Thursday, 10 December 2015


MK1 full brake gets the weathering treatment.

While the building of the LNER full brake has paused, I made the most of a spare evening to finish weathering this Bachmann Mk1 BG. I'd started on this project earlier this year, as a way of testing some new products and techniques, but hadn't gotten around to finishing things off and putting it all back together. 

I'm glad that I made the effort to get it all done, as I'm well chuffed with the end results, especially the faded paintwork and peeling roof covering. I'll be revealing how this was done in a forthcoming book project, more details of which will be revealed in due course...

As well as the weathering work, I've also modified the ends to correctly portray a post-1960s condition Mk1, with the footsteps removed and handrails cut short. New buffers, lamp brackets, brake pipes and an air reservoir tank under the solebar have also been fabricated and installed.

Monday, 7 December 2015


Metal kit almost ready for painting.

A little progress has been made on my LNER full brake carriage, with the MJT kit now riding on a set of the same firm's compensated bogies. The roof has also been formed and detailed, although I need to fabricate some mounting brackets so that it can be bolted to the body. the inner edge of the roof needs fettling to give a seamless join with the cast metal ends, as there's a hefty gap there at present.

There's still quite a bit of work left to do before I can spray some primer over the thing, with solebar footsteps and a few other details to be installed. I've also made up a set of paper bellows-type gangways, although they're only held on with Blu-Tack at the moment, just to get an idea of how they look.

It can be tempting to hurry at this stage, to see how the model will look with a coat of paint, but I want to give the carriage a bit of on-track testing first, as any tweaks or modifications will be easier to make before the paint job has begun. Anyway, I doubt I'll get time to do anything else on this before Christmas - too much magazine work to get out of the way first...!

Thursday, 26 November 2015


Lovely brass kit taking shape.

Been spending my evenings shivering out in the shed (must order that heater!), soldering up a splendid MJT etched brass kit of an LNER full brake. The sides have been laminated in order to get the raised panels and, with both layers needing profiling, it has been a pleasant challenge. Once I'd worked out the best way of holding everything in place while the solder bonds were made, progress was pretty swift, with the body shell sorted in one sitting. The next evening, the underframe bits (whitemetal castings mostly) were installed, along with the bowed end overlays. 

What started out as lots of wobbly, thin bits of sheet metal, is now a very robust construction. Got the roof to sort next, followed by the bogies. For the latter, I've got some of MJT's compensated units, so it's going to be quite a deluxe affair! But, then I'm going to paint it in a really shabby coat of BR blue...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


C-Rail's new offerings get a coat of paint.

Just blown some paint over a trio of new 4mm scale 20ft containers from the C-Rail Intermodal range. Portraying 1980s-era boxes, the plastic mouldings are starting to look the part, thanks to the authentic livery colours that C-Rail has commissioned from Phoenix Paints. Triton brown, Bulk Haul blue and the lurid Evergreen schemes have been applied and, once dry, the various brandings will be added, from C-Rail-supplied decals - a one-stop shop if ever there was one!

C-Rail are also offering the iconic 1970/80s red/white and red/yellow Freightliner boxes - I've got my eye on a few of those!

Monday, 23 November 2015


Bachmann/Rails limited editions impress.

As my review in the latest issue of Model Rail (MR216) attests, the limited release of the LMS 'Twin' diesels in their original liveries has impressed me. Although Bachmann Branchline has offered BR green versions of 10000 and 100001 for a while, Rails of Sheffield has reserved the stylish black and silver schemes as limited editions models. I had the pleasure of running my eye over these review samples, supplied in a wooden collectors' box with numbered certificate. All very nice. Such a shame that I had to send them back...

I enjoyed reading up on the prototypes, with a good few books available on the subject. Especially useful was a double (or should I say 'twin'!) volume from the LMS Locomotive Profile series, published a few years back by Wild Swan (authors: Hunt & Ford). The first instalment is great, but the second Pictorial Supplement is actually more vital, offering far more technical info and images, along with some corrections to the original volume.

It seems that the version of 10000, with LMS lettering, has now sold out. Other versions of each loco are still available from Rails at the moment, including some custom finishes with BR emblems.

Friday, 20 November 2015


Experimental soft furnishings.

Ever wondered how you could improve on those printed curtains that feature on most modern ready-to-run coaching stock? They look OK at first glance, from a distance at least, but the lack of relief is all too obvious once you get a bit closer. The uniform shape can appear over-regimented too, like the staff have been out with a ruler as the fabric is tied back, as if it was part of a military barracks. And, of course, plenty of coach models don't have any curtains at all, when they really ought to.

There are a few sources of cast whitemetal curtains that, once painted, can look much better (such as MJT). However, I decided to try making some of my own from coloured paper. I didn't have any of the correct dark blue shade - to match the maroon BR Mk1 - to hand, so they're a bit bright. But, the point was to see how they'd look and if I could be bothered to fit an entire carriage in this way.

The results are much better than I expected, with the tie-backs setting them off nicely. After a few false starts, I've managed to work out a quick folding and shaping method, so it shouldn't be too much of a chore. Just need to brave the weather and get some more appropriately coloured card. I could try painting them, but I'd rather not...

Oh, and how do you remove the printed curtains from the clear glazing? A bit of T-Cut will do the trick.

Hornby's printed curtains on its Stanier stock. Not bad, but could be so much better.

Monday, 7 September 2015


Aerial view shows the layout arrangement.

Since Model Rail issue 212 appeared in July, a number of readers have been in contact asking for the plans for the track layout of my modern diesel depot. As this layout-cum-diorama was built more or less off the top of my head, I wasn't sufficiently organised to draw up any proper plans, so an assortment of images will have to suffice. 

The baseboard measures exactly 4ftx2ft and the Peco Code75 track enters the scene from a twin track fiddleyard, fanning out to five sidings via two short radius and one long radius points. The two small points are Peco left- and right-hand units, while the larger left-hand turnout was hand-built from a DCC Concepts Legacy kit (see MR206). Spreading the lines out at various angles and staggering the turnouts adds depth to the scene, as well as creating a more organic appearance. It can be tempting to have everything straight and parallel but such an approach, while probably more prototypical, tends to make a layout appear cluttered and lifeless.

As the above image shows, the right hand end of the baseboard has yet to be completed in terms of scenery. My initial idea of a tunnel and hill has fallen by the wayside and I'm now planning for the tracks to disappear beneath a modern concrete road bridge, which will better suit the period and urban setting. 

I hope these images prove useful to those inspired by my layout...

The lined tunnel will have to go, now that I've changed my mind about the scenic break.

Although only 2ft wide, the layout still manages to cram a lot of visual interest into the available space.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


Another unusual diesel class replicated in 4mm.

Heljan has earned a reputation for choosing a number of less-than-mainstream British locomotive classes, such as the Beyer-Garratt, 'Lion', 'Falcon' and Classes 15, 16 and 17. Now, however, the Danes have moved onto smaller fry, with a lovely rendition of the once-numerous Hunslet Class 05 diesel-mechanical 0-6-0. Equipped with the ever-reliable Gardner 8-cylinder engine, the transmissions proved a tad temperamental but it was the dramatic downturn in general goods traffic in the 1960s that put paid to their BR careers, with a number going on to work in industry over the following few decades.

Heljan's 'OO' gauge model is a real winner and this BR blue example is destined for work on my Maudetown Colliery layout, once it's had a coat of NCB blue paint. Performance is tip-top and there's a variety of livery and detail options to choose from across the range. 

You can read my full review of the model in the latest issue of Model Rail magazine (MR213) that is on sale now. One addendum that I should add, though... My review states that only the cab end lamps are illuminated, but in actual fact the nose end lamps should work too. It seems that my sample must have been faulty! 

Monday, 31 August 2015


Ratio kits built and improved.

Quite a bit of carriage modelling has been going on in the Dent Workshops over the past few weekends, with a new book project well under way. Happily, this has meant that some of the kits that I've been hoarding for years are finally seeing the light of day. I can't remember how long I've had these Ratio Midland Railway carriage kits, but probably not as long as some of the others. Indeed, I've just dug out a Southern Pride Mk1 Pullman car that I started work on 11 years ago but never finished - but that's another story.

These kits, though the moulds have been in use for donkeys years, are still pretty good. The underframe parts needed quite a bit of cleaning up before assembly and much of the under floor equipment has been replaced with scratch built fittings. The body, too, has received some extra work, with the gas lighting pipe and brake end bits 'n' bobs installed from brass wire and strip.

Great fun - just need to get them painted now...

Monday, 24 August 2015


More views of Lisburn Farm as the engineers trains continue to rumble through.

Viewed from beneath the road overbridge, the platform and booking office of Lisburn Farm station continue to look forlorn and overgrown, although everything remains in relatively good order. Hopefully, the authorities will see sense and quickly get the line back up and running before decay sets in and it becomes too expensive to resurrect regular services. Maybe whoever 'liberated' the station nameboard can also be persuaded to return it if the line is reprieved?

This beautiful etched gate is from the Studio Scale Models range, adding a touch of class to the repainted Hornby Skaledale dry stone walling sections.

Friday, 21 August 2015


Heljan 4-wheeler takes to the rails.

As mentioned in the previous post, a Heljan Park Royal railbus has come my way and is now pootling up and down the Lingley Green branch on route learning duties. As yet, no passengers have been carried and, in this view, the driver and guard have popped off up the lane to the village inn for a refreshment break. With no other traffic timetabled for the branch today, they can afford to take their time...

Read a full review of the new Heljan railbus in the latest issue of Model Rail magazine (MR213), out next week.

Thursday, 20 August 2015


Will the new low-cost diesel passenger service prevent closure? 

Prior to a possible reinstatement of regular passenger services, BR has been running trials over the Lingley Green branch, using a Park Royal 4-wheel railbus. With a bit of luck and enough public support, it should help to keep the line open for the time being. Especially as Mossop's Motors have been struggling to get the local corporation to pay for some road and bridge improvements to allow its new buses to reach this rural backwater. Let's hope that BR can seize the initiative...

Incidentally, the railbus is a motorised Dapol plastic kit. However, I've just managed to obtain one of the lovely new Heljan RTR versions and this is currently undergoing DCC conversion and an interior upgrade. I doubt I'll be adding too many passengers yet, though. We'll have to wait and see how the trials go.

Saturday, 8 August 2015


Demolition train makes an ominous sight.

The stillness of the countryside is disturbed by the gentle humming and whirring of an English Electric 350hp diesel, as it enters the remains of Lisburn Farm station. The engineers' wagons are loaded with spoil, sleepers and assorted bits of scrap railway infrastructure. The Home signal post has already lost its arm and the telegraph wires have been cut, while the station has lost its signs and name boards.

There's still a van in the old goods shed, however, and the small factory is still working, so there's a chance that freight traffic may carry on in the short term. Maybe one of those new fangled diesel railcars will stimulate more in the way of passenger traffic from this remote, rural location? Or will Mossop's Motors snaffle the market day custom with their new Leyland Tiger Cub bus?

You can see how the overgrown look was created in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR213), out on August 27th.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


Mini layout finally receives the scenic treatment.

Started some time ago - and recently converted to digital control (see the latest issue of Model Rail magazine - MR212) - this tiny OO gauge layout has been waiting patiently for the scenic work to be carried out. As well as this being my first proper foray into DCC, I decided to stay with the pioneering spirit and make use of an electrostatic grass tool for the first time. There's still quite a bit more work to do - it's all a bit too green and uniform at the moment - but I'm getting there.

I think BR will have to run a weed-killing train before too long. Either that or a demolition train..?

Monday, 3 August 2015


Newspaper van conversion under way.

I've been slowly creating an authentic array of 1980s era newspaper and parcel vans, mostly by means of re-branding various Mk1 BGs. However, I've been after a couple of special GUV newspaper conversions, so some drastic surgery has been required. In order to allow the movement of sorting staff throughout the train whilst en route, a number of GUVs had new ends installed, complete with gangways and a toilet compartment. Mirroring the real things, I've grafted new whitemetal ends (Comet) onto this Bachmann GUV and made a few other alterations to the roof and sides, most notably the cutting of an extra window aperture for the WC (the nearest to the end in the above view).

Now ready for priming and painting, I'm looking forward to seeing this vehicle in a shabby version of British Rail blue. Combined with the rest of my stock, it should help bring back memories of the once plentiful newspaper traffic emanating from Manchester Red Bank sidings...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


Half-weathered TTAs finished off.

With another run of airbrushing courses out of the way, I've been sorting through the paints, materials and stock that has been sitting in a box since I got back from Sussex. As I only ever get time to demonstrate certain techniques on half of a wagon or locomotive, I've been amassing a collection of partially weathered models. In theory, I could use the other half on the next course but with the roof or, in this case the barrel, also being treated extensively, that's seldom possible.

However, after spending an hour or so servicing my hardworking airbrushes, I thought I'd take the opportunity to finish off this rake of TTA tank wagons. It also provided a means of testing whether the Iwata tools were in proper fettle. Happily, they're working perfectly.
As usual!

PS. Thanks to everyone who came to the three courses. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Friday, 17 July 2015


Class 37 component recovery underway.

The diesel depot layout is now complete, with a fleet of EWS traction taking up residence. Centre stage is an elderly and defunct Class 37 (a much modified 30-year old Hornby model) lifted off its bogies and being stripped of usable parts to keep other class members in service. It's quite a hive of activity within the repair shed, with lots of tools, equipment and parts littering the floor. I particular like the access platform and mesh parts bins that were built from etched metal kits from PH Designs. 

The Hornby and Bachmann shed buildings, although quite different in style, compliment each other well. The Hornby shed (on the left) is where locomotives are serviced regularly, with coolant and oil levels topped up and light exams carried out. A fuelling point is adjacent (far left).

Considering this layout was built in a week, using mostly stuff I already had to hand, I'm very pleased with the results. You can see the full story behind this depot scene in Model Rail issue 212 (out on July 30).

Thursday, 16 July 2015


 Shed scene almost ready.

The track has been ballasted and weathered, the backscene installed and the low relief buildings added. A start has also been made on the scenic foreground and the concrete hardstanding on which the sheds will stand. Formed simply from thick mounting card, the airbrush and acrylic paints have created the necessary textures and colouring to depict sections of cast concrete. The inspection pits have also been treated to the 'concrete' treatment, looking rather murky in their depths.

The fuelling point needs assembling, followed by a wealth of smaller details in and around the shed buildings, including a loco jacked-up and being stripped for spares... 

Monday, 13 July 2015


Ready-made structure arrives.

With a modern diesel depot scene to build, I've treated myself to one of Bachmann's ready-to-plant diesel traction depots. This ain't cheap (80-odd quid!), but it's a cracking model and, with time of the essence, building a kit is out of the question. However, the building still needs some work, so I've removed the smoky glazing and re-fitted the etched window frames on the end and side that will be visible (the other side and end have been left as a way of subtly obscuring the backscene). Immediately, the shed looks more refined and the addition of health and safety signage, plus the EWS logo bring the structure to life.

Right - on with the baseboards...!

Friday, 10 July 2015


Iconic AEC bus enters service.

Don't you just love red buses?! They're one of those childhood obsessions that never leaves your imagination. Although all the buses I remember as a little kid on Merseyside were green, my uncle gave me a big red toy bus as a toddler, which seemed very exotic. The idea of riding on the open rear platform also appealed to my youthful imagination (surely this wasn't allowed?!). In our risk averse society, it's amazing that the Routemasters lasted in service as long as they did, especially on the Capital's busy roads. Those hot summer days when the Crosville Bristol VR (on the H2 service) would be speeding out of Liverpool at 50mph, with the front doors wide open, would leave me terrified and gripping the seat rails for dear life. And then my brother would vomit into a Kwik Save carrier bag. Every time. What fun we had.

On a less smelly note, my improved EFE die-cast RM bus is now finished and ready for service. It has a full compliment of passengers, a driver and some extra period advertisements. Missing details such as licence plates and AEC radiator logos have been added, along with some detail painting, especially around the open platform and stairs. All that's missing is a 'Clippie' - the only one I could get hold of is a OO gauge figure, but the passengers and driver are HO, so he looks like a chubby Peter Crouch in comparison. So, just like the guy from the 'On the Buses' TV show, he's probably just popped into one of the nearby houses for a bit of you know what...

Look out for the full lowdown on the RM bus in Model Rail issue 212 (out July 30th).

* NOTE that I've changed reference to the bus as an RM, not an RT as I'd originally published. Shows how much I know about buses. Especially ones from south of the Runcorn bridge...

Thursday, 9 July 2015

OH B****R!


Wouldn't you know it - lots of practical work to catch up on, an imminent string of airbrush courses to teach and thousands of words to type for the magazine. And I go and hack out a big chunk of my fingertip with a Stanley knife. On my right hand too.

Luckily, I have my Iwata trigger handle airbrushes, so I can still finish the Routemaster bus I've been working on, even with my huge comedy bandage! The EFE die-cast model has been titivated with interior detail and transfers and I've toned down the high gloss finish with a mix of satin and light sheen varnishes. Now currently reassembled and clamped-up while the glue dries, a little weathering will finish things off nicely. Just hope the finger heals quickly!

Thursday, 11 June 2015


Is there a case for a 21st Century 'Electra'?

Electra? Can anyone else remember that term, coined by British Rail's publicity department in the 1980s. Or am I showing my age...? When the Class 91s or InterCity 225 as they were also dubbed at the time - finally emerged from Crewe Works in 1988, they seemed like something from a brave new world, especially to a 13year old kid more used to belching, scruffy diesels. With the dazzling white, grey and red original livery, they certainly caught the imagination and promised speeds up to 140mph on the newly-electrified East Coast Mainline, although this never happened, with 125mph being the most they have been allowed to do. Still, they've given stirling service over the years, with Virgin Trains East Coast the current operator of the '91' fleet.

But, why am I prattling on about these engines? I recently received an email from a Model Rail reader asking about a detailing project I undertook a few years back, using the rather basic Hornby model as a basis. Parts from Shawplan, Hurst Models and PH Designs - plus a few scratchbuilt bits 'n' bobs, have transformed the loco into something more realistic.

The project featured in my first book on detailing diesel & electric locomotives, being revisited with some newer parts in Model Rail mag, issue 181. The parts list includes chopped metal buffers (A1 Models), new Bracknell Willis pantograph from Hurst Models, bufferbeam fittings from Shawplan, etched side underframe louvres from PH Designs and a new set of wheels from Ultrascale. I also fabricated new bogie footsteps from brass strip, scratchbuilt the fairing around the bufferbeam at the 'blunt' end with Plastikard and added tiny flexible sand pipes from fishing line. Dropped buckeye couplings were found in the spares box (from a Heljan Class 33/1 I think).

With a few tweaks, it looks pretty convincing and some extra weight in the chassis (lead shot fixed with epoxy glue) improved performance. Will Hornby ever deem it worthwhile retooling the '91' with a higher, more contemporary specification? Who knows... 

Monday, 8 June 2015


Long break from modelling activity - but for good reason!

Gosh, it seems like a long time since I last reported any goings on. In reality, though, it's only been about 6 weeks, but I've been very busy in that time. With more editorial duties and responsibilities, the practical side of my job has reduced anyway, although the fact that we moved house last month has had a greater impact, as I've been without a workshop. There's still a way to go before the work area is ready for use, but my fingers are getting very twitchy and are aching to get away from a computer keyboard for a while. Oh, how I've missed getting covered in paint, glue and model filler!

Much of May was spent in the production of our latest Model Rail Workbench bookazine, The Definitive Guide to Painting, which is on sale now from WH Smiths, model shops or direct by calling Responsibility on +44 (0)1733 840111. There's over 110 pages of essential info on everything from paints, brushes, primers, airbrushes, masking, weathering, figure painting, lining, decals, tools, equipment and much more - all at an absolute bargain price of £4.99!

Thursday, 30 April 2015


'O' gauge Type 4 ready for action.

All done! Having taken the best part of a week's work, this super Heljan Class 40 is finished and ready for use. A bit of extra work was put into this project, partly because I love Class 40s, but also because I wanted to try a few slightly different approaches. I've never been able to do the same thing over and over again (my one day on a production line job testifies to that!), so some variety in my work keeps my enthusiasm alive.

I'm very pleased with the results, the use of gloss varnish as part of the 'weathering' job proving especially effective. This is something that I usually reserve for steam locomotives, but it certainly gives the green livery a much deeper lustre and takes away that tell-tale plasticky finish that even the best ready-to-run models carry. The varnish also conveys a slightly oily finish to the body and contrasts beautifully with the dusty matt weathering shades that have been airbrushed over the roof and bonnet top especially.

The contrast with the textured bogies is also a welcome effect, matching many colour images from the 1960s that I worked from. Looking up close, there's plenty of grit and grime trapped around the springs, axle boxes and fuel tanks - just the thing for a machine that has been working hard on a steam-age railway in the early-to-mid 1960s.

As with many a RTR model, you can only truly appreciate their worth once they've been weathered convincingly. I thought the Heljan '40' was pretty good when we first received the review sample, but I reckon it's even better now!

Sadly - for me at least - this model has to be returned to Tower Models in Blackpool, who kindly allowed me to try out my weathering skills. I'm not sure what it's fate will be, but I imagine it will be up for sale. So, if it takes your fancy, I'd get in touch with Tower pronto...

Monday, 20 April 2015


New portable compressor prototype on test.

Over the past few days I've been testing a prototype for an innovative new airbrush compressor. The Iwata Freestyle Air is a rechargeable, battery-operated compressor that offers the benefits of portability with the ability to power precision painting tasks, especially weathering jobs. WIth a choice of three pre-set pressure settings, I've found it excellent for scenic work such as painting and weathering track, scenery and buildings on a layout. It's also proved great for small-scale weathering and detail painting work, such as 'OO' and 'N' gauge rolling stock.

The unit can be operated stood on a heavy-duty rubber pad, or laid flat on its vibration-absorbing feet. It's not too noisy either and the three pressure settings give good control without too much in the way of 'pulsing'. A mains lead is supplied but, when fully charged, the battery will last for up to 45minutes, although the device must be rested momentarily every 9 minutes to prevent overheating. This usually coincides with a need to 'rest' while the surface dries, or to replenish the paint in the airbrush, so it's no big deal.

There's no form of moisture filtration, though, so a cheap in-line filter is recommended but, other than that, it's been hard to find fault with this tool. It's not intended for general work on a larger scale (such as loco livery jobs on 4mm scale models and upwards), but it's a very handy accessory to have for anyone who needs a portable device. As someone who likes to take modelling projects on holiday, this is just the ticket.

I've had great fun playing around with the Freestyle Air and it should be going on sale imminently. Check out for more info...