Monday, 29 July 2013


Card-based signal box finally completed

Started way back in Autumn 2011, this signal box has finally received the finishing touches that it has been awaiting since the project was put on hold last year. Based on the Metcalfe 'OO' gauge card kit, I've clad the walls with embossed plastic sheet and re-roofed it with packs of laser-cut tiles from York Modelmaking. With a full interior detailing job (including real wood floor) and a few other bits 'n' bobs, such as guttering, drains, chimney, new footsteps and handrails, the 'box has been transformed into a much more realistic building.

Intended for use on 'phase two' of my Maudetown Colliery extension, the main reason that this project was held back was the delay in building 'phase one' of the layout's additional scenic section. However, with a magazine deadline agreed, I decided to finish the model now, which consisted of adding the smaller external details, printing up some suitable nameboards, using the BR enamel-style signs available from Scalescenes and a little touching-in of the paintwork; quite a nice task for a Monday morning in fact!

The project will be demonstrated in Model Rail issue 187 (on sale in September).

It may be ready for action, but Maudetown 'box still awaits its baseboard. Placed on this diorama for photographic purposes, it'll be while before this model can be 'planted' permanently.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


MOA succumbs to graffiti attack 

An inescapable facet of modern life is the prevalence of graffiti 'tags' on anything that stands still for more than a few moments, especially in urban areas. Those cheeky little chappies who aren't satisfied by sharing their artistic self expression on paper, canvas or other traditional mediums, pop up everywhere these days, not just in the big bad cities. Indeed, my fairly rural locality has its fair share of spray paint and marker pen on lamp posts and road signs.

I might be showing my age here, but there has been a definite shift in the style and quantity of graffiti over the past few decades. From what I remember, growing up in the late 70s and 80s, what graffiti there was was usually limited to daubed messages of teenage infatuation. There was a touching "I still love Deb, by Les" painted in emulsion onto the bridge near Sankey station where I did most of my 'trainspotting', replete with correct spelling plus a comma and full stop in the right places! This missive lasted for years, well after both protagonists had settled into married life with other people - 'Deb' being the sister of my best mate at the time). There was also a tongue-in-cheek plea to the authorities to "Free Arthur Fowler" on a bridge in Warrington (an Eastenders character of the time).

I can also remember various political messages on motorway over-bridges in and around Liverpool, highlighting the discontent of the time. CND symbols, comments for & against the IRA, support for striking miners at nearby Bold colliery, comments on the Falklands and even something about a bloke who'd been sacked at the Ford plant. These were all topical issues that remained in the collective consciousness due to long-lasting graffiti, and were seen by thousands of people a day. Having spent most of my youth looking out of bus and train windows, along a small number of routes, it's no surprise that these messages have been so vividly remembered.

There were also countless references to local football clubs and the ubiquitous branding of "The Fall". It was some years before I worked out that this referred to a Manchester punk band and - for the trivia fans - this free (and illegal) marketing technique was later pinched by the Stone Roses, when they emerged in the late 80s.

These old slogans, painted by hand and often with a tin of emulsion and a brush, seem somewhat naive now and are very easy to replicate in miniature form - a fine ink pen or paintbrush doing the trick, with a few drips and runs of excess paint here and there for added effect. Perhaps there's a potential sociological research project in analysing how graffiti has changed in the last 30 years, with a shift to US hip-hop influenced 'art' and the obsession with branding everything in sight with the name of the 'artist'. What does this reflect about our society today, I wonder?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this phenomenon, any modeller of the post-1960s scene should think about recreating graffiti on buildings and railway stock, especially freight wagons that now spend time sitting in shady goods sidings at weekends. In my case, most of the stone traffic that passes the end of my street is marred by the majority of wagons being defaced in some way or other and there are now a number of authentic transfer options to depict the contemporary, American-style (?) of 'tagging'.

This particular wagon - a Bachmann MOA - sports graffiti from a pack of Railtec Models transfers. There are a number of different packs to choose from, some of which show a good bit of artistic merit, as well as the inevitable repetitive scrawling of a single name, or 'tag'. I'm not sure if these are copied from real life examples, but they certainly look highly realistic. It requires a little help for the decals to cope with the wagon's raised ribs and a softening solution (Micro Sol) was employed for this. A demo of the weathering and graffiti application will appear in a forthcoming Model Rail DVD programme, due out later in the year.

Applying graffiti as part of the weathering process is actually good fun, inserting this stage towards the end of the job and then weathering the slogans to make them appear a few months old. Indeed, the act of layering various deposits of dirt, grime, vandalism and repairs, make for a more interesting finish.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


Heljan 'Western' completes weathered WR trio

Having previously created a care-worn 'Hymek' and 'Warship', in typical 1970s condition, my triumvirate of WR hydraulics is now complete with this rendition of Western Consort. Using various distressing, painting and weathering techniques, this is the most neglected looking loco of the three, with faded paint and patches of rust and primer showing through. Since this image was taken, I've also added a few patch repairs to the paintwork, which in turn have started to degrade. 

Having spent many hours on this model, I'm really happy with the end result. The Heljan 'Western' has been maligned in terms of it's rendition of the cab roofs, but a decent weathering and detailing job (both inside and out - the cab interiors being highly visible) really brings the loco to life. Considering some of the extreme distressing visited upon this model, the choice of the Heljan version over the newer Dapol product is a sensible one - it was almost half the price and simpler to dismantle!

A good many individual steps have gone into this project and a full, illustrated demo will appear in Model Rail issue 186, along with details on the 'Hymek' and 'Warship' weathering jobs. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Blue hydraulic latest to get the weathering treatment 

As part of a broader article on weathering BR blue Western Region diesels, I've been working on a Heljan 'Hymek' to go with the Bachmann 'Warship' mentioned a few weeks back. Under the various layers of dirt, grease and grime, the blue livery has faded in a number of places, adding a much more convincing array of textures and shades to the plastic bodyshell. Indeed, the yellow ends have also been similarly treated and an already impressive model now looks much more realistic.

Next on the list is a blue 'Western', but this time with a much more serious case of distressed paintwork. Look out for the full demo on how these effects were achieved in Model Rail issue 186, out on 8 August. For those with an iPad subscription, there will also be a short film showing the various techniques!

Monday, 8 July 2013


Welsh-themed monickers for NCB fleet

I recently commissioned Peter Harvey to etch me a set of brass nameplates for my fictional National Coal Board traction fleet. As my Maudetown Colliery layout is (loosely) set in the South Wales valleys, I opted for a range of names of people and places closely associated with the Welsh mining industry and, especially, the trade union movement.

Illustrated above is a Knightwing 0-4-0, formerly christened Imperial, but now carrying the name A.L. Horner, after the famous union leader of the 1930s and 40s. Meanwhile, the ex-BR Class 08 carries Tonypandy 'plates in honour of the Tonypandy 'riots' of 1910, following a labour dispute at a number of mines in the Rhondda area.

It's a little subversive of me to name a pair of locomotives owned by the NCB (a formerly state-owned entity) after an ardent socialist and a famous strike. But, my layout intends to portray a small colliery still producing coal through the 1990s and early 2000s, so it would have taken a dedicated left-wing government to have avoided the wholesale pit closures of the 1980s. Therefore, Maudetown Colliery exists in a parallel universe where Thatcher never existed!

Well, the layout's named after my cat, so it was never going to be wholly realistic, was it?!

More 'namings' will follow as the traction fleet slowly expands...

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


Resin kit finished, but I'm still not satisfied

After many hours, the Ayjay Models TIN-HAL 2-car unit is up and running and looking very much like the real thing. What with all the hard work at the beginning of the project, the extra effort in getting the surfaces right has paid off and I'm very happy with the paint and weathering job. When a kit is maybe not the most refined in some areas, going that extra mile with the finish will always be worth it.

There's still a few issues, however, most notably with the warped underframes, and I'm thinking of revisiting these at a later date, perhaps trialling a different source of motive power to the BullAnt motor bogie that is installed at the moment. But, for now, I fancy a break from this unit and am setting my sights on a couple of Western Region diesel hydraulics....

Read all about this EMU kit in the next issue of Model Rail magazine, out on July 12.

Monday, 1 July 2013


Small 'Workshop' kit measures up

As mentioned a month or so back, this little kit from MiniArt is destined for use as a small engine shed for my Maudetown Colliery layout, being an ideal size to squeeze into the available space and will just accommodate most of the colliery's fleet of motive power (but not at the same time, obviously!). It's a tight squeeze for this Knightwing shunter, although I'm going to add an extra course of stone setts to the bottom of the building to create an extra 4mm or so of headroom. 

Also able to fit through the opening (without any modification) are the NCB's pair of ex-BR Class 08s, a Class 14 and a couple of small 'steamers', although my 0-4-0DM 'Bettsy' is just too tall and may have to be modified slightly.  

The basic shell has been built to check its position on the extension baseboards still under construction. Once the location and extra height has been settled, I can set about tidying up the wall joints, priming, painting and then adding the extra details like windows, gutters and doors. 

This is a great little kit and, if I had a bit more space, I'd be tempted to buy another one or two and combine them to make a larger shed. This would be very easy to do, as the kit is designed in modular sections anyway. 

The building has been jacked up a few millimetres to mimic the final height in relation to the rail height, allowing slightly larger locos to enter the shed. Some careful levelling of the track and land will be required on the baseboard before it is installed. I'm favouring the idea of sinking an inspection pit between the rails, too.