technique.

I hate filing.¬† Alongside coughing up dust it’s my least favourite workshop activity, so anything which makes the job more painless is akin to an instant cure for a Norovirus infection.

Finally, some closure on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2

Courtesy of Al’s Gaming, I’ve recently gained enlightenment as to what I had missed when S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was cancelled back in 2012.¬† The channel has made some excellent videos on the lore of the games that were released, such as the Factions, C-Conciousness and Strelok’s Group.¬† The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games really are of the sort that no matter how many times you play them, you always discover another layer to them you haven’t noticed before.¬† As such, these videos are well worth a watch, as they really help you to appreciate the dedication and effort that went into them, even if the overall level of polish suggests otherwise:

Planned Side-Quests

There apparently was supposed to be 157 side-quests in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, and this reddit thread has links to descriptions of sixty of them.¬† I’m going to open myself up to being psychoanalysed by the internet and give you my top three.¬† To get an idea of how these quests would’ve played out, cast your mind back to Call of Pripyat and note how each quest appeared to be a mini-story within the main story, as opposed to the now infamous “Go here and shoot a thing until it falls over” side-quest that was common to the previous games:

  1. Voices of the Deceased РEssentially, you come across a village which a group of Stalkers wishes to turn into a base, a scenario common to the Zone.  Your job is to persuade a rabble of zombies to find somewhere else to roam via one of three methods
    1. Tell the Stalkers about their positions, and wipe the floor with them (okay, let’s stretch it and say their¬†souls found somewhere else to roam).
    2. Take them down yourself (the “I’ve just bought a Dragunov” approach).
    3. Talk to the zombies; apparently the way you get their attention is to slowly bump into them, although I thought the lore was that these brain-dead creatures had no cognizance whatsoever, so how the hell any “persuasion” was meant to happen is anyone’s guess.
  2. An Underground Laboratory – This one seems to be your standard romp into an underground lab in the Zone, apart from some juicy information on the origins to two of the game’s most feared mutants; the Controller and the Bloodsucker.¬† Controllers were an attempt to create a universal soldier, while Bloodsuckers were an attempt to give humans active camouflage.
  3. The King needs his followers РA logical progression from the team-building found in Call of Pripyat, whereby the player has the option to begin and run their own faction.  Interestingly, it seems there is a reputation system at play, with Stalkers under your command operating more efficiently for a faction leader they approve of.  Setting up involves rounding up the usual suspects:
    1. Technician – Upgrades your shooters and suits, possibly faction-wide.
    2. Barman – Frontman for recruiting Stalkers, also provides you a cut from his business.
    3. Trader – Supplies your faction with gear, giving the boss a nice discount.
    4. Medic – Heals, and provides discounted medical gear.
    5. Manager – Executes the player’s orders when he’s not around, kind of like the ‘CEO’ to the Owner.

The Zone, Iteration Four

As anyone who is a veteran to the series should know, the Zone is the true main character, the axis of the story, not whoever the protagonist happens to be.¬† The Zone is constantly being referred to as a living being, one that uses blowouts and anomalies as it’s immune system against human intrusion.

With this in mind, it should be noted that this idea of the zone being alive was greatly enhanced when Call of Pripyat based it’s maps around three massive areas instead of a Sm√∂rg√•sbord of smaller territories; each area could function as a self-contained play area much of the time, cutting down on immersion-breaking loading screens and allowing the player to really ‘live’ a long journey.¬† S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was set to take this one step further by making the whole Zone a persistent map, with areas procedurally loaded as the player travelled.¬† With a map like the one below, you can just imagine a single epic, seamless trip from the Cordon to the CNPP.

On a final note…

We will never know for sure of the extent of GSC Game World’s true vision for this game even if it had been released, given the alleged internal strife and looming bankruptcy issues plaguing the company prior to it’s dissolution.¬† There is one thing I do know, however, and that is that the internet loves a mystery, and these recent results of Western Spies¬†dedicated fans sifting through the developer’s leaked materials written in Russian and translating it into English come as solid proof of this.¬† And, I’ve got to admit, they’re not alone.

On a related note, for those who wonder what the original vision was for Shadow of Chernobyl, or as close as we’ll ever get, check out Lost Alpha mod, which had a development cycle almost as long as the original game!

Youtube Channel Recommendation: Extra Credits

Extra Credits is a Youtube Channel worth subscribing to.  Originally a channel concerning Video Game design, they have branched out into historical content, such as the above, Sci-Fi and literature and more recently, Mythology.  Indeed, it was the above video on the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire that got me thinking about Societal Momentum, and how it usually takes a truly savage amount of destruction to change things.  It is no accident that wars are often considered to be great social levellers.