Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Colour Lights under (Super)Test

Dummy signals can always be handy for far flung corners of a layout where the aspects can’t be seen; or if you’re on a tight budget. This is part of a set from Knightwing that can be built in many different ways. They’re cheap and they look great. Look out for an in-depth study of the full range of CLSs in MR153...

Before finishing for the Festive break, I’ve managed to put the finishing touches to the latest Model Rail Supertest, destined to appear in issue MR153 (out in late January). The subject is Colour Light Signals in kit and ready-to-plant form and will be followed in MR154 by a look at semaphores.

I’ve been working on and off on this Supertest for the past six months as many of the kits have been quite time-consuming to assemble, not least the 2mm scale signals. Having only ever modelled small layouts with few signals, this is an area where I’m not that clued-up so I’ve also spent some time reading up on various aspects of train control. Despite often hankering after a job as a signaller, I’ve been finding all the rules and regs pretty hard going, but then I’ve never been one for strict adherence to things like that. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist, darling....!

Anyhow, the final signal off the production line has been an Irish-outline, twin aspect unit, built from a kit by Studio Scale Models (, who I’ve not come across before. SSM offer various kits and accessories for modellers of the Irish scene, both in the modern and steam eras. Included in the range is a variety of semaphore and colour light signals, all finely etched in brass and complete with all necessary LEDs, resistors and cables. Not the easiest thing to assemble, the finished signal does look pretty good, though.

The Supertest will also look into fitting and wiring up Colour Light Signals (CLSs), although with this being such a whopping subject, I’ve opted to keep it simple for now. Maybe a more thorough look into this complicated subject will be tackled in the near future..?

I like N gauge. But there are times when I realise why I’ve stuck with OO! Especially when soldering a kit like this. Needless to say that my asbestos fingertips came in useful...

From Studio Scale Models comes a range of Irish-outline CL Signals in kit form. Everything is provided, even down to the decals for the ID plate.

It may not be a full signal kit, but Comet Models ( offer a sheet of etched brass components to produce a number of 4mm scale signals of varying types. The signal head isn’t included so here I’ve added ‘dummy’ plastic head (from Knightwing) plus a Position Light Signal and Stencil Indicator from the Comet bits.

The Comet kit just needs brass or copper tubing for the signal posts and working heads to complete and can be built in all manner of ways. All for just a fiver! Solder construction certainly makes for a rugged signal.

Connecting working signals can be made simpler with an array of coloured wires to match the colour of the aspects. This can get expensive, however, but Maplins offer small bags of coloured wire for a few quid each – perfect for jobs like this.

This Berko four-aspect signal is simple to fit and connect and looks pretty good straight from the packet. A coat of matt grey paint to the post and a little weathering would help, though.
Don't forget that MR152 is out on 30th Dec!!

Thursday, 23 December 2010


May I wish all Model Rail readers and followers of this Blog a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Many thanks to all who have posted comments or Emailed me at the magazine in relation to what has appeared on these pages over the past year. I hope that you all find the Blog worth reading. I hadn’t expected so many people to ‘tune in’ (over 40,000 hits in the first 12 months!), and I’ll try and keep improving the content over the coming year.
Indeed, 2011 looks to be an exciting year with some very tempting new models due soon. I'm particularly looking forward to the Hattons/Heljan 'Co-Bo', Heljan's 4-whl Railbus, Bachmann's LMS 'Twins' and Freightliner Class 70 (just hitting the shelves now, I believe), plus a few of Hornby's recently announced new models for 2011, especially the .... Oooops, almost gave it away - look out for a full list of what will be appearing from Hornby in the new Model Rail - out next week!

To keep with the Festive theme (and mirroring the conditions outside), here are a few images of a snow scene I created for Model Rail a few years ago. Using Scenic Snow and Scenic Shovelled Snow from Deluxe Materials, the scene was knocked up fairly quickly as a demo stage for the two products that were just about to be released. It’s good stuff and, having trialled it a few more times since, I'm happy to recommend it over other brands.
My own preference for application is to brush the scenic area with a PVA-type glue (a fairly thin mixture rather than a 'neat' woodworking glue), especially onto rooftops and over flat ground. For dense areas of vegetation and trees, a spray glue will be helpful, preferably something like Deluxe's Scenic Spray or Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement from a mister bottle. Let the glue become slightly tacky before scattering the 'snow' from above using a dessert spoon or suchlike.
To seal the snow in place, I recommend the use of a clear matt varnish, sprayed at a very low pressure from an airbrush (and at a distance of about 12-18in). Spray glues and hairspray can create too much mess and disturb your nicely arranged snow drifts with their high pressure propellant. Besides, a lot of spray scenic glues (and some hairsprays) remain tacky when dry and, while this is great for the underlying adhesive, a sticky upper surface will simply attract dust and debris. Varnish, on the other hand, will dry hard and give a strong bond (I use Johnsons Klear or Humbrol Mattcote) and it doesn't matter about it overspray landing on structures or track as it will be invisible when dry (and not sticky!).

Incidentally, the Deluxe Shovelled Snow material can also be mixed with a little PVA to form a thick paste that can then be formed into shapes – perfect for a snowman!

All the best - see you in 2011!

Friday, 17 December 2010


Looking at home in the industrial confines of Maudetown Colliery, the new gravity-fed water column and tank are in place to serve the NCB's small fleet of steam engines.

The new water tank and loco filling apparatus are now in place on my Maudetown Colliery layout, serving the small loco servicing spur on the outside of the NCB installation. I’ve been planning the extension baseboard, with measured drawings underway and a shopping list has been drafted for track, points and scenic items.

A chat with the guys from Ten Commandments at the Warley show has led to an offer of more of their low-relief brick industrial buildings, including some new additions to the range, which will be exciting. I should be picking those up at the Glasgow show in February, so that’ll give me time to get the baseboard built. The wagon fleet has also swelled considerably since the first baseboard was completed in 2009 and I’ve a few NCB-branded road vehicles complete too (see earlier posts).

Assembled from cheap and recycled bits and bobs, the tank and its stand proved to be an enjoyable way of passing a few evenings.
What used to be: This is how the layout looked originally, with a Bachmann boiler sat derelict, waiting for a new lease of life. That boiler did go on to pastures new (see post re. Illinois show dioramas), but as you can get a pair of these for a few quid, the other one was pressed into use as a water tank.

As Maudetown Colliery is set atop a hill in a location similar to the South Wales Valleys, there had to be a way of ensuring a good, clean water supply for the motive power. So, I've repainted a couple of rectangular tank wagons to be NCB water carriers. Inspired by the Cromford & High Peak Rly, I'm also looking through my junk boxes for a spare loco tender to treat similarly... it's all fictional but it's good fun!

However, the layout’s namesake – Maude the cat –sadly passed away last week, so the layout has taken on a somewhat sorrow-tinged status. It was, after all, one of her favourite places to snooze when we were working together in the shed. In fact, so many of my everyday tasks are much duller without her, as she was involved in so many of my projects, whether I liked it or not!

But, Little Maudie lives on in my memories and in the form of a model railway that is set to grow, perhaps even further than I’d ever envisaged...

The Empress of Maudetown. After discovering my late feline assistant stretched out between the pumping house and engineering stores, I thought it best to drape my LFC flag over the model (with a little bubble wrap beneath) to preserve some of the details. Despite it becoming a somewhat unexpected sleeping place, she never once broke anything - a true model-maker! She was always suspicious about what may be lurking in the tunnel, however. Although it was usually just a Class 37!

Speaking of which, the sponge-lined boxes of ViTrains Class 37s were a particular favourite with Maude - she had her own unique ideas about comfort!
Even updating this Blog will never be the same now, as she always helped in some way, whether in terms of 'editing' my text or simply keeping my shoulders warm...

... and she was a dab hand at pressing the self-timer button on my camera. What will I do without her expertise?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sentinel Update - Hand-finished prototypes

On show on the Model Rail stand at the recent Warley show was a small fleet of our exclusive OO gauge Sentinel 4wVBT locomotive. Chris Nevard, the expert 'photter' took some lovely images of them and here they are, along with the latest UPdate on the model's progress....

These samples have been hand-painted by Dave Lowery to illustrate how the models will look when released. A fourth model, Departmental No. 57 in BR black with the late crest is taking a little longer as we’ve had to commission bespoke transfers to replicate the hand-painted lettering/numbers of the real locomotive – pictures will follow shortly. GWR green No. 13 will have a printed numberplate – the raised one shown here was assembled by Dave from plastic in the absence of an etched brass plate or transfer. These models will shortly be shipped to China as prototypes for the decoration of the production models. We’ll bring you more pictures and information as soon as we have it. Look out in January issue of Model Rail (MR152, on sale December 30th) for more pictures and information about the Sentinels, and many other new models due for release in 2011.

Our sole working prototype ran like a dream over the Warley weekend, despite having to work in challenging conditions. Indeed, it had been working on the office test track for a week prior to the NEC show without any problems. Haulage has been impressive (better than many bigger models) and, even after running for 8 hours at a stretch, the model felt barely warm. As this is a bespoke drive system designed specifically for this model, the level of performance has been very exciting and offers great potential for Dapol products in the future.

Friday, 3 December 2010

More Steel Wagon Loads

Further to the previous post, here are a few more images from the upcoming Model Rail feature on steel wagon loads. This detailed and repainted Bachmann BDA now carries an assortment of steel girders and sections. You'll be able to see how this was created in MR152.

This wagon load, from Ten Commandments, arrived in the post a little late so has missed out on featuring in the article in its finished form, but this is what it looks like when painted and weathered slightly. It's a perfect fit for the Bachmann OBA or OCA. The product ref. is W184 and rrp is £4.00 - well worth it!

The plaster cast 'load' was primed and painted (Tamiya acrylic Titanium Silver') before a light covering of MIG Weathering Washes ('Oil and Grease' and 'Rust Effects'), all applied by hand brush. The washes settle into the relief in the casting, enhancing the 3D effect of the coils.

This is another cast load from Ten Commandments (ref W163), again fitting precisely into a Bachmann OBA/OCA. The wagon started life in EWS livery but has been sprayed over in Lifecolor BR Freight Bauxite prior to much weathering and distressing.