Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Ex-GWR tender finds new life as a fuel oil tanker.

Ex-BR Class 14 NCB31 is hard at work hauling a stores and fuel train up the gradient towards Maudetown Colliery.

As part of my on-going colliery project, not only have I been amassing numerous mineral wagons under BR and NCB ownership, but I’ve also been creating a range of stores and service vehicles. Allowing the Coal Board to maintain its own rail network and industrial infrastructure, a motley collection of open wagons and vans have been taken from BR’s surplus stocks and ‘bodged’ about to keep them working.

As Maudetown Colliery is set atop a hill, high in the South Wales Valleys, it’s my supposition that much material and resources has to be shipped up the branch from the exchange sidings. This includes clean water and fuel for the colliery’s small fleet of steam and diesel traction. Having originally envisaged converting a spare GWR Collett loco tender into a water carrier, I changed my mind during the painting stage and rendered the finished model as a fuel oil tanker.

Having finished Maudetown’s water tower a few weeks ago, it’s probably time that I did the same with the diesel fuelling point!

With appropriate Hazchem warning signs, the fuel tank certainly looks distinctive as part of Maudetown's service train.

Monday, 28 November 2011


More wagon kits completed over the weekend.

As mentioned in the previous post, a Ratio GWR 'iron mink' kit, first begun in 2004, has now been completed and is ready for service. After weathering and finishing, the fine moulded detail of the original kit and the Model Railway Developments conversion/detail parts, really comes to the fore. After all those years in store, it only took a few hours to paint and weather the van, not least as all was done with acrylics and an airbrush.

Another GWR wagon has also been completed: a Coopercraft kit of a 'Provender' wagon (below), also discussed in a previous posting. Now wearing NCB colours and markings, the distinctive vehicle has entered use as part of the stores fleet at Maudetown Colliery.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


GW wagon kit almost finished after 7 years.
Construction began in 2004, but this Ratio Mink has had to wait until now to be finished...!

As is often the case, a search through boxes of stuff for something completely unrelated turned up this little 'OO' Ratio GWR Mink van that I'd built for a Model Rail review in 2004. The test was centred on an etched detail & conversion kit produced by Model Railway Developments - allowing the wooden door variety of van to be modelled. Improved brake gear, a replacement roof (with plenty of rivets) and a few other small bits and bobs make up the kit, which is still available (click on the link above for more details).

One of my earliest reviews for the magazine, this felt like a 'blast from the past' when I found it and, with the model left unpainted following completion of the review, I decided to finish it off. So, with a set of whitemetal buffers from Lanarkshire Model Supplies, the van has been primed, pre-shaded and painted with Lifecolor acrylics.  I just need to add the numbers, varnish and complete the weathering job before the Mink is ready for service. 

The MRD conversion kit is a little tricky to put together, especially the brake gear and door hinge/catch details, but it makes a massive difference to the Ratio plastic kit.

Friday, 25 November 2011


Logs, timber and wood wagon loads recreated.

My rake of OTA timber wagons is swelling. A mix of kit-built and Hornby wagons, they're each carrying suitable loads of logs, three piles per wagon, with nylon strapping - just like the real thing!

Another Model Rail feature is nearing completion, on the subject of creating realistic timber wagon loads. With the recent Hornby OTA release (and the impending Bachmann version), now's a good time to look into this fascinating and attractive traffic. I'll also be demonstrating some tips on loading-up pre-TOPS era wagons, with logs, pit props or converted timber - complete with protective sheeting! Using natural materials and a variety of off-the-shelf solutions, there should be a technique to suit all tastes and eras. Look out for the article early in 2012...
Stone-cast wagon loads, from Ten Commandments can look very effective when painted and weathered. Shackles and tensioned strapping adds the final touch - see how it's done in Model Rail soon...

Thursday, 24 November 2011


More wagons roll off the production line.

This Ian Kirk kit has been lingering in a box of unmade kits for about 10 years, since purchase from Dean Sidings in Lydney for the princely sum of £3.00. Complete with a set of Keen Maygib brass wheels and bearings, plus a lovely set of turned brass buffers, it's a jolly nice kit to work with. However, there was a fair bit of flash to remove from the various plastic bits, especially the solebars and brake gear. 

I've added some safety hoops from brass strip to enhance the underframe but otherwise, what you see is what you got in the kit. These kits are hard to come by these days, with the Kirk range now concentrating on 'O' gauge products. Built as part of a wider feature that I'm working on for Model Rail, the finished wagon will gain a load of timber logs.


Also now ready for priming and painting is this interesting Coopercraft kit of a GWR provender (horse feed) wagon. Cheap and excellently rendered, the Coopercraft wagons literally fall together and you even get a little piece of metal to form a ballast weight (sealed in place with a discreet plastic cover under the floor. The transport of animal feeds to railway installations on the GW system was a serious business, necessitating the building of a dedicated fleet of wagons to move the straw from the Didcot depot to outlying areas. While this isn't really my period or sphere of operations, this wagon is destined to enter service as part of the NCB fleet on my colliery layout.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

WATER TANKS (Big & Small)

Water carriers for Maudetown

More stock for Maudetown Colliery has been taking shape, including these two water carriers for different periods. Firstly, an ex-GWR tender has been adapted to carry a larger amount of treated water (from the lower valley up to the Colliery's engine shed), while the European tank wagon has been obtained for the same purpose - probably as a 1980s replacement for the loco tender. The tank wagon is a Lima 'HO' track cleaning wagon, modified with larger wheels, new bufferbeams and extra details. I just need to come up with some way of improving the appearance of the cleaning pads between the axles.

Both models are in the priming line, awaiting attention in the paint shop. Look out for progress reports here, although a full demo of the conversions will appear in Model Rail mag in due course. Ironically, the full size water tank in the attic of Dent Towers started leaking whilst I was in Birmingham, so I've been effecting some emergency repairs - looks like another weekend will be lost to DIY...

Plastic card and strip form the water tank extension (hiding the moulded coal bunker that I couldn't be bothered cutting out), embellished with individual rivet detail. The centre axle has been removed to help the vehicle cope with the tight track layout and a new bufferbeam and ancient Collett-pattern buffers have been fitted to the footplate end, along with handy access ladders at the rear - no doubt a safety conscious measure recommended by the Unions...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Post-Warley fatigue sees a BR Shockvan finished.

With another Warley NEC show to chalk up (my 8th), the inevitable 'hangover' from a tiring but enjoyable weekend was well and truly in force yesterday. Three days away, hours stood at a stall, very little sleep and a fair few beverages consumed, meant that my head was well and truly glued to the pillow on Monday morning. It was a great show, though, and it was nice to meet so many readers - thanks to all those who popped over to the MR stand for a chat. Thanks also to those who bought models from our charity sell-off, from which we raised plenty of cash for the RNLI. 

There weren't that many new models unveiled at the NEC, but there was lots of progress to be seen on forthcoming releases, most notably (for me at least) was to chance to examine one of the first production Hattons/Dapol LMS 10000 and Bachmann's BR blue Class 85 (lovely!)... See Model Rail issue 165 for the full story of Warley 2011.

Despite the tiredness, I spent yesterday working on a few wagon kits that have been lying around for the past few months. Back in Model Rail issue 162, we featured a demonstration of how to brush-paint your models effectively, using a BR van body as an example. Well, the kit in question – a Red Panda BR 12t shock absorbing van – has been finished off, lettered and weathered.

Using a couple of images from the amazing Paul Bartlett’s wagon photography website as inspiration, I’ve lettered the wagon by hand, complete with trios of white vertical white lines on the sides and ends (denoting the shock absorbing status). While Bachmann’s RTR 'Shock' vans and opens are splendidly rendered, with immaculate white lines, Mr Bartlett’s images show that such uniformity was the exception rather than the rule, especially on the post-1970s railway. Ad hoc repairs and peeling paint played their part in creating a plethora of different marking styles, leaving no two wagons the same.

Having settled on a 1980s period van, my model carries the departmental TOPS code ZVV, along with evidence of repairs to the doors and steel framing. There are also black patches where the old pre-TOPS markings have been obliterated.

Painted by hand using Lifecolor BR livery paints (acrylics), the lettering and markings have also been added by hand, using a Rotring ink pen. A couple of coats of satin varnish seals all the markings in place prior to the weathering process.

Weathered by airbrush, using enamel paints, the wagon's appearance suits the 1980s period, when this van had entered use with the Departmental sector. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011


OO9 train ready for service at Maudetown

With a few hours to spare, my little narrow gauge train is complete and ready to be packed up for transport to the NEC tomorrow. It'll be on display at the Model Rail stand (B7).

The loco is virtually complete, but still lacks a pair of steam whistles. Also, the interior needs a bit of extra work to hide the Farish motor unit from view, although it already boasts a full set of controls at each end and a footplate crew. It also needs a pair of couplings, but I'm hoping to pick up a set at the Warley show.

As for the rolling stock, the open wagon has received a load of pit props (cut from kebab sticks) and I'm looking out for a few other OO9 scale kits to complete the train. At the very least, I could do with some sort of brake van and, perhaps, some side-tipping wagons. Hopefully Parkside Dundas will have something suitable on its stand.

Anyway, I'd better pack my bags ready for tomorrow... maybe see you there!

NCB No.2 Doris, is ready for action with a suitably dusty and careworn appearance. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


OO9 loco awaits final fitting-out.

The distinctive blue and red NCB livery is favoured by the staff at Maudetown Colliery.

With a fresh coat of NCB blue and suitable lettering, ‘No.2’, Doris, is almost ready to enter service at Maudetown Colliery. I dug out some etched nameplates from the spares box (by Modelmaster Decals) and they seemed to fit the bill nicely. I’ve also fitted some shiny brass builders’ plates (Gorton Works). Once the sealing varnish coat has cured, I need to fit-out the interior, fix the chassis in place and add a little weathering. I also need to source a nice brass whistle - I'm sure I've got one lying around somewhere...

Alclad2 Klear Kote lacquer is a superb varnish medium for airbrush application. It's pre-thinned and can be built up to a glass-like finish that forms a perfect base for waterslide transfers. 


Tuesday, 15 November 2011


OO9 Wagons almost finished

With Warley fast approaching, I've been trying to finish my OO9 gauge NCB train in time to display it on the Model Rail Stand. As of today, the rolling stock is complete, with just a load of pit props to be added to the open wagon. I've been airbrushing Com-Art and Vallejo acrylic paints, using a pre-shading technique to accentuate the relief on the bodyshells (demo in MR issue 159). This is a very effective way of weathering the model before it has even been painted, with the shading showing through the topcoats. After lettering by hand, using a Rotring draughtsman's pen and white ink, a clear coat has been applied to seal everything in place.

The loco's coming on well, too. Watch this space...

Monday, 14 November 2011


Maudetown Colliery buildings gain a few storeys.

While I may still be thwarted by time and space, my extension to Maudetown Colliery has begun in modest terms - a new level of low relief buildings have been added atop the NCB's engineering workshops and supplied depot. Making use of the excellent Ten Commandments cast plaster facades, the extra two storeys adds a much more convincing vista to the original baseboard's backdrop; balancing nicely with the tall winding tower and washery plant.

Also from Ten Commandments, are the individual 'northlight' roofing panels - these are reversible to suit whichever direction is deemed to be north on your layout, with finely rendered brick detail on both sides. The plaster sections just need a little filler to seal any gaps before painting and weathering.

I'm still tweaking my trackplan for the second baseboard. They had been planned and 'approved', but with my recent foray into 'OO9', I'm wracking my brains to work out how a little stretch of narrow gauge track can be squeezed in.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Loco enters paint shop

My 'OO9' gauge narrow gauge colliery train is coming on nicely, having entered the paint shop this morning. The last few etched details were fixed in place last night and the model washed and left overnight to dry. A quick primer coat (quick-drying cellulose) was sprayed before breakfast and a few tiny blemishes were filled with Vallejo acrylic putty (another rapid-drying formula). After a few hours' rest, a coat of vaguely NCB style blue (Humbrol 104 enamel) was sprayed. Once the blue dries, I'll paint the roof, add a clear coat and some lining and detail touches.

Can't wait to get some 'OO9' track laid and get the little train running. The plan is to get the train finished in time for display on the Model Rail stand at Warley.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Creating a realistic load for the new Hornby Trout

The latest Model Rail (163) contains the first review of the splendid new Hornby Trout ballast hopper and, since writing the review I’ve been busy making suitable loads for my small fleet. Using the terrific Geoscenics wagon load kits, a pile of real stone chippings inside the hopper, plus a lightly weathered finish, really brings out the best in these ‘OO’ wagons.

Here’s how I did it…

The Geoscenics kits include stiff card with which to create a false floor for the stone to sit on. A rectangle was cut that sat inside the hopper, about 8mm below the top edge. Once one former has been trimmed to the ideal size, it can be used as a template for the rest of your fleet.

There’s no need to glue the card in place. Simply pour on the stone chippings with a teaspoon, helping it into all corners and shaping it to a suitable ‘pile’ – the handle of the spoon is a handy implement for this.

Having mixed some PVA adhesive with warm water and a drop of washing up liquid, apply the fluid over the ballast, preferably with a syringe. Work patiently, trying not to disturb the pile, letting capillary action take the glue throughout the chippings. Use the spoon handle again to correct any disturbances and leave the model to dry for a few days.

Not only does the load of real stone chippings look ultra realistic, but it also adds some useful weight to the Hornby wagon, which is pretty light otherwise. The lightweight is not a big problem but if, like me, you’ll be hauling a mixed rake of Trouts and a few heavy whitemetal Catfish and Herring hoppers (Genesis Kits), the imbalance might lead to trouble.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Loft rummage turns up study of NRM’s furniture collection.

It’s amazing the amount of effort that was expended on designing and building even the most humble pieces of furniture. The tatty green moquette-covered chair on the left was found inside the NRM’s 2-BIL EMU when it arrived for cosmetic overhaul (having become a depository for tons of seagull poo whilst in ‘safe’ store).

In the dim and distant past, I found myself working at the National Railway Museum in York, as a Conservator. The job may have paid a pittance but it involved a pleasant variety of tasks, some of which were more engaging than others. Apart from the excitement of working with real and model trains, one of my other passions – furniture design and making – was also piqued by the restoration work that I was required to carry out on some of the NRM’s extensive collection.

While much of this work was fairly basic, it did allow me to closely inspect the various chairs, benches, cabinets and desks and to keep my own records of patterns, profiles and construction techniques. Having studied for a City & Guilds in furniture crafts immediately before joining the staff at York, this situation was a real boon and, at the time, it provided plenty of inspiration for the career in furniture making that I was planning.

But then the job at Model Rail magazine turned up and furniture has taken a backseat for the past 7 years. It was a nice surprise, therefore, to recently find a stack of notebooks containing measured sketches and surveys of a wide variety of furnishings from the Museum’s collection. Featuring items on display and from the stores, attention was paid to the various railway crests and monograms and everything from the plushest ‘Director’s’ chair, to a humble signalman’s stool was studied.

I’d forgotten just how much information I’d managed to gather, due mostly to a wait of over an hour at the end of each working day for a bus back to the village in which I was living. Apart from Fridays (when I usually went for a pint!), late afternoons were spent mooching around with tape measure, pencil and camera. Maybe all this info will come in handy one day…?

Corporate identity has also been a subject of interest and the railway companies’ obsession with branding anything and everything is a telling sign of the times. I like the way that the style of branding differed not only by period, but also by 'class'. The upper pages are sketches of logos taken from hotel and buffet crockery, the more ornate devices appearing on the poshest tea sets!

It’s easy to forget the vast amount of pre-Grouping companies that existed prior to 1922 and the various monograms could get a bit confusing at times, especially those companies who shared the same initials. The elegantly carved Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire logo (right) was one of my favourites.

Another favourite was this red signalman’s chair, complete with glass lookout panels in the wings. Sitting in this chair in front of a cast iron stove would have been very cosy, with the tall sides being effective draft excluders! A common feature of pre-1930s signal box seating was a lack of upholstery – I doubt the companies wanted their staff being too comfortable when expected to be alert during 14-hour shifts! The Railway Clearing House also boasted some impressive fixtures and fittings.

Friday, 4 November 2011


A bevvy of beautiful Class 66s, in 3 different sizes…

Also featuring in the latest Model Rail (issue 163) is my special detailing article on the subject of the Class 66 ‘Sheds’. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, the real things get everywhere and few contemporary layouts are complete without at least couple of them. Personally, I rather like the real things and there is, at least, a fair amount of variety in terms of colour schemes. Looking more closely, there’s also much in the way of small detail differences, especially on the longer-established fleets such as that operated by DB Schenker. Radio brackets, side mirrors, auto-coupler conversions and a few other ‘in-service’ mods provide the avid detailer with some challenging projects.

As my article demonstrates, one of the most visible modifications are the EWS/DBS side mirrors and PH Designs offer a great little etched brass kit to make the job a little easier. Explained and demonstrated in full, the MR feature shows how to assemble and fit these mirrors to your ‘OO’ Class 66s, along with a few other possible detail upgrades in both ‘N’ and ‘OO’. There’s also a repainting demo on the mighty Aristocraft ‘G’ scale ‘66’. MR163 is on sale now.