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Return of the rain

Up until now I have been using various gloss varnishes to attempt to make Brettell Road look wet. The results have been somewhat mixed especially on the ground itself. So I’ve given a few AK interactive products a try, still water and wet effect. Here are a few pictures of the results so far (Yes it is dry)

The Still water is a self levelling resin and it’s quite thick.  The wet effects is an enamel.  What you see in the pictures is a mixture of both products.


More on bananas, couplings and a short time lineside.

With the motor sorted out I cut away the molded hump (as well as the seats) and added a new floor from 20thou plasticard.  The replacement seats were from DC kits (I think).  The interior was then sprayed a reddish colour as that’s what pictures seemed to show. I added some curtains (drawn up in photoshop and printed) along with 3 passengers – Brettell road being very sparsely used by the public.

Although I will be keeping the railcar as no14, I removed the numbers in preparation for adding the later off white version at the other end to the way Dapol had them.  The numbers came of very easily with a spot of turps substitute on a cotton bud.  Be very careful around the lining as that comes off almost as soon as you look at it!

Returning to the coupling conundrum

If you remember I was toying with the idea of using a UV torch for my coupling pole but the one I had gave out a lot of visible light. I’ve upgraded to a much better UV laser torch and since photographing it is quite difficult I did a video instead.  I did try adding a filter to block the visible light completely but it made it extremely hard to use.

On the subject of videos, may I invite you to get a comfy chair and a mince-pie and spend a while line side watching a bit of shunting. (this one is all diesel)

The Dapol Flying Banana

Dapol have recently released a 4mm scale model of the GWR streamlined railcar.  The model depicts one of those ordered in January 1935 to lots 1546 and 1547 meaning it can cover railcars number 8 to 16 (number 17 was ordered at the same time but was a parcels version).  Overall first impressions are good. Not being all that familiar with the real thing it looks the same as the pictures in ‘The History of the Great Western A.E.C. Diesel Railcars’ by C.W.Judge.   There are a few things that stand out immediately though as room for improvement. The interior isn’t great being a 1 piece moulding with a huge lump in the middle to over the underfloor (well below the window line anyway) motor. With something with such big windows this isn’t ideal. The bogies look very under nourished.

First steps in converting to P4

The model uses a single driven bogie which has split axles, picking up through the bearings. The other end is a more traditional coach type bogie with wipers on the backs of the wheels. You might be able to use the Branchlines class 108 conversion for the power bogie as it looks a similar arrangement but as I didn’t have one I can’t say for sure.

I used standard wheels and drilled the center gear out 2mm to fit. I disconnected the wire from one side and used a little bit of copper clad and phosphor bronze wire to arrange new pick ups.

At the ‘trailing’ end things don’t looks so easy.  The bogie is very, very narrow. No doubt a compromise to allow any sort of swing on the full skirted versions on 00 curves. You can see from the picture that a standard 26mm axle is wider that the bogie.   You might be able to fit P4 wheels on the original axles as they do just about fit between the sideframes but…

… lets face it the super skinny bogies look more than a little bit naff. The quite low relief details really don’t help either. No doubt another compromise for the skirted models. The powered end has plug on sideframes, like a Heljan diesel so these can be easily spaced out to something approaching the real thing. The difference is quite marked to my eye for as good as no effort.

This is the driven side after its been re-spaced – the additional drive details go some way to mask the low relief nature of the basic sideframe.

I await a Brassmasters 7 ft bogie to redo the trailing end with new pickups which should kill both of the problematic birds with the same piece of small aggregate!

EDIT – Tony on the scalefour society forum has tried the Branchlines class 108 conversion and reports they don’t fit.

Weathering track – some thoughts

One topic that seems to come up fairly regularly on forums and Facebook groups is weathering track. I thought I’d do a mini article on my thoughts and how I approach this subject. As always other methods apply.

The prototype

As with any modelling activity you need to look at the real thing if you want to copy it. You don’t necessarily need to understand it and the advice model what you see, not what you think you know applies. If you are modelling a real place then the jobs pretty much done for you but it pays to look at references as close as you can to the timescale you are modelling. Even when track is brand new it actually isn’t. this was taken a few days after they relayed the eastern end of new street.  Note the use of wooden sleepers, not all brand new track uses concrete or steel sleepers. The rails are very rusty and there’s already evidence of the trains using it. The visible colours of he pandrol clips wont last long. Some plain flat bottomed track that to any modeller would be considered clean. things to note are the welds where it was joined, the rail colour has spread to the sleepers in places and some of the ballast is on top of the sleepers. I’ve found when it come to track being really neat isn’t always he best thing.  Its subtle but look at how the 2 rails are not the same colour. The inside face seems dustier than the outside. The weather changes things – the rails look very dark because they are wet. The wetness seems to mask some of the subtleties seen in the previous picture. Around points things have to move and as such they are greased. Note how the grease from the rod passing under the rail has manages to creep onto the web of the rail above it?  The rail dust is visible around the baseplates and the third rail is a completely different colour to the running rails. I include this picture because it illustrates an important point. 2 tracks can be side by side and look different. There are many reasons for this. The tracks might be different ages. The trains might be doing something different depending on the direction they are going. If they are braking then there will be more brake dust. The trains themselves might be different too, loaded freight trains that carry loose material do tend to drop things and push dust along with them.  If your line had a heavy use of a particular type of train then the material itself can affect the look of the track and distort its colouring.  Also track weathering is directional. As the trains move along they tend to push any dust or debris along with them. As we run on the left in the UK the left hand line will tend to look the dirtier of the two when looking away from you. You can see this effect here and it pays to weather your track in the direction the trains are moving for best effect.

Modelling it.

If I am using wooden sleepers then I tend to lay the track first then give it a base coat of a mucky brown colour. I use JLTRT track colour but I’m not sure if you can still get it. Halfords do a decent matt brown in their range of camouflage spray paints which is good as well. You don’t need to be too precious as it is just the base colour. I then paint the rail sides with either Humbrol matt leather (look for tins with the union flagon the side, the others are weird and too green) or Revell 84 before ballasting. You can get a little tool for paining rails that consists of a little roller fed from a reservoir. To be honest I tried it ans didn’t get on with it. A nice flat brush seems much easier. Do all this before the ballasting. Flat bottom track on New Street.  It was pretty new in 1987 and the rails had a distinctly different colour to the bullhead stuff. As its bi directional i sprayed the track from both directions. Firstly with a light coat of Revell 84 and then a mix of gun-metal and black. Note the grease around the fishplates done with the same colour and a simple card mask to prevent overspray. Sidings outside New Street signal box, It pays to have all the scenery immediately next to the track in place before the weathering. Overspray onto these elements is something that would happen in real life.   Note much more gunmetal/black colour where the loco’s stand. Make sure that you repaint the checkrails once you’ve cleaned the rail tops A black sharpie is good for keeping them dirty or you can chemically blacken them as well. Close up of the end of a double slip. Older sidings on Brettell road.  I used my finger to ‘smudge in some powder paint to the ballast to give the less cared for look. Some static grass gives an impression that the yard is losing the battle with nature. While in some cases weeds can creep into sleepers or even force their way through them it pays not to have your greenery on top of them.

Its all pretty simple stuff really but as I said at the start, observation is the key.

Post Scaleforum part 2


The subject of couplings tends to come up at most shows. Each have their own ideas whether manual or autocouplings are best. I’m firmly in the manual camp and within reason I like couplings to look like the thing they are supposed to represent. Yes I know the infamous ‘hand of god’ grates to some but, to me, I like to suspend my belief for a second or 2 while an operator couples up rather than something looking wrong 100% of the time due to some weird design of autocoupling. On Brettell Road I have kind of the best and worst case scenario at the same time for the hand of god problem. Best case because its dark and its easier to hide it. Worst case because if the operators have any hope of seeing what they are doing you need a light! I can appreciate that this might well be the ultimate per peeve for some. Bit like my own of tipped from the box road vehicles or magnificently modelled signals with a flat etch for the ladder, so is there another way? Well there might be!The couplings on this wagon have been modified do that they can be seen in the dark.  in the light there are no derogatory side effects but in the dark……and under a UV light coupling hook they are clearly visible. Potentially easier to see than inter the normal pen torch. The UV torch I have does still give out visible light so the next mission is to find a truly black light source. By marking the coupling link, the wagon hook and the end of the coupling probe with a UV marker I might have a reasonably invisible manual coupling method.


Of the 5 layouts I have regularly helped to exhibit 3 have used a cassette system and this always seems to generate interest at shows. Cassettes are one of those weird things in model railways that everyone seems to be aware of but no one ever really explains to anyone. I have to hold my hands up and say I am not really a fan of them but for Brettell Road I didn’t really have a lot of options.  This is how my cassette system works (other methods are available).The baseboards were designed with a recess for the cassettes. The connecting end of the cassette itself. this is the third revision.   The track is only actually stuck to the cassette at this end via the copper clad. the rest is merely clamped between the cassette and the inner piece that runs down it’s length.

I say third revision because the way it connect to the layout has been a tad problematic. initially I had extra rails outside of the running rails that transferred power to the copperclad sleepers by sitting over the top. This worked for the vertical alignment and at the test session at Phil’s seemed to be fine for horizontal too. However in terms of transmitting the power it wasn’t 100% and as Simon (one of the operators) pointed out – it was likely to wear through the copperclad at some point.

For Scaleforum I retained the extra rails for alignment but added phosphor bronze strips for electrical connection. these were better but fragile. Also oddly we had horizontal alignment problems that hadn’t shown up before.  This is my revised arrangement that I am happy with so far. It seems reliable in tests but until the layout goes to its next show we wont be absolutely sure. It does look a little bit more complicated than it needs to be due to 2 tracks feeding in from the layout. The basic idea is that a piece of flatbottom rail mounted sideways and into the web of the running rail does all the alignment and power transmission. you might have noticed that the rail in the cassette picture wasn’t attached to the first sleeper. this is because it’s slightly tweaked outwards and is held in line by the flatbottom rail. The advantage of this is that its robust but easily adjustable if needed. So far in tests the derailment problem hasn’t re-occured. The cassette in place. I also have some half length ones too.

Uh-oh – hes got distracted again!

Well sort of! When I was a kid my mum and dad took me and my brother to Matlock for the day. I might have been one of those family away day rail tours BR did back then. I can’t remember why we were there but I do remember wandering down the platform waiting for the train home and finding a little loco shed. Inside was this! (picture © Philip Wheldale and used with permission).

I can’t remember if it was exactly the same and I seem to recall some sort of tarpaulin on the roof but I had absolutely no idea what it was. I could only see the front and it looked kind of sad sitting there.  On getting home and checking my early loco numbers book I found out it was the last surviving co-bo and ever since they have always held a certain appeal.  definitely weird and pretty much hopeless from the very start they were like the runt of the early diesels litter, whats not to like?

Anyway given that Brettell Road is a what if and none to serious. What if one made it to there in the late 50’s?  Remember I have set it to be more midland railway than it should be so it’s not a leap of imagination to presume that Derby might have sent one to the area to see if they could find a use for it. So, just as Hatton’s stocks of the Heljan model were dwindling I ordered one. They only had the full yellow end version left by then.

A quick win would be to stick some P4 wheels in, weather it and jobs a good-un but that would be a bit too simple really so I set to with files and opened the cab windows out to their original sizes. A bit of wire restored the framing. The actual windows were cut from the packaging the model came in to get the curves edges. The cab front was re-sprayed back to green (Precision locomotive green being a very close match) and then it was weathered. Ok A quick win-ish!The other side (yes I know it’s not the right headcode arrangement for a passenger train) I know this shot is rapidly becoming a Cliché but I am not bored with it yet!

For more of Philips photos click here.

Post scaleforum, part 1

Brettell road seemed well received at Scaleforum and for a first show I was very pleased with how it went.  That’s not to say there isn’t a list of things that need looking at for the future though.

One of the things I did before the show that I didn’t really have time to post about was this derby lightweight from a Bachmann model. I have long-term plan for a DMU but this was a quick win to have something for the show. I wired the 2 cars together and disconnected the red tail lights. A swap of the destination blinds, a few passengers and some weathering and it was good to go.  I still need to redo the gangway at some point. I found at Scaleforum I had more wagons than I needed. this meant withdrawing ones that played up wasn’t a problem and to be fair my cripple train is reassuringly short. The class 20 didn’t have enough rotation in the bogies so that’s been fixed too.

I’ve toned down the streetlights as well as several people remarked that they were too bright. finally a quick shot of the Deeley parked up under the bridges (well why not?). I still need to finish the bedding in of the bridges so that will be a future post of its own.

The not so dirty dozen

I’ve nearly finished of another batch of a dozen wagons. Some are repeats of types that have gone before, some are variations and some are typed I’ve not done before.

Below are the repeats A LMS 5 plank open from the Cambrian kit.  2 shockvans and a 9 plank private open from Parkside kits. A couple of standard 12t vans from Parkside kits. The plywood one (furthest) is built as per kit with my usual mods to detail the underframe a little. The nearer planked example with plywood doors runs on the Red Panda 10 ft clasp brake chassis. This one is a mix of old and new Parkside. The body is one of their old kits mounted on their newer LMS clasp brake underframe to produce a diagram 1927 vac fitted 12 ton goods wagon. Nearest is a diagram 1379 Southern railways 8 plank open from the Cambrian kit. Furthest a 6ton LMS fish van  from Parkside. 2 palvans from the Parkside kit. Furthest as supplied and nearest converted to a clasp brake variant using parts from the red panda underframe. Not quite as simple as the 12 ton van shown earlier as I needed to retain the palvans slightly odd springing and solebars. Finally a diagram 2111 LMS banana van. The body is from the ratio kit and the underframe is a little bit weird. It is basically the standard LMS clasp brake design but with a shorter 9 ft wheelbase rather than the usual 10 ft. I think it gives quite a nicely proportioned vehicle . Above shows how I did it. I’ve been finishing the bodies first for a while now and adding the underframe later as, provided the underframe is supplied in black plastic, it saves some time painting, especially the visible bits on the insides.  This one uses spare bits left over from other wagon kits. The solebar is from Cambrian and the handbrakes are from Parkside. W irons are Bill Bedford with Wizard models brakes and Rumney Models axleboxes and springs.  Question is, will anyone ever notice?

Some thoughts on Parkside Dundas

I’ve mentioned parkside a lot in this entry. In fact the first wagon kit I ever built was a Parkside Grampus (the unfitted one). Well the people behind Parkside have decided to retire and the range of kits has passed to another supplier. I will no doubt continue building Parkside kits for as long as they are available and i’ve built an awful lot so far. They were always accommodating and it was always a pleasure to stop by for  a chat at shows. So to the guys behind Parkside Dundas, I thank you and I wish you all a happy retirement.

Kirtley part 2

wheels-comparedThe Kirtley kit came with wheels (00 obviously) I think they might be Romford. The above picture shows a comparison with a scale wheel (Gibson) and highlights a problem with 00 gauge steam loco’s  While the diameter of the wheels match the oversized flanges mean that the splashers need to be much bigger to accommodate them. They are generally too wide too and sometimes in the wrong place. Some manufactures of RTR loco’s solve this by fitting smaller wheels.

new-splashersOn the left the original splasher (and somewhat crude spring) and on the right my resized version/ I chain drilled a line of 1mm holes inside of the splasher (from the back) and added a new top from some scrap etch.

boiler-modsThe oversized splashers mean the boiler is compromised to fit around it. I modified it with some scrap whitemetal disks (from a southern Pride 310 kit – see, never throw stuff away!)  Below is the loco so far with new splashers, springs and beading along the footplate. I’ve also mounted the chassis a tad higher into the body since the first image the other day. kirtley-part-2

Dave Hewitt

Long time readers will have seen mention on many occasions of a little company called Unit Models. When I first came across them they did a range of resin bits mostly for US modellers in HO scale but what a range it was. Noting spectacular but they produced no end of useful little bits and pieces for people who scratchbuild buildings and the like. Things like vents, wall fans, lockers etc. The sort of stuff that was a bit of a ball ache to scratch build yourself. signal-box---pre-weatheringThe roof vents you see here are from them and as they didn’t do the exact ones I needed Dave was only to happy to do some for me, he didn’t even seem to charge any extra for them either!  Well Sadly Dave passed away recently and the business is up for sale. I hope someone picks it up and continues to produce this specific but invaluable range of bits and bobs and its sad to see such a lovely chap taken from us. My thoughts with his friends and family.


The what if factor

What if? We all do it at some point usually with regards to layouts. What if such and such place had a railway or this branchline stayed open to the diesel era? What if Clapham junction was a bit smaller so that it could fit on an 8×4 sheet of plywood?  Where we don’t seem to do ‘what if’ as often is with regards to the stock itself and this is where I am heading with this post.

mrsalt73One of the few steam locos that appealed to me before I started Brettell Road was the Midland Flatiron or ‘hole in the wall tanks’. Although not a great success the designed by ruler and no other drawing aids look of the things appealed to my interest in things that look less than pretty. While they made it to the LMS and were reboilered by them (you can tell by the square firebox and the protruding smoke box) the last of the breed went for scrap in 1938. But what if they didn’t? What if at least one managed another dozen years? I could have one on Brettell Road then!

Of course the armchair experts will delight in pointing out that its wrong but we seem happy to basically make up history for locations, why not locos?  Id be interested in people’s thoughts on this.

Wanting to see how one would look in BR livery I got my digital crayons out and drew it. I think it looks quite smart myself.


Prototype picture ©Warwickshire Railways and used with permission. www.warwickshirerailways.com


Compromises and trying a different path

degrees-of-compromiseWhat you see here are 3 walls for the same building. The one on the left faces the public, the one in the middle doesn’t but you can see it from the front of the layout and the one on the right you can’t see at all, at least not from this side. You will note that the middle wall doesn’t have representations of the arches but it does have the raised details and sills. This is because from the angle you can see the wall (you will have to look for it) you should just be able to make out texture and relief but not enough to see if those things are accurate or not. The right wall you can’t see at all so I didn’t bother with texture or even the top curve of the windows You will be able to see the windows from the other side so that is one reason they are there. The other is that I hope you will also see the effect the light from the windows will have on the little yard behind it. inside-warehouse-1There is a reason that the walls in the first picture look pretty much finished and that is that I am approaching this build differently to my previous buildings. As its right at the front and you can see inside I want to detail the interior and to my mind the best way to do this was to build the structure in situe.  We will see how it goes!



DCC controlled Dinghams

I originally wrote about this several years ago but since the topic has come up again on a forum I’m going to take a little look back at my thoughts on couplings.

There are 2 schools of thought on the issue of coupling trains together. Something that looks like the real thing, or something that can work automatically. The downsides of these are that the real thing type can be fiddly (and the closer you get to dead scale the more fiddly it gets) and the often bemoaned ‘hand of god’ that seems to be wheeled out as a regular complaint by some forum go-ers. The automatic type doesn’t look like the real thing (unless you are doing some sort of buckeye type prototype) and many of them require fixed magnets and an odd ‘shuffle’ to be performed by the driver to uncouple.  How this shuffle looks any better than the hand of god I don’t really know and to my mind its better to credit your viewer with the ability to suspend their disbelief for a moment while you uncouple a vehicle than for said vehicle to look wrong all of the time!

Problem is with New Street I don’t have much choice. Loco’s will need to be changed and all that overhead along with a shopping centre means that a manual hook isn’t going be in any way practical!   So automatic it will have to be and as only certain rakes will need to be uncoupled some sort of DCC on board solution seemed the obvious answer

dingham-raisedProof of concept. The coupling of choice being the Dingham coupling which will couple to a Smiths hook (not automatically mind you), By fitting these to coaches that have gangways they can be hidden as much as possible and there’s no requirement for a weird coupling on the loco. As supplied the Dingham has a steel dropper that when passing over a magnet is pulled down to raise the loop. By fitting a magnet instead and using an opposing magnet the loop can be raised from inside the vehicle.

electro-dingham-1By salvaging an electro-magnet from a cheap relay and wiring it to a DCC decoder this process can be simply automated. with no power the loop sits in its normal position.

electro-dingham-2But when power is supplied via a decoder function the loop is raised and coupling/uncoupling can be done. It’s all quite simple really!


Dingham Autocoupler

A technological rethink

A while ago I wrote about the benefits of using modern techniques and processes, specifically laser cutters.  However I have sort of come to change my view on this a little recently. You see, if you are doing more than 1 thing that is the same then laser cutting can offer a distinct time-saving. If however what you are doing is pretty much bespoke then the extra effort is, I have concluded, not really worth it. Take my retaining walls for Brettell Road. I did draw up the larger one but it took for ever. It turned out to be much quicker and easier to just get some sheets of embossed plasticard and get stuck in! I have to admit those that protest on forums that laser cutting is cheating really don’t have a clue what they are talking about because it’s a lot, lot harder than the old way. large-retaining-wallsmall-retaining-wall

These walls use Slaters bricks and I have done the top row by cutting individual blocks from evergreen strip and gluing them in place. Even taking the time to do this (Which isn’t exactly taxing but is long-winded) these walls didn’t take all that long to do.


Wagon building continues and I have amassed a fair few now (probably enough for Brettell Road if I am honest). This is a diagram 1/019 BR medium goods wagon from the Parkside kit which, as is customary for their stuff, pretty much falls together out of the packet. The usual extra bits and bobs have been added to the underframe. opens

On the left a BR 13 ton steel open again from Parkside while on the right a 13 ton sand tippler from Red Panda. I originally built this for Amlwch but never actually ran it on that layout so it can go here instead. It’s good to see that the small but useful range of Red Panda kits have recently resurfaced from Parkside. jinty-in-the-rain

Finally this is pretty much what I hope Brettell Road will be all about, dark and wet! It’s always been my intention to depict a rainy  night somewhere in the Black Country and this is the first time I’ve really been able to get an image that illustrates what I am looking for.

Some thoughts on springing

31-bogie-2---Tysley-22-02-0No I haven’t put this in the wrong place and yes this is a bogie off a class 31 but it serves to show how the real thing goes about springing 3 axles. When I first wrote about building the chassis for my Jinty I didn’t go into too much detail on how it was sprung, mainly because I wanted to check that it worked properly before telling people how to do it (or leading them down the wrong path , possibly!). In truth I knew it would work as when my friend Simon built his fully spring class 31 (from a Bill Bedford kit) he sprung it using a similar principle. AS he’s an engineer and I’ve seen his 31 perform faultlessly on may occasions there was little to worry about other than I possibly didn’t get it or couldn’t do it!

Anyway after a few days of shuffling wagons around on Brettell Road I feel confident to tell you how it was done. I admit off the bat that CSB’s work and work well as I’ve seen many examples of them (Continuous Springy Beams). I also admit that all the maths, tables and discussion put me right off the idea from the start. It just seems so ‘faffy’ somehow. Sure they first appeared when there was an element of the finescale side of the hobby who likes to pretend they were actually Stephen Hawking and seemed to revel in making things look as difficult as possible but there was always the thought in the back of my mind that a lot of the clever theory, whilst fine on paper, didn’t actually translate to any effect in the real world. That and why don’t real 3 axle vehicles do it that way then? (Yes I know a Jinty isn’t sprung like a class 31 either!)

The principle of equalised springy beams is very simple. If you have a beam with a pivot in the middle the effects on either end will be the same. If you move the pivot to a 3rd of the way along the effects are more on one end than the other, By using 2 beams on 3 axles, with 2 of them acting on the center axle and the pivots towards the outer axles, the effects on all 3 should be about the same. It’s a mix of old-fashioned, very rigid compensation beams and springs to get a sprung result. I am sure that you can apply loads of complicated maths to this to refine the thinking further but it works for me, appeals to me KISS approach to things and all you need is 4 handrail knobs and 4 springs of 18 gauge guitar string. Nothing has to be pivoted and you can just change the gauge of the springs to adjust the effect. equalised-springing-drawing

A return to the panniers

94xx-tank-paintProgress on my 2 pannier tank projects has continued with the 94xx body reaching the paint stage. Bachmann has recently announced a new RTR model of this class but i’ve never been one for waiting for someone else to do things for me. Those who know me will know that my interest is in the making things side of the hobby rather than the amassing stuff side and besides there’s always something new in the pipeline somewhere so if you want the latest and greatest, you will forever be waiting for it to arrive. Nothing wrong with that of course and i’m sure having all the very best offerings from the trade will result in a magnificent layout, even if its only forever in someones head!


The 15xx tank has been a bit more back and forth. Someone kindly pointed out that the roof of the cab I had used was too shallow so this has been swapped for the roof from the original 94xx body. It did need shortening a little as the 94xx cab is bigger. The roof detail on the 94xx is nothing like so that was all replaced with more archers rivets. I also spotted that the rear cab windows are much further in than the way I had them (and the 94xx) so these have been changed too. Incidentally the Ian Beattie drawing in the April 1985 Railway Modeller also had the windows in the wrong place too so it wasn’t just me!)

For such a small class there’s a lot of variety. the cab door handrails were shorter originally and one class member (1506) seems to have had both long and short at the same time. The lower smokebox handrail also seems to have been added later (perhaps when the steps were changed) and 1503 seems to have had straight horizontal handrails on the rear of the bunker rather than the L shaped ones the rest of the class had. These were also mounted lower down for some reason. It just goes to show the old mantra of work from a photo of the loco you are modelling as close to the date you are modelling it that you can find.

Here comes the rain

Regular readers will be aware that I plan to model Brettell Road in the rain. While falling rain is not doable and if it was to scale wouldn’t be visible anyway I believe it’s worth trying to show the effects of rainfall. Of course it will be frozen in time but I don’t think there’s a lot I can do about that and I’d like to credit those who view the layout in the flesh with a degree of imagination.

Aside from things looking wet the other thing I wanted to try was raindrops in puddles and the canal.

The canal itself was done with multiple layers of varnish as per Gordon Gravetts book then the area where the bridges were masked and more varnish added (Humbrol clear) with baking soda sprinkled on while wet. I did try cold and warm varnish  to see if it made any difference but found it didn’t.

The above image shows the canal in position (again you will have to imagine the walls) and below in something approaching the light I plan the final project to have.

Why do those with the least to say make the most noise?

One of the side effects of being reasonably well-known is that you attract the attention of the good old Internet troll or two. I’ve had 3 in my time and the all follow a similar pattern. That being a minor disagreement that most normal people just move on from (and I often have to search to try to track down myself as it was so insignificant at the time) sets them off on their self-imposed moral crusade. They then follow you round the Internet trying to have a pop at everything you do. They also nominate themselves as a voice of the people and take great delight in telling you what everyone thinks (of course this is usually accompanied by a host of messages from ‘the people’ telling you that they don’t think that at all!

My first pet troll told me he “had marked my cards early on as one of those finescale types” that ‘his’ forum didn’t need. And to be fair to him he did a good job of getting me banned from that forum for a single comment deliberately quoted out of context. I must say I had never had any negative feedback from the moderating team at that point and no effort was made to contact me or discuss anything by them. I did contact them and eventually I got some sort of half arsed reason for their decision which they couldn’t really justify!

Troll 2 and 3 decided to work together. Troll 2 made a big fuss about sorting me out but sadly any private correspondence to have an adult discussion were ignored and he continued his attacks on the forum. Troll 2 was quite an unusual one as the supportive feedback I had been mostly from people who had met him an found him to be a bit of a plank in real life too! Troll 2 seemed to delight in trying to get troll 3 to do his work for him and tried to encourage him to post my private messages on the forum for all to see. More of that later

Troll 3 has, I am told via quite a lot of unsolicited messages, a bit of a reputation for his own brand of abusive private messages and seemed to spend a great deal of time on Facebook complaining how everyone in his little village basically hated him!

So since troll 2 thinks it so important that the world sees just what I’m like regarding my private messages il, do him a little favour and post them here for people to make up their own minds. The only edits are to remove names and clues to their identity.

It all started with this post on one of the forums

It depends what you mean by “mega star layouts”? Don’t you feel that by saying this that many of the people who have already exhibited at past exhibitions will feel rather insulted by this remark, as you give the impression that you don’t rate past/current efforts compared to your own unfinished layout?

To which someone with a normal degree of common sense replied

I don’t think this is Jim’s point at all. I think the question he poses is rather, among the general modelling public, which layouts are talked about in ‘must see’ terms? I think he’s claiming to be to close to the problem to see the general public’s view.

The reply came back

I’ll refrain from supporting others here then and posting in general in that case. Jim is known for his dismissive posts about others efforts; the Edited layout thread is a classic example. I’ll also retract my offer to make a free professional promotional film edited as well.

All the best
Troll 3

Not wanting to get into a discussion on the forum I sent the below via private message

Excuse me? What have I done to deserve this?

His response is below


You know full well why. I’ve never read a single comment of yours, either here, facebook or anywhere else that doesn’t attempt to put something or someone down. Your recent spat with Troll 2 on the name removed thread is just one such example. You were always attacking my non railway stuff on facebook; (i cant recall this ever happening by the way bu this might be one of those insignificant comments that normal people just move on from as mentioned before) I was always waiting to read one positive thing from you. Your comment today edited was patronising and insensitive and how name removed (or whatever his name is) could decipher a hidden code in your message that us lesser mortals were oblivious to is completely beyond me. Again, you start posting a cynical view about my track on my layout thread; all of this just because of that catenary incident years ago! It’s rather sad don’t you think and babyish? I’ve often posted nice and genuine comments about your layout, but apparently these count for nowt where you’re concerned. Why can’t you show a little more modesty and spiritual generosity towards others? Why does this concept hurt you so much? I find it very weird and abnormal personally.

My reply

Name removed

You admit you have constantly read me wrong then? It is you that bring bring up the catenary thing consistently so it is clear that it’s you that can’t drop it. Yes I’ve had a few disagreements with people but I’m not even close to the amount of people you have routinely pissed off. I suggest you look closer to home before you point the finger and drop this pathetic point scoring agenda.


His response below


OK name all the people I have constantly pissed off and why; the catenary shit was you mentioning it the other day. Other than that I only mentioned it once on RMweb – so twice (the second time because you brought it up). You’ve always had a problem with me; fuck knows why (although I have several ideas) but my advice to you is, do one. Find somebody else like you; sad; desperate for attention; egocentric with a very lonely pathetic life in a grotty basement in the Midlands, to unleash your miserable troll existence on. We don’t all give a shit about your huge sprawling self important layout like you think we should, and we don’t all spend our every waking moment building railways and trying to prove to an uninterested world how great we are(n’t).

Tight lines

My reply

I’m very happily married thank you and I don’t have a basement. You presume to know a lot and consistently get things completely wrong.
As for attention seeking egotists, remind me how many times you repost the exact same pictures you’ve been posting for the last 3 years again. I have said positive things about your layout but not every time you repost the same bloody thing.

Like I said, best not point the finger and prove my point

And that’s it. Not sure what I’ve done to deserve his ranting other than not tell him how great he is often enough! I am very aware that its poor form to post private messages online but since troll 2 is a fan of it and one of his mates did exactly the same to me on a forum I had no access too (even going as far as unlocking a thread just to score points – that’s a fine example of moderation for you!)

I hope I’ve removed enough identifying comments from the above and I must point out that any comments that do identify these people will also be edited. Perhaps trolls stand out because they are so rare and I might even be in a minority of only having 3!

Display shelves

Above is a couple of test shelves I did for a demo at DEMU earlier in the year. A variation on these shelves is now available from Tim Horn. If you missed the demo I will be doing a similar one (also on multiple units at next years Scalefour North. I’ll post details nearer the time.

click here for a link to Tim’s site

New(ish) technology or modelling witchcraft?

New technology, there are those who embrace it or those who reject it or seeing it as cheating in some way. It’s not a new phenomena or even restricted to railway modelling, I remember such discussions when digital illustration started to appear. With a hobby of course it’s up to you how you pursue it. Do you want the end result to be the best it can be or do you enjoy the route to the end result more? No one is ‘right’ in such circumstances but if someone choses to embrace new technology is it fair to accuse them of cheating in some way?

The finescale end of the hobby has always had a reputation for valuing the journey over the destination and for a long time detailed or converted RTR was frowned on as not proper modelling by those who scratchbuild stuff when in many cases the RTR looked much more like it was supposed to than the scratchbuilt stuff anyway. In reality though the finescalers have usually been the ones to embrace new technology and ideas first and the current crop of high quality RTR is largely down to people wanting something better. You hear it all the time, we’ve never had it so good and it’s probably true but things don’t get better if people just accept what they are given – they have to ‘want’ better too. It’s probably worth at this point mentioning that we never had it so good 20 years ago and we will probably still be saying it 20 years from now. Does anyone really believe that the current crop of RTR is the best we are ever to see?

So to the point – Laser cut buildings. Already people are saying that its cheating, that you just push a button and a building pops out of a machine but in reality it’s just a very very clever scalpel and while I believe the end result is better is it any easier or quicker?
What you see above is a simple canal bridge drawing for Brettell Road. Its drawn in illustrator and while I have used some time-saving tricks like custom brushes for the arch and a custom fill for the brick pattern it seemed to take a lot longer than just getting a sheet of brick plasticard and cutting it out. The thing is though I could convert the pattern to lines (expand appearance for those interested) and then tweak it. For example I could easily recreate the half width header near the corners in an English Bond wall while doing so with plasticard would have been a massive faff. In fact I wonder if anyone has even bothered, I know I didn’t think it worth the effort!
Above is the actual wall loosely positioned on its canal bed and towpath. The top row are routed and cut by Tim.
However laser cut can be a bit clinical. For the towpath I wanted a cobbled section but also a dirt section to – the finished cut was attacked with files and sandpaper to roughen it up. Going back to the point of New technology and illustration, I always thought, if Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci had Photoshop would they have used it? Id bet that they would!

A spot of reading


Been doing a spot of shopping, first up are a couple of new(ish) books by Kevin Derrick and published buy Strathwood. I’ve always liked class 25s and 45s so the these books are right up my street. A4 hardbacks and full colour they are essentially picture books with a very brief intro. That’s fine with me as other books dealing with the technical sides of these locos are already out there and do we really need a repeat? Besides pictures appeal to my, ‘what does it look like, I don’t care how it does what it does’ approach to things.
What I like about these 2 books is that effort has been put in to showing different livery variations and in the case of the Peaks nameplates (including the painted ones). Add in there’s some nice New Street shots in both and I’m more than happy.
£19.99 each website

Sometimes an impulse buy can lead to a whole load of trouble. In this instance I’ve always liked Jintys and indeed I scratchbuilt a body for an n gauge one as a kid. It was a bit rubbish to be honest, ok a lot rubbish and the fact that it was scratchbuilt couldn’t save it from the bin! However the Great British Locomotives collection have just done one and for less than a tenner I couldn’t resist!

This is how it came out of the packet although I did reattach the bufferbeam so that it was straight. The magazine isn’t really one, more of a stand alone article but I was surprised that it’s quite well done with some good images and illustrations.
In the real world steam wasn’t allowed in New Street in my era so the above would never have happened but it’s good for a little flight of fantasy.
The problem is I’ve found myself looking at the Brassmasters detailing kit, as well as the High Level chassis kit. Also thoughts of a small diorama based on some sort of industrial setting and set at night (and in the rain). This is not a good thing!

Some more wagons

Despite not really getting caught up in the rush for the latest thing when it comes to RTR I do find that the new wagon announcements have an effect on what I’m up to. It’s because most of the new stuff actually isn’t. It’s been available before as a kit and if it suits what I’m doing there’s a good chance there’s an example or two in either my unbuilt kit pile or half started in a box somewhere. I’ve had to admit I’ve never really understood the clamour for new stuff we already have especially if the example is something simple like a 4 wheel open wagon. I mean you will see comments on forums that it’s the greatest thing ever, that someone has wanted one of these for years etc etc. I just think they can’t have wanted one that badly or they would have built the kit! Don’t dare suggest it though as such people seem to rejoice in explaining that they are so inept that they can’t stick 2 sides and 2 ends to a floor, or even better puff their chest out with pride when they tell you they have never even tried! And yet after all this time waiting they will absolutely buy 3 dozen of them just on a written specification, yeah right!

Getting back to the point, this time it’s Bachmanns tube wagon which so far does look nice. If starting from scratch I’d probably buy a couple but I’ve had the Parkside kits half done for many years. Having said that I would be surprised if Bachmann manage to match Parkside’s lovely thin sides.

20140613-211414.jpgHere is one of them after changing the w-irons for Bill Bedford ones, adding brakes from MSE and a few bits of wire for linkages and safety loops.

20140613-212312.jpgAbove is a Bachmann VGA also done with Bill Bedford w-irons. The original axle boxes look nothing like those on a VGA so it’s worth changing them for slightly cut down hooded roller bearings, again from MSE. the break gear is from microstrip and wire but you can’t see the wire when the wagon is the right way up. The end steps are from DEMU member Martyn Normanton. I thought they were a bit too long so moved the top fold along by 1mm to reduce the height. Martyn also does steps for BAA and BBAs.

20140613-211425.jpgOne little tool I’ve had for years but never really used is this, which is like a temperature controlled hot glue gun designed for sticking etched details to plastic. It’s kind of like a soldering iron for plastic because if you get it wrong you can over heat the part and the glue breaks down and just rubs off. More faff than using superglue but the joint appears to be stronger.

more coaches ticked off

mk2c-bachmannThe Bachmann/airfix Mk2c is now done. Additional parts coming from Southern Pride (Roof Hatch, extra underframe box, and GM roof vents), Replica for the bogies, MJT for the dropped buckeye and retracted buffers and ABS for the extended ones.

newspaper-GUVsAlso complete are my other 2 newspaper GUV conversions.  I tend to like to do a one off prototype and then batch build the rest but there in lies a question.  What size batch is best?  OK a batch of 2 as in this case and the case of my Mk3 pullmans (shown below) isn’t much of a saving but large batches seem like too much of a mountain to climb.  Take Mk2 coaches for an example (and probably the most extreme one on the layout) logically it would make sense to do them all together. It would be easier, and the results would be consistent but just working out how many that number is, is a job in itself.  I’m sure I can get way past 50 without any effort at all and even 100 is only approximately 10 trains.

Such a number is enough to drive the enthusiasm out of even the most dedicated person but what about doing them train by train? For some trains that might just work. The Brum to Norwich train springs to mind as it’s just 6 early mark 2’s, 4 of which are TSO’s.  That seems manageable but most trains are longer – some a lot longer. I have found video of a class 87 hauled motorail train at New Street that’s 15 vehicles long. Not that many of them are the same type either.  This is the problem.  I’ve identified a need for at least 5 Mk2D BFK’s, 2 of which are in the same train but these are a bit of a faff (not horrendous mind you).  Doing them train by train is not efficient at all.  So whats the answer?  Does anyone else build in batches?  If you do how do you approach it?


A glipse of the future provided by memories of the past.

When I was a kid, standing at New Street I only had a little brownie camera that took 110 film (remember that?) and couldn’t really take a decent picture of anything, not that I could afford film anyway so while I was there at the location and period I am modelling I never took any pictures of my own.  It’s somewhat taken for granted these days that we can just have access to images of whatever we want due to the internet and sites like Flickr but unless people were there at the time to take the images and today give up their time to upload them for no reward we would really struggle to get even basic info on our chosen subjects.  It is these unsung contributors that play a vital role in our hobby and its worth now and then taking a moment to stop and appreciate the efforts they go to.

Recently I found a video I hadn’t seen before that featured New Street, just a few months after the period I intend to model from Brian Hancock. His Youtube channel is well worth checking out and with his kind permission I can share with you his video.

This look back at the past is a prediction of my future. It is scenes like these that I am ultimately trying to recreate.

Theres a bit of Marston Green before and Reading after but these are still well worth watching, so if you have a spare 25 minutes – make your self comfortable and enjoy.

Some thoughts on the video

The first thing that stands out (because it’s the first train) is how un-colourful freightliner trains were in the 80’s with mostly white, blue and red boxes. The class 31 apparently rescuing a failed 47 (2.46) seems to be putting in a good performance.

The New Street stuff starts at 3mins 33 seconds and its interesting to note the lack of uniform rakes of coaches, there’s a set of nearly all Mk1s in blue and grey at 7min 50 though. Also worth noting is that none of this set is running on B1 bogies.  In fact there’s an awful lot of Mk1s throughout the film.

The Class 158 test bed, class 154 puts in an appearance just before 12 minutes as does the yellow 312, albeit in the background.  Is also worth noting the high number of light engine moves the highlight of which is a lash up of a class 56 and 2 class 58s in the 14th minute. I have no idea what the markings on the side of the DMU seen at 14.40 are but its worth noting that these 4 car 115/116 hybrids were common place at the time.

Theres an awful lot of platform enders throughout the film and this reaches a peak in the 15th minute as a class 45 generates much interest – I must remember to add the various bags they seem to leave lying arround to the model!  At 18 minutes there’s one of the Express Parcels liveried 128 DPU’s which is causing much frustration on one of the Model Railway forums at the moment due to the new model apparently being in the wrong colour. The last train seen at New Street is a bit of an oddity with a class 31 hauling a rake of what seems to be mostly first class air cons. Perhaps an excuse to use up some of those cheap Airfix Mk2 FO’s that we all seem to pick up as the years go by. It would certainly give the exhibition critics something to get excited about.

Theres a few highlights in the Reading bit too with 50027 (Lion) making a nice getaway, a class 56 storming through the station and one of the class 210 DEMUs.

Thanks to Brian for uploading it but as mentioned before thanks to anyone who uploads videos and pictures, the hobby would be all the worse without your efforts.