Wednesday, 28 March 2012


With an hour to kill, a crane is begotten.
With a corner of my 'O' gauge diorama yet to fill, I picked up a Peco kit of a yard crane (LK-735) and, whilst listening to the footy on the radio last night, I managed to put it together. As with most other Peco plastic kits, the parts are supremely well moulded, with only a minor amount of remedial work needed before gluing the bits together. 

The wire support arms are a nice touch and, believe it or not, all the gear wheels and handles actually work - though I'm not sure if they will once it's all primed and painted. The instructions recommend painting all the parts separately before assembly, but where's the fun in that, especially when faced with an hour or so of bonus modelling time in the evening. There are times when the urge to simply put something together outweighs the more practical voice that tells you to work more methodically. Besides, for what I have in mind, it'll make no difference whether it was painted before or after assembly. 

Stay tuned for more progress...

All the gears can be operated by turning the lower handle, but you need to take care not to get any stray glue in their workings during assembly.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


New models announced at Ally Pally show.

This is a Hornby 'OO' Gronk, but will Dapol's forthcoming RTR 'O' gauge version open up 7mm modelling to the masses?

Dapol unveiled its latest plans over the weekend and caused something of a stir with a plan to offer a ready-to-run 'O' gauge Class 08, with an RRP of less than £200, which seems incredible value. After building a mini 'O' diorama last week, this particular project has whetted my appetite to dip my toe further into the larger scale, not least as cost has always been one of the previously prohibiting factor.

I was also intrigued to learn about Dapol's 'OO' plans, namely a rendition of the ever popular Class 73 electro-diesel. I've always been a fan of the old Lima model, now reprised by Hornby, but the new Dapol version promises to be an enhanced package, not least as both JA and JB variants are to be covered with separate toolings. Hopefully, at some point in the future, a Merseyrail version will be produced.

Although only an occasional dabbler in 2mm scale, I'm pleased to hear that a BRCW Class 27 is to be added to the Dapol range, making use of the existing and highly reliable Class 26 chassis. This will be a boon for Scottish Region modellers and, being a big Bo-Bo diesel fan,  I may be tempted to acquire one for my dinky 'N' layout.

You can read more on these stories in the next Model Rail magazine (MR169, out on April 19th), while all three models are available to pre-order from Hattons.

Another of Dapol's surprise plans is for a 'OO' Class 73, aiming to surpass the ex-Lima offering in Hornby's catalogue in terms of detail and specification. Oh, and why don't more preserved railways install paddling pools in the '6ft', like here at Lydney?

Friday, 23 March 2012


O Gauge diorama built in super-fast time.

"Cor, is that the time... I must be due a tea-break..."

Never one to hang around while waiting for paint to dry, I've managed to build a 4ft long 'O' gauge diorama over a couple of afternoons this week. Working in spurts between paint spraying jobs, progress has been swift and a number of fine details and scenics have benn added today. I also took advantage of the nice Spring sunshine to grab a few snaps out in the garden, using only natural light; it's nice to introduce some authentic shadows. The diorama has allowed me to roadtest a number of new scenic products for future review in Model Rail, as well as providing a pleasant backdrop for photography. With a number of 7mm rolling stock and building kits about to be assembled, it should prove its worth soon enough.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


N gauge PFA enters service.

Following the post in early March, regarding the C-Rail PFA container flat and container, the wagon has now entered service on my wee 'N' gauge layout. A load of fine coal chippings has been added to the container, using Geoscenics' 'Coal 600' pack, which looks ideal. A bit of weathering and the fitting of the standard Farish Rapido couplings (also supplied in the C-Rail kit) finished the job off.

I also fished out another C-Rail kit of the MoD KFA flat, with its distinctive red container, that I built for review in Model Rail a couple of years ago (see MR148 Sept 2010) and the two wagons sit well together. Mind you, I doubt they ever ran together in real life. The KFA chassis is made up of cast whitemetal parts, which gives it a fair amount of bulk, whereas the PFA is built-up from plastic components, so adding weight in the container is essential. Both run smoothly and reliably and add a bit of interest to my small array of modern freight stock. As I said in that previous posting, I do need a Farish Class 37 to haul the PFA, so I'm starting to save up my pennies...

Monday, 19 March 2012


The new Model Rail hits the shelves this week, featuring an unusual B1 project.

My subscription copy of Model Rail 168 arrived in the post this morning, with copies appearing in newsagents and model shops from Thursday. There's a few interesting articles in there, along with some up-to-the-minute news and reviews. As mentioned here a few weeks ago, I was asked to come up with something out of the ordinary using the new Hornby LNER 'B1' 4-6-0. Richard mentioned a fleet of these locos that survived the cull of 'B1's to work in the Departmental sector for a few years and, after a trawl over the Internet, I decided upon no.30, that served at Barrow Hill for a time.

So, grab a copy of MR168 for the full, fascinating story of these Departmental 4-6-0s and there's also a full demonstration of how I recreated my own version. Other highlights include a look at DCC sound in 'N' gauge (a great alternative to loco-fitted speakers), detailing & weathering an EWS Class 47, how to build a level crossing and non-wooden baseboards. There are also some great layouts, including a look at a certain Mr Waterman's epic recreation of Leamington Spa in the BR blue period, with some exquisite photos by Chris Nevard.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


HTV boosts the mineral fleet further.

HTV? I remember watching HTV as a kid, usually when I was off school poorly. There used to be some truly awful Welsh language soap operas on in the afternoons. Living near the Welsh border meant we picked up both HTV (the Welsh version of ITV) and S4C (Channel 4). It kind of felt like being abroad. I wonder if these channels are still broadcasting? But I digress...

Just put the finishing touches to this Parkside Dundas kit, the latest coal wagon to leave the Dent workshops and enter traffic on the Welsh Valley-esque Maudetown Colliery circuit. Lettered as a HTV, it's in late 1970s condition and has been a joy to build. I'm pleased with the lightly weathered finish, achieved by pre-shading the undercoat before the bauxite was applied. The underframe was sprayed freehand, without any of that tedious masking business, helping everything to blend together nicely. This has become my default method of finishing freight stock and I'm just in the process of trying the same technique on a Hornby Class 08. But more of that later...

Monday, 12 March 2012


7mm Scale Fruit Van Signed Off

Not a lot of modelling got done over the weekend as much of it was spent at a friend's birthday bash in central London. However, I did get a chance to finally cast my eyes over the revamped St. Pancras station interior for the first time. Is it me or is it a load of cobblers...?
Maybe I'm just getting old, but it just looks like a shopping mall. But maybe that was the point. At least I've got my memories of how things used to be: a dark, atmospheric interior, reeking of diesel fumes, that thrummed to the sound of Peaks, Bed-Pan DMUs and HSTs.

On a less grumbly note, I put the finishing touches to an 'O' gauge SR Banana van last night, built from a Parkside Dundas kit. I've put a lot of effort into the airbrushed weathering of this wagon, keeping my hand in (so to speak) with larger scale techniques. In contrast, I've also got a few 'N' coal wagons to finish and weather next, which will help exercise those muscles around my eyeballs...

Friday, 9 March 2012


Dinky little PFA kit completed.

As mentioned a few weeks back, I've been building an 'N' gauge PFA and coal container kit from C-Rail Intermodal. Well, it's all finished now and has just received a load of fine grade coal chippings, from the Geoscenics wagon fill kits featured in Model Rail 162. Once the glue has set, the final weathering can take place.

As only an occasional dabbler in 2mm scale, I've enjoyed building this kit, although it's excellent design and small number of parts helped enormously. The transfers, also from C-Rail, went on brilliantly and needed just a little help from Micro Sol softening solution to cope with the corrugated container. The correct yellow paint is also offered by C-Rail - a true one-stop solution! Now I just need to build a few more and get myself a triple-grey Class 37 for an authentic 1990s-era coal train on the S&C!

Thursday, 8 March 2012


'Fourgon' adapted for desert operation.

Some of the best (in my humble opinion) brass rolling stock kits from the past decade were produced by MARC Models in collaboration with Model Rail. Portraying various vehicles from the CIWL Night Ferry train, they may not have been the best in terms of ultra-fine detail and all the bells and whistles that get finescale nuts all excited. But - and it's a BIG but - they are a dream to assemble, especially for newcomers to metal kits. Tab and slot joints, half-etched locating lines, and no-hassle compensated axles. Plus, you got everything you needed in the one box: kit, paint, transfers, wheels and fully illustrated, step-by-step instructions.

Sadly, these were discontinued some years back and we sold the last of our stocks at bargain prices at last year's Warley show (MARC Models still make kits and RTR models though). But I managed to bag a 'Fourgon' van and a reach wagon for conversion to fictional vehicles for my wartime Egyptian layout project. They're also proving useful for demonstrating facets of metal kit construction, such as folding and shaping parts, and soldering etc.

This van has been modified in only a couple of ways, most visibly by adding a row of ventilators on the roof to suit the hot conditions. I'm also in the process of back-dating some of the running gear to suit the 1930s spec (oil axleboxes, basic vac brakes etc). The body, though, is complete save for the ESR (Egyptian State Railways) markings and has been rendered in a coat of BR engineering olive, mixed with a little 'dirty' brown and applied over a pre-shading layer to accentuate the shadows and recesses. It took just a couple of hours last night to get the shell from a primer coat to the finished product you see above. Even with enamels, there are the tricks of the trade that speed things up. But I couldn't possibly divulge them - you'll have to come on one of my airbrushing courses at The Airbrush Company to find out more!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Working sample of Realtrack Models' Class 143/144 in action.

Just received this video clip of the Realtrack Models 'OO' gauge 'Pacer' unit. This is the first working sample, complete with lighting, and it's looking and performing well. Charlie and Arran had a couple of hand painted samples on their stall at the recent Glasgow show, including one in original style BR Provincial livery, which really grabbed my attention. For more updates and information on this exciting ready-to-run venture, look up Realtrack Models' website.

Monday, 5 March 2012


After a weekend of transfer action, two old Airfix kits near completion. 

Over the weekend, in between building a vestibule and decorating a hallway, I managed to fit in some work on some rolling stock projects that are to feature in my next book. As I like to work in batches, I've had a variety of models all awaiting their turn in the transfer queue, two of which are the old Airfix kits featured previously on this Blog. The Meat van is quite remarkable as the waterslide decals supplied with this 1980-vintage kit were found to work perfectly. After 32 years, that's quite a feat.

As for the Esso tanker, I didn't bother trying the supplied decals as they had turned an ugly shade of yellow and cracked badly. Happily, Cambridge Custom Transfers produce a lovely pack of waterslides for this iconic kit and they go on a treat.

Both wagons now need sealing varnish coats before final assembly and weathering. The Meat van's scratch-built compensated chassis has had to be partially dismantled as the paint began peeling from one of the soldered joints - a clear sign that I'd missed some flux residue in a awkward corner. But that's what you get for rushing...

Friday, 2 March 2012


In response to a number of queries, here's a look at the brake van at the end of the 'Derby Winner' consist.

As mentioned in the previous post, the latest issue of Model Rail includes one of my Diary entries detailing how I recreated a modest 'Jinty'-hauled freight working captured at Derby in the 1960s. The Bachmann brake van was modified in a number of minor ways:

  • The running boards were trimmed back to stop at the upright just outboard of the axleboxes and the remaining holes in the solebars filled.
  • Extra lamp brackets were fabricated from etched brass strip, as sold by Shawplan for creating locomotive lamp irons. Three are fixed in a triangular formation on the ends of each veranda. 
  • The inner veranda partitions had the half-glazed entrance door removed and replaced with a piece of plastic card, scribed with vertical planking and fitted with strap hinges from 10x10thou Evergreen plastic strip.
  • The factory fitted handrails were removed and replaced with finer wire (0.3mm brass wire from Alan Gibson), with the main access handrails modified to be split into two sections (see image).
  • The roof ventilators were cut away and replaced with castings from Comet Models.
  • The existing brake gear was enhanced with cross shafts and safety loops (0.7 and 0.3mm wire respectively).
  • The body was repainted with Railmatch freight bauxite and re-numbered as E246700, part of a batch of LNER vans built in 1940/1 (or thereabouts).
The van was based on the preserved E246710, owned by the NRM but on long term loan to the North York Moors Railway. In the early 2000s, I was a volunteer with the p'way gang on the NYMR and travelled on the van a few times and took many photos of it. Therefore, the model was based primarily on these images, plus extra info from the excellent book A Pictorial Review of LNER wagons, Volume 2 by Peter Tatlow - now sadly out of print but probably available via your local library. 

A similar conversion was covered briefly by myself way back in December 2005's Model Rail (issue MR86), although the text includes a few errors due to a draft being published rather than the final text - I was ill at the time, as I recall, and there was a mix up in my absence. But hey-ho...

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Recreation of a trip working features in new Model Rail, out today.

Today was the official 'on sale' date for the April issue of Model Rail magazine (MR167), although subs copies have been arriving for the past week. We'd taken a big bundle of them to the Glasgow show last weekend but had sold them all by Saturday lunchtime. Within this issue is a wee feature on how I was inspired to recreate a specific short freight train, from a black & white photograph that I came across by accident.

The 4mm scale 'Jinty' is a detailed Bachmann model, with a comprehensive detailing kit fitted from Brassmasters. Representing non-vac fitted 47629, quite a few modifications were needed, including larger bunker coal rail and flat coupling rods (the model originally carried fluted rods). A full demo of the conversion appeared in my book Detailing & Modifying RTR Locomotives, Volume 2. The brake van (also a Bachmann model, as is the tank wagon) also needed to be converted to an ex-LNER style, with different handrail, lamp bracket and footboard arrangements. See the mag for more info and to see the original snap by J. Cooper-Smith that started the ball rolling.