Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Belated update on the weekend's doings

Not a lot of time for practical modelling over last weekend, but I did manage to finish off an N gauge Parkside Dundas wagon kit, started a few months back. I'm quite pleased with my weathering efforts in 2mm scale, as it's not something I do too regularly. Mind you, my eyeballs are still aching a bit after trying to hand-letter the wagon's number and weight markings. Think I'll dig out my magnifying glass for the next one.

I'm building a handful of these wagons to add some variety to my small fleet of Farish 16t minerals, aiming for a rendition of a typical late 1970s semi-fitted coal working, ostensibly to run behind this Farish Class 44. The loco needs a good dose of the distressing and weathering treatment at some point, for a truly authentic period scene. One or two of these wagon kits have been modified during assembly, blanking-off some of the side doors and other such things; just to keep things interesting...

The Parkside 24.5t mineral is good fun to build, being a pretty simple box on wheels. It's hard to appreciate from the photo, but the quality of the moulded detail is impressive and the metal buffers add some extra refinement.

Friday, 22 June 2012


Bachmann 37 brings back happy childhood memories.

Keeping on the subject of English Electric Type 3 diesels, one of my latest motive power acquisitions is this Bachmann Class 37/4 37427 Bont y Bermo. Ben passed this to me a few weeks ago, convinced that I'd appreciate another BR-era '37' for my collection. And how chuffed I was when I got it home and posed it on my desktop diorama. 

Being from a modest background, I didn't get many holidays as a child, our first real trip of any distance being a week's holiday near Aberystwyth in the mid 1980s. Armed with my Rail Riders discount coupons and with a week off school, we ventured to rainy, autumnal Mid Wales via changes at Warrington, Crewe, Shrewsbury and Dovey Junction. The undoubted highlight was the Shrewsbury-Dovey Junction leg as it was aboard a rake of Mk1 compartment stock and powered by a pair of large logo Class 37s. I think I had my head out of the window virtually all the way!

Hitherto, the furthest I'd been on a train was to Prestatyn, which is no distance at all from Merseyside (hence why North Wales is full of Scousers!). But this felt like travelling to the far side of the moon. A single line through spectacular scenery, waiting in remote passing loops for other double-headed '37' services, is something that has lasted in my mind all these years later. It was a shame to have to alight for a DMU on to Aberystwyth, although travelling on a brand new Class 150 Sprinter was quite exciting at the time.

I won't be doing much to this model, aside from adding the supplied etched nameplates, bufferbeam detail and a few minor tweaks to the factory weathered finish. It's certainly got pride of place amongst my 'Tractors'...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Glazing and finishing touches awaits the budget 'Tractor'.

My Hornby Railroad Class 37 is nearing completion, as mentioned in the previous posting. Now proudly displaying etched Cathays C&W Works nameplates, it's looking a bit careworn and mucky, which is how I remember the Regional Railways Type 3s in the early years of privatisation. The airbrushed 'dirt' needs a little tweaking, with some hand-applied extra deposits of grease and oil, then the glazing can be added and some form of cab interior constructed. Oh, and the radiator fan needs painting and siting under the roof grille.

On the subject of glass, as I'll be fitting the tremendously realistic Shawplan laserglaze to the front windscreens, the moulded original side windows are going to look really in poor in comparison, so I'm ruminating on the possibility of upgrading it. Indeed, the engine room windows are really naff, being too small for the apertures. That's the thing when you upgrade certain aspects of a model - it throws into relief all the other mediocre features. It's like seeing Steven Gerrard playing really well for England, yet the rest of the team look a few steps behind in the quality stakes. What odds on beating Italy at the weekend? Still, it's a better bet than playing Spain. We shall see. Personally, I'd drop that Rooney fella and put big Andy Carroll back in...

Monday, 18 June 2012

37901 UPDATE

A little progress to report on Mirrless Pioneer 

My trio of Class 37 projects has seen some progress made, with the Hornby Railroad model almost complete. It's currently in the shed drying off after weathering and simply needs glazing and reassembly, plus a cab interior constructing and fitting (pics to appear here in due course). Meanwhile, my recreation of 37901 Mirrless Pioneer has taken a few steps forward, with the distinctive roof panels now permanently fitted and the ends filled and sanded smooth. Standing proud of the roof, the panel is tricky to get right as it needs to be folded to just the right shape so as not to look lopsided.This took quite a time to get right, with plenty of trial runs before finally gluing in place. The exhaust covers are next to be fitted, but the kit parts need modifying first. Incidentally, the roof panel is from an A1 Models conversion kit, available from MG Sharp in Sheffield.

A lovely package from the folks at Fox Transfers gave the project a nudge, with a pack of 'Big T' Transrail transfers, plus etched nameplates and BR double arrows. Peter Harvey at PH Designs has also just sent me some etched bogie footsteps that will enhance the sideframes no end. All I need now is to order the right shades of Railmatch enamel paints for the triple-grey colour scheme and find some replacement oval buffers. Oh, and a set of etched cab windscreens and glazing from Shawplan's superb Extreme Etches range. Once these are in stock, I can get going on 37901 in earnest.

The real thing: 37901 at Bury Bolton Street, July 2011.

Friday, 15 June 2012


BR Staff News offers updates for spotters.

Further to my Blog post over the Jubilee weekend, another old magazine has been unearthed during a mass tidy-up in the Dent Workshop. This time, it's an older issue of the British Railways staff magazine, from November 1949. With a distinctly 'Midland' shade of maroon on the cover and a pair of 'Black 5s' on the masthead, the mag is aimed at staff on the London Midland and Scottish Regions. The cover image depicts Driver Milligan being awarded the President's Cup of the St Andrew's Ambulance Association, in honour of his team's recent win at the International Ambulance competition.

It's always good to read of things like this, when ordinary working men volunteered for activities designed to help their workmates and the general public - on top of all their other duties. There aren't many professions that still encourage a collective spirit these days...

Of perhaps greater interest to us train buffs, is the Notes for Spotters column at the end of the magazine, updating readers of the past month's motive power developments. A half dozen Class 2MT 2-6-2T, plus a pair each of 4MT 2-6-4Ts and 'Horwich Crabs' had just entered service, while a few Class 8Fs had been taken into LMR stock from the War Department.

As for withdrawals, a handful of ex-Midland Railway 2P 4-4-0 and other pre-Grouping designs had been condemned, including 0-8-0 7Fs, L&Y 2-4-2T and a Caledonian 4-6-2T. Curiously, the adjacent column is a list of superannuated former LMS/LMR staff who had also passed into the great Railway Yard in the Sky. All flesh is grass, as they say...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Trip to Liverpool proves fruitful.

A flying visit to Hatton's of Liverpool has seen a number of new arrivals in the Maudetown Colliery fleet. Namely a Bachmann private owner mineral, complete with coke rails, bearing the name of a Cardiff-based merchant. Additionally, a Hornby steel-bodied mineral of Tirpentwys, Pontypool has swelled my Welsh-themed stock. Both will be extensively distressed and weathered, along with National Coal Board markings. The Hornby wagon will be receiving a new underframe, as per a number of previous conversions mentioned on this Blog.

Away from the tracks, Maudetown has also taken delivery of a tasty little mechanical shovel in the form of an EFE die-cast Bucyrus with drag bucket. Inspired by a forthcoming Model Rail article by Chris Nevard, I'll be detailing and repainting this machine into NCB livery for use on the colliery's spoil heap. This is a cracking model that should be a joy to titivate.

And as a matter of pure whimsy, I also treated myself to a Heljan Cargowaggon bogie open, complete with pipe load. Hatton's are currently offering these at bargain basement prices (£15 without load, £18 with pipes) which are too good to miss. I used to get excited by these wagons in my spotting days, so I just couldn't resist adding one to my collection.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Chance find is a timely coincidence.

The bank holiday weekend saw me sifting through mounds of junk in my workshop and study. Whilst sorting the wheat from the chaff, as it were, I came across a couple of copies of British Railways Magazine; the old staff publication of the nationalised railway. By pure coincidence, the first issue that I found was a special 'Coronation Number' from June 1953, marking the official crowning of Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, it's a Royal-themed issue all round, with a gripping lead article by Hamilton Ellis outlining the history of the royal train and its carriages (or should that be saloons?), a feature on Wolverton Works' involvement in Royal transport and the Royal Locomotives of Crewe. Great stuff!

These old mags are a real goldmine for contemporary information and its the smaller, staff news stories that particularly grab my attention. For instance, the write-up of Bescot Loco winning the London Midland Region soccer cup and the Eastern Region running streets ahead in the boxing finals. There's also a story of Doughboy, a prizewinning bulldog belonging to joiner A. Andrew of Manchester Victoria who won 3 cups in the LMR Fur & Feather Society's annual show at Derby. I can't imagine any of the current TOCs having a Fur & Feather Society. Or boxing clubs for that matter. What a shame...

The rear cover of British Railways Magazine regularly featured a 'Spotlight' on specific stations. To suit the Royal theme, the focus is on Wolferton, the station for Sandringham House.

On the sport pages, Bescot Loco win the LM Challenge Cup after a hard-fought final against Derby whilst F. Shepherd of Crewe gained a decisive points victory in a LMR lightweight bout against Stacey of the Southern Region.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


New Modelmates dyes under test.

As the subject of an upcoming Model Rail Workbench Test, I've been trialling a number of new and improved weathering dyes from Modelmates. Proprietor Alan Taylor has been tinkering with the formula of these popular dyes in an effort to achieve ever-better results and his hard work is certainly paying off. A number of all-new products are also coming on-stream and these are even more exciting. I can't give too much away yet, but the full story and results of my tests will appear in the next issue (MR171), on sale June 14.

The images below show my first couple of attempts and the cheapo Hornby models look pretty convincing. Both wagons have since received further treatment with Modelmates' new textured 'Rust' dye and now look even better. Look out for Model Rail 171 to see more. The same issue also includes an exciting subscription offer...
Using only Modelmates dyes, a pleasant variety of shades have been achieved on the planked van, suggesting faded paintwork and layers of grime. Some great results have also been achieved using a couple of new products on the underframes - this is where the original batches of Modelmates dyes struggled, as their translucent nature left them unsuitable for use on dark surfaces.

Modelmates dyes perform equally well whether applied by hand or airbrush. However, delicate misting and streaking effects such as this can only be achieved by spraying. The dyes are thin enough to to be used 'neat' and a low air pressure (10psi) is sufficient for really close work. Models need a 'primer' coat of matt varnish before application, however, to ensure proper adhesion. A sealing varnish coat afterwards also helps. See MR171 for a full demo.