Thursday, 8 November 2018


Arrival of iconic intermodal wagons.

For anyone with an interest in British Rail operations from the late-1960s, up to privatisation, these new 'OO' gauge intermodel wagons from Bachmann will be a welcome sight. Hitherto unavailable in ready-to-run form, apart from the prehistoric Hornby/Tri-ang models from the 1970s, they fill a large gap in the BR wagon market.

Offered in twin-packs and individually, Bachmann has produced the FGA 'outer' wagons, with buffers at one end, as well as the FFA 'inners' without buffers - the prototypes ran in semi-fixed clusters of four or five wagons. A choice of early-BR style grey and red Freightliner branded 20ft and 30ft boxes, or post-1980 shipping company-branded boxes is provided, covering the wagons' whole BR careers. A good number lasted well into the post-BR era too.

Look out for a full review of these excellent wagons in issue 255 of Model Rail magazine, on sale November 22nd.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018


Locos and stock dusted-off for running session.

Much of my locomotives and rolling stock live for long periods in storage as I seldom have the space and time to set up my layouts and give them a good run. Therefore, it's always welcome when I'm offered access to other folks' larger layouts, allowing the locos to stretch their legs, so to speak. A recent visit to my chum James' 'gaff' saw a bunch of my 1960s-era green diesels trundling up and down his layout, shunting a bunch of my kit-built coal and general merchandise wagons. 

With so many of my modelling acquaintances having succumbed to the draw of digital control, it's a relief when I can still turn up with my analogue stock and not spend ages scratching my head wondering how on earth I get the things to move. Just plonk the train on the track, turn the knob and off we go... who needs all that techno crap?!?!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

LNER 'TOAD B', Part 3

Brake van almost ready for service.

The finishing process proved to be swift and efficient, with the BR freight grey airbrushed lightly over a black undercoat, thus preserving a degree of shading between the planks and within recessed areas. This gave me a head start on the weathering, with general misted layers of 'dirt' following. There's a few minor touches to add yet, such as scuffs and burnishing, and I've yet to install the three-link couplings. Oh, and the glazing needs to be installed to the verandah windows and look-out duckets. To expedite matters, I'll probably employ a liquid glazing solution, not least at the apertures are safely out of the reach of fingers. 

I employed a pack of Modelmaster decals, designed expressly for this Parkside kit, with Micro Sol and Set solutions required to persuade the decal film to settle into the plank detail. Simply brushing the Micro Sol onto the damp decal and leaving the model for a few hours is all that's required, before working on the other side.

This LNER 'Toad B' will add some welcome variety to my fleet of 1960s-era freight brake vans and will look particularly apt at the rear of departmental/engineers trains. 

Monday, 15 October 2018

LNER 'TOAD B', Part 2

Plastic kit built and primed.

Thanks to the dire weather over much of the weekend, I managed to finish assembly of this old Parkside kit of an LNER 'Toad B', adding extra details, such as the roof vents, a new stove chimney, plus the chassis, complete with extra brake and sanding pipes. 

A quick misting of grey primer followed this morning, which has revealed a few surface imperfections which will need tidying up before the painting stage gets under way. Given the amount of filler required to tidy up the joints between most components, this isn't surprising. Indeed, I'm wishing that I'd primed the model before adding any of the new, delicate details, making the job of fettling the surface that bit easier.... you live and learn!

Oh well, progress has been swift, which is important to me these days and I'm really looking forward to seeing the wagon in its tatty British Railways uniform...

Brass wire and old steel guitar strings form the brake rodding and safety hoops, as well as the sanding pipes.
Due to the amount of filler required to make the joints between the sides and ends tidy, the vague moulded corner strapping was obliterated. Replacing it with thin brass strip with raised rivet heads, however, has created a much more realistic aspect.  

Friday, 12 October 2018


Parkside kit under construction.

With the nights beginning to draw in, I've been working on a few plastic rolling stock kits in the evenings, trying to clear some of the mountain of un-built wagons that are clogging up the attic. This particular OO gauge Parkside kit is an interesting one, offering plenty of potential for super-detailing and installing some important missing features. The kit (PC14) dates back a fair few years and portrays an LNER 'Toad B' goods brake van. Indeed, I must have had it in stock for at least a decade and I believe that it was discontinued a few years back, probably due to the age of the tooling. 

Anyway, I built one of these in my early twenties and wasn't totally satisfied with the outcome, so resolved to do a better job this time around. Therefore, the sand hoppers on the verandah bulkheads have been detailed and lots of the vague or missing moulded surface relief replaced with brass strip and wire. I've also crafted some tiny, hinged safety bars for the verandah sides, plus a stout set of whitemetal heavy duty buffers, to match a prototype image I found online. 

Next jobs include adding a set of roof vents, building the chassis frames, wheeling-up and adding extra brake gear.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018


Bodywork progresses, albeit slowly.

As explained in previous posts, I've been building a Revell 1:24 scale Mercedes Unimog over the past few months. Work ground to a halt for a while, due to holidays and work commitments. But, the bodywork is now starting to take shape, with the cab painted and ready for glazing and the rear load deck and gritting hopper assembled. 

I'm not a fan of orange at the best of times - along with yellow, I find that it's one of the worst colours to paint - but I had a particularly challenging time getting the shade correct on the cab. In fact, it took three or four attempts before I was happy with it, settling on Tamiya's acrylic orange, lightened with a little white. 

Next jobs, to tidy up the grit hopper ready for priming and painting, then adding the decals. The snowplough also needs a little extra work and I've realised that my kit lacks any glazing for the two rear windows in the cab, so they'll need fabricating from clear styrene. Due to the complex nature of the bodywork, I'm thinking that weathering each section before final assembly will be necessary, but that's probably a few weeks off yet...

I'm a big fan of Darkstar acrylic metallic paints, being great for brushing or spraying. The Tarnished Steel shade looks good on the Mercedes Benz logo.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018


Bachmann model given a weathered look.

A few months ago, I picked up a bargain, pre-owned Bachmann Class 40 from Hatton's. Despite being one of Bachmann's earliest '40' models (dating back to 2005, I think), this example was in mint condition, looking like it had rarely been out of its box. While there are a number of detail issues with these earlier models - subsequently corrected on later releases - I still think they look OK, especially if you're not of an overly obsessive persuasion. Put it this way, at less than half the price of the newer models, I'm more than happy enough with this loco! Furthermore, it has added some variety to my existing '40' fleet, all of which are disc-headcode versions.

The original plan was to install a number of etched detail parts to the bodywork but, sometimes, I just don't feel in the mood for that kind of work. Instead, I sought to get the model looking as good as possible purely through applying a weathered finish. After a mix of enamel washes, textured acrylics and a modicum of airbrush work, I think it looks pretty good.

The weathering process will be demonstrated in an upcoming issue of Model Rail magazine, along with a prototype Masterclass. See MR254, on sale 25th October.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018


Latest book on sale now!

As a follow-up to the first instalment of Weathering for Railway Modellers (published last year), Volume Two focuses on the built and natural environment. The book is crammed with colour images, demonstrating a wide range of techniques to get your buildings, roads, platforms, track and scenery looking as realistic as possible. There are chapters devoted to enhancing cars, trucks, machinery and ships... plus humans and animals too! In fact, virtually anything that you may find beside the tracks is covered, allowing us to create coherent miniature scenes, where every element looks at home.

Copies are available from all good book stores, plus model shops, Amazon or direct from the publisher, Crowood Press. Click HERE to visit the Crowood site.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018


Been messing around with one of my mini layouts, trying to de-bug some minor, but irritating, electrical issues. For such a simple track plan, this layout has its fair share of gremlins. The main problem is the fact that it was originally built as a static diorama, then converted to a working analogue-controlled layout, before being altered again to DCC control. The digital experiment was short-lived, however, and a reversion to 12V DC followed. A few accidents in storage over the years - plus a very severe winter in which the layout suffered in the garage - have all combined to make operation something of a frustrating experience. 

Making countless tweaks and repairs is seldom fun, meaning that the layout seldom 'comes out to play'. I'm seriously considering re-laying the track completely, making use of the more appropriate Peco bullhead track and points that have appeared subsequently. But will I ever get the time...?

Saturday, 18 August 2018


Cab interior takes shape.

The Revell Mercedes Unimog kit continues to progress, albeit steadily rather than quickly, not least as this is very much a 'spare time' undertaking as an antidote to my usual diet of railway stuff. Indeed, it's fun to be working on something bigger than 1/76 scale trains for a change, with so much more potential for detailing work in 1/24. Accordingly, I've been adding plenty of extra fittings to the cab interior, which will be highly visible on the finished model, thanks to the big windows and opening doors.

Heavy duty floor covering and mats, seat adjusting knobs and seatbelt anchors are just some of the details installed. The next challenge is to recreate the patterned fabric on the seats, followed by improving the fairly basic dashboard moulding... 

Monday, 13 August 2018


Progress update on Revell kit.

Last month, I posted a blog about a 1/24 scale Revell kit that I'd started, of a Mercedes Benz Unimog. While the kit is not without its challenges, I've managed to make significant progress, with the chassis now assembled and painted, ready to receive the bodywork. I haven't added much in the way of extra detail yet, preferring to make the most of what's provided in the kit, although refining the plastic components has been a laborious task - but well worth the effort so far!

Next job is begin building the cab and its interior, which I'm planning on enhancing with extra bits and pieces...

Wednesday, 8 August 2018


Ancient Lima wagons given a new lease of life.

I've just spent a pleasant day (or two) messing around with some old Lima box vans, some of which date back to the late 1970s. I had a good few of these on my childhood trainsets, with a number surviving onto more 'adult' layouts after a degree of detailing work. With the next issue of Model Rail magazine having something of a 'retro model' theme, I decided to track down some more of these venerable (and cheap!) wagons to see what I could do with them.
A couple were found in the pre-owned section at Hatton's Model Railways, with even a pristine boxed version being very reasonably priced. The branded vans, with the likes of Homepride, Stork margarine and Typhoo Tea, brought back happy memories of yesteryear, but they'd need to be overpainted into more appropriate liveries. The chassis - the main drawback of these wagons - also had to go and, after replacing with Parkside kits and superior wheels, the wagons look just as good (if not better) than many 21st Century ready-to-run products.

Furthermore, at less than £20 per wagon, including the Lima donor models, this made for a very economical project, boosting my fleet of 1960s-1980s vans. See how the wagons were improved in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR252), on sale 30th August.

Friday, 13 July 2018


Rose Grove's 45447 ready for service.

The hand-painted 10F shedcode and mis-matched headlamps were eye-catching details from a number of prototype images of 45447, which lasted almost to the very end of BR steam in 1968.

My Hornby 'Black Five' project is now complete, with the finished model photographed and ready for active service. I'm chuffed with the outcome, especially as I veered from my usual detailing methods in a couple of areas. The rivetted front bufferbeam - created using waterslide rivet strips - is particularly satisfying, as are the scratchbuilt cylinder covers and drain pipes.

I could have gone a bit further with a few elements, such as the weathering and the addition of a few other small detail fittings. But overall, I think it's turned out OK. You can see the full demo - along with an extended article on the Stanier 5MT 4-6-0s - in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (Issue 251), on sale 2nd August.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018


1:24 Revell kit offers an interesting challenge.

I like a break from railway modelling from time to time, as working in different modelling disciplines and scales brings its own challenges and rewards. During the recent severe winter, with deep snow drifts and severe freezing conditions, I got used to seeing the local council's snowploughs and gritting lories passing each day. Having seen Revell's 1:24 scale kit of a Mercedes Unimog snowplough/gritter on a model shop shelf, it seemed like an appropriate project to build over the summer months(!).

Having recently made a start on the kit, it's clear that it's going to take quite a bit of work. The moulds are getting on a bit now, especially for the older core of the kit - the chassis - with lots of flash and seams to clear up and copious sink marks to fill and tidy. Sometimes such remedial work can kill your initial enthusiasm for a build project, as progress can be slow and tedious. However, the fact that I'm planning on spending just an hour or two at a time on this should stop me going round the twist. Or at least that's what I'm saying now.... maybe I'll think differently a few weeks down the line...

So, what progress has been made after the first few sessions? Not much, in truth. The engine parts needed lots of filing and sanding, then filling and more sanding after assembly. The same goes for the main chassis frames. Looks like I'll have to resign myself to spending time cleaning up each and every component before fitting, as well as addressing gaps and ill-fitting parts. But hey, it gives me something to do while I listen to the World Cup on the wireless...

Friday, 6 July 2018


Model receives it's new identity.

With most of the detailing work out of the way, my Hornby 'Black Five' has gained a new set of numbers and BR crests, courtesy of Fox Transfers. Taking on the guise of 45447, a loco that worked out of Rose Grove shed in 1968, right the way through to August, it seemed like an ideal subject for the end-of-steam anniversary theme.

A full demo of the detailing work will appear in issue 251 of Model Rail magazine, on sale 2nd August. Also, you may want to check out Steam Railway magazine's new special publication, Fifty Glorious Years - a lavishly-illustrated look at the twilight of BR steam and the birth of the preservation movement.

Fine copper wires add even greater realism to Comet Models' replacement mechanical lubricators.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018


 End-of-steam flavour for latest loco project.

This August marks the 50th anniversary of the end of steam on British Railways and, to commemorate this event, Model Rail magazine will be running a Masterclass feature on the iconic LMS 'Black Five' 4-6-0 - a pre-war design that lasted right until the final day of mainline steam.

It's been a while since I last tackled a heavy detailing project on a steam locomotive - in fact I can't remember off the top of my head what/when the last one was... a War Department 8F?? It's even longer since I last worked on a Hornby 'Black 5'. Ten years, in fact, since reproducing 45110 for the 40th anniversary of steam's demise!

Anyway, with another Hornby model in hand, I decided on a slightly different approach to my last foray into LMS Class 5s. Back in 2008 I employed the excellent Brassmasters detailing kit, designed especially for the Hornby model. However, to avoid going over the same ground again, I've been employing a number of Comet Models bits and pieces, plus a good dose of old-fashioned scratch-building, just to make it a bit more fun.

Detailing parts from Comet, new bogie wheels from Alan Gibson and transfers from Fox have been stockpiled for this project.

Friday, 1 June 2018


Breck Road open for business.

After a week of intensive practical work, Breck Road station is now finished. Featuring many archetypal features of contemporary stations, including block-paved platforms (including tactile tile strip), anti-trespass timber trestles, high security fencing, CCTV, vandal-proof benches and bus-type waiting shelter. There's also an LED train information display, cycle rack and plenty of car parking spaces. The colour scheme and corporate ID is based on the current Northern Rail franchise.

For a full demo of how this scene was created, see the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR249), on sale 7 June.

The scratch-built waiting shelter provided an interesting challenge.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018


Typical modern station under construction.

My recycled diorama is quickly taking shape, with the scenery and station platform fully installed. All the 21st Century accoutrements are in place, including security fencing, CCTV, lamps and car park. Most of the vehicles are bit on the 'vintage' side (1970s/80s) but an array of 2000s-era cars are currently on order. The next tasks include the creation of modern signage and scratch-building of a typical glass and steel waiting shelter. 

Already, it's hard to imagine that this baseboard once sported a five-road loco shed. Indeed, the tracks are still there, buried under the new scenery! 

Thursday, 24 May 2018


MPD scene makes way for something different.
A depot no more... this loco shed has now been flattened to make way for a new station.

Built a few years back for a magazine feature on modern loco depots, this working diorama was only meant to be temporary. Built from MDF, the boards have suffered the effects of being stored in a damp garage during two extremely cold and wet winters. While I've resolved to build a more resilient copy at some point in the future - as a proper layout - the buildings and detailed have been salvaged for re-use and the boards were about to head to the local recycling centre.

At the last minute however, they were reprieved when it became apparent that I'd have to build a diorama for an upcoming feature in Model Rail magazine. Thus, a strip of MDF was screwed roughly over the depot trackwork to form the new trackbed. Blocks of salvaged polystyrene packaging foam and left-over builders' plaster add further to the recycled nature and I'm almost ready to start adding the scenic elements.

As can be glimpsed in the image below, the diorama is to be based around a small station.... but more will be revealed in due course.

Monday, 21 May 2018


Easy coal storage for colliery layout.

Further to my last post, my 4mm scale scratch-built coal bunker is now complete and installed in the yard of Maudetown Colliery. Crafted from various sections of Maquett plastic strip, sheet and section, it proved a very quick and satisfying project. Although, when I say quick, I mean that it took very little modelling time, spread over a week or two - probably about 3hours in total, including painting and weathering, fitted in-between a host of other jobs. 

The Maquett 'H'. 'T' and 'C'-shape sections are particularly useful and, once painted, closely resemble slotted, pre-cast concrete posts. Real coal chippings add the final touch.

Check out a demonstration of how this model was created in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR249), on sale June 7th.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018


Styrene system makes job easy.

As my last blog post mentioned, I've been experimenting with various elements of the Maquett range of plastic sheet and section. After building a simple mesh security fence, I decided to tackle something a little different, inspired by some of the images in the Maquett catalogue. Accordingly, a typical three-berth coal bunker forms the subject of this model, erected from various 'H'. 'C' and 'T' section uprights and individual styrene strip 'planks', all sited on a 1mm thick styrene sheet base. 

Having cut all of the necessary parts to size, the whole thing slotted together quickly and easily, taking up an enjoyable hour or so. Once the poly cement has cured, it'll be ready for priming and painting.

As with other similar brands of styrene sheet and section, the possibilities are endless in terms of what can be created. Indeed, building this bunker has inspired me to start on a modern station waiting shelter, plus a few other building projects. After a recent hiatus in terms of practical modelling - as blog readers may have noticed - these short exercises have given be a welcome boost of inspiration. You'll be able to see more of this bunker and the Maquett range in issue 249 of Model Rail magazine, on sale 7 June.

... with thanks to Albion Hobbies for supplying the various Maquett samples.