Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Maudetown Wiring Progress

This has to be the neatest bit of wiring I've ever done under a layout. They're usually much more chaotic than this. But then, Maudetown is pretty basic compared to some of my previous efforts. The sticky pads and cable ties (from Maplins) are a godsend.

The last few evenings have been spent wiring up my Maudetown Colliery layout. Previously, it had simply had the track feed droppers tied together by hand and linked to a controller with terminal blocks, simply as a way of getting stuff moving and to test the trackwork before it was all ballasted. Indeed, built as it was as a diorama first – for the Model Rail Scenic Expert DVD – the operation was of secondary importance in the race to get things built in time for the filming.

Now, however, the model is being converted to a fully working layout and, prior to laying track on the second baseboard, I’ve been getting the original section complete and operational. A pair of Hoffmann slow-action point motors has been fitted and all the necessary wiring has been completed, including the fitting of a trio of working Eckon yard lamps that give a nice, atmospheric feel to the scene.

The next job is to assemble a small control box, with switches, transformer and controller. Designed to be freestanding, the idea is that the layout can be controlled either from the front (for home) or the rear (for exhibiting), the control box clipping onto the baseboard at either side. I’m still tinkering with the track plan for baseboard No.2, so the control panel will have to wait until this is resolved.

The methodical approach needed for wiring-up, especially with non-DCC layouts, is something I really enjoy although I’m no expert in this field. Trial and error is my main source of success! At least on this layout, unlike some previous efforts, I’ve taken great pains to use lots of different coloured cables for specific purposes, thus making the job – and any subsequent maintenance – much easier.

Hoffman point motors are excellent value and they sit well on shallow baseboards, unlike Tortoise motors. They're available from Finney & Smith. See the Point Motor Supertest in MR142 for more info.

A handful of Eckon yard lamps have also been added to add a bit of atmosphere to Maudetown.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Buffing good buffer stop!

Just thought I'd give everyone a sneak preview of this 4mm scale buffer stop kit that will appear in Model Rail issue 160. It's from PH Designs and looks pretty spectacular once it's assembled. Can't wait to see how it looks painted, weathered and sitting on my depot-layout-in the-making...

... talking of which, I managed to fit the Heljan traverser into the baseboard and get it up and running over the weekend so, the next bit of spare time I get will be spent track-laying and wiring. Hopefully, I'll have a train running before too long!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Yet another one for the NCB fleet!

Just been painting & weathering a variety of odds and ends in the shed, mostly to add a few stills on the next Model Rail DVD - The Definitive Airbrush Expert - as previewed in the latest issue of the magazine. I finally finished the script yesterday, so the programme's voice-over is being recorded next week, and the programme should be available in the next few weeks.

One thing that's not in the programme, but was tagged onto the weathering queue this morning, was the final touches on this ex-Firestone Tyres mineral wagon. A Hornby body on a Parkside chassis, it's been distressed and weathered, then re-branded with NCB markings - then weathered again! The paint's still a bit tacky but, once it's dry, I just need to add a little weathering powder here and there to finish things off. I've numbered it as No.6 as I had a really weird dream about Patrick McGoohan (of The Prisoner fame) the other night!!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Laser Glazier

This Vi-Trains Class 37 has been fitted with new Shawplan windscreen surrounds and Laser Glazing. And what a difference it has made. I'm now seriously considering retro-fitting my fleet of 37s with this upgrade - all 15 of them! The parts fit the Bachmann model equally well.

You can see the difference between the modified 37 above and this unmodified Vi-Trains 37. The windscreens look really poor in comparison!

With copies of the latest Model Rail about to hit the shelves (or the doormats of subscribers), here's a quick preview of this month's Workbench Test, dealing with the amazing new range of Laser Glazing from Shawplan. Myself and Nigel Burkin demonstrate how to fit the laser-cut plastic glazing to a number of different models, including coaching stock and locomotives. It's a fairly simple task, but one that makes a massive difference to RTR models.

See pages 66-69 of MR158 for the full story...

Precision cut to fit exactly into each aperture, the Laser Glazing is simple to fit and can be secured with acrylic clear varnish, such as Johnsons Klear, Alclad Aqua Kote or Com-Art clear.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the Bachmann Class 24/25s is the peculiar look of the front windscreens, caused by the prismatic effect of the factory-fitted glazing units. With the new Laser Glaze units in place, that problem is instantly cured and the model takes on a drastically improved appearance.

Monday, 13 June 2011

DEMU 2011

The annual DEMU Showcase at Burton-upon-Trent proved to be another enjoyable show. This was the fourth year in a row that I've attended and, once again, it was well worth the effort to get there. Thanks to all the DEMU staff for making myself and Ben most welcome.

For the first time, I travelled to Burton by train and this proved to be just as enjoyable as the show itself. Three different trains in each direction, with all connections running like clockwork and a few 'firsts': namely, my first trip on the Derby-Stoke line; my first ride on a London Midland Class 350; and the first time that I've ever alighted at Kidsgrove, Tamworth and Derby stations! But what a disappointment Derby was - surely the worst station in Britain and that's AFTER they've just spent loads of money on it. It was interesting to see the Midland Rly memorial to those lost in the Boer War, that still stands on Platform 1. I wonder what the Midland top brass would make of the new Derby station? Why is there nowhere to sit? Only one or two tiny waiting rooms and a cafe offer any seating on the platforms; not much use when you've 40 minutes to kill...

Anyway, back to the DEMU show. I enjoyed the layouts, especially Battersby North End and it was nice to see Chris Leigh's Crescent Wagon Works layout, now in new hands, revamped for DCC and seemingly in fine fettle. All the other layouts were good too.

Dave at Ten Commandments generously gave me a few bufferstops for an upcoming Supertest, which just need painting and finishing. They look good and one of them even has a red LED pre-fitted!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Airbrushing for Railway Modellers: The Complete Guide

I’ve just been informed by the publisher that my new book, Airbrushing for Railway Modellers, is due to hit the shelves of bookshops in July (the 8th is the official publication date). I’m really rather excited about this title, not least as it’s taken a few years to get the whole project together. I received my first advance copy yesterday and it looks good, with nearly 220 pages of info and almost 500 colour images.

The airbrush is an essential tool for modellers striving for professional quality results and, in the book, I aim to show how absolutely anyone can use an airbrush effectively. All you need is a basic equipment set-up and to follow a few basic rules concerning mixing/thinning paints and setting air pressures. The cost of good quality equipment has recently come down drastically, so there’s never been a better time to make the move to spray painting your models. The book contains a wealth of detailed advice on choosing airbrushes, air supplies and accessories to match your own needs and budget.

A good airbrush offers unparalleled levels of finish and consistency while also offering the chance to create unique effects such as weathering and stencilling. All of the necessary techniques are described, along with lots of practical guidance on subjects ranging from airbrush operation, paint formulas and colour matching to cleaning and maintenance.

I’ve included lots of my ‘tricks of the trade’, many of which have not been revealed before, displayed whilst working on an eclectic range of rolling stock, building and scenic subjects, in scales from ‘N’ to ‘O’ gauge. This is a standalone work, independent of Model Rail magazine and not simply a re-hash of old projects. The aim of the exercise has been to produce the ultimate one-stop reference work for any railway modellers interested in using an airbrush, from the complete novice to the experienced model painter.

For more information or to order a copy, go to Copies will also be available at most good book stores or via Amazon (it's already listed on Amazon - click here for a link).

Monday, 6 June 2011

Bubble Car on its Way

Well, the answer to the teaser posed in the last but one posting is...
The ‘sort of’ museum piece is the Class 08 (being repainted as the NRM’s 08911 Matey, the fictional model is the Turbostar in Merseyrail livery (more on these two projects at a later date) and the ex-Lima model is the Class 122 DMU...

... Talking of which, I posted some images of an old single car Lima DMU conversion, that I’d un-earthed from the recesses of my attic, some time last year. As the conversion work was carried out when I was a teenager (or was it my brother who did it – I can’t remember!), it was a little rough around the edges. So, a bath in Superstrip was in order, but this predictably resulted in the breakdown of the glue joints, leaving me with a kit of parts. Not a problem, just an opportunity for another interesting project.

Having recently come across an image of an olive green departmental ‘bubble car’, I fancied having a go at recreating this prototype. Now, I could have just used a Hornby Cl121 single car unit, but it seemed a waste of this 1980s vintage Lima bodyshell and Craftsman Models conversion kit. So, the dye was cast and a protracted project ensued. But at least it hasn’t cost me more than a few quid!

These etched Lion Roar scribing stencils are perfect for adding recessed panel lines or marking out for cutting out apertures. Use a sharp embroidery pin in a pin vice to follow the inside of the stencils. These lines will act as a guide when drilling and filing away the aperture.

One aspect of the original conversion that had to be addressed was the fact that the former gangway end of the single car that had been turned into a second cab had the door and window cut into the wrong place. Much filling and sanding ensued before a sharp pin in a pin vice and some fabulous etched scribing guides from Lion Roar allowed for a quick re-scribe of the window and door frame. Available in various shapes and sizes, these guides are aimed at military and aviation modellers but they’re equally helpful to us railway buffs. They’re available from The Airbrush Company (

Along with the removal of the destination boxes at each end, new exhaust pipes were needed in the correct shape of the prototype. In keeping with the ‘budget’ nature of this conversion, I made use of some single core copper wire (salvaged from off-cuts of some ‘twin & earth’ cable left over from rewiring my shed!), with brackets cut from electrician’s tape.

At the moment, the model is waiting patiently for its turn in the weathering queue, followed by glazing (the Flushglaze pack arrived in the post this morning!) and assembly, using a chassis from a Hornby Class 121. I’d like a set of Ultrascale wheels in due course but this may have to wait for a while. A full demo of the detailing work will appear in Model Rail later in the year, whilst the painting of it will feature in the forthcoming Model Rail DVD... stay tuned for more info...

It must have been the late 1980s when this conversion was carried out, although I did repaint the model sometime in the mid-90s. Many years later, the model still has a use, although a replacement motor will be needed.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Devon, Tintern, Peco and Mk2s

I think I’ll start lobbying Bauer to relocate Model Rail’s office to a sunny seaside location, such as Beer in Devon where Peco are based...

Feeling refreshed after a 10-day break in sunny Devon with the Dent Collective. Dare I mention it, but first stop was actually Peco headquarters in Beer on the south Devon coast! Pecorama’s always a fun day out and I took the opportunity to stock up on track, kits and other odds ‘n’ ends in the Peco shop before going for a paddle in the sea. At least the beach is a pleasant place to browse the latest copy of Peco’s RM mag... something that Model Rail’s Peterborough HQ can’t compete with!!!!

Amongst my purchases were a few N gauge kits for my mini N project, plus a few bargain 'OO' Hornby HBA MGR hoppers (at a 'tenner' each, they were a bargain). I also treated myself to a Peco ‘Wonderful Wagon’ kit, more out of curiosity than necessity – I’ve always wanted a go at building one of these but have never got around to it. Well, I should re-phrase that... I did buy one some years ago and made a start on it, but never finished it and the half-built wagon got lost somewhere when we moved from York.

I’d been keen on the idea of these since finding one in the National Railway Museum collection – it was on display in the Warehouse section, but I don’t know if it’s still there... When I worked there, I was surprised by the amount and diversity of models in the NRM collection: everything from a Lima ‘33’ to a Triang ‘Co-Bo’ (the majority of which were hidden away in store) and the Peco wagon kit was arranged to show its innovative method of construction, with working plastic leaf springs, and so on. Anyway, I’ve now got a 'wonderful' milk tank kit to build at some point in the future, purely for fun!

A coffee break at Tintern station on the way home revealed that the erstwhile and rather decrepit Mk1 BG and GWR carriage have made way for a smart pair of MK2 ‘air cons’ in GWR-esque colours.

This GWR mess van would make a great model to run in a breakdown train. It’s been on my ‘to do’ list for years! A conversion of a Parkside Dundas kit, this shouldn't be too tricky a prospect...

Tintern, on the former Chepstow-Monmouth line is a beautiful spot, on the banks of the Wye on the Welsh border. Well worth a trip for the cakes in the station cafe alone...