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Brettell Road

A somewhat unfocused post.

Something that always bugged me about my Heljan class 27 was the somewhat odd buffers. A long time ago i got a set of replacements from Sutton Loco Works and its just one of those things I never quite got around to. Well now that little job can come off the list.

Finished the roof of my station building – just need a layout to plant it on!

The gutters are a recent introduction from Modelu. I found they don’t like superglue at all but stick very nicely with liquid Poly (in this case Tamiya extra thin).

Popped back to my Kirtley to pick up a few things that irked. The loco to tender gap has been tightened up a bit and the rain cover tidied.

Crew from Modelu

Bit more off a proper project this one. A clasp braked 16 ton mineral from a Parkside kit on a Rumney Models underframe. The only down side to Justin’s stuff is it looks better not painted! A few pics below for history.


Another ‘tweaks’ post

Bit of a random post this time but I have been revisiting a few things. Be warned though these are all really subtle and if I didn’t point them out I suspect no one would ever know.

Starting with the safety valves on my prairie. As supplied it was a pretty flat dish with 4 blobs to represent the valves. A bit of drilling and some wire gives something a little better.

I’ve also gone back (again) to my Dapol railcar for another little tweak.

As its not all that obvious I have fiddled with the bogies a little. Some 3x4mm triangles and some microstrip was used to change the sideframe shape to something more accurate. I also got a spare set of sideframes and cutting the springs and axle boxes of the new ones, filing down the old ones and sticking them over the top had given me more relief.

Sometimes its nice to look back at where we started to see how far we have come.

While i was in a railcar kinda mood this is my detailed Lima one. I haven’t done anything to it, it just tends to avoid the camera for some reason.

Austerity hides at the headshunt. Again no tweaks just a piccie.

Now this is properly subtle. I have revisited the layout with some Tamiya smoke and AK wet effects to see if I could increase the wet look a little. The smoke provides the darkening effect of the rain.

It a little easier to see on the light walls of the pub.

The thing is I know its darker because i knew what it was like before. In order to give fresh eyes something to compare it with I needed a few areas of contrast.

By the warehouse i can leave the area under the canopy dry to give the contrast I was looking for.

and at the other end the areas shaded from the rain by the bridges. Its important to make sure the rain falls in the same direction. So the buildings don’t have smoke applied to the sheltered walls. Its the area above where I feel the effect has come out best.


A little something I’ve been dipping into.

One little project I have been dipping in and out of now and then has been the station buildings for part 2 of Brettell Road.

This is the smaller building. The real buildings at Brettell Lane were wooden but of a GWR origin. As Brettell road is more midland I used the Ratio (previously Parkside) LNWR station panels. These or similar were used in the Birmingham area so that was near enough. The canopy valence and supports are from London road models and the poster boards from N brass. The chimney is from Unit models.

The side in the first picture faces away from the public so rather than have a blank wall I decided to give the viewers a sense of being inside the building. (it is supposed to be raining remember, who wants to stand outside?)

The main building is the same but bigger. The above image gives a rough feel of the look im after. I actually shot it like this because I haven’t done the roof yet!

I have mentioned in a previous post the idea of letting the layout have little bit of a life of its own. Originally i was going to use the name Brettell Grove not Brettell Road so why not an old station nameboard with the original name?


Back to the canal.

Back in the early days of Brettell Road I represented rain falling on the canal as seen above.

Over the years however the effect of this became lost so I have revisited this area of the layout to get the effect back. Also to make the canal look a little more downtrodden. I have used a thin layer of clear resin and the same baking soda in wet varnish trick as I used originally. Results are below.


Those little Mainline iron ore hoppers.

Anyone modelling in 4mm scale for any length of time has probably come across the Airfix/Mainline/possibly Dapol/ Bachmann 21, 22 or 24 ton Iron ore hoppers. Based on a Charles Roberts version with the standard, at the time, stretched to fit compromises to fit a generic 10ft wagon chassis. They do however make a good little project for ‘tarting up a bit’.

Geoff Kent wrote a great article about just such an exercise in MRJ 182. I have however deviated from his sage advice in a few areas.

The hopper is easy with 3mm cut out center but offset to the side of the bracing to hide the cut. For the chassis I cut it into 3 parts to retain the middle detail. Geoff thinned the base and removed the top of the chassis on his models but I decided to cut the base away around the edge and mount the chassis flush with the top. The chassis being a Parkside 9ft example.

The door closing gear was knocked up from microstrip and a few bits of brass., Shiny bits on the chassis came from Ambis, Mainly Trains and Bill Bedford.

After a light weathering. I still need to add the rain effect yet mind you. The ladders are from Stenson Models.


Last tweak to the presentation.

With Brettell Roads new roof design the last thing to do was remove the original pelmet.

I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that removing it would open up the layout quite as much as it has.

This is the view from my eye height. Obviously this higher angle wasn’t available to me before now.


Just a gallery post (no need for words)


RTR wagons

I’ve been looking at a few RTR Wagons recently from Bachmann.

Slope sided mineral. I really like the chassis design on this one as the brake gear is separate and for P4 can be moved out to line up with the wheels with just a little bit of trimming. As well as my usual gouache approach for rust I’ve also tried out some weathering pencils from AK interactive. I won’t go into any detail on those as yet as I’m still getting to grips with them.

Bachmann’s presflo’s are a lovely little model with just a change of wheels, couplings and buffers required. The buffers on these were very odd and I’m not really sure what they were supposed to be so I have used Accurascale ones in their place. I’ve also added more weight as they hardly weighed anything as supplied.

Im not a huge fan of textures in weathering as I believe they often look too heavy in 4mm scale but on these wagons the dry concrete could often look really caked on so i used talc in wet paint as part of the process.


Return to the roof

A while ago I showed a picture of the framework for Brettell Roads new roof. I was going to have this done for Scalefour North but given the Covid-19 crisis the show was canceled and the urgency to get it done went with it. However I have turned my attention back to this with thoughts on the material.

The first material I brought was just too heavy so i didn’t even try to use it. The weight wasn’t something i had really considered. This is the second material, much lighter but it let too much light through. On top of that my efforts were too scruffy and would have bugged me if I left it.

So this is material 3 – Much happier now and with the help of my wife much neater as well. The image shows it before I finished the front off and the supports will obviously need to be darkened.

The above image shows the lighting on the layout pretty much as the eye sees it. Not as dark as before but still obviously night time.


Bashing Buildings

When it comes to building I admit I tend to just get on and scratchbuild them. Part of this is due to ignorance of whats actually out there but recently I picked up a couple of Wills kits and have had a go at these instead.

First up is the kit for a lamp store. You actually get 2 in the kit and these are for the slightly different GWR design but can be adapted to something more ‘midland’ pretty easily by shortening the sides to form a 6ft square structure. I cut out the door and remounted it flush as well as replacing the roof with thinner plasticard. On the other end I added a few extra window bars (see below).

The other kit was for the ‘station garage’ which i have chopped about to give a industrial looking wooden building. The roof again is plasticard (the wills stuff is quite thick) and the vents are from unit models.


Brettell Road 2

As the song goes, regrets, I’ve had a few but unlike the song I am going to mention them. With Brettell road pretty much finished off thoughts have turned to what to do next. Before anyone asks, New Street isn’t calling me back at the moment.

Brettell road was only supposed to be a play thing for home, but much in the way of New Street which started with the idea that you could model the western end station throat in 8ft, Brettell Road went a little bit wrong.

It was designed like an exhibition layout but not as an exhibition layout if that makes sense. In the urge to get something done and 1950’s midland railway practice being alien to me at the time there was one major aspect of the track plan that I have always regretted. You see, for those like me who didn’t know, the Midland had a thing about facing points, especially coming from passenger lines onto goods loops and yards. What they preferred was a single slip and the train would pass the slip. Back up through the slip onto the wrong line before proceeding into the yard. Had I known this at the time (or more accurately been bothered to find out!) I would have done the Brettell Road main line as double track and used this arrangement. For the operational interest as well as its not really something you see done on models.

The other regret is about proportion. You see for an exhibition layout that’s 16ft overall but only 50% or 8ft scenic I feel the proportions are off. If it was 24ft with 16 ft scenic then a viewing ratio of 66% sits much better.

And so, presenting Brettell Road part 2. An extension to the original incorporating a station and yard based very loosely on the real Brettell Lane. Doubling up the track on the existing 2 board is still a none starter but with minor adaptation to the track work at the left hand end of the original I can get the single slip in and get in the operational interest I missed the first time. The yard will rise slightly to be level with the platforms which is something I’ve borrowed from the features of the yard that was at Kings Heath. I plan to do the station in the very last week of service to keep with the run down feel (hey no one really expected this to be pretty did they?)


A quick win, relatively speaking.

With my ongoing Duchess build my thoughts turned to a little quick win project (also with Scalefour North coming up at the end of March). I said relatively speaking in the title because a few years ago I would have likely considered this quick win as a bit of an undertaking but there you go. When we were at the Wakefield show with Moor Street, my attention was drawn to a cheap Lima GWR small prairie tank loco. They were not common at all on the Stourbridge to Wolverhampton line but their larger sisters, the Large prairie were somewhat a mainstay of the line.

I know Hornby are doing a new model but a dirt cheap Airfix example was found (none runner) along with a comet chassis and I set to work.

Stage one – body detailed and the chassis built. I modified the pony trucks a little and sprung them using a method outlined by Dave Holt (see here). The original smokebox door was too small and a few extra details were added to the body. After this picture was taken I also reduced the height of the safety valve bonnet.

A quick blast of grey primer and a liberal(ish) dose of archers rivet transfers and the body was read for the paint shop. A few images of the finished result follow.


Why we still need books.

Although they have apparently been around for a while now I’ve only recently come across the Locomotive Portfolios series of books from Pen and Sword.

Presented in an almost square format and hard backed at 250 or more pages they seem well detailed and have a very large number of pictures (some in colour). From what I’ve seen so far I will be keeping an eye on this series.

While on the subject of books one of this things that had drawn me onto Brettell Road and away from New Street for the last few years is research. Its a side of the hobby that I really enjoy and I feel that New Street was becoming less about learning stuff and more about producing stuff. That’s not to say I knew all there was to know, far from it but I would go as far to say I had a pretty good idea where to find stuff.

With Brettell road it was all familiar but at the same time so different and its this that has drawn me in. Its a railway I knew but clearly didn’t know at all and it definatley ticked my learning stuff box.

One thing that really surprised me is the reliance on books. Its easy, now we are well into the 21st century to think we can get all we need online but the truth is that is far, far from the case. Yes the internet is great but when you are a somewhat detail obsessed railway modeller looking for a specific thing its next to useless. The information just isn’t out there in the digital world and i wonder if it will ever be? We will always need books.


Local Flavour

This post can best be described as a taste of local flavour if not the full meal itself.

Anyone familiar with railways in the Stourbridge area will be aware of the Parry People Movers that operate between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town. Little 4 wheeled railbuses that spend their days shuffling along the UK’s shortest passenger branch line. The line itself is still jointed track meaning the ride is somewhat best described as lively! While famous now for these little vehicles Stourbridge didn’t really embrace the railbus idea the first time around, The line begin operated by autotrains and GWR design railcars at the time railbuses were being tried elsewhere.

However as Brettell Road is a loose interpretation I have gotten hold of a Heljan one as a nod to the little people movers. This was always going to be a nice to have rather than a need so having kept my eye on eBay for a cheap one, just on the off chance, this AC version popped up as a non runner with a dodgy motor for less than half the price the runners were going for.

The motor was replaced with a small Mashima I already had. One of the drive shafts was bent out of shape too but as these little models are very heavy for their size I binned that and now its just powered on one axle. For what it needs to do that seems absolutely fine.

I’ve fitted a Zimo MX634D decoder in the space in the roof linked to a TCS KA2 stay alive hidden behind the door and weathered it, The wheels are Branchlines 3ft using the original gears and bushes. You do need to grind a little bit of the chassis away to get them to fit. A couple of passengers and its good to go.

Same idea – different generations!

Another bit of local flavour. The yard crane at the real Brettell Lane was a bit of a chunky affair. In line with my upcoming demo at Scaleforum on making the most out of older models, I’ve come up with this representation using the Airfix dockside crane as a start point. The jib is scratchbuilt from plasticard. I’ve only seen a few distant pictures of the real thing so this is very much a loose interpretation.


J94 Project – Done!

When I picked up my nearly finished J94 kit it came with an already assembled Branchlines Gearbox. Try as I might I just couldn’t get on with it. For some reason it seemed to have very little torque but this wasn’t sacrificed for speed as it didn’t really have much of that either (perhaps the energy was being used up by the noise it generated?). So admitting defeat I swapped it for a High Level Road Runner +. What a difference that made!

Another little problem I came across was the lack of space between the inside motion and the springs I fitted on the front 2 axles. I had used a short handrail knob in the same way that the advocates of CSB systems use but it was all just a little bit too tight for comfort. So I ditched that and just soldered a couple of springs to the inside of the chassis – Number 10 guitar springs for the center axle and number 12 for the front bearing on the top of the axles. Anyone with any kind of knowledge of how things should be done are probably reading the rest of this post from behind a sofa but it works so that’s fine in my eyes!

Anyway its done so here’s a few pictures.

Here’s a very short video of the inside motion at work

Below are a few evening images.

Another little video – this time a spot of shunting. There’s a few stutters which I am hoping a little more running in will iron out.

Finally one of those unplanned shots you sometimes get when you are focussing on something else and they just catch your eye. A simple line up of coal wagons.


J94 project – something a little different.

Several years ago now DJ models appeared with much fanfare (Although only in one place if we are being completely honest) and announced a brand new J94 model. This was of interest to me as 2 of them were used by the NCB in the local area. While it would have been a nice to have I was never going to go for the RTR effort but i did hope that if it was good enough it might see a few unstarted Brassmasters kits appear which would be a little more up my street.
In the end this didn’t really happen so the idea was kind of abandoned until the good folk at Brassmasters mentioned they had a unfinished test build of their kit somewhere. Money changed hands and a slightly different style of project was formed to what I’ve done in the past. 

So this is what i was presented with (albeit with a Giesel chimney that i replaces with a RT models casting) and a little box of spare parts. I’ve never finished a half started loco kit before and with no instructions and not knowing what bits I didn’t have it was going to be a bit of an adventure.

The easy route would be to just add the body detailing and finished what I had but the chassis was missing most of its representation of valve gear and I didn’t have any of these bits in my little box of spares.

The chassis as supplied.

My friend Les supplied me with a copy of the original instructions (which sort of helped a little) and members of the Scalefour Society forum kindly provided pictures of the etches, some finished models and some prototype pictures so I set to work.

The detailed up body, using prototype pictures as a guide.

The Chassis. I used a Brassmasters inside motion kit, shortened by 3mm and simplified. The prototype locos seeming to have a much more rudimentary arrangement than the LMS locos the Brassmasters kit is intended for. I also couldn’t use the original central pivoted rocking beam compensation so I have sprung the front two axles from a central pivot on either side instead.


What ever happened to…

Way back towards the start of this project I posted the above image. The little black tank wagon at the far end was a Peco wonderful wagon kit and avid follows of this little adventure might notice nothing has really been said of it since.

It was pretty quickly joined with a companion and the pair have been lurking near my workbench ever since. Well now they are finally done and ready to go. Modifications to the original kit were to replace the w-irons with Bill Bedford ones. New ladders from Stenson models and new handbrakes from Ambis. I didn’t really like the mounting rods as supplied so these were replaced with 0.6mm brass tube. The ends being flattened with pliers. The walkways came from my spares box.

The crane has its runner from a Cambrian kit. Its a little freelance is based loosely on an image of a similar but steel wagon I found on Paul Bartletts site at Bescot. The steps are spares from a Bachmann class 25.

Before i settled on the Cambrian route for the crane runner I found an image of a diagram 1/001 lowfit that caught my eye. Built by BR they had a LNER style body on an LMS style chassis. Bachmann do this RTR but the chassis is completely wrong so its been replaced with a Parkside one. The mineral is diagram 1/119 21 tonner from The Chivers kit. (Tim had some lying around when I last went over). This wagon would be very new in the Brettell road period. This is also the upper end of my build it rigid approach to wagon building. Any longer wheelbase than this and I tend to go for springing.

Speaking of Tim we have been working on a curved version of his display shelves with a few design tweaks such as the more solid locking of the ends and little clear ‘buffer stops’ for the ends. The 4mm scale versions are ready to go, see Tims website.

Finally a co-bo on a parcels train for no other reason than why not?


Old ‘uns and a possible change to how the layout is presented

So to draw a line under the last post. The Lima CCT is finished off and ready for service.

So is the crane. It rides very high as supplied so I ground the bearing slots down and removed a bit of material from under the axleboxes (its still a smidge to high). Seems strange that Hornby raised the ride height on all their models to accommodate their tension lock coupling. Why not just make that smaller instead?

The end shackles are from Roxey and the cables are the heavier e-z line. Transfers are from Cambridge Custom Transfers. The single plank wagon is just standing in at the moment.

One of the issues with Brettell road is the height it sits at. The subject of layout height is a thorny one but I take the view that operator comfort trumps everything else. After all we will be working on the layout for a couple of days . Currently its a bit low which I’ve got round by asking show organisers to provide chairs. From a sitting position its just about the right height.

However I’ve been thinking of doing a more traditional style, separate roof and here it is mocked up. Its designed so that it all slots together and no screws or bolts will be required. It will still have a material roof to shield the ambient light but it should make the layout itself a little lighter too. The plan is for the original pelmet to be removed.


A couple of old ‘uns in progress

Recent attention had been on a couple of older RTR efforts. Starting with…

…a Lima CCT. Yes I know there’s a Bachmann one now but the Lima one isn’t all that bad given its age. It suffers from the sometimes common Lima trait of getting most of it about right but then blowing it on something obvious for no apparent reason. In this case the W-irons are just too far from where they should be.

This can be addressed with replacement from ABS (or at least it used to be!). New roof vents and underframe bits and bobs plus filing off the, freelance, window frames and we’re about there.

Next the old Hornby hand crane. This one uses rollers and a counterweight from Jon Hall. I’ve widened the jib and added extra details.


The mopping up of wagons continues

For DEMU I figured that my usual method for the round oak trains appearing on scene – i.e. an open wagon with a shunter look out and an industrial diesel pushing from the back was probably just a bit too archaic. So I figured the guys at Round Oak got themselves and ancient brake van in a somewhat token effort to appear to obey the rules!

So here we have a very tired brake van from the recently re-introduced Slaters kit. I returned to the crackle paints I had used on the signal box for this one.

On the subject of old vehicles, an old ratio kit for a GWR open c. These were a bit odd as they had the sides and underframe as one piece. I separated them and made up new underframes with bits from Bill Bedford, Ambis Engineering and Model Railway developments.

Sticking with the GWR a Mink A to diagram V12. This uses a much more modern kit from Parkside with more Model Railway development parts.


Invisible fixes

Sometimes you can be busy but really not have anything to show. As im on the final run in to the DEMU show next weekend I’ve been looking at a few things that fit into this bracket. Starting with…

My loading gauge. Originally from the Smiths kit, its white metal construction for the main post was just too susceptible to knocks and getting bent out of shape during an exhibition. I hade used brass wire for the wires and after a few times bending it back to shame it was all starting to look a bit of a mess.

So i rebuilt it from brass instead. The wires this time are easy-line. I did keep the original bow mind you

Moving on to, perhaps, a more literal interpretation of the post title

The baseboard join is just a bit too obvious for my liking so I’ve revisited this too.

I found some soft rubber sheeting in my local hobbycraft. Its smooth on one side and has this texture on the other. I cut it into strips and blended the top edge into the existing scenery with static grass, ballast and paint. The result can be seen below.


Classes 03 and 30 – done!

Before I get onto those some more wagons are done too.

Another couple of mineral wagons. Airfix and a fitted one from Parkside. Its a bit of a thing to make all mineral wagons rusty so I decided to model the latter in nearly new condition. The SR brake van is an older Cambrian kit and needed a fair bit of modification to look like the real thing. I can take no credit for working out what as its all outlined here.

On to the ‘headline acts’ so to speak. My class 03 and 30 are now done and ready for service. Some pictures follow.


All 3’s and 0’s

This post has a bit of a common theme about it. Its all about 3’s and 0’s! With DEMU show coming up at the start of June I plan to show Brettell road with a bit more of a diesel bias than usual. While I have a lot of blue stock I could use I want ot keep it late 50’s very early 60’s so my blue stuff is a none starter (although I might consider a fully blue show one day). Figuring that a few more green diesels wouldn’t go amis I’ve been busy.

New Street has a lot of class 31’s and I’ve always liked them. In the early days (when they were class 30’s) they weren’t all that common in the midlands being more of an eastern region machine. However a cheap Lima one was found in green and I set to work on a quickie conversion. As the longest train on Brettell road is less than 4 feet there was really no reason to abandon the lima pancake motor for this one so i just fitted extra pickups and more weight. Incidentally the builders plaque is one of the Railtec 3D transfers and very nice they are too! Just a bit of weathering required.

Funny how doing something subtly different leads to moments of realisation! I’ve never quite thought that the Lima none plated headcode class 31’s looked quite right somehow. It wasn’t until i looked at the green one that I realised it because its too small. Someone in lima must have realised this as well as the printing for the headcode box is much bigger than the molding. So while i was fixing the headcode on the green one I did the 2 blue ones i have as well (using a rudimentary jig). The original size is on the left and the revised one on the right.

Switching the 3 and 0 around I’ve also been working on a class 03 shunter using an old mainline body and a high level chassis. As with all High level chassis kits I’ve tried so far they just work from the box. Everything is worked out already and its all just a bit, well. easy!

This one is going to be D2387 which is one of, I believe, 3 that were allocated to Monument Lane shed and worked as station pilot for New Street as well as occasional forays further afield (Harbourne branch being an example). It was a doncaster example and didn.t last long enough to receive a tops number, being stored in 1972 and scrapped the following year.


Getting the most from older models.

In September I will be doing a demo at Scaleforum entitled getting the most from older models. Regular readers will know I have a bit of a thing for starting with old models that many will have long ago consigned to the bin. To this end I thought id look at a couple of old building kits too. Namely Airfix.

The Airfix Signal box is based on the one at Oakham which is a Midland Railway type 2a box from the early 1900’s I liked the look of the platform mounted version at Kings Heath (which is a type 3a) so set to work

The kit as supplied is too wide. I used some etched windows from Phoenix models and reduced the ends to fit. I binned the roof and knocked up a new end platform from microstrip. I wanted to use this model to try out a few new (to me) painting ideas.

First step was to paint it in an aged wood colour. The wood effect is pretty easy and quick if you work more like a painter and less like a modeller

I use these 4 Revell enamel colours as they are nice and matt. They are numbers 47 (mouse grey), 88 (ochre brown) , 84 (leather brown) and 9 (anthracite grey). The actual colours aren’t that critical. I use a dunk and dip technique and work on a base of Halfords grey primer. I dunk the brush into the mouse grey and ochre brown and lightly dip the tip into the leather and anthracite. All at the same time so that the brush is loaded with layers of colours. Then is just a simple case of drawing the brush across the model and letting the colours mix themselves. You don’t want them to mix too well so try and do one stroke per plank and work in the direction of the wood. The trick is to let the brush do the random work for you and not to fight it too much. My end result was a smidge dark so when dry, i drybrushed more mouse grey lightly over the model.

This is what ended up with. I then gave it a couple of coats of matt varnish.

This is the bit that’s new to me. Ranger distress paints. The large scale guys have been using these for a while with good results but the method for smaller scales seems a bit different. The pain is intended to be dabbed on quite think and left so that it starts to crackle and flake on it own. For our scale i found it better to brush it on on 2 coats. This doesn’t do any ‘magic though so the next stage is with a fine sanding stick to give it a little help. Again working in the direction of the wood.

Here’s the result. Distressed but not weathered. Another coat of Matt varnish and then back to enamels, used this time as a thin wash. I added an interior from Ratio and a signaller from Modelu. The finished result can be seen below