Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Shed Matters

Tidiness was never my strong point, but this is ridiculous!

My shed situation reached something of a crisis point a month or two ago with too much stuff being crammed into too small a space. What with having to work in there as well, and with a few different layout projects vying for room, something had to give. There was also the small problem of the shed itself looking in danger of partial collapse thanks to lots of rotten cladding and a leaky roof!

In Spring, I’d knocked the two separate ‘rooms’ within the 12ftx8ft shed into one big space, having to construct a support for the roof in the process. This did improve matters with a bit more room to move around in, plus space for countless shelves to be erected here and there for paints and dioramas, etc. However, this improvement didn’t last long as the shed soon filled up with other junk (including a 12in:1ft scale semaphore signal arm and assorted bits of railway track!). As I wanted to re-clad and re-model the outside of the building, before insulating and cladding the inside too, that meant that there was no point building any proper storage until that work had been done. But when would I get round to it?

Opening the two sheds into one made a big difference, but the space was soon filled with lots more junk.
More pertinently, the question was when would I get some dry weather to coincide with the spare time to make a start? Well, the bank holiday weekend saw the first sunny day around these parts for ages so I took the plunge and began ripping away the rotten cladding from one side, replacing with a more attractive featherboard style. After two days’ work, I’ve nearly finished one full side. With nowhere to stick all the stuff from inside the shed, everything has just been piled up in a heap until the inside of that wall is finished and I can get some shelves up. Once that’s done, the process will be repeated on the other side.

Hopefully, the lion’s share of the major work will be done before Autumn and the re-wiring and extra lighting can be finished later. What’s more important is that I’ll be able to give Maudetown Colliery a more permanent position along one side, shared with my wartime African layout. Along the other wall, in theory, will be Dent station. In a truncated form, unfortunately, but at least it’s a beginning...!

The exterior re-cladding got underway over the bank holiday...

One side (nearly) done, 3 more to go!

Somewhere behind the piles of stuff is Maudetown Colliery and Dent Station...

Maude's been complaining that she can't get through her cat flap, although all those dioramas stood on end have proved popular as scratch posts, especially the turntable that is to feature in the next Model Rail. Just glad that I'd already photographed it!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bess is in demand!

With many hours’ worth of work and countless individual detailing parts, this little loco has been transformed from its humble beginnings.

Over the past six years, since starting as Model Rail magazine’s Model-Maker in residence, it’s been curious how some of my work has created a lot of interest. It’s taken me a bit by surprise on occasions as what might be expected to be a popular subject garners little reader feedback while the odd obscure project has seen my email inbox flooded with queries for more information.

I suppose a lack of response to the more mainstream subject matter indicates, at least, that I didn’t do anything wrong (we’re always quick to notice a mistake, are we not?) but the amount of interest that certain models have garnered has been immensely gratifying, especially as I spend a lot of time working alone, apart from Maude the cat, but she’s not that reliable a critic!

One of the most ‘popular’ models over the years has been Bess, my little freelance industrial 0-6-0T converted from a Bachmann Junior loco.  She’s featured in Model Rail once or twice, graced the cover of the Model Rail Scenic Expert DVD and formed an important part of my second book on steam loco detailing. I also displayed her on the Model Rail stand at Warley and Glasgow, inviting a fair few enquiries as to her ‘particulars’.

The basis for Bess. This Bachmann Junior 0-6-0T is designed for a kid’s layout although it’s also perfect fodder for a super-detailing job.

Built a couple of years ago, she’s still generating emails and correspondence, so please allow me to add a little extra info here for anyone else who’s interested... The latest raft of enquiries has been in relation to the detailing parts added, especially into the cab interior. As mentioned above, the project is covered in full in my book Detailing and Modifying Ready-to-run Locomotives in OO gauge, Volume 2, so I don’t want to repeat it all verbatim. Not least as the parts list is such a long and eclectic one (whistle and dome from a Stanier 4-6-0, safety valves from a Midland 0-4-4T and so on), most of them coming from the scrap box.

As for the cab interior, however, this was formed from the backhead from an old Airfix plastic kit of a GWR Prairie tank and a number of parts from a splendid etch offered by Mainly Trains (ref. MT227), consisting of handwheels, regulators, reverser levers and other smaller items. All for just a few quid! As the plastic backhead moulding was from a GWR loco, the reverser had to be carefully cut away without removing too much other detail, with an etched lever refitted on the proper side, more appropriate for an LMS man!

The Mainly Trains etch that provided most of the cab interior details.

The solidly moulded cab takes a bit of work to open up, especially as it houses the small circuit board for the power unit that must be moved into the smokebox void. As this bodyshell was also used for Bachmann’s Thomas range in the USA, the smokebox has room for a simple mechanism that allows the eyes to move from side to side when in motion!

At present, Bess is residing in a box in Carnforth, awaiting repatriation back to her home on Maudetown Colliery, having been filmed for inclusion in the imminent new DVD release, The Model Rail Detailing Expert. I think she’s beginning to get used to living life in the spotlight! I still haven't got round to adding a footplate crew, though...

Friday, 20 August 2010

Yet more mineral wagons...!

Another three 21t mineral wagons are fresh off the production line today, destined for use on my Maudetown Colliery layout, when running in the late 1970s/early 1980s era. Above is a pair of rebodied opens, coded MDO. Well, one of them is an MDO, the one on the right has been through-piped for used in vac-braked trains, so carries the code MDP. Using the Parkside Dundas kit, the underframes have been modified with roller bearings, new heavy duty springs (on the MDO) and a few other extra details.

Note the different springs on each wagon. No two of these things ever looked the same!

Also amongst the trio is another Chivers 21t MDV, as mentioned in a number of previous postings. I've still got another 4 of these kits to build and, again, no two of them are the same, with a few small variations added to each kit during construction. Each of these wagons is to be left empty. Indeed, part of the reason for me having to expand my fleet of minerals is that virtually all my previous models were built fully loaded and I want a bit of variety in my coal trains in and out of the colliery!

To augment the 1980s-era operation of the layout (it's planned to be able to shift from 1960-1985 by simply changing the stock and road vehicles), I've finally started to assemble a small fleet of air-braked hoppers, something that I've been intending to do for years. First up is a pair of Hornby wagons being back-dated to the original spec HAA. Using what I've been able to beg (from the MR cupboard!) and obtain cheaply (from Hattons), means that a little conversion work is also needed. As we only had some CDA china clay hoppers in the Model Rail's stash, I've had to pull away the unwanted fittings and plug a few holes. The hoppers, support 'cages' and underframes are now stripped and ready for repainting... watch this space!

And now for something completely different... I've also just built an 'O' gauge GWR open wagon from a CooperCraft kit. Some of the small underframe parts needed a lot of work before fitting, especially the buffers that had been badly moulded (the two halves of the mould looking to have been seriously mis-aligned). Other than that, it was good fun to build and made a nice change. This wagon is to form the basis for a few demonstrations in my next book project, namely weathering and creating realistic 'natural wood' finishes. With an airbrush...

Also on the bench this week has been a Ratio pump house, a Lima Class 121 departmental DMU conversion, a Bachmann Turbostar, a Class 14, various 'steel' wagon loads and countless weathering powders and pigments for a future Supertest. It's been a very busy week..!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Bubble Cars and Turntables

At the weekend we took my 4 year old nephew to the East Lancs for a bit of brain-washing in all things railway. Comprising of a train ride to Man Picc, followed by a tram to Bury, I think he'd had public transport overload before we'd even got to Bolton St. station. I don't know if it was the poor weather, but the railway was pretty deserted for a weekend in school holidays and we had a ride to Heywood and back with a Cl121 bubble car completely to ourselves.

Sat right behind the driver, it was a joy to look at the line ahead and listen to that lovely chugging sound of a first generation DMU - it brought back many a happy childhood memory. Little Joey, however, was not in the same state of reverie as myself and, with that knack of 'kiddie honesty', he simply came out with the killer line: "Why are we on this old train?"

Hmmmm. Maybe he would've preferred a ride behind the Jinty, but then you can't see the track or driver in a Mk1 compartment. I think he was more interested in his dinosaurs and his packed lunch. Anyways, I really enjoyed it. And we got an ice cream in Ramsbottom - in the rain!

Other than that, I've been hard at the grindstone, working on the Turntable Supertest for Model Rail issue 148. Having built and motorised a Peco OO gauge 'table, I just need to build the layout to go with it!! Hopefully it'll be a tiny MPD diorama for display at Model Rail Live at Barrow Hill on Sept 24/25 (see icon at top of the page).

This Peco turntable kit has been built and motorised using a bespoke power unit from Expo Tools. Look out for a full demo in MR148.

In a race against time, we're hoping to receive an early sample of Heljan's new UK-outline turntable in time for inclusion in the Supertest. It looks like a good one: ready-to-fit and DCC-ready, it should prove very popular.

I've also constructed a Dapol (ex-Airfix) turntable kit, complete with a diorama, to offer an alternative to the more expensive Peco offering. For under £10, it's not too bad, but operating it is a bit difficult. See my cheap and cheerful solution in the next Model Rail...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

More NCB road vehicles

A nice little parcel has just arrived from Hattons of Liverpool containing, amongst a few other bits and bobs, a pair of 'OO' gauge Base Toys flat bed lorries. Representing a Thornycroft truck in NCB Retail colours, they're intended for my Maudetown Colliery layout, although the Nottingham address needs removing from the cab doors to keep the location suitably vague!

These are a big improvement on some of the original Base Toys releases, with a much higher specification of finish and detail - including wing mirrors. They just need a few tweaks here and there, a driver or two, sack loads and a lightly weathered finish before entering service at the 'Domestic Sales' outlet of the coal grading plant. For just a fiver each, they're great value too!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Colour Light Signal Progress

As mentioned a few months back, I've been working on a number of colour light signal kits for a future Model Rail feature. I've managed to build quite a few now, doing a bit of work on them here and there when I get a spare hour or two and, for someone who's never really been that 'into' modern signals, it's been an interesting project.

Above is a semi-scratch-built signal using a set of etched Comet Models parts and Knightwing 'dummy' head and 'feather' board. I think I've made the handrail a bit over-scale but nevermind - it still looks ok! Below is the completed etched brass gantry from Traintronics (featured in the earlier blog entry whilst being assembled), again with a pair of non-working Knightwing signal heads. This will look great straddling a 4-track mainline, although I don't have such a layout to pose it on, unfortunately. Maybe I should knock-up a diorama?!

Moving down a scale to 'N' gauge, this great little 4-aspect unit is from NBrass. Although it's not illuminated, it looks ultra-realistic. It's also ultra-delicate, especialy the ladder and handrails. Not too difficult to assemble, though. Even with someone with chunky fingers like me!
Now that these colour light signals are complete, I need to build a few semaphores too. I've got a few Ratio and Model Signal Engineering kits in hand already but, for such an important aspect of model railways, there's surprisingly little choice in the signal market. Maybe that will change in the future...?
Look out for the signal feature in Model Rail in the near future...

I snapped this interesting 2-aspect signal between Grange-over-Sands and Kents Bank a few weeks ago. It's the post that I found most intriguing, made up of a tall concrete base and a steel post of varying diameter.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Stop Press! Realtrack Cl144 pics

I've just received a selection of up-to-the-minute CAD drawings, showing the state of progress on the Realtrack Models Class 144/143 DMU project. It's looking good! For more info, along with projected delivery dates, liveries and ordering details, go to http://www.realtrackmodels.co.uk/

The coupling between the cars will also transmit power for smoother running.

Twin flywheels, four-wheel drive and a fully modelled interior - what more could you ask for? NEM pockets at the cab ends also allows for easy coupling of multiple units.

It looks like the level of underfloor detail will be high with numerous seperate mouldings.

And the exhaust pipe will be fully rendered - a nice touch.