Thursday, 29 March 2018


With the boards assembled, thoughts turn to the scenic section.

As the current issue of Model Rail magazine explains (and a previous Blog post), I've been building a smallish 'O' gauge layout. Having erected a Tim Horn laser-cut kit plywood for the main 4ft x 3ft board, I've also built my own sliding traverser fiddleyard, which seems to be working well. The story of the traverser will be covered in Model Rail issue 247 (on sale 12 April). Next job is to form a backscene frame, fascia and lighting rig, before track laying can begin.

As the backscene will be shaped to compliment the scenery, I do need to finalise the arrangement of the buildings and other structures, so that means getting the trackplan settled too. I've tweaked a couple of things from my original idea, but the main thing occupying my mind is how to disguise the trains moving on and off scene. A bridge, or strategically placed (and sized) buildings?

Having originally considered the use of buildings, I did waver for a time, thinking a rail overbridge would look striking. I even mocked up the scene with scraps of wood and boxes. Having left the scene set up in the garage for a few weeks, glancing at it now and again from different angles, I'm thinking of reverting to the original idea of buildings. Perhaps a mix of styles - brick and concrete, to tie-in with the post-1960 style of the depot. 

This is where taking one's time in the planning stage helps, rather than ploughing on with something and then realising that you don't like it. Mind you, that may still happen! But at the moment, I'm pretty satisfied with the track arrangement and the scenic ideas. Now I just need to find a few spare hours to start on the backscene framing, preferably once the weather starts to improve. I've had enough of working out in a freezing garage...

Thursday, 15 March 2018


Ten minute job transforms wagon.

Killing time while the glue dried on another project, I grabbed this Bachmann van from the shelf and treated it to a quick all-over weathering wash. A mix of Lifecolor acrylic shades - brown, dark grey and black - was brushed liberally over each side in turn, using a cotton swab to wipe away most of the paint straightaway. Using only downward strokes, the pigment was left in the recessed detail and some attractive streaking was also created. Where the paint proved a little stubborn, a swab was dipped into Lifecolor's Liquid Pigment Remover fluid to give it a little persuasion.
Bachmann's Insulated van before the weathering treatment.

The roof was treated in the same way (using a darker shade of the paint mix), with the swabs rubbed laterally. Finally, the underframe was stippled with a further variation of the paint mix, with a little extra brown added, without wiping much of it away. 

The finish is still a bit rough and an airbrush and/or weathering powders will add a bit of refinement in due course. But the exercise shows how quick and easy it is to transform a vivid, pristine wagon into something much more lifelike.

There's plenty of demonstrations of this sort of weathering in my latest book, Weathering for Railway Modellers, Volume One. Order a copy HERE.

Monday, 12 March 2018


Tim Horn baseboard kit provides a head start.

Wrapped in many layers of clothing and with flasks full of hot tea, I've been braving the cold of my garage to begin work on a compact 'O' gauge layout - my first real foray into 7mm scale. Aided by a wonderful 4ft x 3ft laser-cut plywood baseboard kit from Tim Horn, progress has been relatively swift. I've crafted the legs and traverser fiddleyard myself, the latter providing an interesting challenge and another first for yours truly. The sliding, hidden tracks will certainly help in maximising the scenic area and providing plenty of potential operating potential.

The layout is to feature Heljan's new modular diesel depot kit as the focal point, although I'm thinking of adapting it to form a wagon works rather than a loco shed, not least as 'O' gauge wagons are a lot cheaper than locomotives! Furthermore, I enjoy shunting wagons around aimlessly - it can be very therapeutic.

While I've always fancied having a proper go at 'O' gauge modelling, I'm already thinking how much I could cram into the same amount of space if working in 'N' or 'OO', so I wonder if the larger scale bug will bite me for good. Or will it be a fleeting dalliance?

Read more about this project in the next issue of Model Rail magazine (MR246), on sale this week, with details of the traverser appearing in MR247, out on 12 April.

The Tim Horn laser-cut baseboard kit was a joy to assemble and creates a very sturdy, yet lightweight, structure.

Friday, 9 March 2018


Heljan's Class 20 arrives for review.

I've had the pleasure of running my eye over Heljan's latest 7mm scale offering, the venerable Class 20. While the disc-headcode version appeared some years ago, this is the first of Heljan's headcode box-fitted variant. And jolly nice it is too! It would certainly make for an interesting weathering job, as I don't remember ever seeing a blue-liveried 'Chopper' looking this clean. The sight and sound of a pair of shabby blue '20s' on a loaded coal train was always a highlight of my young train spotting days, with their distinctive whistling/helicopter tones being audible from miles away. Happy days..!

Look out for a full review in Model Rail magazine soon.  

Wednesday, 7 March 2018


Warrior MCV built to compliment 'Warwell' wagon

Having built a transport cradle for a contemporary 'Warwell' wagon (from a PH Designs kit), today has been spent building a Revell plastic kit of a Warrior MCV to finish off the ensemble. 

Alas, I could only find a 1:72 scale kit of a Warrior, so it's a little over-scale for the Hatton's  'OO' wagon (1:76) and, subsequently, the load is a tad out of gauge. But then I think that the real vehicles are classed as out-of-gauge loads when being transported around the UK rail network. In terms of length, the track sections fit within the PHD cradle perfectly, but it does overhang the sides by a few millimetres.

The Revell kit was great fun to assemble and I've left the side armour plates off for now, to aid the painting and weathering stages. Indeed, I'm looking forward to rendering the camouflage scheme with my airbrush. 

Monday, 5 March 2018


'Warwell' wagon gains an etched transport cradle.

Just spent a very enjoyable day assembling an excellent etched metal kit from PH Designs. Replicating the special transport cradles fitted into the depressed centre of 'Warwell' wagons, in order to accommodate Warrior armoured vehicles, it's a perfect addition to the later version of Hatton's KFA 'Warwell' in 4mm scale.

Etched in nickel silver, the kit is a straightforward assembly job, with glue or solder being suitable (I used solder) and it sits perfectly onto the wagon after a few hours' worth of work. I just need to build a Warrior to go with it, so a Revell kit is next in line...