Monday, 26 September 2011

Hopping to it

Back in November 2010, I was ruminating on how to progress with my rake of detailed and repainted Hornby HAA merry-go-round coal hoppers. Nearly a year later, they were dug out of the limbo of my ‘In Progress’ box and, with a projected date to appear in the pages of Model Rail (Issue162), the final push for completion was soon under way.

My quest has been to recreate a short rake suitable for use in the mid-1970s-1980s, and, with the basic form of HAA not so freely available in recent years, I’ve had to adapt what I could find. Although this situation (typically) has now changed with Hornby backdating its most recent releases, I’ve been converting CDA china clay wagons and removing the top cowlings from HFAs. As I intended to completely repaint each model, the specifics of each donor model was not important. Indeed, one of the main points of this exercise was to see if the Hornby paint finish could be improved by stripping and recovering with Alclad2 cellulose metallic lacquers.

Now that my rake of HAAs is entering service at Maudetown Colliery, I'm left to reflect on the completion of another long term project; one that has been very enjoyable and well worth the effort. See MR162 (on sale 6th October) for a full demonstration of how these wagons have been improved.

The HAA project stalled last year as I pondered whether to replace the incorrect Hornby buffers. I soon realised that this was really a ‘no brainer’, as the factory fitted units are nothing like the real things. It only takes about 30mins to treat each wagon and the results are well worth the effort. Suitable replacement buffers are available from Intercity Models or Fourmost Models/ABS.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

JPA upgrade

Just finished assembling and fitting an etched replacement walkway onto a 'OO' Bachmann JPA cement tank. The kit's from PH Designs and offers an instant improvement over the solid plastic factory-fitted unit. It took a couple of hours to fold up the parts and fix everything together. There's no need for any soldering - it's designed for use with cyano glue. But something like a Hold n Fold tool is essential to get the long parts to fold accurately.

The kit costs £5.60 plus p&p and can be obtained from

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

2mm Class 66 ready for action

I'm not sure that a 2mm scale detailing project was the best thing to do after a tiring weekend at Model Rail Live, but I threw myself into finishing off the final piece in my Class 66 jigsaw yesterday, for a feature that will appear in Model Rail issue 163. Using the Dapol model, the cab interior was given a lick of paint, a driver and assorted detritus, such as discarded newspapers and magazines. I also fixed a new valance to the bufferbeam along with a scratchbuilt coupling hook and brake pipes. Look out for a full demo in the magazine.

Once weathered, it looks pretty good - not bad for someone who rarely works in N gauge, although I'm slowly becoming a convert... well, to a point!

I just need to take some portrait images of the other 66s that I've modified for the article - a handful of OO models, plus a whopper in G scale.

The eagle-eyed will be able to make out the enhanced cab interior and a suitably attired driver in this Dapol 66. Working in the smaller scale feels like good exercise for my eyeballs - I can feel them working overtime as I try and drill the tiniest of holes!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Images of MR LIVE!

After a terrific weekend at Barrow Hill, here's a small selection of images from this year's Model Rail Live event. Thanks to everyone who came and we hope everyone had a great time - we did! Above is 56101, specially named Frank Hornby by a Model Rail reader on the Saturday. It had been bulled-up nicely for the occasion. I wonder if this means that Hornby will at last be offering a new '56' in large logo blue?!

Barrow Hill's roundhouse is hard to beat for railway atmosphere - it's what a railway museum should be like (take note NRM). There was a wealth of steam, diesel and electric traction to be seen and enjoyed.

My personal passion for early AC electric locomotives was sated by the presence of preserved examples from Classes 81, 82, 83, 84 and 85. Oh, and the unique 89001 was there too. Inter City-liveried 82008 took me back to my trainspotting heyday of the late 1980s/early 1990s.

More AC electrics and a '26' sit around the turntable. It was also good to see progress on the preserved 58016. You know you're old when a loco that you remember being built becomes a museum piece...

The calm before the storm! The Model Rail stand in the DPS shed looks quiet just before the gates opened, but it wouldn't stay that way for long! It was nice to meet so many readers (of MR and this Blog!) and we were all kept busy selling our various limited edition models and magazine 'Goody Bags' that fairly flew off the counter.

If only we could all work in the presence of a Deltic! This was the view from the Model Rail stand all weekend, in the Deltic Preservation Society's shed. D9015 Tulyar's progress is looking impressive and I enjoyed looking around the various spare Napier engines and components salvaged from Navy gun boats from around the world. Oulton Road, a lovely little 'OO' layout to be seen in front of the loco, is in the process of being 'snapped' by Chris Nevard - look out for it in Model Rail sometime soon.

Mr Nevard's own layout, Brewhouse Quay, was also displayed and I was lucky enough to spend a few hours operating it on the Sunday. Talk about addictive... Chris asked me to have a quick go and he had a job getting me off it!! It's a pleasure to operate and proved very popular with visitors all weekend.

The East Midlands Trains shuttles from Chesterfield to Barrow Hill proved very popular (I have to admit to taking the vintage buses instead - although they were younger than my old Micra!!). Also drawing the crowds were the steam services operated by Tornado and Mayflower. I'd fancied a ride on one of these but never got the chance. Maybe next year?!

Thursday, 15 September 2011


I've just received a parcel from Telerail, containing two-dozen copies of the new Model Rail DVD, The Definitive Airbrushing Expert. As regular readers of this Blog may remember, this programme was filmed over a couple of months earlier this year and it's now on general sale.

With over 60 minutes of professionally-filmed footage, subjects include:
  • Choosing the right airbrush
  • Setting-up and using an air compressor
  • Preparing your models for painting
  • Mixing and thinning paint
  • Practice techniques
  • Creating smooth, even coats of paint on flat and 3D surfaces
  • Applying primers, topcoats and clear coats
  • Achieving special effects
  • Working with acrylics, enamel and cellulose paints
  • Cleaning and maintaining your airbrush
Steam and diesel-era models are featured, ranging from an Ivatt 2-6-2T to a Turbostar DMU and each subject is explained fully.

I'll be taking these DVDs to Model Rail Live at Barrow Hill this weekend, so look out for them on the Model Rail stand. Otherwise, copies can be obtained direct from Telerail. Normal price is £30, but Model Rail readers can save £10 by using the order form or reference code printed in the latest magazine.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


This was the first 'real 08’ that I bought years ago in York and it’s covered a fair few miles since, although it still runs perfectly. It actually took me a while to get round to the detailing and weathering, the work being covered in my first book for Crowood Press, Detailing & Modifying RTR Locomotives, Volume 1.

With issues of Model Rail issue 161 fresh on newsagents’ shelves, here’s a selection of images leftover from my article on the humble Class 08 shunter. This proved to be an enjoyable Masterclass feature to put together, with a number of different takes on the ‘Improve a ‘Gronk’’ theme, including adding DCC to a non-DCC-ready model.

Regular readers of this Blog may recall a number of previous posts on this subject, with a few installments covering progress on my NCB-branded 08, plus a few other BR machines. I really can’t get enough of these little shunters and can remember buying a secondhand Hornby model (the ancient one with the Tri-ang chassis) when I was a kid. With much perseverance, I got it running pretty smoothly and the bodyshell went through a number of livery changes, from BR blue, to Railfreight grey and then 3-tone sub-sector grey. Then, as I recall, it went back to blue, with Red Star branding. It was in this guise that it chugged off into the model scrapyard after Bachmann introduced their far superior version a couple of years before I started at Model Rail.

I was living in a rented house in East Yorkshire at the time and the landlord had built the basics of a loft layout before he vacated the property, so it was just a matter of laying a circuit of track on his baseboards. To celebrate, I treated myself to an ‘08’ from the NRM’s shop (my staff discount used to come in handy!) plus a handful of coal wagons and I’d sit happily at my workbench in the attic for hours with this little engine pootling round and round at crawling pace. Happy days!

Another 08 that featured in my book, is this Hornby version. Both the Bachmann and Hornbymodels are great and it’s hard to say which is best. OK, Hornby’s has the opening cab doors and superb interior, but Bachmann’s version look almost as good from the outside but can be much cheaper. You pays your money…

It’s the small things that add up, such as painting the wooden surround to the cab droplight, plus an oil leak from the engine compartment. Then there’s the shunter’s hook and spare oil lamp on the running board and the scratchbuilt fuel filling pipe under the cab.

Bufferbeams can be improved with a few extra touches, such as a coupling guard, piping between the twin air tanks and cross beam linking the front steps. Nice blobs of grease on the bufferheads help, too. This is done with an airbrush – see my latest book Airbrushing for Railway Modellers, for details.

This black number is one of my favorites. It’s one of Model Rail’s recent limited edition Bachmann models, depicting D3052 in plain black but with wasp warning stripes at both ends. Only a handful of ‘Gronks’ gained the yellow and black ends while still in black, so it makes for an interesting sight on a 1970s-era layout.

You can see how most of these ‘08’s were detailed and weathered – including making my own shunter’s hooks - in the latest Model Rail magazine, out now!