Wednesday, 30 December 2009

I’m a Duff Buff (and proud!)

Without a hint of nostalgia-influenced sentiment, I was always excited to see a Class 47 when I was a young ‘spotter’. The ubiquity of the ‘47s’ put a lot of enthusiasts off them in the ‘70s and ‘80s but, living beside a virtually DMU-only line in my formative years, ANY loco sightings were a cause for celebration.

I can just remember jaunts up the Dock Road in Liverpool and seeing the odd blue ‘Duff’ haul a rake of MGR hoppers or Freightliner service across the ungated crossings, preceded by a scruffy BR man with a filthy red flag. My Uncle’s blue Mk1 Escort would be idling impatiently - with the ever-present stench of petrol lingering around the back seat – as the train plodded noisily past the end of the bonnet.

Big days out to Lime Street or, better still, Warrington to spend the day on Bank Quay’s platforms, or a trip on a bone shaker EMU to Crewe would leave me in heaven as lots of blue diesels and electrics scuttled around. A ‘47’ was just as good a cop as a ‘37’, ‘25’ or a pair of ‘20s’. Mind you, a Forty was a different matter! It was the ‘86/4s’ and ‘87s’ that used to bore me. I’d seen them all within a couple of weeks.
But I digress. Part Two of Model Rail’s revisit of the Class 47 Masterclass appears in the current issue (MR139) and concentrates on the 1973-85 period. What we can loosely term the 'Rail Blue period' offered me a few possibilities for modelling subjects to compliment the article. Most obvious was the need for a blue loco, but there was a need for something a bit more interesting.
Killing time in Liverpool, I mooched into Central Library and looked through a couple of ‘47’-themed books. And lo, 47373 jumped out from the pages, complete with flashing rooftop light, a la an old fashioned police car. Maybe the author was so taken with the idea of a Duff acting like an extra in the Professionals, because the light was described as having a flashing blue beam. In reality, it was amber.
But, no matter, my model of 47373 was never going to have a flashing light. Reason 1: I find flashing lights a bit vulgar and... Reason 2: I’m not an electronic sort of chap. I’m sure it’s possible, however, although the light would have to be very small. Maybe fibre optics and a flashing LED would do the trick? Is there anyone out there willing to try it, I wonder....?
Although the ‘70s and early ‘80s was Rail Blue-arama, a small band of Duffs lasted in the tasteful two-tone green scheme until the late summer of 1976, albeit in a pretty knackered version of it. I had intended to do a second ‘47’ in the original Railfreight scheme, as 47280 Pedigree, no less, but that will have to wait for another day (perhaps using a ViTrains ‘47’). What made me change my mind? It was thrift.

At a couple of quid either side of £40 a pop, both of these Bachmann Duffs were obtained from Hattons of Liverpool a couple of months apart. That’s roughly the RRP of a single ViTrains ’47’. Now, I’m not going into which I think is the better model, but I was brought up not to argue with economic fact.
Although the green one was never meant to be a Model Rail project, I thought it would add a bit of extra colour to the piece, where I demonstrate how to replicate that truly awful exterior condition, while keeping the yellow ends fairly spotless!
Check out Model Rail to see the feature in full, although there are a few ‘spare’ images here to give an idea of what work was involved. The blue machine has a new set of Shawplan roof fan grilles, which are superb. Until I stuck my lumbering fingers straight through the delicate mesh just before photographing the models. Now they’re spoilt a bit by the blobs of superglue holding them in place. So, if anyone’s thinking of fitting this upgrade pack, keep those fingers away from the grilles once they’re fitted!
I hope readers enjoy the '47' feature in the mag, which is due out today. Hopefully my subs copy will arrive with the post today (we're lucky if we get a delivery before 4pm out here) as I've yet to see my piece 'in the flesh'. In the mean time, here's some extra info on my two chosen prototypes, lifted mainly from the excellent Class website.

Prototype Factfiles
Originally numbered D1892, this Brush-built Class 47 entered traffic on August 6 1965. Renumbering into the TOPS sequence, as 47373, took place in 1974.
One of two ‘47's specially equipped for working within power stations on MGR duties, a flashing amber rooftop light was fitted above each cab, along with remote control and slow-speed equipment. 47277 was the other ‘47’ so fitted, although Class 56 56074 also received a similar light.

Delivered new to Tinsley shed, it then moved to Knottingley in 1967 where it stayed until 1979. Transfer to Healey Mills took place in 1979, before a return to Tinsley five years later. After serving the South Yorkshire coalfields for over 20 years, 1987 saw the Lincolnshire port of Immingham became ‘373’s home as the machine became part of the Railfreight Petroleum pool of locomotives. Here it stayed until storage and eventual withdrawal in 1992. The end came at MC Metals, Glasgow, in November 1994.
Although never fitted with a boiler, it retained its water tanks until the early 1980s. 47373 also kept the distinctive cab roof lights, although once these had been rendered obsolete, only the glass tops were removed, the bases being left in place. These remained until around 1990 (through an application of early ‘red stripe’ Railfreight livery), finally being removed to accommodate rooftop radio aerials about the same time as a repaint into the three-tone Railfreight grey scheme, with Petroleum Sector markings.

Built as D1888 in July 1965, this machine went first to Tinsley, but spent most the following two decades working freight around the Nottinghamshire area, before transfer to Crewe in 1985. One of the last half-dozen ‘47s’ to remain in BR green, 47369 finally succumbed to Rail Blue in the autumn of 1977 when it was despatched to Crewe for a major overhaul. The blue scheme was retained until the late 1980s when triple-grey Railfreight livery was applied, with petroleum sector markings.
Another freight-dedicated locomotive, 47369 also never received a train heating boiler although the side filler hatch and under-slung water tanks remained in place until the late 1970s and 1980s, respectively. Fitted with slow speed control, this was another ‘47’ that spent long periods working MGR coal trains around the Midlands. Withdrawal came in 1996 and the locomotive became history after cutting-up for scrap two years later.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Having been deluged with nearly a foot of snow over the past five days, Dent Towers is rapidly disappearing into the white landscape and making the journey to my shed-cum-workshop is getting more and more difficult. I’m at risk of losing my white cat out there, too...

Above are a couple of photos of the scene from (almost) our front door on Sunday, as me and Mrs D braved the elements to make a lunch date across a few fields – well, about 5 miles of fields. I must say that it was a bit tricky coming back in the dark.

All this has got me in the mood to get on with my Settle-Carlisle layout, recreating Dent station in the snow. Ben called me the other day asking what my New Year resolution was for 2010 (for Model Rail’s biogs page) and, while I said something about trying to sort my shed into some semblance of order, what I should’ve said was to make some progress on Dent – not least as I haven’t touched it since October 2008.

Maybe Mrs D will give me leave to spend a few hours of the holidays 'on shed' and at least get some of the scenery formed behind the ‘Up’ platform. Once that’s done, Monkey Beck will follow before the bleak moorland scenery can be applied.

Who knows... if the snow continues, maybe I’ll be snowed-in by then?

Anyway, MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Festive Jobs

No, not Christmas shopping, but Model Rail jobs to do over the festive period... First up is this wee Caley Pug 0-4-0T, using a Hornby Railroad model as the basis. I've already spent a day stripping the bodyshell and adding various new details. In fact, I'm just waiting for my shed to warm up enough for me to go and spray a coat of primer over it (we had a bit of snow up here in the Pennines this morning - not much, but a bit!).

While that paint dries, I'm going to look into improving the look of the chassis, without making any drastic mechanical alterations. It's the cylinders that may need the most work, I fancy. The full project will be described in the Feb 2010 issue (MR140).

A few other things are cluttering my workbench this morning, to be slotted in around drying glue and paint on the Caley Pug: Some C-Rail containers, more 21t mineral wagon kits and some Q&As to catch up on.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

DRS Class 20 Revisited

Although the Warley show is now a few weeks behind us, I only just got round to emptying my ‘samples box’ last week, working out how I’m going to feature some of the products that various traders were kind enough to pass my way.


I’ve already mentioned the lovely Shawplan Class 17 roof fans and grilles – so lovely that I was drawn to spend my pennies on a Heljan Clayton within days! Brian Hanson generously gave me a fistful of Class 20 bits as well, aimed at a DRS conversion.


I converted a Bachmann ‘20’ for my first loco detailing book (Detailing & Modifying r-t-r Locomotives, Volume 1 [Crowood Press 2009]) – as pictured here – but made  use of a series of A1 Models bits that were the only suitable parts available at the time. Now, I don’t want to do the A1 bits down as the finished model looks pretty good (if I say so myself) but, compared to these new Shawplan products, the A1 window frames do look a bit chunky.


A further boon for DRS Class 20 conversions is the availability of etched kits to form the extra bodyside fuel tanks, which I had to scratchbuild on my model from plastic card. Ironically, there’s now a choice of kits for this feature, from Shawplan and Peter Harvey Design, both looking supremely well executed and I’m looking forward to trying both. Mind you, it means that I need an extra Bachmann ‘20’!


For modellers of the contemporary scene, it’s worth having a glance at Peter Harvey’s website – - as there’s some cracking stuff available, some of the kits and finishing aids being highly innovative. I especially like the etched brass windscreen masks for use when weathering, leaving a clean area where the wipers have done their work. I’ll also be reviewing these for Model Rail soon.


Another consideration is which prototypes to choose as the basis for my models and which version of the attractive DRS livery. A set of new ‘Compass’ decals is in my reviews ‘Inbox’ from Lancaster City Models who are also offering numbering packs to compliment the logos for both OO and N gauges. Personally, I prefer the original scheme, so maybe I’ll do one of each.


Stay tuned for updates on this pair of ‘Choppers

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Chivers 21t Mineral Wagon & Bauxite Paint

Further to my recent testing of the Lifecolor BR livery paints, as my previous posting mentioned, the only colour that I wasn’t entirely convinced by was the BR Freight Bauxite.

This looked too pale to me but, with a little Lifecolor UA701 Rust Dark Shadow mixed in, a much better shade is produced. What’s more, varying the ratio of the mix provides some welcome diversity to a rake of similarly liveried vehicles. You only have to glance at a few images of the real thing to notice that every one seems to be a different colour. And that’s before they started to turn to more of a rusty appearance!

The wagon featured here is built from the splendid Chivers Fineline ‘OO’ gauge kit of a BR Dia. 1/120 21t mineral wagon. I’ve built three of these wagons now and am about to order another half-dozen to complete a 1970s/early 1980s period train of coal empties, probably to be hauled by a scruffy blue ’37. You can get this - and the rest of the Chivers range - from DC Kits. See

A full review of the kit is to feature in Model Rail early in the New Year.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Big Tipper!

Treated myself to a fleet of National Coal Board tipper lorries for the planned extension to my little Colliery-themed layout. These Guy trucks look great and the tipper even tips! Complete with twin hydraulic rams. I'm tempted to pose at least one of them with the rear raised, dumping a load of slag or coal onto a stockpile.

Produced by Corgi in the OO gauge Trackside range, I picked a few of these up from Hattons of Liverpool the other day. They're crying out to be detailed and weathered and, perhaps, to have the odd donkey-jacketed chap in the cabs.

Anyway, I'll keep this blog updated with news of the layout's (and these trucks') progress. I've got a few other things to finish first:
2 Bachmann 47s, a DJH Jones Goods 4-6-0 kit, a Caley Pug, a German electric thing, plus a stack of things to build for review.....