Tuesday, 21 November 2017


Impressive structure takes shape.

I was having so much fun building the Wills three-arch viaduct kit that I bought a few more and began extending the structure. Adding arches soon becomes addictive and I had to rein myself in. So far, this imposing single-track viaduct boasts five arches. However, a second parallel viaduct is also required, to carry a curved, diverging branch across the same valley - but that will have to wait for a while...

The Wills kit provides an excellent basis for customisation and I've improvised drain pipes and reinforcing patress plates to provide a bit more detail. Buttress walls at each end are also missing from the kit, so I've made my own, which finish off the structure nicely.

You can read all about how this was built in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR243), out on 14 December.

Monday, 6 November 2017


Bedford mess van adds a bit of colour

While rooting through some boxes yesterday, I came across this Oxford Die-cast 4mm scale Bedford mess and tool truck. While the luminous yellow plastic body looked very toylike, I wondered if I could tone it down convincingly with a quick weathering job.

An hour or so later and here it is, looking a lot more realistic. A mix of enamel washes and airbrushed paints have been employed, along with clear coats of various sheens and dry pigments around the wheels.

The truck would still benefit from some detailing work, especially to the interior, but it'll do for now... my diesel depot has been crying out for some authentic 1980s BR road vehicles and this is a perfect addition. 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017


 Layout gains a superior 'case', lighting rig and fiddleyard.

My tiny fictional, rural idyll of Lisburn Lane station has finally received a full plywood case, which has given the largely MDF structure more rigidity and resilience. I also took the opportunity to install an integral lighting rig, having been inspired by the methods of my Model Rail colleague, Chris Nevard

With a viewing portal cut into the frontage, the layout instantly looks more convincing (and professional!) and the plywood frame now needs painting in a suitably neutral shade. After repairing some areas of damaged track (as described in Model Rail issue 240), fiddleyards are now under construction - one for each side of the scenic section.

Hopefully, I'll actually have a fully working layout before Christmas, although there's still some wiring to do. And then there's the scenery to finish...

Thursday, 19 October 2017


Grounded brake van has seen better days.

I knocked-up this excellent laser-cut kit the other day, from Ancorton Models. It's been on my to-do list for a year or two, so it's good to finally see it built and installed. 

Assembly took only an hour or so, having treated the wooden parts to various shades of oil-based wood dye beforehand. Picking out the individual planks in contrasting shades has proved worthwhile. It's looking very much at home in this corner of a goods yard, although I think I'll train some climbing vegetation up the walls to give it an even more neglected appearance. I had great fun building and finishing it - just the thing for a chilly, autumn evening by the fire!

Friday, 13 October 2017


Brush Type 2 ready for service.

Here are some images of my finished Class 31/4. As mentioned previously, I've been working on a Hornby model, adding plenty of extra detail and applying a full repaint. The etched bogie footsteps and other delicate details from a PH Design kit have added plenty of finesse to the model, while a careful paint job - using a variety of shades of BR blue and yellow, rather then flat coats - forms the icing on the cake, so to speak. 

I've cut back on my loco detailing and repainting work recently, due mostly to boredom (doing too much of one thing is never a good idea) but this project has reinvigorated me a little.  

You can see how the model was created in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR241), on sale next week.

Friday, 6 October 2017


Chasing Class 37s in Cumbria.

I've made it something of a mission to get out and about a bit more this year, chasing a number of locomotive and multiple units whose days may be numbered - at least on their present duties. Some are more glamorous than others - Great Western HSTs v Class 143 Pacers, for example. While others are just for the fun of it, such as Class 37 haulage in Cumbria and Norfolk.

While Norfolk is one heck of a treck from Dent Towers, Cumbria is a lot closer to home so I've become something of a regular beside the line at various spots, awaiting the familiar growl of an English Electric Type 3. Mind you, a few times, especially on the stretch west of Barrow, the '37+Mk2' combo has seen a DMU substitute, which has been a bit of an anticlimax, to say the least. 

But, when you're in such attractive surroundings, on a sunny day, who can really complain...?

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


Town gas works due for demolition.

Built for a one-off cover shoot and magazine feature, Parpinton Gas Works was simply a scenic diorama on a sheet of thick MDF. With no reinforcing structure or protective shell, it was inevitable that it would be prone to damage while stored in a very untidy and dirty garage. Although I've used it for a few more photo shoots in the past year, for other magazine and book projects, the number of unblemished buildings and scenery were getting fewer, so I decided to cut my losses and consign the model to history.

Virtually everything bar the track and ground cover has been salvaged for re-use. Indeed, most of the structures had already been employed on numerous other layouts and dioramas - I hate to throw anything away.

Before the demolition team moved in, though, there was just time for the last rail movement along the High Street, as a 'Pug' hauled away wagons of unburnt coal from the closed works' stockpiles. As soon as the last wagon clears the entrance, the huge wooden gates will be shut for the final time. 

Friday, 29 September 2017


Class 31/4 upgrade in honour of first issue of Model Rail.

This month marks 20 years since Model Rail magazine became a standalone, monthly publication and, with this in mind, I'd been browsing through issue No.1 looking for inspiration. The mag featured an in-depth Masterclass feature on the humble Class 31 diesels, showcasing possible improvements to the Lima model, which was the best 'OO' RTR offering at the time.

After ruminating on Brush Type 2s for a while, I recalled how excited I used to be when the '31'-hauled Liverpool-Sheffield expresses whizzed through my local station, so I decided to model one of these ETH-equipped Class 31/4s. 

Using a Hornby model as a basis, I’d originally planned to portray 'skinhead' 31418 in its late 1970s/early 1980s guise, as the locomotive was one of the last ‘31/4s’ to retain the ‘retro’ bufferbeam cowling, waist strip and boiler fittings.

Being unsatisfied with Hornby's weathered BR blue finish, I stripped the body back to bare plastic, to lay the best foundations for a quality paint finish.

Alas, Hornby cannily formed the raised waist strip from an extra layer of paint, presumably achieved by tampo printing. This explains why the strip looked rather insubstantial and, not wanting the hassle of reinstating it with plastic strip, I switched to ‘418s’ later, refurbished condition. I wasn’t too disappointed, however, as the model now suits the period when I remember the real things at work on my local line in the late '80s/early '90s.

Detailing components have been sourced from A1 Models, Replica Railways and Shawplan, along with an excellent fret of etched brass parts from PH Designs. As well as roof grille, lamp brackets and all manner of small bits and bobs, the PH Design kit also provides a set of wonderful bogie footsteps, complete with mesh tread plates. A little care is needed to assemble them, but they look stunning.

Look out for this project in the next issue of Model Rail - the 20th Anniversary issue! - on sale 19 October.

While I didn't discover Model Rail until 2000 (I remember buying it for the first time in Torquay - it had a Class 26 on the cover!), I soon took out a subscription. It was the first modelling magazine that really grabbed my attention and gave me a spark to get back into the hobby after a short hiatus. Little did I know then that I'd end up working for the magazine a few years later!
Copies of MR1 are not easy to find these days!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017


7mm scale French saloon weathered. 

Why is it that when I'm rooting around in the attic looking for something in particular, I end up finding loads of other stuff I'd forgotten about, but not the thing I was initially searching for? Whatever the reason (it's probably because I need to organise my 'stash' better), this wonderful 1:43 scale Renault 12 appeared and I couldn't resist treating it to a bit of weathering. 

Depicting a typical car from the 1970s, with plenty of corrosion along the wheel arches, doors and wings, the job only took a couple of hours. I ought to convert it to right-hand drive and fit UK style number plates, but that's a job for another day. It should look great parked up near the diesel depot that I've been meaning to build for a while...

The original packaging has disappeared, but I think the model may be from Atlas Editions, dating from the late-2000s.

Monday, 14 August 2017


GWR wartime ARP signal box.

While on holiday in Devon, I popped into Osborn's Models in Bideford and had a mini splurge on 'N' gauge buildings and rolling stock. I also picked up a 'OO' gauge laser-cut wood kit from Arch Models, depicting a GWR Austerity signal box. Built during the war to replace structures damaged by - or at risk of - enemy bombardment, the style is often referred to as ARP, after the Air Raid Precautions of the time.

The kit, rendered in micro plywood, was good fun to assemble and paint (I used wood dye for most of the brickwork, applied prior to assembly). Look out for a review in Model Rail magazine in the near future.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


Goods shed repainted and (almost) ready for use.
Back in June, I mentioned that I'd been renovating a wonderful cast plaster kit from the Townstreet Models range. Having repaired the damaged areas, filled a few gaps and constructed a new interior platform, the building has been completely repainted and weathered.

Originally, the stonework had been coloured with wood dye, but the shades were not quite right for the new layout project that I have in mind. This time, I was aiming for a replication of the distinctive yellow-brown limestone to be found around northern Derbyshire. Initially, I struggled to find suitable paints until the timely arrival of some new themed packs from Lifecolor.

The 'Stone Grey' pack features a half-dozen acrylic shades, which formed the base for the stonework, with a few other Lifecolor shades employed for extra tonal variety, from the 'Debris & Rubble - Europe Village' sets, plus some greys and Weathered Black for the roof.

The canopy and valance has been given a two-tone brown scheme - which needs some extra weathering - to set the building in the late-1960s-to-early-1980s era. There's a few little tweaks to take care of, but otherwise the model is virtually complete. Considering that I started on the building in 2005, it's about time that I finished it off properly! 

Friday, 21 July 2017


Cute little tram engine built in 'N' gauge.

The Summer issue of Model Rail magazine hits the shelves next week (July 27) and features my illustrated build of this great little steam tram engine in 2mm scale. Built from a whitemetal kit, produced by N-Drive Productions, it features a pre-assembled chassis, with only the bodywork requiring assembly and painting. There's no need for soldering or any complicated wiring - just glue the bits together, paint it and drop the chassis inside. Easy!

Having recently worked on an 'O' gauge Class 08, facing such a contrasting scale more-or-less straightaway proved somewhat challenging. But that's all part of the fun. The loco has now been packed up and will soon be on its way to my Model Rail colleague Peter Marriott, who's building a Wisbech & Upwell Tramway-inspired layout.

The loco should have its number applied to the bufferbeam, but I struggled to find any decals small enough!

At only a couple of centimetres long, this is one tiny model loco - yet it runs very well.

Monday, 17 July 2017


Plastic kit avoids the breaker's yard.

I was rummaging inside a box of scenic accessories and came across a kit-built lorry that I built a couple of decades ago. Alas, it was in several pieces, the cab in particular suffering from severe crush damage.

My first impulse was to shrug and confine it to the bin or, at best, salvage some of the parts for future use as scenic scrap. However, I thought better of it and decided to set about repairing the damage - and I'm glad that I did!

The cab front was rebuilt with plastic strip, which was a bit fiddly, but otherwise the job was easy enough and a useful way to spend a few rainy summer evenings. The paint/weathering job was comprehensive and far better than my original handiwork (pre-airbrush days!), although I reprised the handsome green and white livery. It could do with branding, but I haven't settled on a haulier's name yet. Perhaps 'Dent Salvage'?!

With the Coopercraft kit complete, a sheeted cargo was created using a stone-cast load from Ten Commandments, covered with the wrapping from a chocolate biscuit, duly painted and weathered. It took a few attempts - and biscuits - to get this looking just right...
Painting almost complete - note the sponge shoved into the cab to protect the pre-painted interior. Individual panes of 'glass' were cut from clear styrene and flush-fitted into the frames with Johnsons Klear.

Note the real wood veneer added to the load bed, cut into separate planks and secured with strong double-sided tape. Dilute enamel washes then give the wood a suitably grimy aspect.

Thursday, 13 July 2017


'O' Gauge 'Gronk' recalls the late-1980s era.

Those of you who have already seen the latest issue of Model Rail (MR237) will have seen the finished results of my project to modify, repaint and weather one of Dapol's superb Class 08s. Here are a few images of 08434 anyway, as I'm as proud of this model as I am of any of my previous efforts. Constituting my first real foray into serious loco detailing/modifying in 7mm scale, it proved to be great fun and a very rewarding challenge.

The view above shows the side where most of the work was centred, in the removal of a forward equipment box and re-building of the bonnet-side doors, along with the removal of strap hinges and fabrication of new hinge detail and locking handles. The cab front also needed work, with the central lamp boxes and conduit removed, holes filled and the 'wasp' stripes repainted.

The choice of number and the addition of unofficial, painted-on Midland names places the loco at Tinsley Shed (near Sheffield) in the late 1980s. The decals were produced by Railtec and help to give the 'Gronk' a distinct character.

I'm often asked about what airbrush equipment I use when working in different scales. The answer is usually the same as when I'm working in my usual 4mm scale. With 'O' gauge, it simply takes a bit longer to cover the larger model!

A good compressor is essential, though, as the airbrush will be working for longer and the last thing we need is the unit having to shut down for an enforced rest mid-painting. My Iwata Smart Jet Pro has been proving its worth over the last year or two. Despite not having an air tank, it proved to be up to the job of painting and weathering this small 'O' gauge model.

As for the airbrushes, the priming coats were sprayed through an Iwata Revolution CR (0.5mm needle/nozzle combo), which emits a nice, ample spray pattern to cover a larger surface, while also being simple to clean out afterwards (the heavy pigments of primers demand greater cleanliness). If I'd been painting a generic livery application, the CR would have done for the blue coats too.

However, as explained in an earlier post (and in MR237), the blue was built up in various high- and low-light shades, following the contours and detail on the bodyshell. With greater precision required, an Iwata HP-CH (with 0.3mm nozzle) proved more suitable, allowing full control over the paint flow. The airbrushed element of the weathering process was also achieved with the HP-CH, using Tamiya acrylics.

Next up, as far as 'O' gauge is concerned, is to build a new Heljan modular diesel depot kit...

Monday, 3 July 2017


1970s DMU gets the weathering treatment.

In an effort to get my workshop into some semblance of order, I spent the weekend packing up previous projects - those completed and those abandoned (or 'paused'!) - for safe storage in the attic. One of the things I came across was this lovely Bachmann Class 108 2-car DMU, in the less-than-practical 1970s scheme of white and blue.

Applied to units fresh from mid-life refurbishment, the brown underframes and dark grey roofs were a wise choice, partly obscuring the grime that inevitably accumulated in these areas. The bright white sides and yellow ends did get rather grubby, though, despite the planned regular cleaning regimen. 

It would be easy to give this DMU a heavy layer of grime, as I would with some plain blue DMUs but, as even the slightest addition will show up on the stark background, a more restrained approach was needed.

The yellow ends were treated to washes, using slightly lighter shades of yellow artists' oil paints, imparting a slightly faded, washed-out look. The sides and ends were then given a wash coat using MIG's Neutral Wash, a mid-grey shade of enamel wash, designed for use on white and lighter backgrounds. This toned down the bodywork to a satisfying degree. Slightly darker washes were then carefully run into the door seams to bring out the detail relief further.

With this groundwork complete, the airbrush came out and a light misting along the lower and upper edges of the sides and ends was affected. Heavier deposits were sprayed onto the chassis and roof, and hey presto! The process was recorded in full in a new book that is due to be published later this month - more about that soon...

I took the opportunity to populate the interior with train crew and passengers, while also installing a set of laser-cut gangway bellows, from York Modelmaking, which finishes off the DMU nicely. 

The unit is now safely packed away, awaiting a layout on which to run - hopefully that won't be too far away. But I've been saying that to myself for years now...!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


Stone-Cast Shed Under Repair

While rummaging through the attic, I came across a wonderful goods shed that I built over a decade ago, from a Townstreet Models stone-cast kit. Featuring in the pages of Model Rail magazine sometime in 2005 – as well as a DVD – the finished building never made it onto a proper layout. Confined to a box for ‘safe’ storage, the model has suffered a fair bit of damage over the years, not helped by three house moves in that time.

I thought it was high time that it saw some TLC and an improved painted finish. The original finish was created mostly by oil-based wood dyes, this being an excellent means of colouring bare plaster components. Alas, due to the amount of repair work necessary, the use of adhesives effectively seals the porous material, rendering dyes pretty useless. Indeed, the sections of the kit were treated with the dyes before assembly, for just this reason.

As well as repairing damaged walls and broken details, I also took the chance to fill some of the many gaps in the joints, something I neglected to do first time around. Deluxe Materials’ Create & Shape proved just the thing for working into the gaps, as well as building up missing areas of masonry. Once dry, the Create & Shape can be sanded and scribed to blend seamlessly into the surrounding relief. 

The canopy and platform have seen the most remedial work and, even before the shed has been repainted, it's looking much better already. The internal goods loading platform has gone missing, so I need to scratch-build another and I may take the opportunity to add some extra interior details and lighting. Hopefully, the building will find a home on a layout some day - it certainly deserves to be used.

Monday, 12 June 2017


'O' gauge 'Gronk' in the works.

When Dapol’s ‘O’ gauge Class 08 appeared late last year, I couldn’t wait to get hold of a BR blue version, primarily with an eye on an enjoyable weathering project. Recreating that shabby look, with leaking fuel and oil stains and faded blue paintwork, would provide a welcome challenge. 

As things panned out, I ended up having to do some significant modification work to the bodyshell in order to recreate a later version of the ‘08’. As my main passion is for the 1980s era of British Rail, most of the earlier Class 08s had been – or were about to be – withdrawn by the late ‘80s.

Dapol’s sole ‘08’ bodyshell tooling portrays the early pattern of bonnet doors, with long, chunky strap hinges, so these would need cutting away and replacing with low profile hinge detail. Moreover, one of the louvred equipment cabinets on the running plate also had to go, meaning that three of the doors would need extending to full height.

Instead of a knife, I used one of my woodcarving chisels to remove the raised hinge detail. A shallow No. 4 sweep (London Pattern) proved the most effective, being less prone to 'digging in' than a regular knife blade.
A few other detail tweaks were also necessary, including removing some of the headlamps and the radiator access ladders. I could have gone further with the detailing work, but time was a factor and, to be honest, I just wanted to get on and weather the thing.

Due to the nature of the modifications, I’ve had to repaint most of the bodyshell, so the opportunity was taken to create highlights and lowlights in the paintwork, as a prelude to the weathering job. Using a few different shades of Railmatch BR Rail Blue (the darker shade tinted with Railmatch Weathered Black), including Railmatch’s pre-faded shade, some careful airbrushing work guided the paint shades into specific areas.
New bonnet door panels have been added from thin plastic card. 
Incidentally, I employed a fine airbrush for the job, despite the model’s large scale. An Iwata HP-HC, with a 0.3mm nozzle/needle combo, allowed me to target the paint accurately. An Iwata Revolution CR (0.5mm needle) took care of the primer and clear coats, where a more general, dispersed spray pattern was required.

I’m just waiting on the clear gloss coats to cure fully before adding the decals. Once they’re in place, I can get on with the rest of the weathering. Look out for the full feature in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR237), out on June 29th...

Thursday, 1 June 2017


Trio of Class 47s get the Tinsley treatment.

UK railway enthusiasts of a certain age and geographic base (northern England and the Midlands), will likely recall the intriguing unofficial names received by a wide range of diesel locomotives in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Decked out by the enthusiastic staff at Tinsley depot (near Sheffield), the names were often accompanied by crests or logos of one sort or another. I've not a clue what a lot of the names alluded to, while others were inspired by classical myths or local legends, it seems.

Anyway, the subjects for the latest three additions to my Class 47 fleet are plain blue 47323 The Jostinot, large logo blue 47450 Blackbuck and Railfreight-liveried 47367 Kenny Cockbird. The latter is unusual in being named after another BR depot's pet emblem, Stratford's Cockney sparrow. 
Apart from 47450, the locos have been fully repainted and all of the decals are from the Precision Labels range, which proved to be up to their usual high standards of accuracy and performance, giving a realistic painted-on appearance. Clearly a lot of research has gone into these decal packs, which include all numbers, data panels, names and crests, with only BR arrows and overhead warning flashes sourced elsewhere (all from Fox). There are tons of Tinsley name packs available, for various loco classes: see the Precision website for details.