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West Suffolk Junction

70339 Views 420 Replies 34 Participants Last post by  Greyvoices
I was born in 1950 in Bury St Edmunds. That says it all really. By using the resources available on the web I have discovered that I was born on a Sunday but other than a parent induced few years attendance at the Plymouth Bethren Sunday School the significance of the day of my birth seems to have had no lasting effect. (Goodness me, this is starting out like Lawrence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy).

Let me start again. I have chosen to model a GER location circa 1950 because I was born in West Suffolk in that year. That's better. The catalyst for this was a hopeless case of homesickness following a few years living and working in mainland Europe. (I described this in an earlier thread within the 00 forum, "A return to UK modelling", so I will not bore you with a rehash of all that waffle. David the moderator suggested I move ramblings to this forum). I first thought of modelling Bury St Edmunds but when I dimensioned it for 4mm I soon became aware that to do it justice I would need a room 60 feet long. I can imagine that there may be the odd one or two reading this who will think, "why not N gauge? Such thoughts should be nipped in the bud as 2mm has never appealed to me; it just does not look right. Anyway, there is more chance of Stephen Hawkins threading cotton through the eye of a needle than yours truly usefully employing his 10 thumbs in the pursuit of 2mm modelling excellence. It has to be 4mm because that's what I started out with as a nipper in the fifties, it's a scale still small enough to conceal modelling imperfections, especially if you squint a bit, plus I am just able to place the models on the track within a reasonable timespan. What of 7mm? Too big, too expensive and shoddy modelling skills all too apparent.

So, the lack of 60' to play with and a complete inability to accept compromises that would enable a 4mm version of BSE, complete with 31E and the must have bridge over Fornham Road plus the cannot do without Thetford and Sudbury branch junctions has led me to the conclusion that I must find another location to model. I think it best that the quest to find the right location should be the subject of a separate post so I'll leave that subject for later. My researches have proved to be most enjoyable, the armchair modelling phase being a pure delight not least because you always have one hand free to hold a beer glass.

Even though, for a time, I was unsure what my model would depict I was determined that it would be somewhere in West Suffolk. This knowledge allowed me to make a start on the locomotive and rolling stock fleet. This process commenced whilst I still lived in Germany where I was fully employed and properly remunerated. Being then in my late fifties I could well imagine the not far off time when my income would be severely depleted and my faculties somewhat dimmed. I therefore started to collect the minimum core fleet that would be needed for a true representation of 1950 West Suffolk. This is another "subject for later" as there is much to tell. In the meantime I thought that you might appreciate a glimpse of the pride of the fleet:

GER E4 62783 built for me by John Houlden. An Alan Gibson kit fitted with a DCC chip.

There are so many other elements involved in this tale that I wish to write about. Perhaps that is the intrinsic charm of railway modelling, this multi discipline pastime that can become so important in one's life. I believe that it is this complexity that keeps it fresh in your mind. If you weary of detailing yet another coal wagon you can be revitalised by contemplation of the next trackwork installation or avid study of your bookshelves or the internet to get an accurate composition of the 07:52 all stations stopper to Cambridge. There is also the problem of where can I put my layout? I did a lot of research on this question, bought books on the subject, scoured magazines etc. and the conclusion I came to was that our house in the UK (which we hung onto whilst we were abroad) was just not good enough. I managed to convince my wife that when we returned to the UK we had to move. After much negotiation this has happened, the principal requirements being a decent kitchen and an integral garage that could be converted into a railway room (you can guess which was my wife's stipulation. Sexist? Me?). This has now been acheived, a house found and moved into that we both like, kitchen extended as per without which, "you can forget it buster", garage door removed, replaced with windows and a door punched through into the house plus a radiator plumbed in so that it is nice and snug. Now all that remains is for the detritus of 63 years to be cleared away from the garage and the walls and floor suitably finished off:

That's approximately 20' by 9'. Not quite the 60' that I dreamed of but certainly useful enough. Unfortunately a lot of the clutter is boxes full of models and I am going through a process involving selling what is surplus, donating what I deem still worth something and possible benefit to good causes and taking erstwhile prize possessions that time has deemed worthless to the tip. I will soon be able to start on the shoulder height baseboards upon which West Suffolk Junction will rest. More on this anon.

I think that is enough for the first post. I will appreciate comments, suggestions, criticism if gently put and kindly in intention plus of course, bucketfulls of encouragement.

Best regards ................ Greyvoices (alias John)
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Please forgive me if I do not specifically make reference to all the posts on this thread. They are wonderfully varied and much appreciated. The idea is to share thoughts, ideas and memories and I am very pleased with the contributions of those who are as afflicted as myself with similar flights of fancy.

However, I am conscious of the fact that this thread is situated within the "On my layout" forum so I will attempt to keep that fact in sight. So ........... I chanced upon a photo of my first layout, circa 1960:

If you can drag your eyes away from the tasteful carpet you will notice that the outer circuit is equipped with overhead wire and catenary posts, with EM2 Electra un-prototypically hauling a short freight. This was the Hornby system (or were they still Triang at that stage) with a roof mounted and very well concealed switch on the EM2 which enabled power to be taken from the overhead wire. This meant that with 2 controllers you could run 2 independent locos on the same track, with one of them taking power from the rails. All this equipment was very robust as the EM2 must have run for many hours and miles, pans up without any sign of a problem. A wonderful example of model engineering for the masses. Alas this layout and the stock that ran on it are long gone. My Dad made the board. The photo looks to have been taken just after Christmas as I believe that's snow outside. I think the following year Hornby brought out a double track catenary which was my next Christmas present so by 1961 I had a 2 track main line complete with overhead wires but, sadly, I cannot find a photograph of this.

Memories of this first layout made it inevitable that I would be interested in the EM1 and EM2 models produced for Olivia's Trains. I avidly read the reviews and even had plans of equipping West Suffolk Junction with overheads, imagining the extension of the fifties electrification out of Liverpool St. along the proposed route that was never built, Witham, Halstead, Bury St Edmunds, Thetford. East Dereham and Wells-Next-the-Sea, the Mid-Anglia Railway of 1844. I believe that some EM1's were run out of Ilford in the early fifties, transferring to the Woodhead route once that had been electrified so I would not be totally bonkers to create in miniature such a parallel reality.

I was poised, cheque book in hand (or should that be secretly poised - yet more under the radar purchases) and read the reviews with great interest. What a disappointment as all commented upon the fragility of the pantographs. For one who prefers his pans to make contact with the wire, even if un-powered, so that it duplicates the up and down movement so typical of an electric locomotive moving under a variable height wire, this was not good news. I thought that alternative pans could be sourced but my research and monitoring the efforts of others failed to come up with viable replacements. Why oh why would a company go to all the trouble of promoting what is in every other respect a very good model (though I have read of some rivet counters who were not so happy) and not ensure that the pantographs were at least up to the operational standards available in 1960. Surely, viable pans are the very essence of an electric loco. West Suffolk Junction will not now enjoy modernisation. Steam will rule. That said, if anyone has experience of upgrading the EM1 and EM2 pans I would be interested if they got in touch. Initiatives such as this by Olivia's Trains are worthy of support but it would help if such high priced models were right first time.

I will of course be able to indulge my interest in overhead wires with the re-furbishment of Glatzau (Sachs.). I have a fair collection of East German electrics, the Epoch 3 varieties displaying the classic parallelogram pans (if that is what they are) whist the Epoch 4 locos have the single arm type (why don't I know what they are called - shame on me). Modern practice is for only one pan to be raised, that at the rear of the loco, sort of reminiscent of that wonderful Frank Zappa line, "Buns up kneelin" !!!! Here is an image to demonstrate my point, a 1930's loco beside a 1970's loco:

That's enough from me.

Best regards ............ Greyvoices (alias John)
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That is just great that you have a picture of your childhood layout. The second layout is interesting as well.

I am curious about the Catenary; did you do all the wire work yourself or use commercial products? After some use, did your Pantographs get worn from all the wire contact? I am in the process of building a european layout and am thinking of having real catenary, most probably italian FS style. I have no experience with using it though.
Hi Traingeekboy,

I think with that name you should enter the "Time for a quickie" competition hosted by LF&T over on the Station Concourse section. You are bound to win.

The overhead system on Glatzau is manufactured by Viessmann and is very easy to put together given a little time and patience. It ain't cheap but neither is the competition such as Sommerfeldt. The advantage of Viessmann is that you can get quite a reasonable effect without soldering as it all sort of clips together (with a bit of jiggery pokery). Sommerfeldt can be more professional looking but does require a lot more skill to set up.

The overheads on Glatzau are non powered but. as I've already indicated, the pantographs do touch the wire so much care has to be taken to make sure there are no snags and all is smooth. I make sure that I introduce a prototypical zig zag configuration so that the wire veers from side to side, about 5mm each side of the centre line of the track beneath it. This ensures that the wire rubs on a 10mm section in the middle of the pantograph head (the contact strip) which minimises wear. I also rub an occasional amount of graphite onto the contact strip to help ease it through junctions or where the wires cross. I use artists graphite blocks for this. This is overkill as I don't expect any problems of wear as can be experienced on the real thing. Replacement of the contact strip on 1:1 electric locomotives is an importan preventative maintenance procedure. This US website seems to stock the entire Viessmann range: Viessmann Stockist in US

Before going too far with this I would urge you to order the very informative booklets both from Viessmann and Somerfeldt. They fully explain their systems and are invaluable when planning what parts to order to suit your chosen track layout : Viessmann Overhead System Information Folder

This is also a mine of helpful information available from the same stockist : Sommerfeldt Information Booklet

Of course there are other systems but these are the ones with which I have experience. You may well do a bit of research and opt for something completely different as there maybe components available that are more prototypical of practice, bearing in mind that the Italians electrify at 3,000 volts DC.

I hope that this is of use to you. I had a lot of fun delving into the wonderful world of overhead wires, my interest prompted by my professional involvement with trans-European freight trains and their use of multi-system electric locomotives. I leave you with a photograph that I took early on a Sunday morning in December 2006, the freight transfer yard in Domodossola, just to the South of the Simplon tunnel. I had been hired to upgrade a local Swiss railway company into a trans-Europe freight haulier. This was the first step in that process and I was on hand to make sure that the inaugural train ran without a hitch:

Happy days.

Best regards ............... Greyvoices (alias John)
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Thanks for the information and posting the photo as in addition to my primary interest in 1950s steam around Leeds, my wife and I share an interest in contemporary continental railways and are building up a small collection of locos. That MRCE loco looks a lot like our recently acquired BLS 486 loco from Piko.


Your BLS model is of the 486 prototype which is equipped to work through Germany, Switzerland and in Italy. The loco has 4 pantographs and the correct one has to be selected for each country. It was my pleasure to introduce the first 486 locomotives into Switzerland and Italy and it was some battle. Acceptance in Italy was a nightmare.

The generic type is the Bombardier TRAXX locomotive family going through classes 145, 146, 185 and 186, not forgetting the 484. These are the German and UIC classifications but the 185 and 186 classes are know as 485 and 486 in Switzerland and Italy. There are deriviatives working in many other countries in Europe including the Benelux countries, France, Poland, Scandinavia, Austria, Hungary etc. The locomotives are tweaked with different signalling systems and power management arrangements to allow them to work across all these different systems.

The best use I had from this type was a 186/486 which worked through from Aachen West on the Belgian/German border right through Switzerland (piloted through the Lotschberg and Simplon tunnels by a 436 class (Re 4/4 with freight gearing. Two drivers as the locos are incompatible for multiple running but the 436 was fitted with modern ETCS signalling which the 486 was not) then right through Italy to Brindisi in the South. Roughly 2,000 kilometres one way.

BLS initially used their 486 locomotives (your model) in combination with the 485 locos in their fleet which were fitted with ETCS to comply with the signally system in use between Olten and Bern and then through the new Lotschberg, the so-called base tunnel.

Just out of interest, the original TRAXX locomotive design comes from the Hennigsdorf Locomotive Works in Berlin (just to the North West in fact, in what was the DDR. The first 10 locos were built there but then production was switched to Kassel in the West. Some of this type were also built in Vado Ligure near Genoa.

I think that's enough from me today.

Best regards ............ Greyvoices (alias John)
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Thanks for that information. It is most interesting. When we were in Austria last summer we stopped off at the Brenner pass to do a bit of train spotting from the roof of the multi storey car park of the factory outlet centre. Some of the photos can be found in this photo gallery. There is also a photo of a four pantograph Taurus which we saw on shed at Innsbruck - this one was wearing the OBB Italia livery.

Hi John,

I will side step all of the European last few posts, if that ok. But xmas 1960, how can you highlight the Carpet, with those Curtains. Did we live in the same house LOL !!! Fantastic pic !

Any as for the railway, mine never managed to get off the floor - just got a tadge more spread out.

That could / should be your aspiration for the grand kids !

Truely, Wonderful pic - do you still have anything from it ?

Thanks, Cheers,

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Norm, unfortunately nothing of my first layout has survived, all that is left is this photograph which was hoarded away by my parents with the rest of their snaps. You can imagine how pleased I was to chance upon it when sorting out their stuff after they had both departed. A bitter sweet moment.

Best regards .............. Greyvoices (alias John)
MRF can be so distracting. Too much time was expended on the HS2 topic. I had planned to make progress on both the Glatzau refurbishment plus make inroads on the grandchildren's sandwich layout. I am afraid that not much has been done on either front but at least I now have a pair of Bachmann controllers and all the necessary track, fishplates, pins. cork and an amount of scenic materials for the sandwich. Next Sunday is planned as the layout building day for the family so this week I have to source the foam and ply plus dig out a couple of locomotives, the odd coach and a few wagons, making sure that they are serviced and run well. That GWR 4-4-0, an unwanted Christmas present of 2 years ago, will now come in useful. It can be really difficult to put on that cheesy, "oh what a thoughtful xmas gift" smile when you are an Eastern Region, BR modeller and you are given something that never made it east of Swindon and was scrapped in 1924. Perhaps it's fair retribution for all those years of inappropriate gift choices at which I am so adept. This is the target market for the Hornby Railroad range.

So have I been doing anything else? Well yes, I thought it was about time to take my newly acquired Hornby Britannia out of it's box. I tried running it on Glatzau but it is decidedly hesitant, even though I have thoroughly cleaned the rails with IPA. I am hoping that a bit of oil and serious running in on the rolling road (Bachyrus) might free it up a bit. The shaky running means that I have not been able to assess the sound quality of the model though the crow whistle is not too bad. One aspect of the Britannia that I definitely do not like is that aching chasm between the loco cab and the tender front:

Something has to be done about that and I have a desire to fit some form of concertina weatherproofing between the cab sides and roof and the tender front, as per the prototype. How I am not yet sure. I also need to backdate the model with earlier smoke deflectors and BR symbol. I hope that there is a closer coupling setting but I've not yet checked. My experience with these fiddly links between loco and tender has not been happy because although a second position is available there seems no obvious way of angling the linking piece of metal or plastic so that the hole can be slipped over the locating pin ------- or is that just me being stupid? Why oh why cannot the manufacturers do the simple thing and engineer models that can be easily manipulated. Too often they repeat the, "we must cater for the toy market" mantra. At over £200 pounds a sound fitted Britannia is a bit more than a basic toy. Hornby can be so exasperating but it's what most of us grew up with so we delight in their successes (recent Eastern, Southern and Western coaching stock) but then there is the Class 31 chassis fiasco and serial re-issues of very aged mouldings. I suppose that I feel the lack of modern coupling standards and obsession with radius 1 curve capability because I have had a very favourable experience with H0 models of European prototypes. Don't get me wrong, there have been some absolute horrors inflicted on our continental brethren but, since the universal adoption of the NEM coupling standard nigh on 20 years ago that element has at least improved. As you can see, I am fast approaching full grumpy old man status. All that guff about "clever engineering" from Simon Kohler seems very patronising to an old b******r like me (count the asterisks before being offended).

Something else that has been making rather slow progress is the clear out of surplus items from the railway room. Not much has changed in the past month since Glatzau was installed and I am fully aware that I have to downsize my collection. My aim remains to concentrate on BR Eastern Region in the fifties (with a bit of early sixties) plus East German Railways (DR in the DDR) between 1970 and 1988 but when sorting out the models that have to go there are some that I find it very difficult to part with. The Trix model of the Tragsschnabelwagen Bauart Uai 838 is certainly not going anywhere:

This is a fantastically engineered model of what I believe is the largest wagon in Europe. I have included the coach in the photograph to help you appreciate the sheer size of the thing, the coach being one foot in length, a scale 28.4 metres long ( over 90 foot long). The wagon is a smidge under 2 feet in length ( scale 180 feet). I think that DB only built a couple of them as the sort of heavy, bulky loads that need to be transported by rail are now very rare. The whole of the slung central section can be slewed to one side (on both the prototype and the model) to help ease it around obstacles. The wagon can be configured for different loads with the central "cradle" being capable of being dismantled, the bogie sections then coupling up together for easy movement across Germany to the next job, the cradle being transported in sections in accompanying wagons. This activity can be faithfully re-produced with this model. I bought it a few years ago as it sort of took my fancy. I should not imagine that Trix made or sold many of them so this model must be quite rare and I am loathe to part with it. The instructions advise a staggering minimum radius of 360mm (14-3/16" ) but recommend 500mm (20") or greater.

Another view (please excuse the temporary baseboard join gap):

This thread is more and more like "News from Lake Woebegone".

Best regards ............... Greyvoices (alias John)
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I do like the wagon ....
Hi John,

I am sure you will be able to sort the close cab / tender coupling on the new loco; perhaps for ideas on the cab "curtains"; take a look at Jim-s-w's thread of yesterday, where he has made some wonderful carriage links, a similar approach / principle it seems to me ?

Also as has already been said - WHAT A WAGON !!!!! Any chance of some pics,with the central section articulated, as in operational mode, at some point ?

Good luck on finding the bread / ply & foam / filling for next weekends sandwiches - No Pressure eh !!!!

Great update, Cheers,

My goodness, shock horror, Norm is showing an interest in H0 !!!!!!!

Just for you I will re-configure the wagon in transit mode with support vehicles. May take a little while as I have to find the correct box in that mess of a railway room.

Best regards ............ Greyvoices (alias John)
Following on from the images in post 89.

I have been very busy today in full Parker mode however I did find time to configure the Uai 838 wagon to put it in transit mode. The main cradle support beams have been loaded onto a Uaais 819 wagon which is not quite correct as this is commonly used for the transport of nuclear flasks. I was forced to use the 819 because I cannot find the correct box in which the Uaik wagon is lurking, the prefered wagon being a bit like a warwell upon which a frame would be erected to carry the beams. The minor cradle structure (the orange painted beams) have been loaded onto a Rungenwagen, Rlmms 58 (but there are so many sub-divisions of this wagon it could be a slightly different coding):

and here is the shortened Uai 838 (now 18" long):

One last photo from the rear of the train:

I hope this meets with the approval of both Norm and Anthony. It is a fascinating subject.

Best regards .................. Greyvoices (alias John)
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Evening Parker'

When you said it would take a while, I was not anticipating the next day - well taking into account the late time of the request, the chauffer duties today & obviously allowances for living; thats a turn around in hours - well played that man, & thank you very much.

Have to say from whatever way you look at it, that is some Wagon, or maybe train !!!!!

You willno doubt, shortly if not already no longer be welcoming me onto your thread; But no doubt due to my poor English, that was not the configuration change from the original picture I was after - BUT IT IS A VERY NICE ONE (* now ducking !!!!!!); I was thinking of the still in working mode arrangement, but with the "lifting frame / crane jib sections, turned through 90' ish degrees for unloading parallel to the rails. There was me thinking it would be quite a "quick / simple" adjustment to the original set up LOL !!!!! Have to say, would be good when you next put it all back together again.

Sorry - now got the giggles !!!!!!!!

But I know its just the pic Anthony was after (* it better be LOL !!!!!).

Anyway, bottom line its a fantastic model, & if you ever did need to re - home it; I would be more than willing to assist !

Thanks again, Cheers,

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Hi John,

What an amazing piece of engineering .... could only be fr.. ...........

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Julian, yes it is an amazing bit of engineering, heavy metal with plastic details. Everything on it works perfectly and it is lucky that it's a good runner because a loco really has to dig it's heels in to move it. It's obviously a German model of a German prototype. Trix were swallowed up by Marklin some years ago so I am unsure who, what or where was involved in the wagon's development. I suspect that it was not made in the far east. If this were a UK model of a UK prototype I shudder to think how much it would have cost. I have made reference to Hornby's latest wheeze, the so-called "clever engineering" masking what appears to be a return to less detailed models (I know that I must seem harsh after we have had such a string of interesting releases), so there is no way that one of the big two would make, say, a detailed and accurate model of the "Pollen" based equivalent in the UK.

Now, turning to Norm's requirements (in the modelling sphere!!). Norm, the adjustable elements on this model are not about a loading/unloading configuration because that would be done with a crane. No, it's all about keeping in gauge when loaded and making it more manageable when not carrying any load and moving around the system. The last post was about the transit mode so in this post I will concentrate on keeping the loaded wagon within gauge. First off, a photo of the wagon with a load:

This is a solid casting supplied with the model, supposedly some sort of press.

The difficulty with any long wagon is that the middle will push out to towards the edge of the loading gauge when going round a curve. Obviously, the tighter the curve and the longer the wagon the more the middle will tend to exceed the permitted gauge. This wagon incorporates the ability to move the central, suspended load bearing structure, to one side or another to try to keep as near to the loading gauge as possible. To do this the pivot points on each bogied superstructure can be moved off-centre:

Middle position for normal running on straight track

Offset position (of course it can be moved to the other side as well but I leave that to your imagination)

Here the amount of displacement when in the normal position can be seen

The clearance between the mast and the wagon is increased with the pivot point moved to one side

I hope that comes across. It's certainly not rocket science but it is effective. I can remember seeing apprentice pieces in the Railway Technical Centre in Derby, effectively models made to demonstrate both the skill of the apprentice and the principle of shifing a load sideways to squeeze it past obstructions. Exceptional movements such as this on British Railways were made using a permissive special order, what was it now, a 39997 springs to mind but it looks wrong (was it a 36667 - definitely not). I am sure that someone with a better memory than mine can correct me.

Anyway, that's the last of this model for a while as it's back in it's box where it will stay until I sort out some form of display cabinet. Yet another dream added to the list.

A snug fit back in the box

Best regards .............. Greyvoices (alias John)
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Hi John,

What an amazing piece of kit. No wonder you keep it tucked in safety until you can get a proper display for it.

Thanks for demonstrating it ...

N-Squared has competition, if ever you want to part with it and give it a safe new home ...
[ I think swmbo saw that ...

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**A really nice model indeed - there is another similar but not the same.. I have half a dozen tucked away somewhere if anyone is interested, PM me (I have them in a couple of liveries)


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This has been a totally fascinating sequence of posts to read since I last dropped in, beginning with dawn in Domodossola yard.
I don't know how you can bear coming back to our poverty stricken rail environment after contributing to all that committed Continental through running.
Acquisition of that OTT Trix wagon would cause Julian no end of a prob on his shunting puzzle sandwich.
Sorry for diverting you into HS2, selfishly may I say (in mitigation?) that I personally learnt a lot from it. I was thinking of maybe finding time to compile a summing up of the salient points made,

Ow do,

QUOTE Acquisition of that OTT Trix wagon would cause Julian no end of a prob on his shunting puzzle sandwich.

... Ha yes very true

but I do have 2 x 6' 8" boards awaiting my attention, in the Shed .....

Looking back, even that size getting round it would take a crew of experienced G....... ......

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