Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Manuscript finished for Volume Two of Kit Building series

Having recently announced that my next book, Kit Building for Railway Modellers, Volume One, was available for pre-ordering from Amazon and other book stores, I've now just completed the manuscript for Volume Two, which deals with the assembly of  locomotives and multiple units. Hopefully, this second instalment will be ready for publication in the Autumn.

Weighing in at over 350 pages of A4 and nearly 600 images, this has been a real labour of love over the past few years and I'll be happy when the proofs are done and the book is ready to go. It takes a lot of work to produce a book like this and, compared to writing for a magazine - where you're part of a team - the process is very different. But, with this being my fifth title with The Crowood Press, I suppose I'm now used to the solitary work involved.

With demonstration-style tomes, of course, it's not just a case of writing down what you know, but you also have to show how it's done, which involves a lot of extra practical work. However, this project has allowed me to work on some interesting models, erecting a few nice chassis kits along the way, some of which still need to be finished off. Readers of this Blog may also recognise some of the locomotive kits within the book, as they've made a few fleeting appearances here in the past.

Look out for more info on both volumes here and in the modelling press in the coming weeks.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


New book now available for pre-ordering

Soon to be published by The Crowood Press, my fourth title 'Kit Building for Railway Modellers, Volume One: Rolling Stock', is due to be published in May. However, it's now available for pre-ordering at Amazon. Jam-packed full of colour images (nearly 600!), the book covers all you need to know about building wagon and carriage kits in any scale and any material. With thorough, step-by-step demonstrations, it starts with the absolute basics (often overlooked by most books and articles) and moves on to provide an essential reference source on subjects including shaping metal, soldering, compensation, scratchbuilding, painting and weathering. There's also plenty of suggestions of how to create realistic wagonloads, detailing carriage interiors and coupling options.

Having taken two years to compile, I'm rather proud of this work and, hopefully, it will help modellers build the confidence to take the plunge into kit building or to go that bit further with super-detailing or conversion projects.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


Initial detailing & weathering underway

The London Transport 'Pannier tank' project is going full steam ahead, with the detail upgrades (almost) complete. The first weathering steps are also well in hand, having built up the worst of the grime around those parts that the cleaner's oily rag haven't reached.

Jobs still to do include scratch-building a set of 'trip cock' gear and refining the weathering with an airbrush, powders and a spot of dry-brushing. Work has paused, however, as I've just heard that there's a nice set of etched sanding gear operating rods available from RT Models, so I'll be fitting them as soon as they arrive. Being very distinctive features on the top of the footplate on all(?!) 57xx tanks, these will be a handy addition to the model.

RT Models is also due to release a couple of London Transport wagons (a brake van and rail carrier) which makes the prospect of a small LT-themed layout an attractive prospect. Indeed, I was chatting with the MR and Steam Railway chaps the other day about this, with some interesting ideas coming out. Look out for more on LT matters in Model Rail in the near future!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Bachmann LT Pannier Tank Gets Started

Way back in November 2011, I uploaded some piccies of a Bachmann GWR 57xx Pannier tank in the lovely red of London Transport. Sixteen months later, the project has finally got underway, having worked its way to the top of my Model Rail 'In Tray'. I've been looking forward to this, although it had been put back a few months to better tie-in with the magazine's schedule. Now, though, with a firm issue in mind it's running under clear signals for a detailed and weathered destination!

So far, the Western Region lamp brackets have been replaced with a more fitting style, along with a new smokebox door handle. Vacuum pipes have been cut away and I'm about to try scratch-building a set of trip-cock apparatus for fitting to the running plate. Stay tuned for more progress updates.

Oh, and on the subject of London railways, I was asked to write a review of a recent BBC documentary for the esteemed academic Journal of Victorian Culture (who'd have thought it?!). CLICK HERE to read it, if you're interested; you can always count the railway puns...

Monday, 18 March 2013


Unveiled today are the results of the annual MODEL OF THE YEAR poll organised by Model Rail magazine, RMweb and MREmag. Modellers have the chance to vote for their favourite models of the previous year, in a variety of categories.

Bachmann has emerged as the clear winner, sweeping the board in ‘N’ and winning all but one of the ‘OO’ categories. Not surprisingly, the overall Manufacturer of the Year award has also gone to the Barwell-based firm, garnering almost 60% of the vote. The impressive Blue Pullman in both 'N' and 'OO' won their categories by a landslide, while Bachmann's Wainwright C Class 0-6-0 surprisingly pipped Hornby's B17 for best 'OO' new steam loco. Another unexpected result was the Bachmann Class 85 AC electric beating Hornby's Class 67 in the diesel/electric category.

Indeed, it was a disappointing showing for Hornby, although it did claim one award for the popular Maunsell pull-push coaches. Farish's WD 2-8-0, Class 20, SR Pillbox brake van and LMS inspection saloons were decorated with silverware in the 'N' gauge categories and Dapol's first 7mm scale venture achieved recognition, with the range of RTR coal wagons gaining an award, as did Ixion's RTR 'O' gauge Hudswell Clark industrial tank loco.

Model Rail editor Ben Jones added: “Congratulations to all our winners. There are worthy victors in every category, but the quality of many models that didn’t win is testament to the high standards now being achieved by all our RTR manufacturers.”

The full list of Model of the Year 2012 awards winners is published in the Spring issue of MODEL RAIL magazine, on sale Thursday March 21st in all good newsagents and model railway shops.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


Lined, named but yet to be numbered

My NCB Austerity 0-6-0 is taking shape, with the wasp stripes applied, buffers fitted, coupling rods and wheels painted, lining added and etched ALBERT nameplates installed. The lining was rushed a bit and is, subsequently, not the best job I've ever done. However, as the loco is destined for a fairly grimy, coal dust-encrusted finish, I was happy enough just to get the lines straight (they're a bit fuzzy in a few places). This is a shocking attitude, I know; but it's my loco, so there!

Once I've found a number decal, the loco will be varnished, weathered and reassembled - the motor needs re-fitting - before Albert can enter service at Maudetown. Talking of which, I managed to brave the blizzards and have almost finished the major rebuilding of my shed, which eventually will house the extension to the Maudetown Colliery layout, allowing work on the track-laying to continue in earnest.

Friday, 8 March 2013


NCB blue 0-6-0ST ready for lining-out

This modified Hornby Austerity 0-6-0 is looking rather spruce in a shiny coat of NCB blue paint and is just awaiting lettering and lining in yellow. I had to mix the shade of blue myself, having run out of my usual Humbrol version, using Railmatch BR Regional Railways blue and a few drops of Porterbrook purple. The lining should be a test of my skill with a ruling pen, although the envisaged scheme is quite basic. After a few more cups of tea, I should be feeling up to the job, having practiced on some scrap plastic first. I've been testing two different shades: Cawoods yellow and Pullman cream, both from Phoenix Precision Paints, with the former shade proving a more vibrant option. Divining how it will look on the blue surface is difficult and what I should have done is paint up a swatch of the same NCB blue when finishing the loco, giving me the perfect surface on which to test the lining colour and style. But you live and learn....

Lining with a ruling pen demands high quality paints and you can't get much better than the PPP enamels, especially once they've been stirred thoroughly and thinned ever-so slightly with white spirit. I'm also just finishing off an article for Model Rail issue 182 on this subject, so look out for that for more info and an illustrated demo of the basic techniques required. Hand lining is great fun and much more rewarding than working with decals.

There's also the wasp stripes to complete, along with painting the wheels and coupling rods. I must say that I'm looking forward to getting this loco back on the rails, as it's been a couple of years in the making, after fitting-out with a detail kit and Giesel ejector (chimney) from RT Models, along with a few scratch-built additions, such as the sliding cab side shutters (see Model Rail issue 179).

When this project is complete, Maudetown Colliery will have a second member for it's steam fleet, to help Bess shift all those loaded hoppers. Which reminds me, it's going to need a name...

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


J72 project gets moving with an Exactoscale gearbox

I must have reviewed this Exactoscale gearbox for Model Rail magazine about 6 years ago and, at the time, I hadn't seen anything like them. Accustomed to the traditional etched casing, with one, two or three stage gear wheels, these enclosed units seemingly took loco building into the realms of clock-making excellence. Maybe it was due to unfamiliarity, but they've been sitting patiently in a box awaiting gainful employment ever since. Finally, though, I've found a suitable use for one of them, as part of an etched replacement chassis for the elderly Bachmann (ex-Mainline) model.

Available from Mainly Trains, the upgrade kit consists of frames, coupling rods, brake gear and an array of detail parts for the plastic bodyshell. Although a DS10 motor and gearbox was provided with the kit, I'm using the Exactoscale transmission in conjunction with a superior Mashima can motor, complete with flywheel. Under initial testing, the chassis has been moving very smoothly and efficiently, although the gears do need a bit more time to bed in, being a little tight to begin with. As the units are tightly sealed, it's important not to add too much lubricant (or too thick a viscosity of oil), lest you create a 'hydraulic lock', thus seizing the parts up.

I've just stripped the frames down again so that they can be primed and painted, leaving final testing and the fitting of the brake gear until later. I'm not sure when that later will be, as I don't yet have an issue of Model Rail in mind for this project. In fact, I really must clear a few other tasks first, not least as I've recently been inundated with review products from the likes of Humbrol, Albion Alloys, Dremel and Lifecolor. There simply aren't enough hours in the day....!

Monday, 4 March 2013


Bargain Heljan model proves a fitting reward

The same thing happened at the Glasgow show of 2012, what with Model Rail's stand facing that of Heljan. With the persistent temptation of discounted models staring me in the face for three days, I eventually gave in and plumped for a Class 15. And 2013 proved no different, resulting in this spiffing green Hymek joining my collection of BR green diesels. Heljan were selling off some overhauled factory 'seconds' and I'd been feeling in need of a treat after a very busy few weeks. It was a close thing between this or a M&W railcar but, having almost completed a long-running Dapol railcar project, the Hymek came out the winner. With the imminent release of the Class 16 (which looks fab), Glasgow 2014 may test my resilience further!

I've never been much of a Western Region enthusiast but I've always had an admiration for these quirky hydraulics. Maybe it's because they were built in my native North West, albeit at the wrong end of the East Lancs Road. You could also put it down to being shown the real D7076 at the embryonic East Lancs Railway in the late 1980s.

Whatever the cause, I'm looking forward to detailing and weathering this little gem. At some point, I could do to build a WR-type layout for it to pootle about on. With the Dapol Western also proving a strong draw and a Class 22 already in the bag, my maroon allegiances may be turning chocolate and cream...

Friday, 1 March 2013


Plenty of NCB and Scottish inspiration
The latest of my fleet of Knightwing shunters (right) was on display at the SECC, complete with a bespoke motor unit from The Hollywood Foundry - look out for more in Model Rail soon.

It's hard to believe that the Glasgow show was a whole week ago. Maybe it was the nights out on the town that left the following days as something of a blur? Or the catching up with work, perhaps? Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed my two day stint on the Model Rail magazine stand, catching up with readers and folks within the industry. As ever, I didn't get too much spare time to have a good look at the layouts and trade stands, other than a few minutes here and there. 

There were some great exhibits, some of which looked to be very popular (it was hard to see over the crowds!) and I especially enjoyed the Scottish-themed layouts, including Glenuig, Alloa and the grimy, atmospheric Annan Road. The DCC sound of Tullygarth was also enjoyable, with 26s and 37s chugging away through the Highlands. Mind you, I'd have to say nice things about this layout from the Stirling & Clackmannan MRC as I had a jolly night out with them on the Friday, hitting town for a few scoops and finishing off with a superb Indian meal, complete with a sitar player, knocking out Bowie and Beatles hits. A little surreal, but great fun!

There was also a superb conversion of a Bachmann Class 150 at work on Tullygarth, accurately depicting the unique features of the pioneer 3-car unit in original Provincial livery. We're hoping to feature this model In Model Rail in the near future, which will be worth looking out for.

Other highlights? There was plenty of interest on the Heljan stand (AC railcars in OO and O), Bachmann's 4F 0-6-0, MR brake vans and 10000/10001, plus Hornby's wee Sentinel shunters, especially the NCB blue version which I'm awaiting for my colliery layout fleet. For the full lowdown on the show, look out for the next issue of Model Rail or check out our Facebook page for images and updates sent direct from the show.  

Hornby's Sentinels looked fetching at the Glasgow show, with a set of smart looking samples on display.