Friday, 27 November 2009

BR Green Clayton arrives from Hattons

Wrapped in the trademark brown paper and string, my latest purchase from Hattons arrived at 7am this morning, seeing me have to leap out of bed to frighten the Postman with my loud pyjamas.
Having convinced myself that I deserve an early Christmas present, I opted for a lovely green Heljan Clayton, having looked longingly at a few on the Heljan stand at Warley. It's very rare that I part with my own money, especially on model railway things (this being my job, after all), but this looks to have been £79 well spent.
I just need to fit the amazingly delicate etched fans and grilles given me by Mr Hanson of Shawplan. I also want to do something about the cab interior. And a nice, gentle weathering job.
Watch this space - or, indeed, the pages of Model Rail.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Lifecolor BR paints: GD's Verdict!

After a couple of weeks of testing, I'm pretty happy with these new acrylic BR paint shades from Lifecolor. As mentioned in a previous post, I helped out a little in the development of these paints, although I never got to trial the shades before production began.

Anyway, the 3 main loco livery elements: BR green, blue and maroon all look accurate to my eye, the blue & green in particular giving excellent results. The maroon takes quite a few thin coats before the correct colour begins to form (it starts off as a bit purple!), but this is natural enough, especially with acrylics. Around 10 or 12 ultra-thin coats, applied when the previous one has set (around 10-15 mins) should do the trick. Don't rush - you'll make a mess!
Rail grey, for Post-1960s blue & grey stock looks fine, too. The two freight shades are ok, but I wonder if the bauxite shade is a bit light; more like the 1970s freight brown... Unfitted grey looks good, however.

Interestingly, the maroon, blue, green and rail grey each dry to a semi-satin sheen, while the freight bauxite and grey offer a much duller finish. Regardless, all of the paints need a few coats of a clear gloss before applying decals, Johnsons Klear floor polish being just the job, adhering well to the Lifecolor paints (better than to some enamels).
Once finished with a sealing matt or satin varnish, the shades look great. I tested mine on an old Hornby Class 37 body and a Lima wagon, both pre-primed in grey (for the blue, green, bauxite and maroon) and white (both greys).

Available now from stockists, including, the paints are packaged in a box of all 6 colours, or seperately.
Definately worth trying for yourself.

Trees, trees and more trees

Been spending my last few evenings assembling a huge number of Woodland Scenics trees, of various sizes, shapes and foliage shades. They're to go on a couple of dioramas that I have planned for the new year and I thought I'd get some ready to plant beforehand.

Besides, it also gave me the opportunity to see how the plastic tree armatures could be improved with a little tidying-up of mould pips and a few coats of acrylic paint.

There's no rest for the wicked, as they say, and with my steam loco detailing book now in the shops, I'm starting my third title for Crowood. I shan't say what it's about just yet (I don't think I'm allowed to - better check my contract!) but somewhere within it should include how to create realistic trees!

When I've planted a few, I'll post some pix of the finished trees.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Steam book is out now!

Despite being delayed for a week or two, my second volume of a series of books dealing with model loco detailing was released yesterday, just in time for the Warley show this coming weekend. Hopefully, stockists will have received their copies!
I've tried to cover as many regions, periods and prototypes within the book as possible, within the limits of the book's study period: locomotives in use in Britain from 1948-1968. And, of course, those types represented in the r-t-r market.
It also aims to appeal to modellers of all levels of skill and experience, starting with how to fit all those fiddly little bits and pieces that come with modern models without making a mess or breaking anything! The book then goes on to adding other small details, re-numbering, repainting, weathering, fitting detailing kits, minor conversions and how to make the best of older models, including a 'showcase' project dealing with the Hornby 'Terrier'.
Illustrated throughout in colour (well over 300 images!), the projects and processes are clearly described with a broad list of suppliers in the appendices. It also has a very thorough index (that took me ages to compile!).
See for more details. The book is also available from all good bookstores, including
Talking of Warley, I'm wondering which models to take with me to display on the Model Rail stand...

Peak Update

My second stab at D10 is finally complete and packed off to its owner. It's funny, having produced two models of the same prototype but a decade apart in terms of details and livery.
Keeping the green D10 spotless also makes for an interesting comparison to the mucky blue 44010!
By the way, has anyone noticed how it's impossible to fit an open headcode disc to the upper position on the Bachmann '44', as the chunky moulded lamp bracket gets in the way!

Something for a rainy day

Whilst browsing in a local Model Shop at the weekend, I came across an interesting orange diesel shunter from Jouef. This HO loco, representing a French prototype looks to have been taken from a cheap starter set as the bodyshell and chassis are a bit basic. However, it has potential.
Not long ago, I upgraded a similarly cheap and cheerful Lima 0-4-0 diesel shunter to a semi-fictitious War Department loco for use on my embryonic layout set in North Africa during WW2 (although not intended to be totally authentic - merely 'inspired by...').
The SNCF loco will follow suit eventually, although it will need a lot of work. The motor is ok but noisy and jerky, so a new unit will be installed, perhaps with twin flywheels. I'm not sure if I'll retain the existing drive unit or upgrade the entire chassis with something like a BullAnt unit. The bodyshell will have to be modified to a large degree to suit the WW2 period, maybe as some kind of requisitioned industrial machine? By not sticking 100% to prototypical accuracy, there's much more room for your imagination to run riot!
See Model Rail issue 133 to see how I converted the Lima model, while the Jouef project will also appear in due course.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Another Peak to Climb

After working on a couple of Peaks for the BR green era, I remembered that I had a spare blue 45 lying around awaiting detailing & weathering. After digging it out from the attic, I realised that I'd pinched the air brake tanks from the chassis for another model.
But hey ho, I'll make some replacements from plastic rod at some point, but I did detail the cab fronts - adding wire handrails, new lamp brackets and scoring on the missing seam line.
The yellow ends were masked and re-sprayed before a bit of dirt was sprayed at it with my trusty Iwata airbrush. And much better it looks for the attention, too. Especially as it's the bulled-up version of 45114 with white roof and bodyside stripes. The clean roof looked luminous when set on my layout and benefits from a bit of exhaust staining.
I'm not sure why and when the real thing was painted thus, a quick trawl through my books and on the internet has found no real info. It looks nice, though!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Colliery layout in progress

Some images of Maudetown Colliery layout under construction in my shed over Summer 2009. Maude's (the cat) input was priceless, snorting with derision with some of the proposed track plans.

The whole caboodle took just 6 weeks, working around all my other Model Rail commitments. Much of the scenic work features in a new Model Rail DVD, The Scenic Expert, due for release very soon.

Rapid-build Colliery Layout

My mini layout set around a fictitious colliery (appearing in Model Rail issue 136) has generated a few queries from readers, including some comments about the track being too clean and tidy! This is true: it should be covered in coal spillage and, indeed, it will be once the points have been motorised and the glitches in the wiring have been cured. You'd think it would have been plain sailing with such a basic trackplan but 'haste makes waste' as my cabinet-making tutor used to say.

With the magazine feature 'in the can' I can take my time and sort out the few problems and get everything up to scratch. I'm also planning a small extension on the colliery side, with the rest of the washery/loading building, plus a short run-round loop. I've yet to finish the fiddle yard as well, but that should keep me busy in my spare time over winter. Although, I have a dining room to re-plaster and some radiators to replace... spare time, what's that??? 

A Pair of Peaks

‘Peak’ D67 has simply had a nose seam line added. I say ‘simply’, but this wee task can take a while to get right. Any errors and a repaint is necessary. With care, the line can be cut with a sharp blade without the need for any refinishing. My book on detailing ready-to-run diesel & electric locos demonstrates how I go about this task. See

The headcode panels have been modified to display 0O00 at one end and .D67 at the other. These Fox decals are, strictly speaking, a bit big for these particular headcode boxes, but they look alright!

Another ‘Peak’, this time a Class 44 has been converted to D10 Tryfan complete with US-style heavy duty grilles, courtesy of an A1 Models set of etched parts. While these new grilles could be better in terms of fine relief (maybe Shawplan could have a go in the Extreme Etchings range?), it’s the only pack around.

Anyway, this is the second time I’ve done this job, funnily enough both times recreating D10 (D9 also had the same grilles). While I did an un-named blue version of 44010 for myself, this green D10 depicts the engine in mid-1960s condition. Again, the technique features in my book on diesel loco detailing.

Something Old, Something Blue

Being a pair of gypsies at heart, me and Mrs D seem to move around a fair amount and rarely get time to unpack all our stuff before getting itchy feet again. After looking through a thousand-and-one packing crates the other day (for something completely unrelated), I came across this old Lima single car Class 121 DMU.

Not a true single-car unit, it was converted from a driving trailer car of a Class 117 using (I think) a Craftsman Models kit sometime in the late 1980s. It’s funny how memory works as I’d almost forgotten that I had this model. However, now I’ve found it, I can picture buying it second-hand from a swapmeet at the Masonic Hall in Warrington in 1988 on a Saturday afternoon. I can even remember what I wore!

My older brother actually did the initial conversion although I ‘refined’ the job a few years later and applied a rendering of blue & grey livery using some aerosol cans. Not having seen the light of day for over 10 years, the motor is no longer up to the job and a few small parts have gone missing. Using Modelstrip paint stripper, the various painting efforts have been consigned to history and the shell now awaits some detailing work and a new paint job, possibly in green.

A new motor is necessary and I’m weighing up the options: a Model Torque drop-in upgrade for the Lima ‘pancake’; a Black Beetle; or perhaps a custom Bull Ant unit. I fancy that this project will morph into a full feature for Model Rail in the near future...   

Sunday, 8 November 2009

New Rail Paints on Test

Just received a pack of British Railways acrylic livery paints from Lifecolor, produced by the respected Italian firm Astromodel. I helped in the development of this range in as much as they wanted to know which would be the best colours to include in a box of six paints, as well as supplying reference images for each shade.
Choosing six colours wasn't easy, not least as the pack was to appeal to steam & diesel era modellers. Therefore, there's the main loco shades of BR blue, loco green and maroon (for carriages too), plus rail grey for blue/grey stock and the two main liveroes for freight wagons, bauxite and 'unfitted' grey.
I had wanted a shade of warning panel yellow, but that would have been at the expense of one of the others and, as there were two different yellows (pre- and post- 1984), which one to include? Anyway, if this pack's a success, I'm sure that the range will expand.
Currently only available in the boxed set, they're available from for a a few pennies less than £14.00.
I'm about to start trialling the paints properly by spraying a couple of models that are awaiting a livery. But that's going to be interrupted by a week away in the Model Rail office in Peterborough. A full review will appear in the magazine in the next month or two, while I'll post some brief musings here in a week or so.
I must say, though that they look promising! Lifecolor paints are high quality acrylics that are a joy to apply by hand or airbrush and I can't see why these should be any different.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Swine flu, Birkenhead & a DBS 37

No sooner had I finally entered the 21st Century and gone 'on line' to start this blog, I go and contract a dose of Swine Flu. No fun there, but thank heavens for Tamiflu.

Luckily, I was well enough to make it to the Birkenhead Show last Friday (Oct 30) and what a nice event it was, too. A good mix of layouts and traders in a very pleasant venue. I've only been back to B'head a few times since we left Merseyside in 2003, so it felt strange going back. It seems an age since I was working in Great Western House, on the site of the old Woodside Station and travelling from Wavertree to HAmilton Square every day (6.30am starts - what a drag).

The Docks have certainly changed since then, with lots of new commercial developments, although the older conversions, especially the old Cheshire Lines Goods Station, now stand empty, presumably as businesses chase lower rates in brand new accomodation?

Anyway, I helped out on Chris Leigh's Herculaneum Dock layout diorama and was meant to repeat the trick on the Saturday until a broken rail terminated my journey at Warrington Central. The old goods yard was chock-full of turned-back East Midlands and First Transpennine units, looking like a full size fiddle yard!

Now back at the grind for Model Rail following my sickie, I'm taking the chance to finish some long-standing projects that seem to have been put to one side to work on more pressing features for the mag. First to be signed off is a DB Schenker Class 37, as 37419. Look out for a full demo on detailing and repainting in Model Rail in the coming months.