Friday, 29 August 2014


Comprehensive detailing project gets underway

I've had this impressive detail upgrade kit, for the Hornby Class 90, for nearly two years and have been chomping at the bit to get it fitted. However, delays to the proposed article and plenty of other projects vying for time, have kept putting it back. Now, though, we're definitely running a Class 90 Masterclass in issue 201 of Model Rail, so the model is finally starting to take shape.

The kit, from PH Designs, provides much in the way of replacement detail so I've got my work cut out for the next week or so. The recessed light clusters have been assembled and are about to be slotted into the bodyshell, while new resin valances and bufferbeams have also been trial fitted. There's a lot more work to get through yet, so I'd better get back to the workbench....

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Hornby PCA also gets the PH Design detail treatment

As I mentioned last week, I've been trialling some new detailing kits from PH Designs, aimed at both the Bachmann 'Metalair' and the Hornby/Lima 'depressed centre' PCA wagons. Now the latter wagon has been treated, the two modified wagons make quite a pair. As with the previous kit, the parts were a pleasure to work with and everything does what it's meant to do and fit where they're meant to, so there's really not much effort involved. In fact, the trickiest part was forming the small handholds on the walkway brackets (some fine brass wire is required for the handrails).

Again, as with the Bachmann model, the uplift in realism after adding the new parts is quite dramatic, with a real finesse added after only an hour or two of labour. The new buffers are my own addition, by the way, from Dart Castings as per the rest of my Hornby PCA fleet that I've been working on of late. Still got a few more to do, mind...!

Friday, 22 August 2014


Detail kit makes the Bachmann PCA even better

I've just finished installing a new detailing kit for the Bachmann PCA cement tank wagon. Produced by PH Designs, the kit consists of a set of etched nickel silver components to replace the moulded walkways and access ladders, plus a set of disc brake inserts and handbrake wheels. The new parts are very finely rendered and add a touch of extra class to an already impressive model. The walkways and steps in particular look fantastic and the whole set took only an hour or two to shape and install. 

The original moulded parts are simple to remove, mostly just unclipping from the bodyshell. There was no need for any filler or to drill any mounting holes and the bare metal fittings will be touched-in with some primer and grey paint. Once weathering has been applied - see previous post - there'll be no hint of any previous intervention. 

For less than a fiver per wagon (plus p&p), the upgrade is well worth the effort and cost. 

Next on my list of jobs is the fitting of a similar detailing kit to the Hornby/Lima PCA...

The brake discs fitted to the wheels make for a subtle improvement, while the replacement handbrake wheel is much more authentic than the moulded plastic original.

The super-fine mesh walkway and steps are impressive.

Thursday, 21 August 2014


 Bachmann cement tank weathered and ready for service

Having reviewed the new Bachmann 'Metalair' PCA cement tank a few months back, I've finally got around to weathering it up for eventual use on my current mini layout project. Apart from a small amount of weathering powders, most of the effects were created with an airbrush, using some reference images as a guide as to how the real things look in service - there are certainly plenty of the prototypes working around my locality.

I've also received a pair of detail upgrade kits for both this Bachmann model and the 'depressed centre' Hornby/Lima PCA, from PH Designs, so I'll be trying those out in the next few days - accordingly, I just picked up another Bachy PCA, this one being resplendent in Blue Circle livery.

All nice and shiny, although not for long! This Bachmann PCA is about to receive a set of detailing components from PH Designs - look out for the finished model soon... 

Monday, 18 August 2014


Nephew's visit sparks some creative recycling

With my little nephew staying for a few days, I needed to keep him occupied. What better way to spend a few rainy afternoons than to see if we could create a working musical instrument from a load of junk. I had a spare pickup and four tuners, while the rest of the material was salvaged from a skip. The hardwood plank looked a real mess, having been ripped out as part of a 1970s fireplace but, after we planed it, it turned out quite nice. The aluminium angle was perfect for the saddle and top nut and the strings were an old set that I'd kept for making loco brake pipes and handrails.

At eight years of age, Joey was up to most of the marking out, drilling and fixing, with a little assistance, and he managed to file the slots for the strings in (almost) the right place. All I did was cut the rebate for the tuners and drill out the string anchor points, plus the soldering (the neg wire from the pickup and jack slot are earthed to the saddle, by the way). For a kid who's not really enjoying school, it proved a great way of getting him to apply some basic mathematics, as well as looking at the properties of different materials and the rudiments of electricity.

I decided that tuning the strings to an open chord would be most fun, so I first tried it with GDAD from top to bottom which was OK, but GDGB sounded more bluesy. With a bottleneck slide (from some scrap chrome-plated copper pipe previously attached to a towel rail), we managed to get some decent tunes out of it - all very Seasick Steve! The scale length is 42cm - dictated by the length of the plank - and the lack of any 'fret' markers is also a good way of helping him develop an ear for pitch, although this may take a little while.

It sounds pretty good, running clean through a Marshall amp, but Joey liked kicking in a bit of delay, overdrive and a flanger on my old Boss ME8 FX box, and he got some great ambient loops going. Could this be the next Nick McCabe I wonder....?

Thursday, 14 August 2014


Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST ready for painting

What a difference a bit of brass makes?! The resin shell of this ARC Models kit has been adorned with a variety of lamp brackets, smokebox door, coupling hooks, clack valves and a cute little GWR whistle. Looking purposeful and ready for action, I'm looking forward to applying a suitable industrial livery - probably something colliery-related to suit my Maudetown layout.

This kit has been a pleasure to build and features in Model Rail issue 200, out soon.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


ARC Models kit takes shape

As mentioned in late July, I've received a kit from ARC Models of an Andrew Barclay 14in 0-4-0ST, designed to fit atop the Dapol/Hornby L&Y 'Pug' chassis. Assembly got underway in earnest yesterday, with the majority of the work completed this morning. The resin parts fit together well and the use of cyano glue has allowed for rapid progress.

There's some extra filling and fettling required before the extra detailing parts are installed, such as handrails, clack valves and lamp brackets. These aren't supplied with the kit, so I've been rooting through my scrap and spares boxes for suitable fittings. Luckily, it looks like I have everything I need in stock, including an attractive set of Markits clack valves that should really be adorning a Southern Railway loco!

Look out for a full demo and appraisal in Model Rail issue 200, on sale at the end of August.

Friday, 8 August 2014

OH MY LORD! (part 3)

 'O' Gauge Western signed off

Just thought I'd share a few pics of the completed Heljan 'O' gauge Western posed on my tiny 7mm scale layout-cum-diorama. Considering that the layout only usually sees a tiny 0-6-0T industrial loco, the Western fairly dwarfed everything. Still, it's nice to see a finished model set into some form of miniature landscape, as a way of deciding whether your hard work has been worthwhile.

The loco has now been safely dispatched to its owner - in the South West, appropriately enough. Hope he likes it! 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

OH MY LORD! (Part 2)

Big Heljan 'Western' gets the weathered treatment

My workbench has been creaking under the weight of this Heljan 'O' gauge 'Western'. It has been a record-breaking weathering job for a friend, who needed it done for a relative's birthday present. Virtually everything was done in a single (albeit very long) evening and, by using Tamiya acrylics, there was little hanging around for the paint to dry. I've employed a few different varnishes to seal the Tamiya paint and fine-tune the overall effect. Gloss was sprayed on the sides and ends and 'light sheen' and 'semi matt' at various points on the roof and underframe - all from the Alclad2 range.

Now all I have to do is wait for the varnish to dry before packing it up and lugging it down to the post office - should be good exercise for the biceps..!

Monday, 4 August 2014


BIG Western arrives for a quick favour

Just taken delivery of a hefty piece of Danish engineering - an 'O' gauge Heljan Western, D1047 Western Lord. It's a real beauty and only just fits on my workbench. I've been asked to weather it up and I'll be getting to work on it this evening. It's a while since I've tackled anything this big - should be good fun... I just need to do a bit of research for some prototype inspiration.

Friday, 1 August 2014


Wagons finished and ready to roll

This pair of Bachmann 13t china clay wagons feature the original chassis (left) and a superior Parkside Dundas underframe kit (right), plus handmade tarpaulins. 

My short rake of china clay wagons is now complete and ready for action - well, ready for posting off to my colleague Peter Marriott for photographing on his new West Country layout. The DIY tarpaulins are looking good - not bad for just a couple of hours' work. I had intended to weather the wagons with dry pigments but ran out of time, opting for a wholly airbrushed finish. Tamiya paints have been used throughout and the light grey (I resisted using white for the dust) has a nice heavy matt finish which is more subtle than what the powders would probably have achieved. In fact, I managed to airbrush the entire fleet, from the primer stage right through to the finished article in an afternoon. No masking was employed, just a steady hand and a fine airbrush.

Due to the tight timescale I was working under, I had to resort to hand-numbering the whole fleet. No time for the traditional decals stages: gloss clear coat - wait a few hours- apply decals - wait a few hours - sealing clear coat - wait a few hours - weathering. It was all done in a trice, as they say.

Look out for the finished results in the latest instalment of Model Rail's How to Build A Model Railway, Volume 3, out soon....