Friday, 29 July 2016


Just Like The Real Thing's latest kit impresses. 

I've spent a pleasant few days assembling one of the latest 7mm scale kits from Just Like The Real Thing, depicting the ex-War Department 'Rectank' flat wagon. Built during the First World War for the transport of tanks, many of these wagons were subsequently purchased by the various pre-Grouping British railway companies. Pressed into service carrying all sorts of commodities, many lasted well into the nationalisation era.

This is my first experience of a JLTRT kit, although I've heard plenty of praise for the locomotive and rolling stock kits from colleagues and readers over the years. Is the hype justified? If this kit is representative of the range, then absolutely YES!

The parts are superbly rendered, everything fits together with no hassle and you only need a small selection of tools. What's more, the whole thing has been assembled with a single tube of cyano glue - with not a soldering iron in sight. Almost everything is supplied, with a set of Slaters wheels, paints and transfers being required. Talking of which, I've just received a jolly nice set of transfers from Railtec Models, using some impressive-sounding new printing gear - I'm looking forward to trying them out.

Although the wagon was more-or-less complete after a couple of afternoons, a few more days will be spent on the painting and weathering and I'm thinking of scratch-building a set of wooden bolsters and a mock steel load. A full demo feature and appraisal will appear in issue 226 of Model Rail magazine, on sale 11 August.

Monday, 25 July 2016


An exercise in brake van weathering. 

It's been a while since I last worked on a brake van, so I decided to try something different with this Bachmann model. The aim was to replicate the subtle tonal shifts between the various planks, as seen on the real things in the 1970s/80s. Visible beneath the layers of accumulated grime, there was usually the odd replacement plank in a different colour, plus rust patches on the steel-clad lookout pod and handrails, dirty windows and a distinctive texture to the surface of the chassis frames.

For an evening's work, it's turned out pretty well. As it was something of an experiment, the other side of the van is still in it's immaculate factory finish, which will have to be treated and blended with the rest of the vehicle in due course. 

The various techniques that I've employed will be explained in a book that I'm currently working on. Details will appear here in time...

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


New addition to Maudetown Colliery's fleet.

Already looking a bit grubby, the National Coal Board's new Sentinel diesel has been at work on Maudetown Colliery's rail network for the past few weeks. The bright red livery has taken on a dusty appearance, although the shiny, polished finish is still visible in places. 

The Hornby model has received some custom-etched name and number plates from PH Designs, but other than that it's straight out of the box. A grey 'filter' has been airbrushed over the livery in order to tone it down. Washes were then applied to the seams and recesses and a few other weathering tricks employed until the model began to look the part. All that's missing is a footplate crew, complete with NCB donkey jackets!

Thursday, 14 July 2016


 DB Class 66 ready for action.

My recreation of an ex-EWS Class 66 is complete. I'm very satisfied with the weathering job, employing some slightly different techniques. Most of the 'dirt' is limited to underframe and roof - as per the real thing - while the body sides and cab ends are kept clean. And yet the paintwork has taken on a dull, lifeless lustre, suggesting a hardworking locomotive that has spent nearly 20years at the mercy of the British weather.

This has been achieved with an overall 'filter' coat, applied via an airbrush, while much of the rest of the weathering was undertaken by hand, using acrylic paints, powders and enamel washes. There are a few areas of chipped paintwork on the sides of the roof and a noticeably cleaner area of the gold banding, where the EWS vinyls have recently been removed. A set of cabside mirrors have also been installed, crafted from scraps of brass wire and strip.

Look out for the full demonstration, as part of a Class 66 Masterclass, in the next issue of Model Rail (MR225), on sale 28 July.

Early- and late-period EWS era machines: the vivid red/gold scheme of 66022 contrasts with the duller, careworn 66137. 
The real 66137, at work in the Peak District of Derbyshire, Spring 2015.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Ex-EWS Class 66 gets the DB branding.

In the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR225), we're running a Masterclass of the Class 66, a true design classic if ever there was one. Like 'em or not, they're probably the most successful diesel-electric locomotives to have run on UK railways. With the last ever example entering service with GBRf this year, it seemed a good idea to mark the event with an updated profile of the type.

My allotted part in the proceedings is to recreate an ex-EWS Class 66, but with the discreet brandings of current operator Deutsche Bahn. Despite taking over EWS years ago, only a handful of '66s' have been repainted. Indeed, it's also taken a while before the EWS logos have been removed from those yet to be painted bright red.

It appears that Bachmann are to recreate one such ex-EWS loco at some point, but I thought I'd beat them to it, with the aid of some great DB transfers from Railtec. With these now in place and the loco re-numbered, I'm about to embark on a suitable weathering job... stay tuned for more updates!

Friday, 8 July 2016

OLE! (3)

Wires are up - trains are running.

My 24Kv AC electric railway diorama is now complete and I've been running a variety of locomotives up and down the 4ft of track successfully. Well, mostly. The pantograph on my Bachmann Class 85 doesn't seem to want to co-operate, but my old Lima Class 87 (with original twin-arm panto) has been fine. This Hornby '86' must be about 30-odd years old, but was extensively upgraded about a decade ago, complete with Sommerfeldt pantograph, which works perfectly. And so it should, as the Peco catenary system is actually made by the same German firm! 

Although I can't run the trains at realistic speeds, the diorama has allowed me to test the catenary system thoroughly, especially in terms of how it all fits together. If using it again, there are a few things I'd do differently and I think I've gone wrong in a couple of minor areas, but it all seems to be working. So, what's my verdict overall? You'll have to wait for my full review and assembly demonstration in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR225), out 28 July!!

One thing I will say is that I'm tempted to incorporate a set of wires into a new layout I've been planning....

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

OLE! (2)

24Kv AC electric diorama almost finished.

As mentioned, a week or so ago, I've been working on a diorama to test the new range of Peco 'OO' gauge overhead wire (OLE) equipment. Since then, I've managed to get the track fully painted and weathered and the scenery sorted. I've also painted a rudimentary backscene with automotive paint. It's a bit Mediterranean - we don't get skies that blue where I live - but it'll do for my purposes.

All that's left to do is to take a deep breath and start fitting the delicate overhead wires to the masts...

Friday, 1 July 2016


More adventures in corroded steel.

I've just welcomed another item of rolling stock to my 'O' gauge fleet, in the form of a Parkside Dundas kit of the iconic BR 16ton mineral wagon. Before assembly, the plastic bodyshell components were treated to a bit of panel beating work with a ball pein hammer, inducing a pronounced outward bow. The textured, peeling paintwork accentuates the lumps and bumps in the 'steelwork'. Although I've used these techniques extensively on my 'OO' fleet, this is the first time I've adapted it to the larger scale. 

The processes involved are to be explained and illustrated in a forthcoming book that I'm currently working on, hopefully to appear sometime in 2017.