Wednesday, 29 February 2012


And if you asked me to take one, I'd take 'em all...

With apologies for the obscure AC/DC lyric, I've been building a couple of coal wagons over the past few evenings. One is an 'O' gauge offering from Coopercraft (a GWR N13 Loco Coal wagon) and the other is an 'N' gauge PFA and Cawoods coal container from C-Rail Intermodal. They're both jolly nice kits to build, although the bigger one has required quite a bit of work in the way of flash removal and other tweaks to get the bits fitting properly. The sides were also badly warped, so I had to perform my old hot water and clothes pegs trick... In comparison, the wee C-Rail kit more or less built itself, the parts fit that well (the parts are moulded for C-Rail by Parkside Dundas, I believe).

I don't recommend working on two kits of vastly differing size at the same time. Having got used to the bulkiness of the 'O' underframe, adjusting my eyes to fit the miniscule brake shoes on the PFA gave me a headache.

Monday, 27 February 2012


Glasgow show enjoyed by all.
This was something of an impulse purchase from the Heljan stand at Model Rail Scotland. I'd actually been looking at the BR 4-wheel railbuses that were on sale, but I've been mulling over getting one of these Class 15s for a while. I've always been a big fan of small Bo-Bo diesels and, when Kim offered it me for a song, I couldn't resist. It's a lovely model - one of Heljan's best so far...

The day after a long weekend show always has a slightly anti-climactic feeling and I've been chilling out a bit today, after my exertions North of the Border. Having been up there since Thursday, it was nice to get home in time for the cup final yesterday. I'm not sure what was more tiring, manning the Model Rail stand at the SECC in Glasgow or watching Liverpool win the cup on penalties...

Regardless of the footy, I thoroughly enjoyed Model Rail Scotland - as always - and a combo of extremely friendly locals, some fine layouts and a couple of agreeable nights on the town made it another year to remember. Thanks to all the punters and traders who came to say hello and for all the hard work put in by the organisers. I'm already looking forward to next year...

Another source of great excitement for a wagon enthusiast like me, was the new Parkside Dundas kit for the iconic LNER 20t '100' hopper. Can't wait to put this one together...
A blast from the past: It was great to see a BR blue 86 and 87 parked up at Carlisle on the way to Glasgow. The only means of photography I had was the webcam on my laptop, so I tried to capture the 86 at least, though it's come out back-to-front for some reason... looks like someone's put a waterslide decal on backwards.

Thursday, 23 February 2012


NCB fleet swells further with another Hornby/Parkside hybrid.

Another upgraded mineral wagon rolled off the production line last night. This time, it was a 20t Hornby steel-sided bodyshell, with the now standard (in the Maudetown fleet) Parkside Dundas underframe. Under the many layers of weathering can still be glimpsed the wagon's former owners - Consolidated Fisheries of Swansea and Bristol. I think I've said it before, but these Hornby bodies are really rather nice, with plenty of crisp rivet detail. It's only a matter of a few quid and a couple of hours to fit a new chassis and the model instantly looks much more convincing.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Bachmann 'Lowfit' body put to good use.

I've had a couple of Bachmann BR 'Lowfit' wagon bodies in the spares box for years, having purchased them from Mainly Trains at a bargain price, with a view to them coming in handy one day. Well, one of them has finally found a use as an internal user vehicle for my colliery 'service train' fleet. With a Parkside Dundas underframe and some MJT buffers fitted - also from the spares box - it has made a pleasing model. Most notably, the vacuum brake gear has been omitted, in line with it's humble allocation. Instead, just one set of brake shoes are in place, being actuated from either side. All that's lacking now is some load restraining chains that I want to drape artfully over the decking, perhaps with some wooden blocks. For just two evenings' work, this has been an enjoyable mini project.

Deluxe Materials Liquid Gravity adds sufficient ballast to the underframe and some plastic angle section supports the bufferbeams on the flat underside of the body. You need a strong solvent to bond the Parkside parts to the Bachmann body, but I found that Deluxe's new formula Plastic Magic was well up to the task.

Monday, 20 February 2012


Blame those pesky decimal points...

Cor, it never rains but it pours. After the JPA demo steps going haywire, I've just spotted another error in Model Rail issue166. Within my Jones Goods feature, I muse on the reasons why I’d omitted the ultra fine white element of the loco's lining, having judged it too thin to scale down satisfactorily to ‘OO’. In print, I’m quoted as saying that it’s ‘nigh on impossible to produce a line less than 1mm thick’. Given that I’m using 0.5 and 0.75mm decal lining, the quote is rendered contradictory.

In fact, it should have read ‘0.1mm thick’. The actual white lining on the real locomotive is specified as being 1/4in thick. In 4mm/1ft scale, that works out as 0.086mm (to 3 decimal places), or 0.1mm thick, when rounded-up to 1decimal place. With that, I rest my case as to why the white lining element was omitted. Anything would have been an overscale compromise, purely on the basis that it should be there. I did try adding some white, as thinly as I could, but it looked awful.

Anyway, having checked my original manuscript, the error is purely my own - so blame my fingertips!

With Model Rail Scotland only days away I haven't had any time to get the loco ready for display and, with a day in Peterborough scheduled for tomorrow, it's looking tight. But I shall have a go...

Thursday, 16 February 2012


Hobby Night comes a day early this week

As I've other plans for tonight, my now weekly Hobby Night Thursday was brought forward 24hours and  saw some work on this old LNER Thompson BG. Built from a Mail Coach kit that I picked up from Pennine Models in Haworth about 10 years ago, I've added some Comet detail bits and pieces, plus a set of Bachmann Gresley bogies of the correct 8ft wheelbase (6in shorter than the Thompson passenger stock). After an inauspicious start, the model is looking OK. Due to it's age, the parts needed quite a bit of work before construction could begin, with acres of flash to file away. The roof was the main problem, though, being much thicker on one side than the other. But, these things are sent to try us, as they say, and  my perseverance has paid off. It's a long time since I've built a plastic carriage kit, so a bit of practice is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Hornby Bullcroft Main wagon enters NCB fleet.

The privately owned fleet of mineral wagons belonging to the National Coal Board, Maudetown Area Division, has been bolstered by a new arrival. Formerly owned by the Bullcroft Main colliery, this wagon was absorbed into BR's stocks upon Nationalisation, being treated to a 'P' prefixed number. However, it found itself stored surplus to requirements in the late 1950s until being serviced and put into traffic by the NCB.
As BR seldom repainted these old P.O. wagons, simply replacing the odd timber here and there (and leaving the wood unfinished), the original livery and markings are just visible beneath the various layers of filth and revised markings. Indeed, wagon No.39 has been working at other NCB installations for at least a decade before finding its way to Maudetown. The on-site repair staff have just applied some fresh white paint over the 'internal user' cross, diagonal stripe denoting the end door and brake handle, to meet the local safety regs. What they haven't got round to doing yet, is to fit a new coupling and drawhook, hence why the wagon is being shunted into the servicing siding.

.... well, that's the imaginary story behind this model. As described in earlier postings, this is one of a number of Hornby and Dapol RTR wagons that I've been upgrading for my fictional NCB layout. As the bodyshells are moulded and finished to a high standard, I've sought to make the most of them by adding kit-built underframes from Parkside Dundas, with a bit of scratch-building and scrap-box-raiding thrown in for good measure. New cast metal buffers complete the job and transform these cheap and cheerful wagons into authentic-looking scale models. Not only are they cheap to complete, but the modest nature of the job makes them ideal evening projects, especially at this time of year.

Monday, 13 February 2012


Another Golden Oldie gets the upgrade treatment.

After the recent enjoyment of building and detailing a Dapol/Airfix oil tank wagon, I've dug out a few other old kits from my collection. At the top of the pile was this Airfix meat van, that had been partly assembled about 10 years ago. Now sporting a pair of compensated axles, enhanced brake gear and buffers, the wagon is almost ready for priming and painting.

I also took the opportunity to try out a technique for recreating a distressed roof covering, using tracing paper and poly cement for an upcoming book project. Indeed, these recent forays into plastic wagon kit-building has helped me roadtest some new plastic glues for Deluxe Materials - a full write-up of which is to appear in Model Rail soon.

Friday, 10 February 2012


Another hobby night sees a venerable old kit finished. 

Another Thursday, another hobby night. Fuelled by a bottle of Timothy Taylor's Landlord, I spent an hour last night finishing off this Dapol (ex-Airfix) plastic kit of the iconic Esso oil tank wagon. I've had a pile of these kits, mostly in Airfix packaging, for decades but only now am I getting around to assembling them. Well, a couple of them. Like most of those old Airfix kits, dating back to the 1960s/70s, they make excellent models, with only a handful of detail refinements necessary to bring them up to current specs.

Brake rigging, sprung buffers and etched ladders are the main enhancements and, in retrospect, I think I should have replaced the plastic tank-top walkways with some etched chequer plate. But, I'm happy with the results and am looking forward to completing the other two wagons under construction, whereupon they can enter the paintshop. Some new transfers are required, so I'll be trawling through the lists on Fox's website soon. I've just learnt that Fina operated some of these wagons in the '60s/'70s too, but I've gone and fitted the raised Esso lozenge now. Oh well...

For anyone interested in tank wagons, look out for the mighty tome by R. Tourret,  Petroleum Rail Tank Wagons of Britain. It includes a number of images and plans of the Esso tank, as well as a complete history of tank vehicles on Britain's railways. See

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


It might have been freezing, but the welcome was warm.

BR blue 03073 - a former Birkenhead-based machine - basks in the winter sunshine at Crewe Heritage Centre. Note the bin lid exhaust cover. 

I was lucky enough to spend today at Crewe Heritage Centre - or The Railway Age, as it's also known. I haven't been here for about 7 years and it was nice to be invited on a visit organised by the guys at Hatton's of Liverpool. A full guided tour of the site, by the centre's manager, proved insightful and it was nice to see a few old favourites from my spotting days, including 87035 Robert Burns. Other highlights included 'K4' The Great Marquess, 6100 Royal Scot (in bits!), ex-Merseyrail Class 73 73006 and Crewe-built Class 47 47192. I also enjoyed looking around the former Exeter signal box, rebuilt as closely as possible and full of atmosphere. The job of a modern signaller doesn't really appeal, but those old boxes, with cast iron stoves, oil lamps, comfy chairs and a very cosy feel always capture my imagination. But then, I'm too much of a daydreamer to be an effective signalman!

There's plenty to see here, especially if you're interested in signalling and the iconic APT is worth the admission alone. 

The interiors of most of the cars and one cab are open and we were treated to a look through the cramped confines of the power car. The buffet was an eye opener: not only was the public corridor a bit of a tight squeeze - not for the portly - but the original menus are still pinned up. Anyone for a steak meal, accompanied by a bottle of wine, for a fiver? Or a double Scotch for 79p. Those were the days... 

Looking from Crewe North Junc. signal box over the Heritage Centre site. The APT and a Crewe-built Brush 4 take centre stage. The Underground Ernie-style station roof over the miniature railway came courtesy of Tesco; they're surplus trolley shelters!

Monday, 6 February 2012


Kit building bonanza!

What with all the snow, spending a Sunday afternoon at my workbench seemed an attractive proposition and I managed to crack on with a number of rolling stock kits that I've been meaning to build for a long time. A MARC Models Night Ferry 'Fourgon', Ian Kirk LNER full brake, a Parkside LMS van and a bunch of Dapol/Airfix oil tanks have been started with varying degrees of success. The brass 'Fourgon' is to be appropriated and modified for my WW2 Egyptian layout, while the Parkside van kit has proved frustrating, with the body sides and ends not fitting together very well - a sign of its age, perhaps, as Parkside kits in general are usually excellent in this respect. A few internal reinforcements seem to have done the trick and a bit of filler work will have to follow. The Dapol tanks, on the other hand, despite the kits being 'donkeys years' old, almost build themselves.

I've also been stripping an Alan Gibson 'Jinty' for refinishing. Chris Leigh gave me this loco a few years back, having been expertly built by Dave Lowery. However, I want to add some extra details and paint it up in NCB colours, so the shell has been in a stripping bath for a few days to get it back to the etched primer coat (nothing's going to shift that!). The chassis, although motor-less, is fully compensated which is a novelty for me - not usually being into that sort of thing. I hope I can put it all back together again...

Friday, 3 February 2012


Vi-Trains bodyshells ready for action.

Had a jolly trip to Model Rail HQ in Peterborough yesterday and, while I was away, I left a couple of Vi-Trains bodyshells 'pickling' in paint stripper. Being a bit wary of dodgy chemicals, I usually just rub down the surface with abrasives - and sometimes a bit of T-Cut - before repainting, but I thought I'd have a go at doing things properly for a change. As the factory finish on Vi-Trains products is usually quite thin, I reckoned it should come off quite easily.

So, with a heavy duty plastic tub and 2 bumper bottles of Phoenix Precision Superstrip, the shells were submerged and left for 24hours out in the safety of a locked shed away from curious pets and spouses. Bright and early this morning, I ventured out in the sub-zero temperatures with a bucket of warm water, gloves and an old toothbrush, extracted the locos and marvelled at how the paint simply dropped away with a very light scrubbing.

It pays to be thorough with the cleaning-up - I used a cream cleanser abrasive cleaner, followed by Flash all-purpose detergent and plenty of clean water changes. Eye goggles and an old jacket are recommended to protect against splashes and make sure you get all the residue out from the grilles, recesses and the inside of the shells. Oh, and dismantle the models completely beforehand as the stripper may loosen any glue bonds, leaving small details to vanish in the vat of stripper; and it will ruin clear glazing.

The Superstrip can be returned to the bottles for re-use or, as I do, left in the plastic tub that has a water-tight lid that is clipped firmly in place and left in a very safe place in the shed. The stuff also works on Hornby and Bachmann models, but usually needs a bit longer - about 2 days, depending on the model and its paint scheme.

But what are these models destined to become? The 37, originally in BR Railfreight 3-tone grey is to undergo a DRS conversion, whilst the 47 is going in reverse: a DRS loco being back-dated to late 1990s BR condition. Both are to act as test-beds for more fabulous detailing parts from Shawplan and PH Designs. Stay tuned for more updates on these later in the year.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


 Work starts on Hornby B1 project.

Hornby has excelled itself with the finish on this B1. I'm no expert on the real things, but this is a real improvement on the old Mainline/Bachmann version. 

The LNER Thompson B1 4-6-0 is a thing of real beauty, despite it being designed as a mass-produced, utility machine. With standardised, interchangeable parts, it's a tribute to the designers that it turned out so graceful in appearance and sprightly in performance. No wonder they gave them such inspiring names, such as Springbok or Roedeer. Anyway, with the lovely new Hornby version now available - as well as Bachmann's revamped version - we thought that we'd do something interesting for Model Rail issue 168. So, with this beautifully lined-out LNER liveried example, I've made a start on something a little out of the ordinary. Any guesses...?

So far, I've added some AWS equipment and replaced the LNER legend with a BR totem, plus some incomplete BR lining around the cab sides, but no number. It looks a bit of a dog's dinner at the moment, but all will be revealed in due course.