Tuesday, 30 April 2013


Class 58 next in line for the detail treatment

Been spending the last few days swotting up on all things Class 58, with a Heljan model to improve for a forthcoming project in Model Rail mag (issue 184). It only seems like yesterday that the Danish '58' was released, yet it has been overshadowed in the past few years by other, arguably more glamorous diesel models (such as DP2, Lion, etc) and there aren't too many of these around the mo'. Maybe not everyone has my liking for the workaday freight machines from the 1980s?! Maybe Heljan might think about releasing another couple of batches of the Class 58s in the near future, to keep the likes of me happy...

Anyhow, Ben unearthed his model of 58001 and we settled upon renumbering it to 58020 with the name Doncaster Works. There were two different style nameplates fitted to this loco and Fox Transfers helpfully offer both. As we liked the version with the Railfreight 'plates on the nose ends, we went for the later pattern. A few minor detail upgrades are planned, although nothing too drastic. Indeed, Heljan's rendition is pretty good as it is. For research, I've dug a few interesting books and articles out of my library, including some news stories from around the time of the Class 58's introduction in the mid 1980s, as recounted in Rail Enthusiast and Modern Railways. There was also a great article in Model Rail, way back in issue 35, (September 2001). That was before my time on the mag, but I can clearly recall buying that copy, from WH Smith in Torquay. Funny how you can remember the most pointless things...?

There's plenty of info about for Class 58 modellers, with Paul Shannon's Rail Portfolio book on the 56s & 58s containing some great images.

Friday, 26 April 2013


Masts go up on new diorama

I've been having great fun erecting the Dapol 'ready-to-plant' overhead catenary masts on a short stretch of double track. Despite lacking the important wires, the masts look impressive and installation really couldn't be easier. See Model Rail issue 183 (on sale 16 May) for a full demonstration.

I've been musing over whether I could add some wires to these masts, simply for decorative purposes, as this 2ft long diorama is intended only for photographing electric locos. As the masts are designed to be very flexible (to avoid accidental damage), I doubt whether they'd withstand much tensioning of the wires. That would mean using stiff brass wire, for the conductor wire at least, which is difficult to find in long lengths and would require soldering-up; not a particularly difficult task.  Should make a good rainy weekend project for the future...

As for the trackwork, the twin lengths of Peco concrete-sleepered rails feature my efforts to create the distinctive modern style of ballasting, complete with shoulders and ever-so-slightly elevated track to compensate for the gentle curve. I'm quite pleased with the results, having tried out a few new techniques and materials during construction, by way of a trial run for another project. Having said that, there are also a few things that I'd do differently next time!

Friday, 19 April 2013


Bachmann Class 85 spruced up and named (unofficially)

Here's a sneak preview of a Bachmann '85', freshly detailed, re-numbered and weathered as part of an article that will appear in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR183 - out on May 16). It's obvious why this model won the prestigious Model Of The Year award for 2012 and, despite being something of a gamble on Bachmann's part, I'm sure that many of us have been tempted to move into overhead electric subjects. Who knows, maybe a Class 81 or 83 may follow in the future? Or even the more unusual '82' or '84'?!

Anyway, this model has been re-numbered to 85030 and carries the unofficial painted-on name Fell Runner, as carried for a time in the mid 1980s. The TOPS numbers, BR logo and 'nameplates' are from Railtec Models and are superb. It was a good choice of name as the '85s' could certainly move, especially over the open ground of the West Coast Mainline north of Preston. I certainly have a few memories of them 'wazzing' by on relief workings and parcels stock. Being of a certain age and growing up in the North West, the blue electrics were everyday sights and, I must admit, the '85s' were probably my favourite as far as looks were concerned - very stylish!

A number of small detail additions have been fitted to the model, including buffer steps, lamp brackets, shrouds over the horn grilles, air brake pipes and the cab interiors have been painted and weathered to suit the late condition of the machine. See how it was done in MR183...!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Another great issue of Model Rail hits the shelves

On sale this week, issue 182 of Model Rail includes some spiffing articles, reviews and a free 32page supplement on the subject of modelling the British Railways 'Transitional' period from 1948-68. We have reviews of a number of brand new models, including Heljan's very fetching OO gauge Class 128 parcels unit as well as the Danish outfit's even more impressive 'O' gauge Class 31. There's also a look at the ready-to-run LNER 'C13' 4-4-2T from OO Works. News of Bachmann's latest range is also provided, along with progress reports (with pics!) on Heljan's Class 16 and all the other hot topics of the past few weeks. 

Meanwhile, in the Workbench section, there's an interesting feature on improving one of Parkside Dundas' wagon kits, some tips on weathering 'N' gauge stock and a look at the basic processes involved in locomotive lining.

Copies will be on the shelves in newsagents and model shops from Thursday.

Learn the basics of loco lining with a bow pen in the latest issue of Model Rail.

Monday, 15 April 2013


A 'new' old tool takes up residence in the Dent Workshop

Apologies for going slightly off-kilter with this post but I've been filled with enthusiasm about this latest acquisition to my woodworking toolbox. I've been after a 'rabbet' plane for years, after growing disillusioned with power routers - and any other noisy power tool for that matter. Having been trained in furniture making using the 'proper' tools, I've been wanting to get back into the craft recently. Having set my heart on a plane of the legendary '778' pattern, introduced from 1959, I'd been looking through modern tool catalogues with little joy. Indeed, such is the small market for traditional style tools that there's either the cheap-and-nasty copies made in the Far East or hand-made luxuries that retail for three-figure sums (just the blades for Lie-Neilson tools, for instance, cost over £100!). The American Irwin firm now own the Record name and toolings and, to their credit, still produce the '778' plane, but they go for over £150.

Therefore, the secondhand market seemed like a more realistic option, and I managed to get this little beauty from a place in Norfolk for the princely sum of £20. It's seen some wear and tear and the working surfaces had a light covering of rust but nothing that a couple of hours' work couldn't solve. Indeed, it took me back to working at the National Railway Museum were I was regularly cleaning up similar lumps of metal, including tools that were part of the collection (I once had to conserve the entire contents of a retired BR plumber's tool chest!).

Having reassembled the various parts and honed the original blade, the tool is working almost perfectly. There's a lot of truth in the saying 'the old ones are the best', especially when talking about tools. Most of my most treasured tools are those that have had previous owners, be they secondhand purchases or gifts from older, retiring craftsmen. One of my old colleagues at the NRM generously passed on a lot of tools, some of which had belonged to his father and grandfather, both of whom had worked for the LNER at York Works. Every time I use any of these tools, I'm always moved to think about those people, which is a nice thing.

Despite being merely a mass-produced, and a one-time common-or-garden carpenter's tool, the Record '778' boasts a very high quality in terms of the iron castings and steel forgings and is a living testament to the erstwhile Sheffield toolmakers. Of course, looking back on Britain's once World-leading steel and manufacturing industries can also be depressing. Indeed, with the passing of a certain former Prime Minister this week, we've had plenty of time to reflect on what used to be.

Two blade positions, adjustable depth stop and fence; the Record '778' is a versatile hand tool for cutting rebates or channels, with or across the grain. It's hard to find tools (especially anything with a blade) made to such a high standard these days, without paying well over the odds for it. 

Don't it make you proud? Or depressed? The brand name of Record, once a distinguished Sheffield toolmaker, still exists, albeit as part of the US-owned Irwin company.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


Heljan, Hornby and Bachmann AC electrics under the knife

As part of an upcoming feature for Model Rail issue 183, I've been sprucing up a variety of overhead electric locomotives from the 1980s period. Mostly rendered in my favoured shade of blue, there is also one in the 'Executive' version of the Inter City scheme, namely Heljan's model of 86214 Sans Pareil. Released a few years ago, Heljan's 86 has received mixed reviews, but I rather like it, especially after a bit of remedial tweaking, especially including replacing the pantograph.

Above can be seen the new pantograph in situ, with scratchbuilt mounting arms. Given that the Sommerfeldt 'panto' is for HO gauge European-outline models, the arms are too short for the OO '86'. With the help of small split pins and plastic strip, the problem is solved. Apart from this modification, new nameplates and a few other odds and ends combine to create a more refined end product. I've also back-dated my model slightly, placing it around 1990, before the use of DVTs in pull-push mode, so the rooftop fire extinguishers have been removed.

I always hated being pushed at 110mph between Liverpool and London by an '86' or '87' in the late 1990s. I'm sure my fears were unfounded, but being propelled at such speeds purely by the buffers of a loco (no fixed buckeye coupling or buffing plate like you get on Class 91s etc) never filled me with confidence. Mind you, it was better than a Pendolino...

Monday, 8 April 2013


Hornby industrial conversion ready for service

With a sense of joy, I'm now able to sign-off this protracted project -  just as soon as the 3-link couplings are fitted! I mentioned in my previous post on this subject that I'd taken a few liberties with the quality of my hand-applied lining, with a view to applying a heavily weathered finish. Hopefully, the overall effect has proved successful. The weathering has been applied in several stages, using enamels applied by hand and airbrush, as well as weathering powders and the odd bit of talcum powder mixed in with the paint for that distinctive grimy texture. However, the sides have been kept shiny, with that wiped-with-an-oily-rag-but-not-very-effectively patina.

I also spent a long time fine-tuning the original Hornby motor and ensuring that everything electrical was spotless and the mechanical parts lubricated. As a result, the loco runs nice and sweetly and should look at home on Maudetown Colliery. Hopefully, when current shed renovations are complete, I can unpack the layout and allow Albert to start earning his keep.

What started out as a cheap and fairly basic Hornby model now looks much more interesting and authentic!

Friday, 5 April 2013


The kit may be old but it still has potential.

I wonder how many readers with a modern image bent will have dreamed of having one of these depots on their layouts when they were young. Having mentioned my intention of building and enhancing one to my colleagues and modelling friends, everyone admitted to having fond memories of either installing one on their layouts or, like me, wishing they had the room for one. I ended up building a much smaller loco shed on my early layout set in mid-Wales, from cereal boxes. Yet my older brother boasted a larger bedroom and a much more commodious layout. Indeed, his rendition of a 1980s era BR depot featured this Hornby MPD as well as a fuel store and filling road and made me very envious at the time. In those days, the kit featured light brown walls complete with printed brick detail along the lower sections, rather than the light dappled grey of the present moulds.

So, what are my intentions for this venerable kit? You'll have to wait and see!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


OO Works 0-6-0 joins the upgrade queue.

This interesting loco has been passed my way for a facelift and mechanical repairs and, after running my eye over the bodyshell, I've earmarked a few areas for improvement. Having drawn up a rough list, I'll be sourcing the necessary spare parts. Of particular concern is the tender chassis where the spring and axlebox detail is disappointing and the model's owner has suggested replacing it, rather than grinding off the existing detail. Being essentially a ready-made metal kit, modifications are not as straightforward as when working on a plastic RTR model. Indeed, simply removing the smokebox numberplate will require some careful work with a milling bit and files (it shouldn't be there on this Southern Railway-era version).

I'm looking forward to seeing how this model will look after the detailing and weathering job. Although it looks quite nice as it is, the flat black finish is a bit lifeless and there's a lack of delicate surface relief. It'll certainly make a change from working on Hornby or Bachmann choo-choos!