Monday, 28 March 2011

Chopper Chat

In order to couple two 20s in a semi-fixed formation, I’ve fitted this pair with Kadees on the nose ends only. The green loco is a dummy (unpowered), salvaged from a knackered MR limited edition ‘Tinsley Twins’ set, thus solving any double-heading issues on a non-DCC layout.

Over the past few weekends, I made it my mission to try and streamline my PC’s hard drive, sifting through literally thousands of digital images of models either in a finished or ‘in progress’ state. Since starting my job at Model Rail, I’ve made a point of photographing virtually everything that I do in the hope that the step-by-step photographs will prove useful in future demonstration articles, Q&A answers etc.

This has, indeed, proved a good strategy, especially after starting this Blog, doing the odd book and helping out kit, glue and paint manufacturers with images for their instructions or catalogues. But, the downside is that I’ve been struggling to accommodate them on my cheapo laptop. Even worse, those files that have been moved onto CDs or USB drives have been ‘filed’ away safely to the point where I’d completely forgotten about them.

However, the archivist within me has been straining to get out recently, so I’ve begun to try and organise these files more logically, printing off contact sheets for each CD for easy reference – this all might sound pretty anal, but it’s already thrown up loads of projects that had slipped my memory. In turn, this will certainly help with a couple of future book and magazine projects that I’ve been toying with.

Anyway, enough of the waffle: Amongst the flotsam and jetsam on my hard drive were a vast number of ‘spares’ from my steam and D&E detailing books, most of which were jettisoned in favour of a more varied content rather than a chapter dealing with a single loco project. Presented here is a selection of pix showing the detailing of a Bachmann disc-headcode Class 20, or ‘Chopper’ as we used to call them (they sounded like helicopters!).

I’ve been quietly assembling a fair little fleet of these Type1s in a variety of period guises, from D8000 in as-built condition, to a handful of DRS-owned Class 20/3s. In the middle is a pair of late 1970s machines, one in blue and the other in a later version of BR green with full yellow ends. Having had a rummage in the attic, I’ve just unearthed another blue 20, so once this is also upgraded and weathered, it’ll give me the option of a blue pair to suit the mid-late-80s period too: just the job for my colliery layout, especially once the extension has been built.

As pairs of 20s on MGR coal traffic was one of the highlights of my teen spotting years (living near Fiddlers Ferry power station helped!), I’ve long wanted to recreate them in miniature, especially the faded blue paint and filthy appearance. Although I just can’t get excited enough about DCC to move away from the old fashioned way of playing trains, there are times when the idea of sound-fitted locos appeals. But, no matter how good the sound is, I get fed up after a short while and want to switch it off! Maybe it’s because I’m just not used to noise at all these days, going out of my way to avoid it. Not having a TV probably has something to do with it – even the radio does my head in after 30mins or so. Maybe I’m just getting old?!? Besides, my imagination is pretty vivid, so I’m happy enough to watch the mini 20s trundle by with the sounds rekindled in my head being the best soundtrack...

Upgrading the roof fan grille is almost essential on many RTR diesels as we spend most of our time looking down onto the models. This is an early Shawplan etch, but I’ve since started fitting the same maker’s Extreme Etches version, although these are very delicate.

The original red plastic fans have been retained in all my models because, well... I’m just lazy!

One of the great features of the Bachmann 20 is the ease with which the cab can be lifted off to allow a driver to be fitted. This chap is obviously checking his schedule between shunting jobs...

Other upgrades include new brass buffers, drawhook, brake pipes, cab front handrails and finer headcode discs.

A pretty heavy coat of weathering has been applied, over some streaks of faded BR blue and yellow. Strips of masking tape on the windscreens create the areas of clean glass, mimicking the movement of the blades and ingrained filth behind the headcode discs and handrails is also pretty authentic.

A speedo cable, fitted to one of the axleboxes, is a simple but effective detail to add. It’s just a small piece of plastic strip and brass wire.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

ViTrains/Lima Class 47 update

Almost there... glazing, interiors and final reassembly are all that's required on this much delayed project.

More progress on my Vi-Trains – Lima Class 47 hybrid can be reported, with final detail painting, varnishing and basic weathering out of the way. What remains now is glazing, adding cab interiors and final reassembly before some extra bits of weathering. Talking of which, I’ve a set of the wonderful etched windscreen masking templates from PH Designs for the Class 47. These help create the distinctive sweep of the prototype’s wipers over a fly- and dirt-spattered windscreen. See MR155 for a review of these templates.

47280 is being depicted a little dirtier than I’d initially envisaged, following a bit of a cock-up in the varnishing stage. Well, a few cock-ups in fact. The first coat didn’t take at all after I forgot to give the body a thorough clean/degrees beforehand. Plus, I’d put the nameplates in the wrong place (secured with the varnish). After laborious rubbing down to prevent the paint being disturbed, I tried again but this time using some pre-thinned Humbrol SatinCote left over from another project. However, this mix had been sitting around for a few weeks and, although kept in a lidded container, it had gone decidedly off.

It really was one of those moments when you know you should have known better, but by then it’s too late. Although it looked fine during the application, after an hour or so it started to ‘pickle’, leaving a very rough, slightly misty surface; Duh! So, more abrading but this time the overall finish started to suffer and it showed through the third clear coat and, thus, a few dirty streaks here and there, plus the odd scratch and rust patch have covered a multitude of sins.

One thing that I need to resolve is the incorrect fuel/water tank arrangement between the bogies. My replacement Vi-Trains chassis portrays the twin banks of battery boxes only but 47280 Pedigree ran with an original-style set of boiler tanks into the 1990s. I’m sure that I’ve got a set of spare Heljan tanks somewhere... but exactly where I’m not sure!

This has been a long, drawn-out project and I’ll certainly be glad when it’s finally signed off.

Here is the list of detailing parts used on this model so far:
Radiator roof fan & grille – Shawplan DP47-00
Engine room window pipes – Hurst Models WP4
Headcode panel with light lenses – Shawplan DP47-05
Headcode panel with white marker dots – Shawplan DP47-04
High intensity headlight – Replica Railways
Turned brass Oleo buffers – A1 Models
Etched coupling hooks – Mainly Trains MT356
Brake pipes & hoses, wipers, buffer beam steps & lamp brackets – from Vi-Trains Class 47 detail pack
Boiler compartment covers – A1 Models
Handrail wire, 0.33mm diameter – Alan Gibson (via Mainly Trains)
Flushglazing, Lima Cl47 – South Eastern Finecast
Pedigree nameplates – Shawplan
Bogie footsteps – PH Designs
Decals: black TOPS numbers - Howes Models (N gauge Class 58 numbers); RAILFREIGHT motifs – Replica Railways; OHW flashes - Fox Transfers; large double arrows – airbrushed through DIY stencils.

This image of a sun-blessed 47280 is from the excellent Class 47 website ( As you can see, the underslung boiler tanks are in situ.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

More 2mm weathering jobs

A few more N gauge vehicles have been weathered up ready for use on my little 2mm scale layout, namely a Farish ‘Jinty’ and a selection of freight stock. The layout will not be period specific – a real ‘anything goes’ affair as it’s being built not only to show off some lovely 2mm buildings and scenic items, but to allow my collection of N locomotives and stock to be run. It is, after all, just a single through line designed for watching the trains roll by!

Before: The Farish Jinty is OK straight from the box, but those bright copper pick-ups and shiny black livery make it stand out from the scenery.

An hour or so with the airbrush and weathering pigments make the little 0-6-0T look much more at home in the scenic surroundings.

I love wagons! In all scales! Indeed, it was the desire to run some scale length freight trains that made me decide to build a 2mm scale layout – I’ll never have the space to do the same in OO!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Another TTA – but smaller!

After work on the Bachmann OO TTA (see previous post), I came across these images of a few N gauge Farish TTAs that I weathered a few months ago, for my latest book project. Creating fine streaking effects is a real test of an airbrush’s abilities in such a small scale, but I found it all rather good fun.
I’ve been assembling a collection of N gauge stock for my little 2mm scale layout that’s about half finished. The idea is to have two separate scenic sections that portray an industrial townscape and rural setting, more as a way of using up a wide selection of scenic items that have come my way than anything else. It just needs the two fiddle yards building and the track wiring up – a job that’s being saved for summer.

The fine nozzle of this Iwata HP-CH airbrush allows ultra fine, close up work – just the job for N gaugers!
An EWS Class 66 would be more suitable for hauling this rake of TTAs, but the Farish 57 is a lovely little model, enhanced considerably with a little weathering.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

TTA tank finished

Have been limbering up - so to speak - prior to filming the next Model Rail DVD next week, by practicing some airbrushing work. What with a VERY cold winter and a recent hiatus in modelling work (in favour of lots of written word/editorial tasks), I thought I'd get back into the swing of things a bit before the cameras roll. Anyway, first off was a couple of TTA loco fuel tanks for my MPD layout. As posted here last October, I'd detailed a BAchmann model with an S Kits set of etched bits and bobs. But now it's finally 'mucked up' in typical fashion.

The detailed and repainted BAchmann TTA. The glossy sheen was a base for the decals (from Fox Transfers).

A dead matt finish and many layers of browns and black, plus a little 'red diesel' combine to give a realistic finish.

I'm assembling a small fleet of these detailed and repainted TTAs for my diesel shed layout. One down, two to go...!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Messing around with track cleaners

Hattons of Liverpool offer a few limited edition liveries on the famous Dapol track cleaning machine, a jaunty Load Haul version seen here. Others include BR blue/grey and a very attractive two-tone green. The Network Rail-esque one was produced by Model Rail a few years ago.

I've just spent the last couple of weeks testing a variety of track cleaning products for the Supertest feature in MR156. Everything (well, almost) from the humble track rubber to the multi-function mobile rail buffer/cleaner/vacuum machine has been looked at and the results will be revealed in Model Rail on 21 April.

We all hate track cleaning but it's one of those essential tasks that can be made easy by using the right products in the right way and at the right time. Rubbers are notorious for leaving behind a trail of debris, but they are the fastest way of shifting heavy deposits of muck. Following with a vacuum cleaner is always recommended.

This natty little number was given to me at Model Rail Scotland and is a simple but ingenious bit of kit. Simple to assemble, it's designed to mimic the heavy ballast box carried beneath LMS 20t brake vans. The kit's designed to fit the ex-Airfix model, now produced by Hornby, but other vehicles can also be modified. It's designed and marketed by Lanarkshire Models & Supplies. For more info, look out for the forthcoming article.   

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Slow Progress on 47

A super-detailed Lima body on a ViTrains chassis makes a good combination and gives a new lease of life to older Lima models (this 47 body is about 20 years old!).

Some projects go through 'the system' quickly, with barely a pause for breath. Others make steady progress over a number of weeks, with a few hours spent every other day tweaking, masking, spraying and finishing. And yet, some modelling tasks can take years to complete, regardless of complexity. 

The latter has certainly been the case with a couple of models that have been in and out of my 'in progress' box over the past 2 years. Most notably this Lima-ViTrains hybrid Class 47. The main detailing work was completed quite soon, then came a lull while I waited for a set of etched bogie footsteps (Reviewed in Model Rail issue 155 - out on March 24). Then the painting process began - into early Railfreight grey livery. But then came the grinding halt at one of the final hurdles: adding the black windscreen surrounds and red bufferbeams. Who'd have thought that it could take so long top get these piddling little jobs out of the way before varnishing, glazing, reassembly and weathering? But then, I've been hanging on to try some of the fabulous Laser Glazing from Shawplan/Extreme Etches that transform the look of the ViTrains models... So, this model may yet have to wait another few weeks before rolling out...

I still love detailing older bodyshells, such as this Lima 47. Drilling-out the radiator fan grilles can be done quickly with a mini power drill, switching to round sanding drums to create the desired aperture shape and size.

Shawplan offer countless parts for the 47, including a wide choice of headcode/marker light panels. I only had time for a brief chat with the Shawplan chaps at the Glasgow show, but I did see some lovely new parts. A full range of boiler roof parts are also available to suit the various differences among the large fleet.

The Lima model features solid moulded cab handrails which benefit from replacement with brass wire. However, the recessed cab side handrails can be tricky to cut away, but grinding the tip of a small flat-blade screwdriver to a sharp point will help. Draw the tip over an oilstone, working on both faces of the blade.

The screwdriver can then be used like a miniature chisel to pare away the waste material, leaving a smooth surface. Tidy up with strips of abrasive paper if necessary.

The painting stage has taken an eternity, working around so many other tasks that pay the bills! A white undercoat for the wrap-around yellow ends is essential.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

See Evercreech New and support a good cause!

Relive the Somerset & Dorset Railway in this prototypical O Gauge layout of Evercreech New, set in the 1960s. Open in aid of the Parish Church of North Barrow, Yeovil, Somerset. Also exhibiting the most famous car associated with British railway heritage, Ivo Peters' Bentley NHY 581.
April 16/17 2011
Open 10.30am - 4pm
Bring the family, enjoy the buffet and relax in the garden of Richmond House, North Barrow, Yeovil BA22 7LZ. Enquiries: 07831 120564 Email: