Thursday, 29 July 2010

NCB Class 14 gets the ‘Treatment’

I thought the Class 14 looked nice before, but it's looking much more purposeful now that it's been mucked-up and given a detailed cab interior.

As mentioned in my post from last week, all layout building projects have been put on hold for the time being, including the extension to my colliery-themed model. However, there has been something of a surge in ‘extra-curricular’ activity, so to speak.

Fresh off the weathering production line is a Hattons/Heljan Class 14, a pair of Guy Tippers and a handsome little Thames van, all resplendent in National Coal Board livery. Although there are a few tweaks still to be made here and there, it does feel like I’m making progress with Maudetown. Each model is straight from the airbrush, in terms of the weathering, and shows how nice and dusty a light spraying of enamels can look; perfect for items in a colliery scene.

This Ford E83W Thames van is from the Pocketbond Classix range. For just a couple of quid, it makes a splendid model, especially with a little weathering.

The weathering effects will be heightened further by hand, with Tensocrom acrylic paints, Tamiya pigments and a little dry-brushing. The Class 14 in particular needs a few streaks of leaking fuel and oil, plus the odd scratch and rust patch while the pair of tippers need loading with coal or slag and similar weathering ‘extras’. However, these models are now back in the 'in progress' drawer, awaiting a spare couple of hours to finish the job. Then they can go back into their boxes to await the layout extension!

As much of the cab is visible through the windows, it pays to spruce up the interior mouldings and add a driver. I'd have liked to model one of the cab doors open but it's not possible - the metal chassis and motor are in the way.

Look out for a full demo of how I treated the Class 14 to a painted interior, complete with driver, in a forthcoming issue of Model Rail, while the road vehicles may also turn up in another feature that I’m currently assembling. I’m also putting together some plans for a weekend of hands-on demonstration classes, in airbrushing and weathering, that I hope to be teaching in the New Year. More details of these will follow...

The GUY tipplers need quite a bit more work, including drivers, wing mirrors, registration plates, coal or slag loads and some final weathering touches. Note the polished steel effect on the hydraulic rams!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Livestock, Tractors.... and Trains

What a beautiful station! The DVLR certainly had an eye for a good timber building.

It’s easy to miss out on local attractions in favour of days out a bit further afield and, whilst living on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds (when I worked at the NRM in York) there were a number of museums in close proximity that we always meant to go to; Elvington Air Museum was one, along with the Tank Museum at Beverley (now closed, I think). However, other spare time commitments - including volunteering on the North York Moors Rly – meant that many such trips never happened.

Now that places like York, Fangfoss and Pocklington are places to travel to as visitors rather than 'locals', there’s more incentive to make the effort to patronise such attractions and one of those at the top of our ‘hit list’ was the Museum of Farming at Murton. Located just outside York, it’s a great museum with loads of old farm tractors, implements and machinery. If you’re interested in such things, it’s definitely worth a journey. Having driven past it nearly every day on my way to and from the Railway Museum, it always looked quite small, but me & Mrs D were there for most of Saturday although I think we were the only visitors who took such a deep interest in the various threshing, baling and furrowing equipment!

Having both worked in museums, we can be a little over-critical of some institutions, but we loved this place! The only drawback was the lack of a decent array of animals on show; cows in particular. I think it may be my Irish cattle farmer ancestry, but I’ve always had a real interest in cows and the sole black Dexter on display made me a little uneasy. Cows are naturally social animals (with other cows!) and keeping one singly can lead to depression and this young lady certainly looked a bit fed up.

Anyway, Murton is also home to the Derwent Valley Light Railway Society (DVLR), including a half-mile-or-so of preserved track. Being the only surviving stretch of the former privately-owned line from York through Dunnington towards Wheldrake, the line has a fascinating history. A handful of small diesel shunters are in residence, along with a single ‘steamer’ which sadly is not operational. Although train rides are only offered on Sundays, there was a bit of activity on the Saturday with an ex-BR ‘03’ and a Ruston 0-4-0 pootling about, shunting wagons around. The Ruston, incidentally, is painted in Load Haul colours and carries the number 97088, which made me titter a bit!

Load Haul-liveried Ruston 0-4-0 97088 idles away in the sidings.

There are some great little engines to be seen, mostly diesel-powered.

The original DVLR station building was originally sited at Wheldrake and has been lovingly rebuilt at Murton. It’s certainly one of the most attractive station buildings I’ve seen, both inside and out. I’ve been planning a small layout based on the DVLR for some time and this visit certainly gave me lots of inspiration. I’ve also learned that the Farming Museum also houses all of the DVLR’s archives within its library and study centre, so a return visit is looking likely. I’d love to build a model of the station building, if nothing else, so a trip with a tape measure and notebook may be in order!

I couldn't get to 03079, so had to make do with a few shots through a rustic fence in the 'Viking village'!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

More Rolling Stock for Maudetown

Another evening, another wagon off the production line! Last night I put the final touches to the latest mineral wagon intended for use on my Maudetown Colliery layout and it marks the first of my National Coal Board internal fleet. Once I've weathered my Hattons/Heljan NCB Class 14, the combo of private owner loco and wagons will make a nice contrast with the BR traffic that also runs into the colliery.

Working on the rolling stock also gives me the rewarding sense that progress is being made on the layout, despite the second baseboard still not progressing from its initial woodwork stage! Magazine projects and an ever-closer book deadline has seen most extra-curricular activities severely curtailed of late, so my layout projects (currently 4 of them) will have to wait for the late Autumn/winter period.

Based around a Parkside Dundas kit of a BR 21t (ref.PC03) wagon, itself a progression from a GWR design from the 1930s, this model was based on an ex-LMS rivetted bodied 20t Loco Coal wagon. Using an image from the excellent website of wagon spotter extraordinaire Paul Bartlett,
the bodyshell was modified with various bits of plastic and etched brass rivet strip.

Markings are a mix of Fox Transfers and hand-drawn elements, while the weathering job was built up in various layers to achieve a more authentic patina of rust and coal dust. The building of the model (along with a few others that I'm currently working on) will be described in detail in Model Rail some time in the future, probably early next year. However, the weathering techniques involved will be demonstrated in my next book, more details of which will follow in due course....

Weathering in several stages, starting before even the basic livery coat is applied, helps to create some pretty authentic effects, including subtle shadowing within panel lines and around door frames.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Yellow is the Colour

Open this photo in a seperate window to get a closer look at how close the shades of yellow are.

As has been mentioned previously, last year I was enlisted to help with the development of Lifecolor's range of BR livery paints. The modest range of acrylics have proved pretty popular since their release, so much so that modellers have been requesting other colours to broaden the choice available. Choosing just six initial shades was difficult and I think we covered the most popular, save for a representation of warning panel yellow.

However, Alex at The Airbrush Company recently sent me a large box of various shades of yellow from the substantial, existing range of Lifecolor paints, to see if there was a close match for the BR yellow. After much testing, the best of the bunch was UA811/RAL1007 which looks very much like the 1983-1993 shade of warning panel yellow.

The photo above compares it to the Railmatch enamel offering (my usual standard choice). Not a 100% perfect match but, with a tiny drop or two of white mixed in, the Lifecolor paint looks even better. I like to keep to the same formula of paints during any project (save for undercoats and varnishes), so being able to stay with Lifecolor paints throughout my next BR blue or green repaint will be welcome. See The Airbrush Company's website for more details.

Look out for a full repaint featuring these paints here soon. I'm thinking of a large logo blue '37...!

Worth checking out: Lifecolor's range of BR livery acrylic paints.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Lakelander

Another day up in the South Lakes yesterday, on wife delivery and collection duties, was capped not only by spotting a pair of DRS 66s on a long flask train at Grange-Over-Sands, but also a stunningly turned out Black 5 on The Lakelander railtour.

Running from Leicester to Ravenglass, I just managed to grab a pic near Kent's Bank (outside Cedric's house, he of cross-bay walk fame!). I hadn't even been expecting it but the unmistakable sound of a steam engine chattering across the bay had me running to exit the wooded path just in time. It was fairly moving, with barely a puff of smoke visible, on the level stretch between Grange and KB.

Newly refurbished 44932 looked immaculate, complete with Lakelander headboard.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

VDAs & another blue 37

I always loved the red and grey Railfreight livery of the 1980s and have been stocking up on a number of Bachmann VDAs in this scheme to flesh-out my Speedlink-era rolling stock. As featured in the latest Model Rail - on general sale today - I trialled some weathering dyes on my own limited edition Civil Link version of a VDA but was not entirely pleased with the results. Having learned the lesson of not testing unknown products on a precious model, I couldn't see any other way of salvaging the van except for a complete strip-down and repaint.

So, said wagon now carries the red & grey of Railfreight rather than the 'Dutch' scheme of the engineers' department. The repaint has taken a month or two to complete, the various stages being fitted in around other projects and coinciding with a Railfreight-liveried Class 47 (lima/Vi-Trains hybrid) also on the go. I usually wait until I've a couple of things to paint in the same colour, as well as varnishing and weathering - it saves a lot of time mixing paints, etc. It does, however, result in lots of part-finished models littering my workshop at any one time!

The airbrush weathering job was undertaken yesterday. With a number of signal kits and a blue Class 37 also in production, I subsequently sprayed the different shades over each model in turn. I usually just use three shades: Railmatch enamel frame dirt, roof dirt and weathered black, applied in that order, working from the frames upwards. My new Iwata airbrush (also reviewed in the latest Model Rail) proved perfect for adding fine, freehand streaks of grime along the various door and panel seams of the van. Well-thinned paint and a low pressure (about 8-10psi) allows ultra-close up spraying and the Iwata 'brush has a paint flow limiter that removes the risk of too much paint being emitted by accident. Mind you, it's not a cheap device (nearly £200), but the quality results and pleasure from its use are worth it.
This VDA, in the later Railfreight Distribution sub-sector livery, was a birthday treat to myself from my local model shop. It was weathered at the same time as the red & grey van, but with a little more restraint to preserve its newer appearance within my late 1980s Speedlink consist. I just need to fit scale couplings to this van...

Another model in the weathering queue was this Vi-Trains Class 37. Portraying boiler-fitted 37247, this is another blue South Wales 'Tractor' for use on my Maudetown Colliery layout. The loco has also been the testbed for a variety of detailing parts that came into Model Rail for review; most notably the snowploughs and bogie footsteps (PH Designs). A full appraisal and demonstration of these components will appear in th magazine in due course.

Still waiting for glazing and other final detail additions, this grimy '37' is not far off entering service, hauling mineral wagons to and from Maudetown. It's interesting how better the Vi-Trains model looks without its front windows in place - the prismatic effect of the plastic glazing making the windows look smaller and boxier than they actually are. I'm tempted to look into an alternative to re-fitting the original glazing... watch this space...!

Monday, 12 July 2010

DRS Crewe Open Day

There was an impressive line-up of DRS traction at Gresty Bridge on Saturday
The DRS open day at Gresty Bridge, Crewe, was a real success; for DRS, visitors and traders alike. Myself, Ben and Rail Magazine's Richard Clinnick manned the Model Rail stand and it was good to catch up with a good many readers. We were also showing off some of our latest limited edition pre-production samples, namely a Network Rail Mk2, a pair of Regional Railways Mk2s and a tasty little black Class 08 with wasp stripes. Thanks to everyone who came to say hello or to pick up a limited edition model.
There was certainly plenty to see at the depot, with a wealth of Class 37s, 57s, 66s and a couple of 20s. As is the case with DRS, no two locos are seemingly the same, so it was a welcome opportunity to survey a number of locos in detail for future reference. I was particularly taken with 37606 which may yet enter the Dent traction fleet. In fact I picked up a bargain off the Bachmann stand (refurbished customer returns at cheap prices), a 37/5 with its DCC sound chip removed for £45. Peter Harvey of PH Designs also gave me some of his new detailing bits to help me out with a DRS nose end conversion. But, more of this project in due course
Newly refurbished 37409 looked superb - a credit to the staff at Barrow Hill.
37409's new name came as a surprise, but the chap in question was an important figure in 20th Century engineering history.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was the unveiling of 37409, recently returned to service after years in store. The loco looked magnificent, obviously a lot of time and money has been spent on getting this ETH-fitted machine ready. The naming took place at 1pm, overseen by the ever-genial Mr P Waterman, who had spent the morning chatting happily to the throngs of visitors. The actual name took us all a little by surprise. I know a few people who had surreptitiously tried to feel the letters of the 'plates through the covering beforehand. They'd got their hopes up when the first two letters were L and O... Loch Awe perhaps? But no, there were too many other characters.
When told of the name (I missed the actual ceremony), it did seem vaguely familiar and on the train home later, I seemed to remember that Lord Hinton had something to do with the old Atomic Energy Authority. I did a major study of the Nuclear Power industry as part of my Geography A-Level and his name had stuck. However, having looked up his name, I realised that there was more to his career than I could recall. He'd been responsible for starting the industry in this country, beginning with the first reactors at Windscale, one of which went wrong in the mid1950s, triggering Britain's worst nuclear accident to date. Oooops!
Anyway, the fall out (!) of that minor disaster formed the main part of my dissertation, so explains why I'd remembered the name all these years. Perhaps something that he should not be remembered for? With a name change here and there (another power plant on the site was called Calder Hall, then later changed to Sellafield) saw things get back on track and Mr Hinton was promoted to head of the CEGB soon after, helping to create the National Grid.
Incidentally, there is a minor railway link, in that he served his engineering apprentice at Swindon Works, although the GWR didn't offer him a job at the end of his time. He did, though, become chief engineer at ICI by the age of 29; no mean feat. He was also one of the most honoured engineers of his generation by the time he retired and, to his credit, he seems to have been aware of limiting the environmental impact of the national grid as much as possible. Had he learnt a valuable lesson at Windscale?
There was plenty of opportunities to get up close to the various locos - perfect for those important modelling reference photographs.

The now defunct Fastline group's fleet of 66s is in safe store at Gresty Bridge, offering a little variation to the 'exhibits'.

Just a pair of 'Choppers' were present in the old part of the depot, both stored.

I just managed to catch a pic of 47270 as I stepped from my train at Crewe. It was heading a railtour to Bleanaeu Ffestiniog. 57601 was on the rear.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Books Old & New

I've had a week's holiday this week, catching up on domestic chores, decorating, allotmenting, servicing my car and also trying to fit in some work on my next book project. Oh, and it was my birthday too, so I also managed to squeeze in a trip to East Yorkshire to visit our favourite antique dealer in Pocklington. We used to live near 'Pock', so it was nice to have a look around, for old time's sake. Bought an Edwardian chamber pot cupboard, which should come in useful...

Anyway, I've been reading an interesting little book this week, titled The Case For Railway Nationalisation, by Emil Davies. Written just before the start of World War One, it's a fascinating treatise on how poorly, in his opinion, Britain's railway companies were operated. There's also a damning look into how the companies treated their staff. It's obviously a passionate subject for the erstwhile Mr Davies. One can only wonder what he'd make of today's privatised railway...

On the subject of writing books, my third volume for The Crowood Press is progressing slowly but surely, although Maude has been staging a lie-down protest on my computer at regular intervals. I hope it's not my manuscript that is sending her to sleep..?

She did take more of an interest in the script for the next Model Rail DVD, however. This is what I spent much of last week working on and little Maude made some important interventions to a number of sections. Where would I be without my own deputy editor?

Anyway, off to DRS Gresty Bridge first thing in the morning, then back at work proper on Monday morning. Got lots of stuff to get through in the nest couple of weeks, before press on 29th. Although I've enjoyed the break (of sorts), I've missed doing any modelling work, which is a good sign!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Diesel Day at Bury

56097 about to depart Bury for Rawtenstall.

Had a brief jolly to the East Lancs Diesel Gala today, getting there for the first service off Bury at 9am, top-and-tailed by 37109 and 40145. I was the only one in the rear coach, sat next to the window to hear the ‘40’ whistling away at idle speed as 37109 did all the hard work at the other end!

I also managed my first ride behind a Class 20, swapping at Ramsbottom for 20083 to Rawtenstall and back to Bury. There’s something ever-so civilised about sitting in a Mk1 compartment (ex-First Class, no less!) whilst writing an article for Model Rail on my Notebook!

A ‘20’, ‘40’ and ‘56’ lined up at Bury – a real taste of 1980s nostalgia!

Other highlights included ‘Peak’ 45060 (D100) Sherwood Forrester. I built a model of this for Model Rail issue 100, but this was the first time I’d seen the real thing. Class 56, 56097 looked superb in Trainload Coal colours, as did a pair of 50s although green D444 was not going to meet any EU emission targets!

‘Peak’ 45060 looks splendid at Ramsbottom with the 12:50 Bury to Rawtenstall.

The main reason behind the trip was to bag some images of 37901’s roof layout. Despite looking through lots of sources (including a Masterclass in Model Rail from a few years ago), I just couldn’t find a view of the full exhaust and panel layout. So, what better thing to do than go and see the real thing. I knew that being on the footbridge at Ramsbottom would do the trick and I duly got some cracking shots that will help with my Vi-Trains conversion that had ground to a halt.

The reason for my visit: a view of 37901’s roof. I could just discern where the original twin exhaust ports have been plated over.

I also managed to get some other specific detail images to help me in a few upcoming projects, such as Class 37 footsteps and speedometer cables, plus various semaphore signals and assorted bits of infrastructure. Not bad for a morning’s work!

37109 looked in far better shape than last time I saw her, wearing faded EWS colours a couple of summers ago.

Although running well, 47765 looked like it had been pulled straight from the scrap yard! I forsook a ride behind the Peak for this ‘Duff’ on the Bury-Ramsbottom shuttle!

The Inter City stickers were an amusing addition in place of the Ressaldar nameplates on the RES 47.

Tyne Dock Wagon Re-finished

Last night saw me finish and re-assemble a metal kit of one of the distinctive Consett-Tyne Dock iron ore hoppers, somthing that I'd built a few years ago (2005 to be precise) but was never really satisfied with the paint job. Featured in Model Rail issue 82, I'd ended up putting the decals on and varnishing it by hand in the bedroom of a B&B in Peterborough, such was the tightness of the deadline for the magazine. Given that it's a magnificent kit, my rushed finish certainly did it no justice, so it's been on the 'to do' list ever since.

Having been completely stripped of paint, I also took the time to fill some of the imperfections in the white-metal castings, tidy some of the joints and refine the cast buffers. Then, a coat of etching primer preceded the regular priming and finish coats. This time, with a bit more care, the finish is much improved.
Etching primer helps to produce a better, long lasting finish on metal kits. It's only necessary to build up to a light coat, with a semi-opaque finish. The etching takes place as the paint dries, so leave it for a day or two before applying the regular undercoat.

The wagon has also received an improved weathering job, courtesy of my new Iwata HP airbrush - look out for a review in Model Rail soon.

This kit is from the Dave Bradwell range and, although it's not easy to build, it's a very enjoyable project. Fully compensated, it rides ever so smoothly. Decals are from Cambridge Custom Transfers.

I've also got a Tyne Dock 9F kit to assemble, using a Railroad loco as a basis. A combination of Dave Alexander and Comet parts, this is another job in my 'to do' queue!