Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Landscaping completed, almost ready for scenics

Further progress to report, with the all of the remaining landscaping completed and the painting of the bridge, platforms, dry stone walling and road surfaces finished. Before anything else happens, the scenery will be protected and the back scene primed and painted in suitable 'sky' tones. Once that's taken care of, I can make a start laying the grass and finally try out our new Noch Grassmaster.

Most of the buildings are currently being painted and weathered away from the baseboards, with the station building in particular, destined for some special treatment - I'm thinking of plenty of peeling paint and exposed timber, redolent of a forgotten wayside station that may or may not still be open...

Thursday, 20 November 2014


New Sprinter enters the photo studio for a portrait sitting

As mentioned earlier this week, I've been tasked with reviewing the latest release of Bachmann's Class 150/1. Having just taken some 'proper' portrait images for the magazine, here's a better sneak preview than my previous effort on the old 'dog and bone'... Something else I mentioned recently, was the inspiration from the new Scalescenes small modern station kit - reinvigorating a long-standing desire for a small DMU-orientated 1980s urban layout. Now that this '150/1' has been sitting on my desk for a few days, the layout idea has just received an extra push....!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Great-looking chassis kit awaits assembly

On a recent visit to Manchester MRS clubrooms, Ralph at Palatine Models kindly gave me one of his excellent 4mm scale LMS 57ft carriage chassis kits. Etched in nickel silver, the kit was designed initially to allow members of MMRS to assemble rakes of suitable 'P4' gauge stock for their Slattocks Junction layout. A 60ft version of the chassis is also available and each kit allows for either rivetted or flush sided variants.

Ralph showed me some of his assembled carriages, employing Comet etched body shells. However, I'm wondering about marrying my chassis to a Dapol body that will be super-detailed to match the finesse of the underframe - should be a fun project...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Etched detail brings life to a country road

A little more progress on my fictional Irish layout...

This great etched brass cattle grid, from Studio Scale Models, has been installed over a shallow recess in the roadway. Having treated the pit to a wet and murky looking finish, the grid was fixed in place with a little cyano glue. The road was formed from DAS clay, complete with a slight camber. This is a departure from my usual road building method and was inspired by some of Chris Nevard's techniques (although he does it better than me!). Even though the clay had dried, it was still easy to cut out the rectangular section to form the pit. I just need to erect a post and stile for pedestrians to bypass the grid on the left hand side.

The other road on this layout followed my regular technique, using finely ground stone powder from Geoscenics. It's hard to tell which looks the more effective as they're intended to portray two different types of surface. The above pictured road crosses the railway on the level and is meant to be recently laid tarmac, while the minor road that crosses over the bridge - and gives access to the station - is more of a rough country lane.

Monday, 17 November 2014


Parcel arrives, bearing a lovely new Bachmann Class 150

I've just been sent a new Bachmann Class 150/1 to review for Model Rail magazine, and very nice it looks too. Decked out in what is probably my favourite livery for these units, comlete with a subtle factory-applied weathered finish. The twin shades of blue hark back to the British Rail sectorisation period and the 'Sprinter' logos certainly seemed futuristic in the mid-to-late-1980s. In those days of ZX Spectrums and Commodore 64s, 'stickmen' seemed to be all the rage! Seriously though, having displaced the rickety old first generation, 1950s DMUs on many branch and secondary routes, the Class 150s did feel very new and exciting.

Being able to operate the doors at the touch of an illuminated button - wow! This was a big deal for many of us of a certain age and with limited experience of urban transit systems in big cities. No longer did we have to lean out of the window to turn the brass knob from outside - often a perilous task for youngsters who had to stand on tiptoe to reach. How many young people do you see on a HST these days, staring at the doors and expecting them to open automatically?

My first trip on a '150' was between Aberystwyth and Dovey Junction, in September 1986, having changed from a set of Mk1s and a pair of Class 37s on the run through Wales from Shrewsbury. I can well remember sitting with my parents, as we all took in the very plasticky, but clean and bright interior. The early livery, with the pale shade of blue taking prominence, has yet to feature on a Bachmann production run, which is surprising. Also being offered with this latest batch of 150/1s is a contemporary First Great Western livery.

Look out for my review and some better images (sorry for the quick camera phone pic!) in Model Rail issue 204, out in early December.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


A bit more work on the new layout...

Can I admit that I'm making this layout up as I go along, or shall I pretend that it's been painstakingly planned in every detail - as we always recommend in the press...?
I'll let you make your own minds up about that, but I did spend a few hours last night ruminating on the industrial buildings intended for the backdrop. The Skaledale engine shed looked OK as a goods shed-cum-loading facility for a factory or warehouse, but it needed something else. Also, the chimney placed alongside didn't look right - why would it be there, when any processing would be going on on the other side of the tracks...?

Anyway, sticking to my mantra of using only what I already had in stock, a quick rummage in the attic found a Bachmann factory unit with north light-style roof. I'd painted and weathered one side of this for an article or teaching demo (can't remember which) some years ago and it looked rather nice. But, it needed trimming drastically to fit, so a bit of work with a big hacksaw was required.

Having created a low relief version, I thought 'Wow, I can just stick the two halves together and have a much longer unit'. Alas, the 'north lights' on the other half would then be pointing south, which looked really strange! So, three peaks it is. And the chimney looks much more at home at this end.

Oh yes, and my meticulous planning meant that I had to then chop away at the previously constructed landscaping to create a flat plinth for the building to sit on. Some extra height was gained with some Wills embossed stone sheets and I added some drainpipes from plastic tube. It all needs painting again to ensure that the bricks and stone all look consistent, but I've a pond to create first...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


New downloadable kit sets me thinking...

Having been hard at work building a mini layout, with a small station building at the heart of the plan, seeing this great new kit from Scalescenes has set me to thinking. Perfect for a post-1970s commuter station, it could form the basis of a minimum space through or terminal station with a DMU or EMU service. Maybe as part of a modern park and ride location... I've been wondering about a tiny layout based around such a facility, mainly as a means of running some of the post-1980s multiple units that I've been hoarding. And there's also the chance of building something with catenary, but on a small scale. 

It costs less than £4 and can be printed as many times as you like, and there's a choice of brick shades to suit different parts of the UK. There's also a choice of signage and fittings that span the BR, sectorisation and privatisation eras. The interior is fully detailed, with ticket office window (and self-service ticket and vending machines), tiled floor and even an external air con unit. Great stuff! 

Friday, 7 November 2014


Progress has been swift so far - but can I maintain it?!

My recent career has been littered with layouts that have started in a burst of enthusiasm, but ground to a halt due to lack of time and space. Ironically, with a recent shift in my professional role, I've actually had a bit more time to devote to a layout plan that I'd been ruminating on for some time. Certainly, with less in the way of 'modeller's fatigue', taking on a more editorial role has allowed me to dabble on more leisurely projects without the stress of deadlines and ultra-fidelity.

Having built a baseboard a while back, it was originally planned for a quarry/cement-themed terminal. However, I soon realised that it lacked the necessary 'headroom' to accommodate the tall silos and chimneys that I'd envisaged. With that project put on hold, I was determined to make use of the baseboard, so this little layout started life...

Inspired by a few of Chris Nevard's mini layouts, it's a fairly simple affair with just one 3-way point, a small halt platform and a goods siding serving a small factory. Another siding in the foreground is to assist in shunting and storing extra wagons. Initially, the plan is to base the layout somewhere in rural Ireland in the 1970s, but it may later be shifted back to this side of the Irish Sea. Or maybe it can be switched between the two...?

In a flurry of activity, spread over a few evenings, the track was laid, wired and fully tested, before ballasting. One of the things I'm trying to do with this layout is to employ stuff that I already have in stock, rather than buying anything new. So, there will be a few buildings seeing a new lease of life, having been salvaged from bygone layouts and dioramas. 

I'll also be trying out some new scenic products and tools on this layout, including some lovely kits of Irish rail infrastructure - one of the main reasons why I decided to build the layout - which I'm very excited about. In fact, I'll also be using a static grass machine for the first time - hope it works!

The final trackplan laid out, on sheets of polystyrene that will produce the scenic contours.

Initially, I'd wondered about using this lovely brass GWR station, built from a Scalescenes kit years ago, but after consideration, it was deemed to be too big.

The small Wills platform building is more in keeping with the location. The Hornby Skaledale engine shed has been adapted to form part of a small factory/warehouse.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


Oh my, what a lovely 'Whistler'

A big parcel just arrived, bearing a lovely big Class 40, courtesy of Tower Models in Blackpool. I've managed to bag the review for the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR203) so I've been running my eye over the Heljan model with calipers and a tape measure in hand. Although I only remember the tail end of their careers, the '40s' were a real favourite during my spotting days, with the last four locos seeing out their BR lives around Warrington, where we'd just moved to. 

It's a real hefty brute, weighing in at nearly 4kg and first impressions are good. It's already been road tested on Dave Lowery's extensive 'O' gauge layout, with 100% positive feedback as far as haulage and performance is concerned. Now it's a question of looking at the details. All will be revealed in Model Rail, on sale November 20th... 

The '40' only just fits on my desk!

I'm not sure I can justify treating myself to a blue '40', but I'd love to have a got at weathering one. Unfortunately, this model has to be sent back...!