Thursday, 21 February 2013


Comet chassis rolling along nicely

Testing the chassis has also allowed me to test some new high performance lubricants from Nye - see a review in Model Rail in the coming months.

Assembly of the new chassis for my old Bachmann Jubilee is complete and the whole thing has been under intensive testing on a rolling road, looking out for any tight spots or clearance issues. Without wanting to sound smug, there was only the one minor aspect to adjust (adding a slightly thicker washer between the radius rod and the die block at the motion bracket, as the eccentric rod was very close to the connecting rod. It must be a result of experience but, whereas this stage used to see me making a few adjustments here and there, but this project has been a very smooth-running one. Mind you, the fact that these Comet chassis kits are supremely well designed helps - with older metal loco kits, it can feel like a wrestling match just to get the parts to move.

I'd certainly recommend tackling one of the many chassis kits in Comet's range as an introduction to loco construction, especially something like an 0-6-0, without outside cylinders or valve gear to begin with. Having the right tools and experience of soldering is also important. As it happens, I've just finished the manuscript for another book, with the Crowood Press, on the subject of building locomotive and multiple unit kits, that covers ALL of the basics, across a range of kits and materials. Hopefully, it should be out later this year - more details will appear here in due course.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


PH Designs Industrial Shunter kit under trial

The latest issue of Model Rail (No.180) hits the shops and doormats within the next week or so and features a 'Workbench Test' of a new kit from PH Designs (mentioned in a couple of previous posts). Representing a freelance diesel shunting locomotive, designed to fit directly onto the Hornby Class 06 chassis, it creates a striking, attractive post-1960s machine for use in any industrial setting. My own example, named Bettsy, is almost complete, with just a few extra details to be added, most notably the glazing and window surrounds/wipers. The cab interior also needs a few extra adornments and a suitable driver figure.

Proudly wearing the National Coal Board livery, No.26 looks well at home on Maudetown Colliery. Having run out of my usual supply of NCB blue, I had a go at mixing my own, blending Regional Railways blue with a little Porterbrook purple (both Railmatch enamel). It's slightly lighter than some of my other NCB stock, but I do like a bit of variation.

I'll be displaying this model at the Glasgow exhibition this coming weekend (22-24 Feb), for those who might want a closer look.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Jubilee cylinders and valve gear assembled

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, than to build a set of Walscheart's valve gear and cylinders for an LMS Jubilee, while listening to Liverpool beat Swansea 5-0..? With my lucky old transistor radio blaring out the match commentary, I managed to keep the soldering iron steady as the goals went in. Just like the gelling of Suarez and Sturridge, the various elements of the Comet kit went together extremely well, albeit after quite a bit of fettling to get the slidebars to a suitable thickness to allow the crossheads to move freely along them.

I'll be marrying up this sub-assembly to the chassis and motion bracket for a thorough test before everything must be dismantled prior to painting. But that might have to wait until after the big show in Glasgow next week, where the team from Model Rail will be attending en masse, as usual.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Comet chassis kit under construction for a Bachmann Jubilee

In the dim and misty past, I upgraded a Bachmann 'Jubilee' for Model Rail mag, settling on a rendition of the much-loved - although sadly not preserved - Alberta, a famous survivor of the class in the later days of BR steam and, most pertinently for me, a regular on the Settle-Carlisle line in the late 1960s. In that article (issue 100, Feb 2007), the original model was extensively detailed and completely repainted, with the chassis receiving a new set of motion and brake gear. The old Mainline split chassis was a lovely, smooth runner, so instead of building a completely new underframe, a cosmetic makeover prevailed.

Fast forward to 2013, however, and the Bachmann chassis is now ripe for retirement and a Comet Models kit has been obtained. Motor, gears and wheels are also in stock and the frames have begun to take shape. After only an hour or so of pottering with the soldering iron, reamers and files, the assembly is now rolling freely over my workbench, ready for a test-run on the rolling road with the power-plant installed. I've fitted a set of Gibson wheels during the early stages, although a look through my kit stash has just revealed a set of Markits versions that I must have bought and put away for a rainy day. I may well opt for the latter, not least as they're easier to work with. And as they come at a considerable cost, I think I'd like to get my money's worth out of them!

Once the transmission and coupling rods have been assembled, I can make a start on the cylinders and valve gear - which should be fun...

Monday, 11 February 2013


A reply to a Class 37 query

This is a quick reply to a question asked by Blog reader Chris, in regard to the windscreen wipers supplied with Vi-Trains Class 37 models: 
the etched wipers need cutting from the fret with a decent set of metal snips and there are no moulded locating holes in the bodyshell - they're just fixed to the lower bit of the window beading. Therefore, you have to use your own judgement to get them in the right place. One end of the wiper is slightly fatter and this is the lower end. There's no actual wiper blade, so they're not the most authentic details and Shawplan offer superior etched bits that can be fixed into drilled mounting holes, making them a bit more secure.

One last thing: I use a tiny drop of PVA-type glue (Deluxe Glue n Glaze) as cyano glue so close to the glazing may cause damage to the clear plastic. Hope this answers your question!

Thursday, 7 February 2013


BR1F tender kit under construction

While the LMS Fowler tender project awaits a coat of primer, the past few evenings have seen another metal tender kit assembled; in this case a BR1F unit. The body is a kit from Alexander Models, designed primarily for fitting to a Hornby 9F chassis, but I've coupled it to a Comet underframe kit. As neither package was intended for fitting to the other, it has taken a bit of work to marry the two together satisfactorily. However, the major assembly work is now out of the way and, once the inside of the coal bunker has been fitted, I can start adding the smaller details.

I've a few more disparate loco and tender projects on the go at the moment, including a Jubilee 4-6-0, a J72 0-6-0T and a Cambrian 0-4-2T. After so many diesel subjects in the past few years, it's a welcome change to be tackling so many steamy kits!

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Comet tender kit under construction

Taking shape is this etched brass tender kit of an LMS Fowler tender, destined to be connected to a Hornby 8F. I must have bought this kit about 6 years ago but have only just made a start on it. It has been worth the wait, as it's a pleasure to build and I've been refreshing my 'sweating' skills - lots of aspects of the bodywork require tinning of the parts and careful clamping as they're sweated together. Indeed, I've been trying out a technique that Dave Lowery described to me a while back - using a mini blowtorch to apply the heat. It certainly speeds up the job, although it took me a couple of efforts to get it right.

The frames are next, then the smaller details can be added and the whole thing will be ready for a scrub and a coat of primer. I've a few other brass bits and bobs on the go at the moment, so my soldering iron should be seeing a lot of action in the coming weeks. That reminds me, I think I need to order some more 70degree solder....