Thursday, 26 February 2015


Bachmann's car transporter wagons loaded up and ready for action.

The Bachmann IPA twin-set was an exciting release for modern image enthusiasts a few years ago, and it certainly didn't disappoint when I finally got my hands on a couple. But they arguably look at their best when loaded with a decent set of motor cars, so I decided to have a go. My first thought was to stock up on die-cast models, but soon realised that the accumulated weight would prove too much, especially once a handful of twin-sets had been treated.

Next option was to track down some Rietze HO scale plastic cars, especially their early-2000s style Ford Mondeos to replicate the flow of imported vehicles that these wagons have commonly been used for. But, with these out of stock, I plumped for the easy option - Bachmann's Scenecraft 'small cars'. Offered in 8-packs, they're designed especially to fit the IPA transporter without overloading them weight-wise. They look very similar to the ubiquitous BMW Mini, despite the vague product branding, and can be readily detailed to an authentic appearance.

Although not a strict replication of prototype practice, I also decided to add some windscreen covers, more as a means of showing how they can be created simply and effectively, especially for modellers of other vehicle flows or earlier periods. You can see how the whole thing was done in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR207, out on 12 March)...

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


3D Printed model starts to take shape.

As mentioned previously, this 3D printed carriage kit represents a 4mm scale Metropolitan Railway 3rd Class brake vehicle. After some laborious preparation, the finishing process has got going in earnest, with the wood effect scheme slowly taking shape. I decided to have a go with an airbrush and a few different shades of Tamiya paint to create a base colour, plus highlights and shading to the various panelled sections.

I was quite chuffed with my first attempt and, although it still needs some extra work, the character of the prototype is beginning to emerge. Once the Tamiya paints were dry, I gave the carriage an all-over wash of MIG enamel wood wash, which has settled into all the recesses nicely. Now, I'm waiting for this to dry out completely before I start adding some extra depth to the wood tones and, hopefully, give some impression of the grain.

I've now managed to track down a supplier of suitable transfers and, after a lot of hard work, the project feels like it's finally coming together...

Monday, 23 February 2015


Heljan Mk1 and VBA arrive for review.

After a hectic weekend in Glasgow, attending Model Rail Scotland, it's back to work with a bang today. The workbench has had to be cleared to make way for these two big beasties from Heljan - a Mk1 BG passenger brake carriage and a VBA van, both in ready-to-run 'O' gauge. I'll be writing up my review of these models for the next issue of Model Rail magazine, which goes to press this week, so I'd better get my skates on...!

Thanks to everyone who came to say hello at the SECC over the weekend. It's always good to catch up with familiar faces and meet new readers. It was also great to see a few layouts in the flesh for the first time: Hospital Gates was one of my favourites and Hazelbank was jolly fine, plus plenty of other good 'uns too. And the Glasgow nightlife never fails to disappoint! We're all looking forward to next year's show, which will be the 50th anniversary...


Wednesday, 18 February 2015


Eye-catching paint job for Hornby's little beauty.

This was another of those projects that was begun about a year ago, but was soon put on hold while the more pressing 'day job' work piled up! As soon as the Hornby Sentinel first appeared, even though the first batch included a National Coal Board version, I wanted to see how one would look in a striking coat of 'high viz' yellow. As I'll be describing in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (on sale 12 March), I cheated somewhat and employed modern technology to give myself a preview of what the model would look like. Once I was happy, I took the plunge and took the original loco apart for repainting.

Another cheat - of sorts - was to use Tamiya acrylic paints, mixing up my own shades of yellow to create subtle high- and low-lights. As I intended keeping the loco in as-new condition, I didn't want it looking too toylike, so the subtle tonal shifts add extra depth to the bodyshell, especially around the bonnet panels and end grilles. The third shortcut was to mask up the existing 'wasp' stripe ends and black chassis to keep the repainting to a minimum. 

Replacement transfers, including a rendition of the metallic 'Sentinel' and 'Powered by Rolls Royce' logos, plus the NCB markings, were commissioned from Railtec Transfers, who have just launched a Facebook page with lots of interesting stuff on it. The quality of printing and performance of Railtec decals is excellent. Indeed, a little bird tells me that the company has recently been producing transfers for a number of RTR products, so that's certainly another feather in their cap!

The nameplates are also bespoke, produced by PH Designs as part of a bulk order of fictional 'plates for my equally fictional NCB fleet - all have links with the coal mining industry in South Wales, in terms of people and places. 

If anyone's interested, James Griffiths was a former miner, trade union leader and a Welsh MP who did a lot for the South Wales mining communities, as well as being credited as one of the architects of the Welfare State. 

Monday, 16 February 2015


Weekend sees an unusual 'kit' assembled.

I ordered this set of parts - to build a Metropolitan Railway 3rd Class compartment coach - last year and have just recently gotten around to putting them together. They caught my eye whilst browsing the Shapeways site for something completely different, but then I'm a bit of sucker that way. The body, underframe and bogies, designed and sold by 'Mattwicksbluebell' via the Shapeways site, have to be ordered separately and the 3D printed parts then arrive within a couple of weeks. The body and chassis are rendered in the more forgiving WSF material, whilst the bogies are produced in the almost translucent FUD medium that is much more brittle.

It has taken many, many hours to get the parts ready for final priming and painting, with the bodyshell in particular needing lots of cleaning up and filling to get as smooth a surface as possible - a common issue with WSF. Now that extra detail fittings have been added, it's really beginning to look the part.

Metropolitan railways and rolling stock are a completely alien subject to this northerner, so I had to pop over to the NRM's Search Engine last week to do a little prototype research before the project could get started. Am looking forward to getting on with the wood grain effect paint job - something I haven't done on a panelled coach for a while...

Friday, 6 February 2015


Etched details add a touch of class.

Just spent an enjoyable couple of hours wielding my soldering iron at a set of fine, etched detail parts designed for either the Bachmann or Hornby Class 08. The detail kit, from PH Designs, contains parts to make new footsteps for both the cab and nose end, along with coupling guards and the frame cross member at the front end. It all went together easily and the results are well worth the effort. After a lick of paint and a weathering job, this lovely little engine will be ready for action...

The new steps are more refined than the original plastic mouldings and, thanks to some clever design and soldered construction, they're surprisingly durable.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Hornby and Bachmann goodies arrive for testing.

January is turning into quite a bumper month for new models and I've been busy casting my critical eye over a trio of new models (well, six actually) from both Bachmann and Hornby. Firstly, the natty little Bachmann Class 03 sports a weathered finish and a perfect identity for me, with the real 03170 being a regular on Birkenhead Docks in the 1980s. I keep saying it, but one day I'll build a layout based on B'head, especially as Bachmann's Polybulk grain hoppers are the perfect accessory for the '03'.

From Margate, comes the all-new 21t coal hopper, of LNER provenance, but in early BR guise. A few different versions are being offered in the initial release batch, with early BR, later HOP21 and also a trio of TOPS-branded vehicles. Although a 21t hopper has been a staple of Hornby/Dapol/Airfix for donkey's years, this model is way ahead of any previous RTR offering.

Finally, I've a trio of Hornby's new Mk2e coaches to assess. A BSO, TSO and FO, all in the classic blue/grey livery, with the FO featuring working interior lights. First impressions are favourable, especially given their bargain price point.

Look out for reviews of all three in the next issue of Model Rail, out on 12th Feb!

Monday, 2 February 2015


New 'N' gauge release is a real beauty. 

So, my job for today is to run the rule over the all-new Graham Farish LMS '4F' 0-6-0. Although there's been a 4F in the range for a while, this all-new tooling looks lightyears ahead of its predecessor, with lovely, delicate spoked wheels and no ugly copper pickup strips in sight. A choice of tenders is being offered and this particular model comes with the original Johnson style, making for a very handsome ensemble. The detailed and painted cab interior is another standout feature and there's even a moulded representation of the inside valve gear. Never thought I'd see that on a RTR 'N' gauge loco!

This wee gem is likely to gain a BR identity and a nice weathered finish in the near future. But, in the meantime, a full evaluation will appear in the next issue of Model Rail (MR206), out on Feb 12th...