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A spot of reading

Been doing a spot of reading, one book not very Birmingham and one not very railway! The first, Life on the Lickey 1943-1986 by Pat Wallace appealed because i’ve always had a bit of a fascination with the place, particularly Blackwell, My great aunt lived there (still does) and many an hour was spent with my dad and brother on the old platform watching all manner of things cresting the top of the incline. Peaks and 50’s were always the favorite and Peaks in particular seemed little troubled by the long climb from Bromsgrove. Funnily I don’t recall seeing any banking as a kid but in later years we were treated to such delights as 3 class 60s on a steel train. The book covers Pat’s time working the Lickey from engine cleaner to driver including accounts on working the unique Big Bertha as well as in later days such shenanigans as starting a failed HST when the guard wasn’t quite ready and dumping the poor chap into the ballast. I was lucky enough to meet Pat last year at the launch of the book where he kindly signed me 2 copies (one for my great aunt). Sadly he passed away a short time after but thankfully his experiences live on in this fascinating insight to working this well known piece of railway
ISBN 978-1-85858-523-9 www.brewinbooks.com

The second book is Birmingham in the 70’s and 80’s by Alton Douglas and while there is some railway interest such as the derelict Snow Hill A Deltic at Bromford Bridge and a picture of 210002 working the Cross City Line, this book is very much about the city. The Street scenes are just pure nostalgia and these are intersected with newspaper adverts from the time. Ive written before that New Street has become less about the trains and more about the place as time goes on and this book fits in with that view perfectly
ISBN 978-1-85858-511-6 www.altondouglas.co.uk

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

Peak performance

Those who have been following my efforts for a while now will know I really like class 45’s.  However the model ones seem a bit lacking in performance especially when it comes to road-holding. The problem is usually down to the pony trucks which are really just along for the ride in a flopping about kind of way.  I wonder if RTR steam loco’s have the same problem?  The problem is to my mind two-fold.  1 – staying on the track, they are just too light and while there’s some rudimentary springing its more of a token effort than a real attempt at a solution.  2 – no side control, a pony truck should lead the bogie into curves and without some sort of side control thats just not going to happen.
Peak pony truck
The solution? These rather natty sprung pony trucks from Rumney Models. They also provide side control and a handy ballast box to get some much-needed weight in there. For more details see www.rumneymodels.co.uk

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!

Transit, nearly there

20140920-232312.jpgWell thats another transit van nearly done. Just need to add a tax disk and wing mirrors.

Filling the stock box.

Perhaps its a bit of OCD but I find if there’s a gap in a stock box I have an urge to fill it with something. In this case I have a gap next to my TTA’s and the easy option would be to buy a Bachmann one, fit springs and a new walkway and bobs your lazy uncle! However things don’t work like that and while browsing Paul Bartletts wagon site I came across these!

Something a bit different and yet not in a stand out “look at me” way. A couple of cheap Hornby TTA’s were found and cut in uneven halves to make the barrel 3mm longer. I know I have gone on about the Lima Mk2′ s being too short and how I’m not all that bothered and yes the difference is about the same but it pays to think of these things in terms of context and percentages. Context , I need a lot of Mk2s and I don’t see a huge gain for the effort in a large fleet, where as I’m only doing one of these. Percentages – 3mm over a coach is a lot smaller percentage error than 3mm over a wagon that’s less than half its length.
The chassis is scratchbuilt (it’s not exactly complicated) from evergreen section with suspension from Wizard models, Buffers are from the Southern modellers group.

Also in progress is another Mk2 transit van. I’ve been meaning to do a LWB high roof bus for a while in BTP livery to park outside the station (that’s where the BTP offices were and there were always police vehicles parked there). However an out of the blue request* has led me to a short version instead . The ingredients are the usual mix of Corgi Mk1 van and ABS fronts with a hefty bit of drilling and filing.
*More about that in a later update.

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!

Room for a 101?

So far Bachmann have done quite well with their first generation DMUs. OK the mould lines on the 108 cab were not ideal and the oversize metal chassis block is a poor design decision but they fill a much needed gap in the RTR market place. Not so their latest offering offering as the 101 is already available and given its Lima origins isn’t bad at all. Of all their DMUs the 101 is the the one that Bachmann could least afford to drop the ball on but sadly it seems they have. Given that this is the first DMU thats a victim of the new price structure it’s a bit of a double clanger!
I feel I must take some responsibility for some of the online fuss as I may have been the first to point out that the bottom of the main windows and the door windows all line up on the model when they shouldn’t. One online commentator went to great lengths to draw lines on photos of the model and the prototype that show the error very nicely (although in a bizarre piece of manufacturer brown nosing he then try’s to convince us that the model is right)!
On its own the window error isnt much but it’s one of those relative errors that just screams out at you. Lima themselves seemed to have a good understanding of this and while literally everything on thier earlier 117 is wrong it all works together so it looks ok. Correct one thing and suddenly it looks worse than when you started!
A few years ago the obvious thing to do would be to combine the strong points of both models to produce something accurate. Lima body on the bachmann chassis and while that’s fine for something like a class 25 where your outlay can be less than £50 do we really want to be forking out close to 3 times that for a DMU?
So given that fixing the bachmann 101 is going to be quite difficult, the easy route this time is just to fix the Lima under frame. People have remarked for years that it’s bad because it’s just a box with surface detail but lets think about this for a second. What is depicted is about right it’s just that the holes are filled in (you can see where this is going can’t you?)
Option 1 the quick fix
Ok this is a total bodge but all I did was weather the chassis and repaint the ‘holes’ in matt black. It was only ever meant to be a temporary fix but it’s stayed like this for a good few years now. I have also replaced the undernourished Lima bogies with spares from the Hornby 110.
Option 220140707-194641.jpg
It’s not actually much more effort to just drill out the holes and tidy them up with a scalpel or circular saw in a mini drill. I’ve re-added the tanks from bits of plasticard. With hindsight I was never going to replace my Lima 101s anyway but if I were to buy another I’d definitely be looking at buying a cheap second hand Lima model than feeling the need to have the latest thing.

Back to the PGA

Regular visitors will remember a while ago I looked at springing a Lima PGA. Since these wagons tend to operate in bulk trains I had no intention of doing another 30 or so. However the covered bulk salt version seemed to crop up in WCML speedlink trains so one of those is ideal. First impression is that they look the same as the Lima one however they are longer so after picking up a cheap one on EBay a start was made using Phil Eames article on PGA’s in DEMU Update as a guide.

20140619-144201.jpgThe 2 wagons were cut into unequal halves before gluing them back together. Extra details were added to the under frame and the ribbing added to the hopper sides using plastruct strip. The end platforms were made from a combination of wire, some scrap walkways from an old A1 models TTA walkway kit and ladders from Colin Craig. The internal formers were kindly cut for me by Tim.

20140619-144618.jpgAfter paint, the tarpaulin was just baking foil sprayed blue. The transfers are a mix of fox ones I already had and some home brew ones drawn up in Illustrator and printed on Crafty waterslide transfer paper.

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.

An urge to build in brass

Sometimes I just get an urge to do something new or something that I haven’t done in a while.  This week I had a bit of a hankering to do something with brass,  not like bunging a few CCU’s together but something more creative, something from scratch.

ole-on-end-of-12My intended victim, an isolation mast from the Eastern end of platform 12.  I suppose I could have built a standard (ish) mast but ive done those before and fancied something a bit different, something that’s a bit of a crowd pleaser I suppose.   So a drawing was made, some section picked up from Modellers Mecca and the soldering iron and mini drill fired up for a couple of sessions at my workbench.

OLE isolating mastHeres the result of my labours.  It went together surprisingly well and despite the use of Colin Craig’s insulators and my own etch for the registration arm it’s all good old-fashioned fabrication work.  I have to admit im pretty pleased with how it turned out.OLE-isolating-handlesClose up of the handles and brackets for the isolation gear.


A typical ‘platform enders’ view of the interesting bit!

Question is now, is the urge satisfied or have I just made it worse?

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?


The smart little car with all the extras…

…is what ford claimed in a 1988 advert for their Fiesta.  In 4mm scale the Oxford Diecast Fiesta has been out for a while now (and is an earlier version but it’s still very suitable for New Street.

First Impressions

Looks like a Mk1 fiesta to me. Comes with the usual manufacturing compromises of 2D printing on a 3d object and the now standard oversize wheels. I kind of hoped that Oxford had stopped doing this when they abandoned the separate tyres and produced the Marina model and while the fiesta hasn’t got separate tyres either the wheels are way too big.  On the upside it’s probably easier to fix now.

fiestas-compared-1On the left, out of the box and on the right after a few easy tweaks. The model is held together with a screw and the rear licence plate as a sort of plug in wedge (bit weird!) so disassembly is a doddle. A spot of black paint on the widow frames and bumpers and a coat of matt varnish is all that’s needed.  I decided this one would be parked so didn’t fit a driver. The wheels were pulled off the axle (you need to do this to get them out) and then remounted one at a time for turning down in a minidrill with some sandpaper.  Take your time as you need to avoid them getting too hot.

fiestas-compared-2Finally a very light weathering and its done – I’ll change the registration at some point and add a tax disk.  Reading up on fiestas the Mk2 version was essentially a facelift mk1 rather than a new car.  They seem to look about the same proportions, any Ford experts care to advise if that’s the case?

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.

Welcome to spring

If you listen to some forum ‘experts’ if you are going to model in P4 everything has to be compensated or sprung or it will all fall off and everyone will point at you and laugh! Of course the closest that these people get to regarding springs are the ones in their oh so comfy armchairs that they never seem to get out of.

The reality is somewhat different but before I go into that it’s probably best that I share my finding of how model railway vehicles run. Of the three options Sprung vehicles do run best, then compensated and finally rigid when it comes to trackholding. Visually though the order is a little different as while sprung still looks best, I find rigid vehicles look smoother than compensated ones where due to a single solid axle all the track imperfections are transmitted to the body.

It seems then that Compensation is perhaps outdated and I certainly wouldn’t bother with compensating a wagon these days. Leaving sprung and rigid as 2 viable options. Sprung being best but not always necessary. I have a theory that any form of flexible chassis is primarily there to compensate for us not building things square in the first place and when it comes to machine produced RTR wagons most of the time you can just pop some new wheels in and they will work as can be seen here –

So before we fix anything we should really see if it needs fixing at all, however some RTR is a bit more tricky and the prime culprit here is Lima with their underlength axles. So using a lima PGA as a victim here’s what to do.

First thing is P4 wheels just wont fit. However Lima did mold a boss on the back of the axle guards so one option is to carefully cut this away with a circular saw in a minidrill and deepen the axle holes with a special tool such as Ed’s tool. However Lima also modelled a lot of their wagons too high so in an attempt to kill 2 birds with one stone the original axleguards were removed completely.

lima-cutoutI tend to use the Bill Bedford springing units but if mounted to the floor they wont fix the ride height problem. The trick is to mount them to the top side of the floor not the bottom and cut holes for them to poke though. The angled shapes are there so that the wheel doesn’t hit the floor. This mounting to the wrong side of the chassis idea also works for Bachmann TTA’s too. brassmasters-jigYou shouldn’t expect springing to sort out sloppy workmanship because it wont. Getting the axles parallel in all 3 dimensions is still important and a handy tool to help with this is the Brassmasters axle spacing gauge as seen above.

BB-cambrian-modI always solder the bearing in to its carrier and file it down a bit for clearance. The original Lima suspension moulding was distorted to adjust the height so I decided to replace them with spares from a Cambrian SSA kit that I had. These are very thin, plastic mouldings, so a few strips of square 40 though strip were glued in place to act as spacers. It goes without saying – dont bung the springs up!


The finished (ish) chassis. The SSA kit also yields the rather heafty brake gear brackets too. Obviously the body needs work but that’s for another day.

Take a brake

By my era most brake vehicles took the form of a BG of some description however there were some other brake coaches to be found.  Most were air conditioned mk2 BFK’s and combining an Airfix BSO and FO together to get one is a common cut and shut project (See example here) I need at least 4 of them so far (2 are for the same train!). However what about the mk2 b’s and c’s

Doing things the hard way

One option is to have a go at improving the lima mk2b.  New window frames would be the biggest improvement and I believe Extreme Etches are working on some. The lima underframe is a bit barren and what is there isn’t all that well represented so I have cut away the battery boxes and replaced them with some from Replica Railways.  They suffer from the same shallow buffer beam and too high buffers as the mk2fs so these have also been addressed too.  Bogies are, again from replica railways but there is some way to go yet on this one. lima-mk2bThe easy way

All that is, I admit, a bit of a faff but the coach pictured above is one of the oldest models I own – it must be getting on for 35 years old or something so there’s a little bit of sentiment attached to it.  I also plan to do the same with Lima SO’s and FO’s too and have been steadily stock piling them when I see them for a few quid on Ebay.  Besides who doesn’t like a challenge?

There is however a much easier way and its linked to the Air Con BFK project mentioned earlier. You see you end up with spares when you do a BFK.  If you do them in pairs the discarded half of the BSO  can be mated together to make a mk2e (or with a bit more work a mk2f) SO.  The discarded halves of the FO’s are a bit useless though.  So with all these spare ends featuring wrap round doors it makes sense (to me at least) to lop the end off a Bachmann mk2a and replace it with the scrap end to produce either a mk2b or a mk2c.

bachmann mk2b

Theres a bit more work in the C than the B as the roof will need to be changed and a hatch added (Southern Pride do them and the vents).  Some Mk2c’s had the larger toiled window and no vents, some had smaller and vents like a mk2d so there’s a bit more work there too.  Adding the airfix end also makes the coach longer too.  On the underframe the boxes will need to be raised up as I have done with all of my Bachmann Mk2s and there’s a few extra bits and bobs to add but this is a nice and easy way to something a little different.


back to the Gronks

Once the springs and hangers were added to my class 08’s I started looking at other things that could be improved in the frames area. class-08-extras-2The obvious thing missing from the Bachmann model is the speedo drive but its dead easy to add from a few bits of evergreen strip.  There are also some holes in the frames that Bachmann missed so these were drilled using photos as a guide.

class-08-extras-1On the other side the missing holes were added as well as a drain cock – this was simply made from a brass pin with the head filed down, a bit of fine tube and a bit of brass rod.  Fiddly but a nice quick improvement project.

Another DMU Diversion (part 4)

Moving on to the DMBS like the DTS the easy option would to be to use the Lima 117 chassis as is and like the DTS most people will be none the wiser.  However hacking DMU underframes about a bit it quite a good way to spend an evening.  So first stage is to look at prototype pictures and decide what can be kept and what needs to be removed.  The best tool for this is a metal cutting disk in a minidrill.

class-114-DMBS-underframe-hThe above picture shows what I kept – again the battery boxes were in the right place but too small so they were removed.

class-114-new-UFSome parts are repositioned while others are made from bits of plasticard, microstrip or brass pharmacy rod. The radiators are quite distinctive and I do believe unique to the class. These were made with a bit of an old Shawplan class 56 grill for the mesh.  Given the position of the filler and the odd curved tops I wonder if these were standard items from a bus?  That brings the fabrication part of the project to an end – the gangway will be another Masokits one as shown here before and it’s just a painting and weathering exercise from here.  No need to show that so the workbench will move on to the next project, I will add a gallery for this unit to the stock page when its done.


Another DMU Diversion (part 3)

Moving on to the underframes, the obvious thing to do is mount the DMBS on a lima 117 DMBS chassis and to mount the DTS on  lima 117 TS chassis.  To be honest for most people that would do as provided they can see that the DTS hasn’t got an engine they proberly wont have clue if the chassis matches the real thing or not.  (I’m half expecting a high proportion of people to just think that the model is a Bachmann 108 anyway!).  However where’s the fun in that?

4326531684_fa11774b34_oThe above image (© John Turner/53A Models of Hull Collection and used with kind permission) shows that there is quite a substantial beam running down the middle of the DTC and that there are prominent heating vents under some of the doors.  With this is mind I set about seeing what I could keep and reuse from the lima TC chassis.  The only part that is in the right place is the battery boxes so you could leave them where they are but as I found when researching class 116’s, the lima battery box is too small. In the end all of the underfloor detail was removed as were all of the footsteps.

class-114-DTS-underframesAbove the rebuilt chassis.  the new Battery boxes are from Replica Railways as are the vac cylinders.  the V hangers are from Southern Pride and some of the original lima parts have been repositioned.  the rest is just from Evergreen strip.  The bogies are spares from the Hornby 110 and the steps are my own etches. The sideframes are mounted on my own design of bogie available from Brassmasters.  I tend to use Branchlines wheels on the leading bogies of my DMUs and Gibsons on the others I also mount the non rocking bogie at the gangway end so that any track deviations are not so obviously transmitted to the body. Weather this makes any real world difference I don’t really know.

a few links

John Turner/53A Models of Hull Collection  Replica Railways   Southern Pride Models   Brassmasters

Another DMU Diversion (part 2)

With the bodies assembled they were washed and then given a quick coat of primer to see where any joints needed further work before detailing could begin.


The DMBS requires the most work but common to both vehicles I added the door hinges that had been lost in the cut and shut process or the reshaping of the tumblehome (it’s easier to remove the hinges and add them back in later than to try to work around them).  Hornby’s moulding of the door lines is far to delicate so these were scribed back in and new roof vents added (from MJT).  On the DMBS a hole was cut for the grill on the side and a cut down grill from Hurst models added.  The frame is 10×30 thou microstrip glued in place, left to harden and then sanded down to about half its thickness. The surround was then carefully cut to about half its width and the excess removed. The guards doors are the wrong way round for this side only so the details were removed, the window filled in and a new one cut.


The other side is easier with just 2 fillers to add. These were drilled as a 2mm hole and files square. The surrounds are the same as the grill on the other side this time cut down to about 1 third of their width.  The DTS is a lot simpler although some (not all) have the same grill as the DMBS in the same place. As always a picture of the actual vehicle you want to do in the time frame you want to do it is essential.

class-114-endsThe cabs had a new rainstrip added (the dc kits one is too fine) and destination box fronts from my own etches.  The headlights are drilled out as I think this looks better.  Trick here is to drill a fine hole first as near as you can to the center then open up with a 2mm drill.  No work is needed on the inner end of the DMBS but the DTS needed the (somewhat elaborate) toilet fillers added.

Another DMU Diversion

One of the projects I really enjoyed last year was chopping up a Hornby class 110 body shell to convert it into a class 100 (see here and here).  Theres something nice if not a little old-fashioned about taking a razor saw to an old body shell and making something new.

From an RTR point of view Hornby’s 110 was always a bit of an odd choice due to its sphere of operation being so limited. Theres a lot more logic in Bachmanns approach of doing a 108 however to those of us who like fiddling with models the 110 is quite a hidden gem of potential.  Due to its profile (which Hornby kind of messed up a bit) and the position of the door windows relative to the main ones its far more versatile than the 108.  Some classes of DMU that are possible from the 110 starting point are

  • Class 100 (see above)
  • Class 103 – ok with a fair bit of work but see here
  • Class 104 – the obvious conversion, and the one you tend to see most
  • Class 107 – I know this had been done as a limited edition but that was just a reliveried 108, the profile and window positions are wrong so if you want something a bit more accurate, then the 110 is where to start
  • Class 114 – For the same reasons as above, stretching a 110 is going to give you a better result than stretching a 108.

Of those it was the 114 that appealed and by good fortune Tysley inherited some in 1987.  Thus a 114 is a good candidate for either a Brum-Nottingham or a Brum-Cambridge service.

There are other ways of course, a complete kit from DC kits or a conversion kit for the Lima 117 from Craftsman but I picked up a cheap set of 110 bodies and thought id go this way.

class-110-choppedThe above image shows the way that the DMBS was cut up to convert it to a 114.  The cab and one set of doors are scrap while the new section comes from the TS and the cab is DC kits.  The profile of the cab needs adjusting on a bit of sandpaper to match the class 114 profile.

class-114-DMBS-cutting class-114-DTC-cuttingDMBS top and DTC below reassembled. Sections marked as A are new, sections marked as B are original and C are orignal but reversed.  Next stage will be to remove the roof vents, fill the joins that need filling and adjust the profile.


The forgotten compromise

When ever we make a model of something we have to compromise.  Usually due to materials, time or space but also sometimes due to the laws of physics.  Even if we could build an exact copy in every way of a locomotive, using the exact materials, it wouldn’t be the same.  It would be so fragile you couldn’t pick it up and even then it wouldn’t be a dead scale weight.  Try making a 4mm scale loaded continuous welded rail train, loaded with steel rail and see what happens when you get to a curve!

We accept this, even if some people on forums think they are being clever by repeating it as an excuse to not try their best themselves.  New Street is compromised for reasons – the station is scale length but not scale width.  There are 2 platforms and a through road missing and the platforms get narrower as they get further away from the viewer.  These compromises are considered ones.

However the compromise most people make is very rarely considered at all. In fact it’s seldom even recognised and that compromise comes down to aspiration.  How often have you seen people say ‘I cant do that’ or ‘I cant build brass kits’? This applies to layouts too.  How often do people set their end point for their layout ambitions on the capabilities they have at the start point? Sure there’s a certain safety in knowing that something is achievable but isn’t that the ultimate compromise?  A common one you hear is ‘id love to do p4 but don’t think i could build the track’.  Don’t think or do know?  It’s a trait of many people that they think they can’t do something because they havent tried it.  Surely its better to take the view that there’s no reason you can’t do something unless you have demonstrated to yourself that you can’t? Why just assume you can’t do something you know nothing about?  You might have a natural talent at it, something you didn’t know you had, you might even enjoy it!

When I started planning and building New Street I set my target at what I wanted (perhaps with the arrogance and naivety of a 27 year old) not on what I could achieve at the time.  I had been working with p4 for 11 years at that point and while I had helped with layouts I had never built one of my own, technically I sill havent! There were things I knew I couldn’t do, things I would have to learn to do along the way and those were just the things i knew about.  I didn’t realise at the start I’d be etching my own parts or drawing things for laser cutting. Who knows what else I didn’t, and still don’t, know I have to learn?And that is perhaps the ultimate compromise we make. Not running a 6 coach train instead of a 12 coach one, not using set-track instead of building our own but compromising our ambitions based on where we start from.

Getting started on the shopping centre

As mentioned in the last post, the class 08 springs were a side project, the main reason for my visit to Tim’s was to get started on the shopping center.  The ramps at the Wolves end were drawn up as a set of parts in Illustrator and cut put on Tim’s laser cutter.  The first of the 2 beams has now been basically assembled and mocked up for a picture.

palisades-1At the moment the top beam is loosely held on with blue-tac but you get the idea. The Laser cutter has turned what would be a bit of a mission into something that’s been quite a nice project so far and at least assembly wise, pretty easy.