Thursday, 24 February 2011

Prairie Tank Overhaul

Just completed a full overhaul of a Hornby GWR Prairie Tank for a work colleague at Bauer, involving replacing an entire chassis and revamping the bodywork of a rather elderly model.

As supplied, the motion was knackered, motor a bit rough and bodyshell a bit bashed. Luckily we had a spare chassis in the Model Rail store so that was a very quick swap, although the body needed much more work. New handrails and other small details like brake pipes and real coal chippings in the bunker made a massive difference, plus a driver and fireman squeezed into the cab.

This was the model beforehand...

The main improvement is in the finish, with the body stripped and scrubbed at the beginning of the project and the lining removed in favour of a more appropriate plain black finish with early-style BR crests and etched numberplates (luckily available with the same running number as the original model: 6167 – from Fox Transfers). Blue circle and ‘D’ route restriction legends have also been added.

I took the opportunity to try out a new tin of Alclad2 Gloss Black cellulose paint - it worked a treat - no need for varnish before adding the decals, just a spray of clear satin enamel to finish off.

Although it’s been around for ages, the Hornby model still looks pretty good and the new chassis runs very smoothly. It felt hard to resist going for a full super-detailing and weathering job on this loco as I’m sure the work would be rewarded with an even better looking model. But that wasn’t what my colleague had asked for. Maybe I’ll look out for another donor model and have a go for myself...?

Right, I better pack my bag for Glasgow tomorrow – got an obscenely early start in the morning. Really looking forward to three days north of the border and catching up with lots of readers and traders over the weekend... Maybe see you there?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Signal Box Supertest Complete

Copies of MR154 should be hitting the doormats of subscribers over the next day or two and the shelves of newsagents by the end of the week. Within is the Semaphore signals Supertest and, today, I’ve just completed the third and final signalling-related test, dealing with Signal boxes (to appear in MR155).

Having built 12 kits in N and OO and looked at a mass of Skaledale and Scenecraft products, I’m tempted to say that I’ve seen enough of signalling paraphernalia and am ready for something different! But that’s not entirely true as signal boxes have always fascinated me in a purely visual and imaginative sense. Whether it’s just looking at the beautiful lines of a Victorian structure, the rugged simplicity of an Interwar or austerity design or thinking of the solitude of the signaller at work in the most remote of locations. You can see why Dickens was moved to write his spooky story about the ghostly Signalman!

Anyway, with a box full of assembled kits now consigned to the attic, a few of them have been tempting me to build a layout or diorama around them (see previous post about the 1950s-style Peco kit). In the end, just a humble little Ratio product has been chosen for a diorama and, after painting in LMR colours and fitting with a fully detailed interior, it has been sited beside a sleepy branchline somewhere in the North West.

Although produced in green and cream colours and depicted on the packaging in WR cream and brown, this little Ratio cabin looks equally comfortable wearing LMR maroon and cream. In MR155’s Supertest, we’ll give you some tips on how to detail your signal boxes inside and out.

The signal box carries NEWSHAM on its nameboards, as homage to Newsham Park in Tuebrook, Liverpool where I used to play as a kid. The old LNWR dock branch from Edge Hill to Bootle passes close to the edge of the park and I can remember seeing the odd blue diesel chugging past up on the embankment.

Another reason for christening the cabin thus was as a way of recycling a pub sign that I’d saved from my old layout of Tuebrook . The pub was the Newsham Park, which still exists, and my model of it featured a fully detailed interior with darts match, bar and lounge. Unfortunately, the sign was all that I could salvage from the model and I’m glad that it’s finally found a second home albeit in abbreviated form (the full name wouldn’t fit on the cabin!).
Look out for the signal box Supertest in MR155, on sale in four weeks!

This Ratio kit has received a full interior thanks to a Wills kit and some extra additions, such as the ‘Mini Maude’ feline who has bagged the signaller’s seat by the warm stove!

Signal box kit overload? Not quite! I’ve enjoyed assembling so many kits over the last few weeks.

This Scalescenes card kit was the last building off the production line and is available with a range of brick or stone bases. See for more details.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Signal Boxes Great and Small

Q: How many signal box kits can one man make in a week?

A: Eight and counting!!

I've been having great fun putting together a mass of signal box kits over the past few days, for the Supertest that will appear in Model Rail issue 155 (on sale March 24). It's been mostly plastic kits so far, with a couple left to complete in card. I've also got a Scalescenes downloaded kit to put together. Pictured above are the latest off the assembly line: (from L to R) Dapol, Knightwing (upper), Ratio (lower) and Peco, all in 4mm scale.

I particularly enjoyed assembling this Peco kit of a typical 'Modernisation-era' building, in futuristic 1950s style. This would be perfect for a set of exchange sidings for my colliery layout, as it matches the post-war NCB modernisation theme - it wasn't only BR that built this style of 'box', as the Coal Board also adopted a similar pattern in some locations. Maybe if my proposed layout extension can be enlarged sufficiently to accomodate it....?

I've built one of the Dapol Midland Railway cabins, but also managed to unearth this old Airfix version of the same kit, still in its packaging. This kit still has its uses, but it needs a few extra details.

Talking of Midland cabins, the Hornby Lyddle End box looks nice on my wee N gauge layout-cum-diorama. I think it may be there to stay.

Look out for the Signal Box Supertest in MR155, there will be lots of products considered and some helpful hints and inspiration on how to improve kits and RTR buildings, both inside and out.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Big GUY tipplers finished at last!

Finally, I've finished my pair of Lledo Trackside GUY tippler wagons for my colliery layout; it's only taken about 8 months!! The final weathering, cab interior detailing and payload were added in a spare couple of hours over the weekend. I'm glad that they're done and dusted now, as there's nothing I hate more than having half-finished projects lying around the workshop - it's bad karma!

Bending the axles of the leading wheels give a sense of drama to this tipping wagon.
Taking a leaf out of aircraft modellers' books, I've flattened the base of the tyres on the fully loaded wagon...

... to mimic the depression of the tyres. It should look highly realistic when the wagons are set onto my colliery layout extension.

The front wheels have also been treated, but to a slightly less extent, as the weight is concentrated on the rear axles and the trailing steering set of wheels.

As my colliery is vaguely South Wales in inspiration, the cab of one tippler wouldn't be complete without a Welsh flag! There's also a few discarded issues of the Daily Mirror and assorted paperwork. Note also the tax disc and commercial vehicle licence in the windscreen. All of these, plus the reg. plates, are from Ten Commandments.

The etched wing mirrors and cab footsteps are from Langley Models, while the wipers are from Automobilia.

I'll be demonstrating all of the detailing techniques employed on this (and a few other) models as part of a feature on enhancing road vehicles, to appear in Model Rail issue MR155.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Field Trip to the NRM

The Streamlined Duchess does look amazing - much more striking in the flesh than in any photo or magazine
I recently paid a visit to the NRM in York for the first time in a few years, with the intention of making use of the Library reading room (or Search Engine as they insist on calling it). Being my first visit to this facility, I found it a very impressive space with loads of information at your fingertips.

I love the little touches, such as the winged lamps!

The other reasons for my visit were twofold: 1, I'd still not seen Duchess of Hamilton since it had been re-streamlined (in the flesh anyway) and 2, I wanted to see the North British C Class 0-6-0 65243 Maude. Later classed as LNER J36, this is a lovely late Victorian goods engine (bt 1891) from the design of Mr Holmes. Over 160 of these machines were built up to the turn of the Century and 25 of them served overseas during WW1. On their return, these engines were given names to commemorate important places and Army chiefs such as Haig, Somme and Mons.
The preserved loco carries the name of General Sir Frederick Maude, the most succesful Allied officer in control of the front in Mesopotamia (until his death in 1917). I really fancy making a model of this loco, not least as black tender goods 0-6-0s are a bit of a fascination for me. As far as I'm aware, there's a GEM kit of one of these, but I wonder if there are any other options...?

The C Class locos that served abroad each received simple painted-on names on the central splasher. BR painted over some of them later, although a few did make a return.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to York and remembered how much I enjoyed living there. I also made sure I managed a pint or two in my old favourite pub before catching the train home. Happily, it hasn't changed in the 7 years since I left, which is rare. If you're ever in that fine city, try The Minster Inn on Marygate (YO30 7BH); it's just 15mins from the station. I can recommend the Porter!!

As an aside, I did have a look around the Warehouse of the NRM, where the majority of items that I restored when working at the museum were displayed. To make way for the dubious Scotsman display, many small but fascinating objects have gone, but I did recognise a few that I worked on. This half-relief model of the TSS Normania was one of the last objects that I restored. It had been badly damaged decades ago and it took me weeks to get it presentable again.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A new addition & GUY progress

Lots of written work has taken up my time over the past week or so, catching up on all the articles that I've done the modelling for, but not put the actions into words, so to speak... I did manage to make a bit of progress on my pair of Lledo GUY Tipplers for Maudetown Colliery, that were started yonks ago and left in a half-weathered/half-detailed state. A couple of hours' work have now seen the detailing complete, with new etched mirrors, steps and wipers plus scratchbuilt rear fenders added. This will be described in MR155 as part of a larger look at improving road vehicles.

The weathering needs to be finished and some suitable coal slurry loads added to the tipplers, which I hope to achieve by the end of the week, before the lorries can go back into safe storage pending progress on the Maudetown extension. However, it's been a busy time in the Dent household and we have a new member of the Collective: Pepper, the white Border Collie...

She's settling in slowly but surely and is already helping me in my work - especially in the photography department!