Monday, 31 October 2011


Latest Model Rail features a low-down on the best Rolling Roads

Copies of Model Rail issue 163 will be hitting the shelves of newsagents this week - and landing on doormats of subscribers already - and within the pages are a host of useful articles offering tips and techniques for modellers of all abilities. In the Workbench section, we have a Supertest on Rolling Roads and Model Lubricants, while there's also a 'Basics' guide to keeping your locos running in tip-top condition.

What's more, there's also a free DVD on the cover (featuring footage from Model Rail Live and much more) and free China Clay hood kits.

MR163 offers tips and advice on keeping your models properly lubricated...

... and a range of rolling roads are assessed.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thursday night is hobby night

A little progress on the OO9 train

Thursday nights, for people of a certain age, will be forever associated with Dad's payday, Mars Bars, Top of the Pops and Mission: Impossible. Now I'm a grown up (without a TV), the odd spare Thursday evening is usually taken up with an hour or two's work on some of my 'pet' projects.

Tonight, my little 'OO9' narrow gauge train has received some attention, with the loco now mounted onto its motor/chassis and a few fine details added to the cab ends. Once the roof joint has cured, I'll be adding handrails and other bits to the sides, which will take away the 'boxy' nature of the kit. The top of the boiler needs one or two fittings, plus a chimney, safety valves and whistle. After that, the mini threesome can enter the paint shops, although I haven't settled on a livery for the loco yet.

Couplings have been added to the freight cars, making use of some 'N' gauge buckeyes from MicroTrains.

The power unit: a chassis from a Farish 'J94' 0-6-0ST. The body has now been mounted, but I need to insert a few shims to get it riding at the correct height in relation to the wagons.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

F****G WHAT?

The steam locomotive that dare not speak its name..

Captured in the NRM's workshops back in February 2011, a national icon resembled a full-size kit. I hope all those bits are numbered and that the NRM haven't lost the instructions...

Akin to one of those challenging brass loco kits that sits in a box on a shelf, only coming out now and again for more hours of hair-pulling and cursing, one of our national treasures has been in the news again recently. Although much of the ins-and-outs of the saga have passed me by (not being a huge fan of L**R stuff), the story has recently been on my mind.

After a recent visit to an undisclosed location, I happened across a large black engine that looked vaguely familiar. However, the generous invitation for a look around included a proviso that no photographs were taken, which was fair enough. But after reading Pip Dunn's recent editorial in Railways Illustrated, lambasting the National Railway Museum for its lack of transparency concerning a certain locomotive, I'd been musing on the reasons for the veil of secrecy.

It might be my inner pedant coming to the surface but, having worked for the NRM and National Museums Liverpool - both classed as civil service jobs - I know that items in National Collections are owned, essentially, by the tax payer. So, why not just come out and say that something's broken and needs repairing. We'd all understand. After all, we're talking about something nearly 100 years old, that's covered millions of miles. And, what's more, we paid for it...

Monday, 24 October 2011


Maudetown's water supply up and running

Mentioned in a previous posting, I scratchbuilt and installed a water tower on Maudetown Colliery nearly a year ago - anyone who has bought my latest book (Airbrushing for Railway Modellers) will have seen this model being weathered - yet I've only just completed the scene, with a few finishing detail touches now in place.

Progress on the layout itself has stalled somewhat, especially as I'd begun the extension baseboard in Spring, but not track has yet been laid. In fact, I keep tweaking the trackplan to suit my changing desires. Indeed, my recent foray into 'OO9' narrow gauge means that I'm scratching my head, wondering where I can find space for a short length of 9mm gauge track.

Apart from a consistently heavy workload, the other main reason for limited progress on any of my layout projects has been the dire state of my shed (where they're housed). However, the weekend has seen a little more progress on the building's ropey fabric, with more cladding replaced and a full re-wire affected, complete with a modern (and much safer) fusebox.

Anyway, it was nice to remove the dust sheet and pose a few wagons and a loco. My small fleet of water carriers should soon prove their worth, keeping the tank topped-up on a regular basis. I've a couple more Dapol rectangular tanks to repaint, plus a couple of 'scrap' loco tenders to convert. Combined with the various internal works trains and regular deliveries of pit props and engineering equipment, there should be plenty of traffic variety; not just a constant stream of coal wagons.

With Maudetown now easier to access, perhaps some progress can be made over winter. But I've also got my modern loco depot layout to work on. And my mini 'N' gauge project...

With a Knightwing water column and a Bachmann boiler atop the scratchbuilt gantry, the watering facility looks fairly convincing. I'll be demonstrating the building of this in a future book project.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Narrow gauge wagons near completion

The pair of laser-cut styrene 'OO9' wagon kits that I started earlier in the week are now almost ready to enter the paint shop. I've been fitting assorted detailing parts (mostly from Mainly Trains) to add a bit of extra relief to the bodysides and chassis. Couplings are next on my list - probably using 'N' gauge buckeyes from Micro Trains. The locomotive hasn't seen much work, though. But I shall get on with it next week.

It's all proving great fun...

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Card kit gains extra layers in bid for relief

In the same bag of review samples as the 'OO9' rolling stock kits (from York Modelmaking) was a selection of laser-cut roof tiles and slates. After trialling them on a previously-built Metcalfe card signal box, I was so taken by the improved appearance that I've experimented by cladding the walls with embossed Plastikard to see how the model will look. The extra relief has already bumped this structure up a few notches in the realism stakes, and it'll be interesting to see how it looks after painting and finishing.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


First steps in narrow gauge modelling

My little NCB works train is slowly taking shape.

The past few afternoons have been spent assembling a handful of laser-cut styrene kits from The Bespoke Carriage Company. Although they need much more work before they're complete, I’m already redrawing my Maudetown Colliery extension plans to include a short run of ‘OO9’ gauge track. Narrow gauge has never really appealed to me until fairly recently but I’m really gripped by the idea of a little works train pootling about amongst the full-size mainline traffic.

The ‘Ratty’ steam loco kit is designed for mounting atop a Kato ‘N’ tram chassis, but I wondered if I could try something different. At the moment, I'm trying to mount it onto a Farish J94 0-6-0 underframe. That way, I can have a set of coupled wheels beneath the bodyshell, adding a little more visual interest. Hopefully , it should be running by the end of the week.

Look out for an in-depth ‘Benchtest’ demo/review in Model Rail in the New Year. In the meantime, though, you can learn more about this range of kits and modelling accessories at

Presented in the form of sheets of 0.8mm laser-cut styrene, the kits are simple to put together and can be readily customised and enhanced with extra details. I'm planning to use a 0-6-0T chassis under the loco.

The underframes are also cut from styrene and built up in layers to give realistic relief. A small range of rolling stock is available, although the kits are only being produced in limited numbers. A full evaluation and demo will appear in Model Rail soon.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Growth in Private Ownership

More wagons destined for NCB fleet

In a brief flurry of expenditure, I picked up a handful of new wagons over the weekend, most of which are private owner 'minerals' for my colliery layout project. From both Hornby and Bachmann stables, they’ve been chosen for their South Wales markings (well, 2 out of the 3). Consolidated Fisheries of Swansea (Hornby) and James & Emanuel of Newport and Cardiff (Bachmann) are perfect for my location, whilst the Bullcroft Main wagon (Hornby) was chosen purely because I love the big bovine logo!

The Bachmann model just needs a set of scale couplings, but the Hornby counterparts will be mounted on new plastic chassis kits from Parkside Dundas. All will be weathered and re-branded into National Coal Board ownership, although their original markings will still be visible.

With countless BR designs of minerals already in traffic at Maudetown, I’ve been working to inject a bit of variety with some ex-Private Owner designs. Coal wagons are amongst my favourite rolling stock so it’s really no chore. In fact, I’m doing this as a form of relaxation...

What the new wagons will soon look like: this Hornby 21t mineral bodyshell now sits on a Parkside chassis and the original AAC Anthracite livery is still visible beneath the dirt and NCB brandings.

Friday, 14 October 2011


'HO' scale ISO Container kits built for review.

What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with a quick kit-building project. I received a couple of Walthers Cornerstone 'HO' tank container kits for review and they went together in a matter of minutes. Pre-painted, all you need to do is stick them together and, hey presto! As you can see in the image above, the 'HO' tanks (left) are smaller than 'OO' versions (right) so they're no good for 'OO' rolling stock. But they may have other uses, such as filling the outer reaches of an intermodal depot, for example. See for more details.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


"You wait ages for a 'Deltic', then five turn up at once..."

Here they come... all five working 'Deltics' in the one train: not something you see everyday!

Standing in the typical Northern October drizzle, just a handful of eager enthusiasts stood on the platform of Bury Bolton Street, waiting for a very special train. Just after midday yesterday, a procession of five 'Deltics' arrived onto the East Lancashire Railway, having run on the main line from the NRM at Shildon.

Hauled by D9000, the consist reversed at Castleton to access the ELR via Heywood, this time with green D9016 in charge. With the unmistakable sound of a throaty Napier approaching, the convoy soon hove into view, rewarding those who'd waited patiently for their arrival.

Leading the convoy, the former Porterbrook purple Gordon Highlander looks like her old self again. The modern WIPAC light clusters have been removed and a more appropriate livery applied.

The reason for the visit of all five operational 'Deltics' (Tulyar, the sixth survivor, is under restoration at Barrow Hill), is a spectacular Deltic Gathering at the 'East Lancs' this coming weekend (15-16 Oct). Along with the usual highlights of regular ELR diesel galas, the five Class 55s will be powering an intensive service, including evening trains on the Saturday.

I hadn't seen 55002 'KOYLI' since I was a young teenager, when it was based at the North York Moors Railway.

The full line up is: D9016 Gordon Highlander, D9009 Alycidon, 55019 Royal Highland Fusilier, 55002 Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, D9000/55022 Royal Scots Grey

A full timetable and other information can be found on the ELR website

The bulk of the Class 55s is usually pretty obvious but, when a bunch of them are coupled together, you realise just how long they are.

It's a shame that I can't make it to the Deltic Gathering this weekend, but I was glad I waited in the rain to see the arrival of these wonderful machines.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Fill 'em up!

Geoscenics wagon loads are proving a real talking point

Finely graded power station coal (using the 'N' gauge pack) in this Hornby HAA looks just like the real thing.

Since the latest issue of Model Rail hit the shelves, I've had quite a few emails expressing interest in the Geoscenics wagon load kits that we're offering as a free gift to new subscribers. These are excellent kits that add an unbelievable degree of realism to RTR and kit-built rolling stock. Containing coal, ballast/stone and iron ore, about 10 wagons can be filled with each commodity and sheets of high grade card are supplied to form false floors for the chippings to sit on.

A full demo of how to use the kits also appears in the latest Model Rail (issue 162). Remember that natural materials are used to represent their miniature equivalents (or as near as possible), so their realism is virtually unmatched. The dust of each set of chippings is also an excellent source of weathering powder. Kits can also be ordered direct from Geoscenics.

The real coal chippings have that authentic 'oily yet dusty' appearance.

The red-tinged stone chippings are a dead ringer for iron ore - just the thing for a rake of Bachmann and Hornby tipplers and hoppers.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Red Pannier

After flopping onto the sofa after a quiet Sunday enlivened by a burst central heating pipe and attendant flooding, I've been endeavouring to 'chill out' by pottering amongst my upcoming modelling projects. Thinking of better ways to spend my weekends than on emergency plumbing repairs, I finally got around to unpacking this delightful little 'Pannier tank' from Bachmann.

I've promised to detail and weather this model for my colleague Nick Brodrick, who writes for Steam Railway magazine. Having picked up the model while I was in Peterborough last week, I hadn't had a chance to take it out of its box until today. Nick's a big fan of these 'choo-choos' and I have to admit that the lined red livery is a real treat on the eyes; Bachmann have done a grand job on the model's finish.

To help me in the project, Nick's lent me a copy of Red Panniers: Last Steam on the Underground - a fabulous book and superb reference with plenty of colour images. Copies are available from Transport Diversions. With a good many of these ex-GWR 0-6-0Ts entering private ownership towards the end of BR steam, I'm wondering if one would do for my NCB colliery layout. Indeed, the LT red is a close match to that on my other industrial steam engines; all i'd need to do would be to remove the LT lettering and substitute the Coal Board's logo. I wonder if Nick would notice...?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Figuring it out

In MR162, all facets of working with mini people is discussed, including the use of forced perspective. This 'OO' layout is backed with 'N' gauge scenics and figures in an effort to exaggerate the depth of the scene.

Having picked up a copy of the new Model Rail (162) in the office on Tuesday, I'm pleased with how this month's Masterclass turned out. The subject - figures - is a big one and I enjoyed the challenge of compressing it into 7 1/2 pages. While Chris Leigh demonstrates a few ways of altering poses, I offer a few hints on painting and 'planting'.

We also decided to illustrate what we thought were 10 of the best miniature scale figures available. There are obviously more than 10 brands out there, but some of them are a bit on the dodgy side. There were also a couple of brands that I would've liked to include but sadly they're no longer available. Inkerman Castings is the most prominent omission, the small range of superb characters seemingly no more.

However, the brand new range from Supercast was a treat to work with and Dart Casting's ever increasing selection is full of believable characters. Painting figures can be great fun and a well turned-out and positioned character certainly brings a scene to life. But we all have our own foibles in this area of the hobby: many of us like to create amusing cameo scenes while others think this is sacrilege. But, who cares - do what you want to do! Maybe subtlety is the keyword, though. For years I've been populating my layouts almost exclusively with ginger haired figures, yet nobody except Mrs D has ever even noticed...

Sometimes less is more: a single NCB donkey jacketed figure adds atmosphere to this corner of Maudetown Colliery.

A cameo scene doesn't have to be a grand performance. This resting gardener and his dog describes this idyllic scene perfectly.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Blue 67 was a surprise

On my way to Model Rail HQ at an un-Godly hour yesterday morning, I spotted a pair of 67s at Doncaster station. One of which was resplendent in a fresh coat of blue. After quizzing my colleague Richard Clinnick (of RAIL magazine), it seems that a few of these locomotives have received the Arriva Trains Wales colours in preparation for them taking over the WAG express services (Holyhead-Cardiff) from the hired-in Class 57s. I suppose this makes sense as DB Schenker, the owners of the Class 67s, are a major shareholder of Arriva Trains.

Anyway, apologies for the poor images above, but I only had my phone with me and ATW blue 67001 can be seen hiding behind EWS liveried 67022, which was ticking over on stand-by duty.
The 67s suit the blue, but I'm not sure about the light grey roof; never a good idea for diesel traction. I believe that they'll be gaining some vinyl logos in due course.

There are more (and better) images of 67003, also in ATW blue on the Railway Herald website. Click this LINK to go straight there...

Monday, 3 October 2011

October already?

An Aristocraft 'G' scale Class 66, repainted by me, on John Peck's garden railway. John's Precision Labels outfit produced the Colas decals and their application will be demonstrated in Model Rail issue 163 (November issue).

Maybe it's the recent burst of hot autumnal weather, but I can't believe it's October already and just a couple of days until the next issue of Model Rail hits the shelves. MR162 is on general sale on Thursday and, as I work a few months ahead, I'm now putting together my stuff for MR164, the Christmas issue. It's true that, when working on a magazine, you're somehow speeding through the year in indecent haste.

Anyway, the Blog has been quiet for seven days while I spent most of last week glued to my computer, writing up lots of features, reviews and other odds and ends. I also had a jaunt to Chester to meet up with Precision Labels' John Peck, for a tour of his garden railway and an insight into how he creates his superb range of model railway transfers.

We take for granted most of our model products, but the amount of work that goes into every Precision Labels pack really took me by surprise. It was fascinating to see how the long process of colour matching is carried out - John uses an ALPS printer that employs wax rather than inks, so creating an exact livery shade requires different waxes to be layered on top of each other.

Coupled with the origination of each graphic, logo and digit within a CAD software package, it's a labour intensive operation and, considering the prices of the end products, we modellers are getting incredible value for money. So, if you've never tried the range of decals, headboards, nameplates and more, have a look at for more information.

John has modified his '66' for DCC control, including sound and a smoke generator. There's also a mini CCTV camera in each cab! Look out for a more detailed study on this model in Model Rail sometime in 2012.

Although MR162 is on sale this week, I've just finished a long feature for MR163 on the subject of detailing the ubiquitous '66' in three different scales. That issue will be out on 3 November.