Thursday, 27 March 2014


The Big Beast is ready for action

Based on a couple of b&w 1930s prints of the real thing, I've tried to copy the weathering as best as I could. It's never easy working from black & white, but the greasy-looking patches and subtle streaking is a close replica, as is the heavily-greased valve gear and dusty deposits on the underframes  From what I've read, even when fairly new, these locos were seldom clean, not least as they were unpopular with crew and maintenance staff alike. Plus, they struggled to fit into most shed buildings so were invariably left outside.
As mentioned previously, I've been working on one of the great new Hattons/Heljan LMS Beyer Garratts. It has proven quite a challenge, not in terms of any great difficulties with techniques or materials, but simply down to handling the darn thing. Despite its bulk, the model is actually quite a delicate thing and I've had to glue a few things back on here and there during the job. Mind you, some of that was down to wanting to take it apart and see how it all works. 

The twin motors is a good idea and they're both purring along sweetly after a good running-in period and there's a DCC sound speaker fitted as standard inside the boiler. Well, under the chimney to be exact. A set of power connectors hidden in the ash pan allow the two 'bogie' units to be detached, which made the weathering process slightly easier, although disconnecting these leads means that the wheels can't be turned under power, which makes working around the valve gear tricky. But... all of this is discussed in detail in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR195, on sale 10 April).

This thing has been a joy - and a challenge - to work with. Just a shame I don't have a layout big enough to run it on properly...

Look out for my weathering and detailing demo in MR195. The majority of the weathering was carried out without an airbrush, but I did resort to my trusty Iwata in the end - not least as I kept breaking things off by handling the model too much! 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


New Model Rail Bookazine on sale now!

Modern ready-to-run locomotives continue to improve in specification and realism, yet there is still plenty of scope for customisation. Not every running number or name is available, while modellers may be looking for a specific livery or ‘oddball’ variant. Changing headcodes, adding figures to cabs and real coal to the tender are just a few simple ways of making a great model even better.

Providing essential reading for anyone who wants to take their ready-to-run models that bit closer to reality, this comprehensive guide covers everything from tools and glues to renumbering and complex conversion projects. There’s a detailed look at painting and weathering, plus an introduction to working with DCC and fitting working sound.

Core techniques such as applying transfers, masking, working with filler, renumbering and shaping etched metal parts are all included, starting with the basics and moving through to advanced superdetailing tasks.

Product guides to paints, transfers, airbrushes and equipment, tools, glues and weathering products are provided, along with articles on planning and prototype research. There’s something for every practical and armchair modeller here, regardless of experience or preferred scale. Indeed, it will leave readers eager to have a go themselves.

This has been a real labour of love, taking a heck of a lot of work to cram the 132 pages with as many step by step demos as possible (50 in all!), as well as touching on all of the relevant subjects. At just £4.99, it's a real bargain.

Buy a copy online at or pick up a copy in WH Smith or your local newsagent. Or call 01733 840111.

Monday, 17 March 2014


Ex-Midland Railway brake vans hit the shelves. 

A quick visit to SMTF model shop near Poynton saw me come away with one of these lovely new Bachmann MR brake vans. Available with or without the side duckets and in LMS or BR liveries, I believe that they have been selling fast - no surprises there, as it's a cracking model. Although based on a Midland Rly design, the LMS built huge numbers of these vans during the late 1920s/early '30s. Indeed, this depiction of M357914 is an LMS version, one of 950 such vans built to Diagram D1657.

The planking and various bracket details are very well defined and it captures the look of the real thing well. As the unused mounting holes in the floor reveal, further versions of this design are forthcoming, some of which will feature vacuum brake gear.

Surprisingly, there's not much weight to the wagon, and I'm wondering about adding a few extra grams of lead shot. However, I'll test how it runs on my layouts first. Detail wise, it has some nice touches such as handbrake actuating gear underneath and separate handrails. The moulded lamp brackets are a little disappointing and these would look better replaced with folded brass strip. The stove chimney would also benefit from replacing with some fine metal tube (such as offered by Albion Alloys), while another minor detraction is the visible screw mounting 'towers' inside the guard's compartment. Located immediately behind the doors, the grey plastic is visible through the glazing. A spot of black paint will disguise these to a degree, but they'll still be visible.

Maybe it sounds like I'm nit-picking a bit here, but I don't mean to do the wagon down, especially as it's offered at a reasonable price. Rather, I'm just looking at how I can work a little extra realism into it - after all, I'm always looking for something to do to keep me out of mischief. Overall, it's jolly nice and I can't wait to see it after a weathering job...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Look what just dropped through the letterbox (so to speak!)

Have you ever come home to one of those little red Royal Mail cards telling you that you've missed a parcel? Most of the time, I know what should have been delivered so it's no great surprise when the parcel eventually gets a second chance. Sometimes, though, there's an element of surprise... I was expecting a few bits 'n' bobs from Model Rail HQ, plus some couplings that I'd ordered, but which of those was it?

Well, when the rescheduled delivery took place, I was excited to note the Liverpool postmark on the back, so I knew it must be a Hatton's LMS Bayer Garratt! As you can imagine, it's quite a big box - and quite a big engine - and certainly looks impressive once it's out on the workbench. This sample had got bashed about a bit in the post, so I've had to fix a few of the delicate parts, especially the valve gear and reversing rods.

I'll soon be unleashing the weathering paints onto this model, aiming for a typical pre-war look. Indeed, with its standard pattern coal bunker, 4970 represents a loco in use around 1930-31 before the bunkers were modified. Hatton's, who have commissioned these 'OO' gauge models from Heljan, will be offering a few other detail and livery variations, including the distinctive revolving bunkers.

Look out for a full review of the Bayer Garratts - and a look at my weathered version - in Model Rail issue 195, out on April 10th. But in the meantime, issue 194 will be hitting the shelves this week..!

Monday, 3 March 2014


Airfix/Dapol hybrid ready for painting

Back in 2012 I wrote about how I'd dug out and built an old Airfix meat van kit, that was older than me, but still produced an excellent model - albeit with a few extra details added. Well, for an upcoming article in Model Rail mag, I've revisited the meat van subject, working up an illustrated demo of how to get the best out of the kit that's still available under the Dapol brand. As the bright red chassis signifies, I've used a spare Airfix underframe in the demo, primarily as the red plastic shows up better in photographs than the light grey that Dapol employ. 

Compensation units have been added to give the wagon a working suspension (of sorts) and a few other etched bits and bobs have been fitted to enhance the model further. Look out for the demo in Model Rail issue 195 (out 10 April). I had great fun building this wagon on Friday evening and now have a rake of five of these attractive vans, plus one other kit to finish off. Almost enough for a 'meat pie special'...?!