Friday, 23 December 2011


A hard day's lining.

On my last day before the festive break, I've been adding the next layer of lining to the Jones Goods loco kit. Having applied the olive green base scheme, today was the turn for the black lines, this time using waterslide decals. This has proved quite difficult on the eyeballs as the black is hard to discern from the dark green backing, so I've had the big photography lights on the model all day. The finer red, white and yellow lining will follow next, after the Festive break.

And on that note, may I wish everyone a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS, with all best wishes for the New Year. Let's hope it's another great year for model railways and don't forget that the new Model Rail will be in the shops next week!


It's not what I intended to buy, but it's very nice...
 What's that popular saying about good intentions..? Well, I'd popped out to get a bit of Christmas shopping but all I came back with was this lovely Hornby Maunsell luggage/parcel van, which is my treat to myself for the Festive Season. There are few things I despise more in life than shopping, but shopping in the run up to Christmas is even worse. Why do all the big shops remove anything decent and replace it with a load of garbage, yet charge you a premium for it? But, I shall resist from entering the full grumpy old man role as 'tis the season for goodwill, and all that.

The impressive BR blue van is to enter service in my early 1980s parcel fleet of 4-wheel and bogie stock (CCTs and GUVs) and needs but a gentle weathering job and scale couplings to complete. The underframe detail is especially nice and saves me the bother of having to add any bits of wire or brass. And to think, I've had to laboriously scratchbuild replacements for my ex-Lima CCTs before they could reach this level of realism (see Model Rail issue 110). But that's what I enjoy. Although the nice chap in the model shop did me a good deal on the van, it still cost a fair few quid - but you certainly get a few 'bangs for your bucks'...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Complex Stroudley-esque lining begins in earnest.

The project may have begun a couple of years ago (featuring in Model Rail issue 141 and 148), but I'm now on the home straight with this DJH kit of the iconic Highland Railway 'Jones Goods' 4-6-0. The lining process is a very convoluted one, with the olive green base needing to be applied before the red, black and yellow stripes can be added. I've tried a departure from my usual bow-pen and hand brush method for this stage by using extensive masking and airbrushing and have been very pleased with the results. The masking takes ages (about 4hours!) but then the bow-pen is also painfully slow and only one side can be done per day as the enamel needs 24hours to cure before handling. Swings and roundabouts...

This evening, whilst listening to a frustrating Liverpool FC performance against Wigan (0-0 but the Reds should have had a hat-full in the 1st half and missed a pen in the 2nd...), I've added the black base lining to the claret underframe on loco and tender and a clear gloss coat will follow in the morning before the finer lining can be added. This is one of the reasons why complex liveries like this take so long - hours of careful prep and masking, an hour or two's painting, 24 hours drying, varnish, 24hr wait, lining decals, wait, varnish, wait, bow-pen and handbrush touching-up, wait, varnish, wait.... then you've got about 8hours worth of final assembly.

It's looking like my hopes of getting this done before the Christmas break have evaporated, so I'll be doing a few bits here and there over the holidays. The lining process will be demonstrated fully in Model Rail issue 166, out on January 26th.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


More stuff from my NRM days unearthed.

Trams, boats, cranes and 10in gauge wagons were once an everyday part of my job, interspersed with the odd signalbox fitting or station sign. Of course, there was also the real trains to titivate too!

As described a few weeks back, I recently found a box of drawings and research material amassed whilst I was employed at the National Railway Museum in York in the early 2000s. As well as sketchbooks, I also found a big pile of photographs, showing the variety of artefacts that I restored, ranging from signalbox track layout boards, to engineering models, to telephones and station signs.

Most of the artefacts were being taken out of store to enter the then fairly new ‘Warehouse’ area of the museum. This was once a real treasure trove and a great compliment to the Great Hall with its vast locomotives. Indeed, on my first visit to the NRM in 2000, I spent most of the day lost amongst the never-ending racks of items; many of which were small, but interspersed with the odd bigger artefact (like an APT coach!).

Most of this was later removed to make way for the enormous and pretty pointless Flaming Scotsman exhibition (minus the real Flying Scotsman, naturally) and I presume it went off to Shildon rather than back into store. However, much of my passion for the museum had been sapped by the time I left in 2003 so I never really paid attention…..

This enormous model coal wagon was built by apprentices and was an exact miniature of the real thing in every way. The brakes even operated in exactly the same way as the prototype. From what I remember, this only needed a clean and re-oil and it was as good as new - testament to the builders in the 1930s. I think it was built as an advertising tool for the Manchester coal merchant, to sit in their head office. And yes, it did weigh a ton - no wonder I've got a bad back these days...!

Monday, 19 December 2011


New Hornby LNER 'subs' under the microscope.

In between the laborious job of lining the Jones Goods 4-6-0 kit, that I'm aiming to finish for the New Year (stay tuned for progress reports), I've been casting my eyes over a pair of brand new Hornby LNER non-gangway suburban carriages, rendered in the eye-catching 'natural teak' livery. They may not suit any of my own current layout projects, but they're pretty fetching nonetheless. Look out for the full appraisal in Model Rail issue 166, out on January 26th.

If anyone is in the Liverpool area tomorrow (Tuesday 20th), be sure to pop along to the big 65th birthday bash at Hattons. There's free festive refreshments and lots to see and do (plus some great offers and competitions). I can't make it over there myself, but it sounds like it's going to be a super shebang!

Sunday, 18 December 2011


... building plastic wagon kits!

Yet another mineral wagon has been assembled and has been added to the queue waiting to enter the paintshop. It's a bit cold for spraying paint out in the shed (only managed 5degC today) so I think I'll hang on and see how the weather pans out over Christmas. If I know I've a few jobs to tackle at the same time, then I don't mind cranking up the 'leckie' heater and piling on my thermals and big socks to spend a full day in the shed. Airbrushing paints should only be tried at a minimum temperature of around 12degC, or the liquid never behaves properly. The fact that I use acrylics for the vast majority of my freight stock, makes this even more crucial.

Anyway, this Parkside Dundas hopper has been a joy to build, although it's not a quick job by any means.  After all, it's quite a complex shape and the chassis takes time to get right - ensuring that both axles sit correctly. Adding weight is vital for reliable running but, as I wanted this wagon to run empty, there's limited space underneath for ballast. I managed to squeeze a fair bit of Liquid Gravity - secured with Roket Hot thin cyano glue (both from Deluxe Materials) - into the hopper base and behind the bufferbeams. As I'll be fitting working coupling hooks, I had to leave space for them to be fitted, with notches cut in the inner ribs too.

I've a few more Parkside kits to work on over the Festive period, although not all of them are for my colliery project. There's a trestle wagon that I'm planning on upgrading and a brake van too. Plus a couple of 'N' gauge vehicles for a bit of variety...

Friday, 16 December 2011


Maudetown's de-icing train has its first outing.

It seems appropriate - what with today's heavy snowfall around these parts - that Maudetown's new 'De-Icing Unit' has seen it's first runout. Consisting of a detailed and repainted 'HO' Lima track cleaning tank wagon, plus a van and guards van, this short consist is designed to maintain the rails in the valley leading up to the Colliery. The Lima wagon has received new wheels, bufferbeam and buffers (to suit 'OO' stock) plus finer break gear, ladders and walkways. A repaint into departmental yellow, complete with Hazchem warnings (from a Fox Transfers pack designed for Merseyrail de-icing units) completed the job.

I just need to reassemble the cleaning pad that sits between the axles and the train can start earning its keep. The great thing about this Lima wagon is that the pad simply clips into the underframe - so it's easy to run the vehicle in cleaning mode or as an ordinary wagon.

This short de-icing train will add a bit of colour to the drab colliery setting.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


More kit building allows new model filler to be tested

Another coal wagon kit is nearing completion, this time being a BR 21t hopper (Parkside Dundas). I’ve been building up a good head of steam with my wagon building in the past six weeks and am planning a few more over the Festive break (wife permitting). All this recent work in plastic has also allowed me to test a number of new glue and filler products that have been under development. But more on these at a later date….

The Parkside hopper body goes together nicely, although there are bound to be areas that need filling. A good quality putty that can be sanded super-smooth is essential if the repairs are to be seamless.
The BR vac-fitted hopper is a lovely kit to build, but it requires much more work than many of Parkside’s other kits. Not surprising, given the complexity of the real thing. Once you reach the stage of fitting the chassis and all the various hopper support brackets, it starts to look like a wagon at last!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Etched ladders built at second attempt.

Having failed at the first attempt, I've managed to make a better job of the etched replacement ladders for the Dapol Silver Bullet, from PH Designs. As I explained in the earlier post, a mix of my own impatience and the wrong drill, saw the task end in tears, but with a second set of etched parts, I made sure I took my time and went out and bought some new drill bits before making a start.

The etched holes were drilled-out to the correct 0.35mm with the ladders still on the etch and with the brass held firmly onto a block of hardwood; this prevents any distortion. The distinctive brackets at the lower end were also folded and soldered before the parts were cut from the fret. The kit includes a small part that folds up into a useful spacing tool, to keep the sides of the ladders at the correct distance, whilst lengths of 0.3mm brass wire are inserted into the holes and soldered to form the rungs. Snip away the waste as close to the edge as possible and gently file flush when all rungs have been added. It's still easy to damage the ladders at this point, so just take it steady and don't rush it.

Once the ladders have been fitted (soldered to the new walkway at the top and glued to the solebar at the bottom), they're surprisingly strong and will take gentle handling. While I originally thought I'd keep the original Dapol castings, having filed them to a more refined profile, they now look enormous compared to the scale brass replacements - there's really no contest...

See the project in full in Model Rail 166, out on January 26th.

Monday, 12 December 2011


Dapol & Hornby mineral wagons receive attention

Back in October, I put up a post about a bunch of private owner mineral wagons that I'd bought, for conversion/detailing and eventual use within my NCB fleet. Well, the weekend saw me build new chassis for a couple of these vehicles, using Parkside Dundas kits, Gibson wheels and a bunch of odds and ends from the scrap box. The Dapol (P.J.J.P) and Hornby models (Bullcroft Main) now look much more authentic without the bulky moulded underframes and massive tension lock couplings and just need weathering and rebranding with NCB markings to finish off.

It only costs about £7 to treat each wagon and requires about 2 hours work (just the thing to fill a few spare hours on a wet Saturday afternoon while listening to the footy on the radio). With the bodyshells being nicely rendered, they deserve to be sat on a better class of underframe and will add even more variety to my motley coal fleet.

The bright red brake gear was from the scrap box - left over from an ancient Airfix Meat van kit! The metal buffers are from Lanarkshire Modelling Supplies and the solebars and bufferbeams from Parkside. All you need to do is unclip the Hornby chassis, flatten the raised bits, mark out the centre lines and stick the new bits on. Well, you need to get everything set up right if the wagon's to run perfectly, so maybe I shouldn't sound too flippant. Look out for a full demo in print sometime next year...

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Ian Kirk kit finished and loaded

As mentioned previously, I’ve been building an Ian Kirk LMS bolster wagon kit to form part of an upcoming Model Rail feature on timber traffic. The kit had been lying around in the attic for the best part of 10 years, so it’s nice to see it finished and ready for service. It was a pleasure to build and, despite the parts needing quite a bit of cleaning up before assembly, they eventually went together easily. The fine underframe is particularly impressive, enhanced by the lovely spoked wheels (supplied with the kit).

I put in a bit of time on the timber decking, using a handy set of Lifecolor acrylic 'Weathered Wood' shades to build up a convincing wood-like appearance and the painted and weathered ‘log’ load – from Ten Commandments tops it off nicely. The chains, cast into the plaster load, just marry up with the bolsters, although I still need to finish these off with some extra chain and hoops. As it is, the logs are tied together, but not actually to the wagon itself!

Anyway, in the Model Rail feature, I’ll show how I achieved the painted finish on the logs, as well as how to fill the Hornby OTA and a few other wagons with timber loads. Look out for it in MR166, out on 26th January.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Detailed 'Silver Bullet' gains the dirty treatment.

Having fitted the PH Designs etched detailing kit (and cocked up the ladders), I gave my Dapol 'Silver Bullet' a suitably weathered finish. What a difference it makes from the toy-like shine of the 'chromed' barrel. It's funny how you only get to appreciate a model's quality once you've made it really dirty!

Anyway, Peter at PH Designs has taken pity on my cack-handed approach to building the ladders and has offered to send me a replacement set, so I'm going to have another go. Watch this space...

Monday, 5 December 2011


Dapol 'Silver Bullet' gets the detail treatment

The replacement walkway, handrails and tank filler is lightyears ahead of the originals - the only disappointing facet of the standard Dapol model.

Just putting the finishing touches to a Workbench Test article for the March (166) issue of Model Rail, dealing with a pair of etched brass detail upgrade kits for two recent RTR wagon models. The Bachmann JPA cement tanker is one of them, but here are a few images of the Dapol 'Silver Bullet' china clay slurry tank. Both wagons have been fitted with excellent kits by PH Designs and, after just a few hours work, the models have been elevated to true super-detailed status. 

The kit for the 'Silver Bullet' is a tad more challenging than that for the JPA and it pays to take your time. I didn't, and ended up ruining one of the ladder assemblies. It was entirely my own fault - the etched holes needed opening out to take the 0.3mm brass wire that forms the rungs. However, I've been on a drill breaking odyssey of late and so tried to open up the holes with a 0.4mm bit, thinking that the solder would fill the gaps. But the thin brass wouldn't take the oversize holes, distorting the uprights and fatally weakening the structure. A break was inevitable and, although I could probably have repaired it, time was running against me, so I wondered about sprucing up the original die-cast metal ladders. As the Model Rail article will show, I think I've gotten away with it!

The wagon is just about to be weathered in the shed (the heater's on, warming up the painting area as I write this). After a sharp drop in temperature over the past few days and a snow shower this morning, I need to pack up all my water-based paints and glues and bring them indoors for the winter. After being caught out last year, and left with a large pile of ruined paints - I'm determined not to be bitten twice. 
The etched ladder requires folding and assembling using 0.3mm brass wire for the rungs. After an hour trying to bodge it, I managed to make a real mess of it - entirely my own stupid fault. A few choice words followed before I decided to refine the Dapol ladders with a file.

Friday, 2 December 2011

STONE ME! (Part 2)

Finishing off the Trouts with a weathered finish

After loading up my fleet of new Hornby Trouts, I decided to give them a lightly weathered finish. Despite some of the review samples that we received being in factory-weathered condition, I wanted something a bit more realistic than the uniform layer of light brown paint. A handful of weathering powders is all that I used and each wagon took only about 20 minutes, so even a long rake won’t take long – just the thing for these dark December evenings…

Once the ballast load had dried out completely, a mix of ‘rusty and dusty’ shades of MIG powder was applied to the exposed areas of the hopper interior. This also helps to disguise any stains left by excess glue. A soft-bristled flat paintbrush gives best results with powders.

Similar shades were also added to the outside of the hopper, with darker shades used around the recessed areas to exaggerate the shadows and bring out the best of the model’s moulded relief. Gently varying the shades adds visual interest and creates a more realistic appearance

For the hopper chutes, I wanted some distinct streaking effects, so Tamiya pigments – applied with a cosmetic sponge applicator – were used. A mix of ‘snow’, ‘light rust’ and ‘dark rust’ did the trick, using only vertical streaks to mimic the effects of stone being released from the hopper.

Finally, a larger, clean soft brush will remove any excess powders and pigments, using vertical strokes to prevent any inappropriate streaking. Blowing away loose powders with your breath runs the risk of moisture landing on the surface and, reacting with the powders, creating a nasty stain.