Monday, 29 November 2010

Steel wheels keep a-rolling

I’ve been adding the finishing touches to an array of steel-carrying freight stock, complete with realistic 'metal' loads. Indeed, the making, painting and fitting of the loads forms the main thrust of the Model Rail article for which these vehicles have been produced. Look out for the four page feature in MR152, out on Dec 30th.

Most of the featured wagons are of the 1980s style of air-braked stock, intended to form part of my growing Speedlink collection. Much has been based on my memories of similarly loaded wagons observed at Arpley Junction (Warrington) in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, especially the pipes and coil consignments and I’m thankful for Bachmann for offering some suitable – and authentic – wagons in its range; most notably the BDA bogie bolster, plus the OBA and OCA 4-wheel opens. Some of these have been picked up in whatever livery I could find for the lowest price and repainted accordingly in plain ‘Freight Brown’ or the fetching Railfreight grey/red scheme. There are also a few Cambrian Kits’ OBAs knocking around, along with a pair of Hornby OAAs, although the latter really need new chassis to replace the fairly basic renditions of the Margate-built models (which I’ve had since the 1980s!).

Steam-age vehicles and loads are also considered in the feature. With another nice Bachmann product – the BR ‘C’-type Bogie Bolster – forming the basis of a quick and easy project. Making use of scrap or improvised materials and off-the-shelf products, I’ll be suggesting a number of methods of creating realistic loads, along with tips for painting and weathering, plus some ideas on how to secure the 'metal' to the wagons in the most prototypical way. In the meantime, here are a few preview images...

The 1980s are back in vogue in many ways – music, fashion.... But the only good things about the 80s that I remember are Liverpool FC being the best team around and British Rail introducing some colour into the Railfreight scene with bright red/grey wagons and locos. I’ve been slowly building up my collection of 80s-style freight stock in order to recreate various Speedlink services to be hauled by a diverse range of traction, especially Classes 20, 31, 37, 40 and 47. I've still got a lot of work to do, though...!

Tubes, angle, girders or plates can be created from Evergreen material and, as long as the painting is convincing, it’s a quick way to a highly realistic wagon load.

This Bachman BDA is carrying 2 strips of hollow steel rectangular section, created from simply painting some strips of Evergreen styrene.

At the Warley show last week, I picked up a number of useful bits and bobs for this (and other) upcoming MR features. Amongst them was this great stone-cast block from Ten Commandments. It’s tailored to fit snugly inside a Bachmann OCA or OBA and represents a load of steel wire coils. All you need to do is paint it. It’s only £3 – great value!

Other off-the-shelf solutions include these cast whitemetal coils from A1 Models. Again, they need painting and weathering for added realism and they certainly add a good bit of ballast to a wagon – perfect for kit-built stock.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Happy Hoppers

Whilst working on a couple of recent projects involving the need for realistic 'metal' finishes, I've been making use of the splendid range of Alclad2 paints and lacquers. Great for recreating the look and texture of various unfinished materials - such as steel, aluminium, copper and brass - they are probably the best metallic paints around. Happily, they're not expensive but they do have to be applied by airbrush only. I have tried brushing them by hand, but unsuccessfully.

Anyway, one of the projects in question has been my quest to assemble a late 1970s-early 80s-era rake of HAA merry-go-Round hoppers for my colliery layout, using the Hornby model as a basis. They're not available in this condition at the moment, so I've been removing lots of top cowlings and converting the odd CDA derivative with the extra bits and bobs added. Basically, I've been picking up whatever models I can find at the cheapest price, regardless of livery or fittings, as they're all destined for stripping and repainting into a more realistic livery.

The newly painted and weathered hoppers have received a coat of Alclad2 'Steel' which is much more authentic than the shiny Hornby factory finish.

With just a few left to treat, my short rake (8 wagons) is almost complete. I'm just debating whether to replace all the buffers: the Hornby sprung units are nothing like the prototype's Oleos but, as my layout requires lots of propelling manouvres over short radius points, I'm loathe to introduce solid castings in case it causes derailments, what with scale couplings being used... there's also the cost to take into account...

I think a trial run on a single wagon may be in order.

The raised panels on the sides have been picked out in a lighter shade of Alclad2 - 'Semi-matt Aluminium'. The contrast looks stark here but will be toned down with careful weathering.

The steel hopper framing has been treated seperately. primed in white and sprayed with Railmatch's vibrant 'Railfreight Red'.

The hoppers, framing and chassis were wethered seperately to make sure that the paint reached all the nooks and crannies unhindered before reassembly. The finished models look a bit more realistic, but I'm just not sure about the unprototypical buffers. I've also got a few bags of Instanter scale couplings to fit in place of the tension locks...

Friday, 19 November 2010

Shed Update: Mirrors and Numbers

More Class 66 progress has been made this week, most notably with a set of extremely fine etched side mirrors being assembled and fitted to one EWS-liveried example. The brass bits are from PH Designs and require a good amount of care and patience to fold and assemble. Some good quality tweezers, a Hold n Fold tool and good eyesight are also imperative!

I must admit to cutting a few corners with my set, omitting the small brackets between the mirror and stanchion - they were just too fiddly for me. Besides, I think they look OK without them. Once primed and painted (in situ), they look 'the business', especially with the correct square profile of the vertical stancions.

Look out for a full review of these and other parts in the PH Designs range in Model Rail early in the New Year....

I've also been dusting off some models to take to the NEC this weekend for display on the Model Rail stand. Amongst some of this year's featured projects, I'll be taking along the Network Rail Class 150/950 DMU conversion, a DRS Class 20/3 and maybe the Caley 'Pug' and a 'Royal Scot'. I'm just working to finish a 1980s era blue Class 37 with various new detail bits so, hopefully that'll be ready too.

We'll have planty of our limited edition models and lots of other goodies on show on our stand, including a working prototype of the Model Rail/Dapol Sentinel 0-4-0 loco for inspection. So, if you're coming to the Warley show, do pop along and see us!

The parts for the mirrors are small but perfectly formed!

I've also renumbered one of my EWS 66s (I had a pair of 66022 models) - this is not as quick a job as on other loco types, what with the corrugated sides. I'll also be providing an indepth demo of the techniques involved in Model Rail in 2011.

The re-numbering process has also provided the perfect testbed for a new, high quality clear lacquer from Alclad2 that I have under review. Again, keep an eye out for a full appraisal in the magazine in due course.

The re-numbered 66 just needs a bit of weathering to finish it off, but that will have to wait until I get back from Birmingham and the Warley show at the NEC.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Desert Storm

This scratch-built USATC Whitcomb was covered way back in the Nov '06 issue of Model Rail.

Further to the previous posting about my progress with various War Department wagon projects, I’ve been ruminating further on track plans and, more importantly, where to find the space for the layout.

I suppose it’s not the way that most layouts gestate but, after putting considerable time and effort into scratchbuilding a USATC Whitcomb diesel loco (featured in the November 2006 issue of Model Rail), I thought I ought to have a small layout on which it could run.

A number of track plans have been drawn up over the past few years, taking into account the very small area that I have at my disposal. The bare necessities of the layout are to allow enough shunting manoeuvres to maintain operational interest, whilst also showing off my kit-built, scratch-built and RTR-converted stock to good effect. I also wanted a minimum number of scenic features, allowing me to build a few interesting African buildings and the odd armoured fighting vehicle.

Despite the scenic section only being 6ft long, there is plenty going on with this rough impression of my ‘Desert Layout’s' track plan.

Some form of run-round loop will be required, with an adequate headshunt to accommodate a suitably modified 8F 2-8-0, which will be the longest form of motive power envisaged. Additionally, a hidden fiddle yard/traverse must also be incorporated. With all this in mind, the plan is growing from its original minimum space idea to a more complex undertaking.

Another diversion from the initial plan was the move towards finescale track. Initially, I intended to use up my stocks of code 100 track and turnouts that I’ve been carrying around with me for years. The nature of the real desert railway meant that the tracks were partially covered in sand and earth and I’d assumed that this would detract from the overscale appearance of the rails.

Plenty of time has been spent planning the track layout, beginning with a number of sketches in a notepad. Once I had a basic idea of what it was that I wanted, the next step was to draw it out full size on a length of scrap wallpaper. Peco’s full size facsimiles of track and pointwork have been used to check that everything will fit.

Having converted this little Lima 0-4-0 into a freelance WD loco of US origin (for MR133), I’ve recently obtained another donor model to form a second member of the fleet.

A small diorama was built to trial this track and various sands and ballasts, to gauge how the real layout would look. However, the large Code100 rails still looked a bit coarse to me, especially as the rolling stock is being built to a finer spec. So, Code 75 it will be!

As this layout idea is a little out of the ordinary, I’ve been faced with having to experiment with various materials in order to create believable scenery. The diorama featured in these photographs was built in order to trial some of these products and processes. On the whole, I’m pleased with the results although I will have to keep the sand clear of the running rails and point blades. The fine abrasive particles could prove damaging to the locomotives’ moving parts.

Some widely available scenic products have been utilised on this mini 'test diorama', including packs of cork bark and chippings from the Hornby range and tubs of ‘desert sand’ from Games Workshop. Perhaps the biggest resource that I’ve used, however, is fine, kiln-dried sand, left over from various plastering jobs about the house.

The Peco Code100 track has been succesfully disguised with the sand and 'ballast', but the width of the rail heads still give it away. I think I'm going to opt for Code75 instead, although I may build another test diorama to make sure the finer metals don't disappear beneath the sand!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Desert Wagon Progress

Having only just started to recover from a particularly nasty dose of flu, today has seen me ease myself gently back into modelling. Having received a lovely new compressor for review, I set up my mini spray booth in the dining room and painted and weathered a few wagon projects that have been in primer for some time. It also helped that Mrs D has been away, so I didn’t have to worry about any ‘change of use’ issues for the dining table and it was certainly a warmer environment than my shed, especially with the wild weather we’ve had in the past 24 hours.

So, what were the wagons, I hear you cry... They’re destined for use on my layout based in North Africa during World War Two. This is a project that is developing very slowly, with the trackplan almost finalised and the baseboard timber obtained. I think I’ve mentioned previously in Model Rail that I had already built the 2 baseboards some time ago, but they were duly ‘absorbed’ into a potting bench for my wife’s greenhouse!

Well, the layout plan has evolved slightly since then and, without the time or space to restart the baseboard construction, I’ve spent the time amassing some suitable motive power and rolling stock. The basic premise of the layout is a recreation of the Western Desert Railway Extension, as built by the Allies in 1942/3, adding a few hundred miles to the Egyptian State Railway’s metals along the northern (Mediterranean) coast.

As this is a purely personal project, pursued as a means of escaping the rigid authenticity demanded by my ‘day job’, I’m taking plenty of liberties with what locomotives and stock are to appear. Indeed, the layout’s trackplan is deliberately un-prototypical in order to provide some shunting entertainment... the real railway was, after all, just a long single line through the desert!

To compliment my existing Warwell and Warflat wagons, complete with military hardware loads, I’ve been aiming for some general merchandise ‘opens’ and ‘vans’, with the wagons illustrated here being the first off the production line, converted from RTR and kit-built vehicles. Having looked through hundreds of images in the archives of the Imperial War Museum, these wagons are not a million miles away from some of those in use during the War. In fact, the combination of Egyptian State Railway (ESR), British War Department and captured Italian and German vehicles, made for a motley collection of rolling stock.

Next on my list of wagons to build is a couple of ESR brake vans, complete with a commodious veranda at one end. These will be vital, as most trains were propelled along the desert lines, with Allied engineers keeping lookout from the veranda for mines or booby traps on the rails.

This Piko HO gauge bogie van was picked up from my local model shop for a few quid. The previous owner has attempted a fairly rough weathering finish, but no matter – it was soon stripped down ready for repainting.

New buffers, ladders, couplings, bogies (Parkside) and wheels have been added, along with various other small details from the scrap box. Once painted and weathered, the lovely surface relief can be appreciated. Despite being HO scale, it doesn’t look out of place with OO stock.

This Ratio kit is designed to be a recreation of an LMS ore wagon but, again, it has been adapted for War Department use. New buffers, wheels and couplings are the only additions to the kit.

I’ve had a bunch of these old Lima wagons since I was a kid and they're definitely not of BR origin, despite the markings! They're well suited to ex-German or Italian subjects, however.
With a new scratchbuilt underframe and some basic vacuum brake equipment, buffers and couplings, it’s not a too different from some of the steel opens used in Egypt during the Forties.

Once painted in a variety of khaki tones, I think it looks ok. In fact, the quality of the Lima bodyshell moulding can be better appreciated without the toy-like original chassis.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Model Rail’s Century and a half

IT doesn’t seem that long ago that we were putting together Issue 100 of Model Rail, yet here we are another 50 months on, marking a century and a half of the magazine. Thanks to you, we’re still one of the most popular hobby titles on the market in the UK and we’re striving to keep improving the look and, most importantly, the content of the magazine.

Issue 150 also marks the 77th issue that I’ve contributed to, having started as the Model-maker-in-residence way back in the autumn of 2004 (issue 73 to be exact). Doesn’t time fly?! Mind you, I can still vividly recall my first day in the office (and the perilous drive over Woodhead the night before), being given a card kit of a OO gauge narrow boat to build for the review pages. A day or two later, my skills were given a sterner test with an etched brass carriage kit of a Night Ferry sleeping car.

The Hornby 'Castle' made a dramatic cover for MR150, thanks to Chris Nevard's skill with a camera. The model's not too bad, either! In fact, I was pleasantly surprised how nice it turned out as the large double chimney really jarred when first taken from the box. A bit of weathering has really toned it down. It really was a pleasure to work on. The Precision Labels WR route indicator pack is also impressive and you can see how it was assembled and fitted in the latest issue. The model should be on show on the Model Rail stand at this year's Warley NEC show.

The Class 150/950 conversion was also good fun and the job has created a unique and fascinating model to add to my modern departmental stock.

Is it really 50 issues ago that we were celebrating the 100th Model Rail? You may remember that I created a special model for that issue too - a Split-headcode Peak, No.100 Sherwood Forrester. At the time, this headcode variant was unavailable from Bachmann so I had to make my own 'boxes.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Further Shed (66) Progress

Yes, they do keep turning up everywhere... I've been working on a few more Class 66s (Sheds) for my MPD layout, this time in EWS colours. Adding a few details here and there (especially within the spacious cab interiors) and weathering has been the order of the day, making the most of the nice Bachmann OO gauge model. I've done 2 in the red/gold so far, with another to go (it also needs renumbering as I've a pair of 66022s!), plus a DBS red Class 59 to spruce up.

I've also got a very impressive set of etched rear view mirrors to fit to one of the 66s, from PH Designs. I scrathbuilt a set for the 66 pictured above from brass wire and strip, but these lack the characteristic square section of the real things. The PH Designs bits are much more authentic.

Anyway, I've got a stack of rail DVDs from Telerail to keep me occupied on my sick bed.... Pennine traction memories for today, I fancy - I feel an urge to remember the Woodhead route and Class 76s....

No Class 66 is complete without a suitably uniformed driver and a few bits of detritus scattered around the cab. Here, a couple of newspapers and a high viz vest have been added. I covered how to make these details in my first book on detailing diesel & electric subjects.

The rest of the enhancement work has centred around adding a suitably weathered finish. As most of the muck tends to remain on the roofs and underframe, the sides were kept fairly clean. Another touch was to mimic the work of the shed cleaner and his long mop which usually streaks some of the grime down from the roof, at the limit of his reach. A toothbrush suitably disturbs the wet weathering enamels, aided with a trace of white spirit on the bristles.

The finished effect.

A similar method was used on the lower edges of the sides, with a cotton swab rubbing away much of the dirty enamels that had been sprayed by airbrush.

Tensocrom acrylic paints are great for special effects such as oil and fuel leaks. Here, diesel fuel is being added to the tank filler, with some vertical streaks down the sides.

Once dry, the semi-opaque Tensocrom looks very effective, with just a hint of the red diesel staining visible.

Tamiya Weathering Master packs really come into their own on surfaces such as this. Just a hint of gunmetal and rust bring out the excellent detail in the etched roof vents.