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...

Friday, 17 April 2015


Big Whistler taking shape.

Much of the Heljan model has now been treated to a weathered finish, along with the body gaining a set of running numbers and a few extra detail enhancements. The cab interiors have also been upgraded and weathered. Unfortunately, I don't have any 7mm figures to hand, so the cabs will remain empty for the time-being. 

The roof needs a bit of refinement, to blend in the various shading around the raised panel lines, but I'm waiting until the whole model is reassembled. As mentioned previously, many of the parts have been treated individually, so there's naturally a risk of them lacking coherence when they're brought together. Therefore, some judicious work with the airbrush will blend everything together at the later stages.

It's taken a lot of work to get this far, but I've enjoyed it greatly!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


Whistling Giant gets the weathering treatment.

This is a project that I've been itching to start since last December. However, finding time for practical work has been something of a struggle recently. At last, though, I've found a slot in the schedule and work has begun apace, with the massive 'O' gauge Class 40 dismantled into more manageable, bite-size chunks.

I decided to try breaking the bogies and underframe into as many separate parts as possible, which has made life so much easier than when I last treated a large 'O' gauge diesel (a Heljan 'Western'). These models weigh a ton and, with their length, even when working on a turntable, you need a lot of space on the workbench. This way, though, my current cramped working conditions haven't proved too inconvenient.

I've given the bogie frames and fuel tanks a suitably grimy, textured finish, using a variety of acrylics and dry pigments, with the effects refined with an airbrush. The project will feature in the Class 40 Masterclass supplement that's being offered free with the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR209), out on May 7th.

So far, it's all looking pretty convincing. Next up will be the bodyshell and the main chassis...