Sunday, 31 July 2011

SNCF 231G brings back memories

I've been up in the attic this weekend, sifting through my never-ending boxes of junk. Unexpectedly, I came across a HO scale SNCF 231G 4-6-2 (a DJH kit), that I built for the first issue of Model Rail International (April 2005), in the days when it was offered as an occasional supplement within the main MR magazine.

I’d only been in my job at Model Rail for a couple of months when Ben and Chris presented me with this highly complex metal kit. They both had a glint in their eyes when they said I only had a couple of weeks in which to build it. Perhaps it was trial by fire…

Anyway, it was a joy to build, although it’s never been out of the box since undergoing final testing and running-in on the old TTF office layout in Peterborough. After sitting for its portrait photographs, it was packed away and forgotten about. It was a nice surprise to discover it again after 6 years and it's now sitting on a shelf until I find somewhere safer to keep it…

Built at my office desk at Model Rail's HQ over 4 weeks around the turn of 2004/5, this DJH kit was a test of my ability just after starting at the magazine. The plumbing alone took a few days!

Building stuff like this in a busy office is not ideal - there were a few annoyed faces whenever I turned on the mini drill or smelly soldering iron! It's no wonder my old desk used to be a bit messy. It's hard to believe that this was built way back in 2005! I'm sure the years get shorter the older you get....

Thursday, 28 July 2011




With the first quartet of exclusive Model Rail Sentinels now arriving – and almost sold out - we’re delighted to announce that a second batch will be available later this year.

To keep disappointment to a minimum following the rapid sell-out of our first BR Eastern Region ‘Y3’ model (MR-003), two additional BR early emblem versions are in development; ‘Y1s’ No. 68150 and Departmental Locomotive No. 54 – the latter based on the sole surviving ex-BR Sentinel based at the Middleton Railway in Leeds.

These will be joined by our first LMS black Sentinel – No. 7161 - which is one of three locomotives acquired by the company in the 1930s and used at various locations including Burton-upon-Trent, Shrewsbury, Sutton Oak and Ayr. The locomotives passed to BR’s London Midland Region in 1948, becoming Nos. 47181-183. It is hoped that an LMR version will follow in 2012 if there is sufficient demand.

Finally, the fourth model of Batch 2 will be decorated in lined back as preserved ex-GWR and ex-industrial Sentinel Isebrook. This version will be supplied without branding or numbers and will be an ideal base for freelance or industrial locomotives. Isebrook was the subject of the 3-D laser scan that forms the basis of our ‘OO’ gauge Sentinel and is based at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton Road. It was also a guest at last year’s Model Rail Live event (see separate story), where it proved extremely popular hauling brake van rides.

Orders are now being taken for all four models, which should be delivered in time for the Warley NEC show in November. Telephone 01209 613984 or place your advance order online at

We also have limited numbers of our GWR, LNER (fewer than 50 of each left) and BR late crest Sentinel models still available (MR-001/002/004), although these are expected to sell out shortly.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Gronk Heaven

Just putting the finishing touches to my latest feature for Model Rail magazine, to appear in issue 161, demonstrating a number of ways in which the Bachmann and Hornby Class 08s can be improved. Six '08s' have been treated, 4x Bachmann and 2x Hornby, ranging from an as-built 1950s example, to a Freightliner-operated 'Gronk' for the 21st Century. Here are a few left-over images, giving a sneak preview of what's involved...

One of the models that I've been using is this lovely black number with wasp ends. This is a Model Rail limited edition model from Bachmann and represents D3052, a loco that managed to retain its 1950s black livery into the 1970s, having received the 'new' warning panels and overhead wire warning stickers. Supplied factory weathered (this is how it appears straight from the box), I've since added some extra details, upgraded the cab interior and applied some extra patches of grease and oil here and there... See for more details on this splendid little model.

The cab area before... this is where the Bachmann and Hornby model differ markedly!

... and after. Although the false floor precludes modelling the cab to its full depth, a cut-down figure and a suitably transformed bulkhead and console make a massive difference.

I've added some scratch-built detail to the Bachmann chassis, such as this fuel filler pipe and drain cock. The Hornby model also benefits from a few detail additions - look out for the full article in Model Rail 161, out on September 8th...

Monday, 25 July 2011

Finally... Lima 47 completed

At last - the Lima/Vi-Trains hybrid Class 47 is finally completed and ready for service. Despite requiring only the fitting of glazing, wipers and a few minor adjustments, the model has languished on my 'To Do' shelf since May. However, the South Eastern Finescale flushglazing pack was eventually ordered (from Howes Models), promptly received and eventually fitted.

With the new Vi-Trains chassis, performance is lightyears ahead of the old Lima 'pancake' and the appearance of the undercarriage is also much improved. The bodyshell is pretty good for its age but, on reflection, I wonder if I've chosen the wrong livery, as the black surround draws attention to the windscreens, which is, in my humble opinion, the only area where the Italian moulding is lacking. Indeed, even though the SEF flushglaze is much better than the factory fitted 'glass', the prismatic effect at the edges, especially in the curved corners, accentuates the problem. I wonder if those whizz kids at Shawplan/Extreme Etchings are intending to add the Lima 47 to its range that already includes laser glazing for the Heljan and Vi-Trains 'Duffs'....?

I'm chuffed that my Lima bodyshell has a new lease of life, but the windscreens still let the model down, probably made worse by the black band. No matter, at least I've got a Railfreight Type 4 in my collection and the prototype, 47280 Pedigree, was one of my favourites from my spotting days in the 1980s. The nice shiny nameplates are from Shawplan. See previous postings on this model for a full parts list - simply put Lima 47 into the search engine on the right hand side...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

37003 in service

The Bachmann model is all done and dusted and ready for service, depicted in a typical work-stained condition. With the 4-character headcodes still in use, radiator grilles in place and a lack of air brake equipment, the model is rooted in mid-1970s condition.

While it's taken a lot of work, the quality of the original model is such that it provides the perfect basis for the detailing work and a decent weathering job brings out the best in the moulded detail.

See the project demonstrated in full in Model Rail issue 160. And don't forget that you can order your own limited edition model of 37003 from the Class 37 Locomotive Group.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Class 37 progress pt2

Just a quick update on the Class 37 project - we're almost there, with glazing, reassembly and a few tweaks remaining. A late night weathering job kept me in the shed after dark, but a bottle of Robinsons Unicorn and Radio3 made it all seem quite civilised...

Blending in new metal components, without having to repaint the whole model, can be a tricky business. Find out how I did it in MR160, out August 11th...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

EWS 47 While U Wait

While waiting for the paint to dry on my BR blue Class 37 project, I managed to add a few final touches to a ViTrains Class 47/7 that had been on my workbench for the past few months. Looking like a toy when first taken from the packaging, some distressing and weathering work, plus a little detailing, has produced a more authentic model. It's still not 100% ready yet - just a few tweaks are needed, including adding some Shawplan Laser Glazing.

When this '47' first came my way, I was tempted to strip it down and repaint it into something completely different. However, after a little more thought, I’d wondered about recreating an EWS '47' in its twilight years – which is how I remember them. Having had a ‘break’ from railways in the late 1990s, I got back into watching real trains when I moved to York to work at the NRM. Many a free hour would be spent hanging around York station and I even went so far as to get myself a Platform 5 ‘ABC’ and started taking loco numbers again.

By this time, though, 'Voyagers', '66s' and '67s' were starting to take over and my enthusiasm for serious ‘spotting’ began to wane again, especially as the Virgin & RES '47s' became like hen’s teeth. After that, I can only remember EWS '47s' looking pretty knackered and out of use in places like Warrington Arpley and Crewe.

With this in mind, I thought I’d have a go at distressing and de-naming this '47' to suggest a ‘Brush 4’ living on borrowed time. Besides, it’ll give my shed layout a bit of variety when running as an EWS depot! These images give an idea as to how this project has progressed; look out for a full demo of the weathering and distressing techniques in Model Rail.

Is it a toy or a scale model? Straight from the box, the model screams "Hey, I'm PLASTIC!". But the ViTrains model does have great potential, especially as Hattons are selling some of them for under £40 at the mo.

After treating with abrasives and solvents of varying description, a few embellishments were added, such as a replacement engine room access door in grey and a few TOPS number vinyls having peeled away to reveal white backing, as has been seen on a few EWS locos down the years. The Queen Mum nameplates had to go too - not for any political reasons, mind you...

The dodgy glazing has to go. A pack of Shawplan Laser Glazing is on my shopping list, which will be the icing on the cake for this model. As a platform for detailing and modification, the ViTrains model gets my vote over the competition. Especially at the bargain prices some retailers are offering on certain liveries; it pays to shop around.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Goodbye to dear old Milly

Milly in her golden years - getting on to 20years old but still shlepping up to Dent on a regular basis!

It was with a heavy heart that I finally accepted the inevitable and decided to scrap my beloved old Micra. She departed her temporary home (in Gloucestershire) over the weekend, destined for the great automotive abyss and will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of riding in her over the years.

The Dent Collective have had many a jolly time, buzzing about the highways and byways of England since we inherited her in 2003. Indeed, I learned to drive in her, overseen by Mrs D (what a time that was!) along the quiet lanes of sleepy East Yorkshire. I don't think she ever forgave us for moving to the Big Smoke, being a country girl at heart (Milly the car, not Mrs D) and, an incident with some local ruffians, a chase by the Police and a few other unsavoury incidents led her to being stored at my indulgent in-laws, pending a full restoration of her rapidly deteriorating bodywork. At least she enjoyed a retirement back in the sleepy countryside.

While the engine still ran like a sewing machine (and always started first time), everything else started to fall off and a combination of distance and lack of time saw no real work carried out. I think I knew the end was coming when the gear stick fell through the floor when I was running her up and down a private lane, with my little niece and nephew on my lap. They thought it all a great wheeze, but I was gutted. Then the bearings started to seize, oil seals cracking, the brakes failing and an ever increasing pile of rusty metal appearing on the ground beneath her.

The two-tone scheme was a result of the constant battle with rust along the wheel arches, sills and doors. I think she wore the Delphinium blue with real panache! Look closely and the front wing is a different shade... courtesy of Humbrol enamel!

A well travelled machine, full of character and the trusty little 960cc engine could have gone on forever. In fact, I'm wishing I'd taken the power plant out before the Scrappie came - it could have been put to use as a stationary engine, perhaps fixed to a generator to power my shed... It had been suggested that the bodyshell was salvaged and used as a chicken shed... But sometimes you just have to let go.

At least we'll always have our memories. Pootling to York, Hull, Filey, Pickering, Dent, Torquay, Barnstaple, Peterborough, Liverpool, Gloucester and countless other places were regular journeys for Milly, all of which she took in her stride at a stately 52mph.

I even spotted her from the air once, being quite distinctive with her polka dot paintwork as the rust began to take over. How many people can pick out their car from about 5,000 feet?

Goodbye Milly...

Friday, 15 July 2011

37003 progress report

The new Extreme Etchings cab windscreens are a big improvement, but the fitting is a fairly time consuming task.

Another working week is nearly over and I've just come in from the shed, having sprayed the first priming coats over the new brass bits on the Bachmann Class37 project. As the Alclad2 primer dries rapidly, I can already see a few tiny areas where a little more filling and rubbing down will be needed before the BR blue can be applied, to blend in with the factory finish. So, I may be doing a bit of fettling over the weekend, which is no bad thing as it looks like being a rainy one...

Meanwhile, here's a few images of how the model has progressed in the past few days...

The Shawplan radiator fan is a mini work of art, being assembled from 4 separate parts. It looks fab now it's just received a coat of red oxide primer.

Another miniature masterpiece is the roof grille, again from Shawplan. These are ultra-delicate - you only have to look at them in the wrong way and they can break (as I found out to my cost this morning!). This is the second, more successful attempt and it pays to have one spare kit in hand, just in case. The quality of the mesh has to be seen to be believed. Don't use glue on these - clear acrylic varnish is the medium of choice.

The interiors are being spruced up a bit too, these bulkheads having been painted and weathered.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

NCB Stores Vans

This small rake of NCB-branded vans is intended to provide a little operational variety to Maudetown, and a break from the endless procession of mineral wagons.

The new issue of Model Rail features a short article by Yours Truly on the interesting weathering technique known as ‘Pre-shading’. Adapted from what I see regularly in a number of military and aviation modeling magazines, this is something that I’ve only really embraced in the past 18 months or so. I’d been thinking of trying it for some time and limited my first forays to scenic objects, such as steel girders, a couple of turntable kits and a water tower.

It was only when I started work on my Airbrushing for Railway Modellers book that I resolved to explore the technique a bit further, especially where rolling stock was concerned. Starting with a 7mm scale wagon, the results were so pleasing that I moved onto 4mm scale vehicles and, although the smaller scale needs a bit more accuracy and control over the airbrush, I soon got used to it and it’s now become one of my staple techniques, especially for freight rolling stock.

I’ve yet to try it in earnest on a locomotive yet, but I have made a few initial attempts on some scrap bodyshells by way of practice. With a few interesting steam and diesel projects coming up, I think I’ll give the pre-shading a whirl and see what happens. Look out for the results in Model Rail soon.

Meanwhile, here are some images of the finished models that feature in the article in question, in MR159 – Out Now!

This Parkside GWR Mink van has responded brilliantly to the pre-shading method, described in the latest issue of Model Rail. The horizontal planking and external strengthening ribs lend themselves well to creating shadows beneath the thin layer of livery paint.

Com-Art acrylics have been used for the pre-shading, topcoat and subsequent light weathering. They’re ready thinned and formulated specifically for airbrush use. Burnt Umber has been used for this Internal User livery. Com-Art paints are available from The Airbrush Company.

Another model that suits the pre-shading method is this plank-sided van. A Bachmann body on a Parkside kit-built chassis, this is another fictitious NCB stores van for my Maudetown Colliery layout.

This Cambrian Models kit of an LMS steel-bodied van builds into a lovely vehicle. The delicate shading of the body panels would be much more difficult to achieve by weathering after the livery coats have been applied. However, with the pre-shading method, this convincing finish was relatively easy. And quick!

Another Parkside kit, this ex-LNER fish van is now in NCB Stores use, although it hasn’t received a running number yet (ooops!). Again, the darker shading applied before the white coats bring out the relief in the mouldings. I hope that the smell of fish has faded now that the van is being used to move engineering equipment around the colliery network

Monday, 11 July 2011

37003 enters the workshop

In association with the Class 37 Locomotive Group (C37LG), I'm currently working on a limited edition Bachmann 37, produced exclusively for the Group. Using the latest Bachmann Cl37/0 tooling, the model represents the preserved 37003 in its late 1970s/early 80s condition and it's a superb rendition in its own right. However, with a few Shawplan and PHD Designs bits, I'm aiming to achieve the 'Ultimate 37'.... I hope I can do it!

Look out for the feature in MR160, on sale on August 11th. Meanwhile, here are some initial progress shots from the weekend.

Oh, and don't forget that MR159 is out this week and it's another packed issue with some beautiful Somerset & Dorset-themed layouts....

Every 70s loco should 'ave 'em: A driver and secondman ensconced in the cab! These are fairly new diesel crew from Dart Castings.

Taking a saw to an exclusive limited edition model... I was a bit nervous at this point, as I only had one chance to get it right. The stereo was turned off, the phone taken off the hook, the dog put in the other room, a deep breath taken and full concentration engaged...

Is it too smug to say it was perfect first time? Well, I've had a bit of practice with these new Shawplan bits.

The new Shawplan windscreens look great when they're painted and glazed. Definitely worth the effort.

Class 44 grilles query

In answer to a Reader's query about the replacement grilles on my model of 44010, that appeared in one of my detailing books, here are a few images of the loco. Fitted with a set of A1 Models grilles, it represents one of only two Class 44s with this US-style of grille arrangement (44009 being the other). The etched replacement grilles are now very hard to come by and, to be honest, were a bit ropey in terms of the rendering of the fine slats.

Anyway, I hope these images clear up all of the questions raised in Mr Phillips' Email.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Today's the day...

Today's the day that my new book officially goes on sale! So, here's a selection of pages, by way of an exclusive sneak preview of what's contained within the 224 full colour pages that are crammed with information, demonstrations, hints and tips on working with an airbrush, paints and compressed air... Follow this link for details on how to order a copy at a discount price...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Departmental railcar (almost) finished

Another project is now 99.9% complete, namely the long-running Lima Class 122 railcar (see previous posts on this topic). Wearing a drab coat of Departmental olive green, the unit is in use as a route learning vehicle during the late 1970s. Indeed, the model itself dates from about the same time, being based on an ancient Lima Class 117 power car, with a Craftsman Models conversion kit - and some scratchbuilt parts - added. Plus a new Hornby power unit.

I'm just waiting on some Ultrascale wheels and there are a few bits that need tweaking ever so slightly. But apart from that, the model is ready to trundle around. Look out for the full project in Model Rail magazine, while the painting of this model features in the forthcoming Model Rail DVD, The Definitive Airbrushing Expert. Out soon...