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Wires and signals

Part of the process in upgrading Brettell Road and preparing it for part 2 was to redo the wiring. Those that have been following from the start will recall that it was initially only a plaything and not an exhibition layout and the wiring reflected that being just 4 wired between boards. 2 for the DCC and 2 for the AC supply.  A concession was made after the first show to provide short protection for each board but its not really how things should be done so its been mostly stripped out and done again.

So now the DCC is split into 3 sections. One for the yard, one for the mainlines and one for the accessories. Theres little point having short protection if said short cuts off the ability to throw the points and resolve it. The AC is also split into 2 sections as well, the second being a DC supply for LEDs. You can use AC for LEDs anyway but the flicker can be noticeable sometimes.   So now theres 10 wires between boards instead.


The new arrangement for entering the yard has required a few new signals as well. Mainly a couple of ground signals from the MSE kits. I need a couple more for part 2 (one of which is a double) so I built them all together.  these are powered by servos controlled by a Tam Valley control board.  I guess this also comes under signals? A simple limit of shunt sign from a MSE lamp a bit of brass tube and some microstrip.

Below a couple of mood shots .

No going back now! part 2

Well the engineering works, true to form, over ran and took a bit longer than I expected. However the mini people of Brierley Hill will be pleased to hear that services can resume.I used to be a fan of the JLTRT track colour spray paint but as that range is long gone now and my last can was pretty much done for an alternative was required.  Halfords do a ‘camouflage’ range of very matt colours in their rattle cans and the brown is ideal as a basic track colour. The completed track ballasted and weathered from under the bridge. The blocks on the right are for the point rodding and I haven’t fitted the point motors yet. The left hand end from the other side of the bridge. I have a couple of ground signals to add yet. And the right hand end.  This is the end that required the most adjustment of whats already there. The bridges over the canal have been adapted to fit in their new locations.  I still have a bit of work to bed them in properly and I intend to fit a couple of central girders between the tracks on both levels. The nearer buffer stop has been repositioned slightly and a new bridge built.  I decided to angle it a little and do a bit of scruffy road to go behind it. Old meets new!

No going back now! Part 1

It seems that the good folk of Brierley Hill need to rely on buses for a while……Brettell Road is currently somewhat disrupted!    Work progressing on the plan to double track the layout.   One of the advantages of designing a layout on a computer and having a friendly laser cutting chap is you can design bits to replace things you really should have thought more about the first time!

Ive talked before about the regret at not making the layout a double track and I’ve also touched on using MDF as a trackbed which turned out to be a tad too unstable. The main lines have been replaced with 6mm ply and a hole cut for it to sit in.  Pictures of Brettell Lane in the period show some encroachment of flat bottom trackwork but in the form of pointwork. Further down the line, north of Dudley the Midland lines were also flat bottom in the period I am modelling and since Brettell road has always been more Midland anyway I decided to go with flat bottom trackwork for the plain lines.  Specifically mills clips courtesy of Colin Craig. (the actual clips will be added after testing.

Chains of slips under bridges all seem oddly familiar for some reason!  Like my other model nothing in this one is straight either!

Thanks to Colin and Tim for their assistance in supplying bits.

Bogie Ballast hoppers

The plan for New Street has always been to feature a selection of engineers trains.  The ones I have had in mind are a rake of loaded mainly 4 wheeled hoppers, a rake of loaded bogie hoppers, a rake of loaded grampus style wagons (partially fitted), a rake of empty salmons and a mixed rake of unfitted oddities(also empty).  All of these trains have been started to a degree and most of them many years ago.   However I had an urge to get at lease one of these trains finished off and it was the bogie ballast hoppers that appealed the most.

These have been pretty much done for years with most just needing the hand wheels and safety screens finishing off.

The oldest model is an old Cambrian kit for a Sealion.  Because this model does look a little different to all the others it will actually form part of the 4 wheel rake so that it doesn’t stand out.

Next up a couple of Lima Sealions.  An excellent model for its time let down only by the odd bogies. Ive replaced them with Cambrian ones.

The Lima tooling went to Hornby and rather than just stick it in a ‘railroad’ range box they did actually do some decent upgrades to this model.  Mainly the bogies but also adding the safety screens.  The rest is as Lima designed it with the exception of Hornby moved the end handrails from the top of the platforms to the buffer beams and replaced the inner original handrails (which were plastic) with better wire ones.

The above image serves to show the changes made. The hand wheels have been replaced with Stenson Models etched ones and the safety screen, while a commendable effort, wasn’t fine enough in my eyes. I’ve used cut down etches from Extreme etches intended for the class 56 bodyside grills. I also replaced the buffer heads with some  from MJT.  The livery Hornby applied to these seem to be a hybrid of the earlier light grey version applied in the later dark grey style. I couldn’t find any like this so the lower black band was added.

Also from Hornby the later welded Seacow.  Again the screens were replaced.  These too had the lighter grey livery so they were resprayed into the darker grey.

Bachmann have also done a Sealion and theres not a lot wrong with it as it comes. I still changes the screens and hand wheels for consistency throughout the rake.

The super easy conversion to a lima Sealion is to remove the vacuum cylinders to turn it into a Seacow. Lima did brand some of their RTR models Seacow but they retained the vacuum gear.

A more involved conversion is to stretch the lima model to produce the larger 50ton Whale. These were started way before the Cambrian Kit appeared although they do now ride on their bogies. Hand wheels are again from Stenson models.

Although a modest train for New Street its still virtually as long as Brettell Road!

Bit of a mixed bag

Bit of a mixed bag this post, starting with;

A kind gift.

My friend Tom contacted me to say he had an old Millholme models kit for an LMS 30t bogie bolster and did I want it?  Of course it would be rude not too!

The kit represents, as best as I can tell, a diagram 1682 45 ft bogie bolster. These were a continuation of a Midland design with the only obvious difference being that the earlier ones had handbrake wheels rather than compound levers. The sides and solebars were, nicely, cast in one piece and being as old kit the bufferbeam and ends where missing. The trussing was also cast in whitemetal and was somewhat optimistic as its a long piece in a not very strong and somewhat bendy material.

So to work I replaced all the trussing with 1mm L section brass from Eileens.  The brake lever castings were OK and they are both mounted at one end. It appears that only the bogie at this end is braked at all.

The bogies are ratio ones and I ditched the swivelling plate idea as supplied preferring to pack them out and mount them with a screw.  The bufferbeams were from my scrap kit parts box and the extra rivet detail from Archers transfers. The buffers were the ones supplied in the kit.

Lampost conundrum

My plan to extend Brettell Road includes completing the road currently on the left of the layout as well as adding a new road.  Digging around looking at local pictures in the late 50s the lamposts seem to be mostly the concrete cast type.  Theres a couple of options for these. Hornby Scaledale none working ones and woodland scenics working type.  I immediately discounted the latter as they are far too chunky and just look awful.

Not that the Hornby ones look any better.  Im not sure why they bothered to produce these as they are basically crude lumps of resin and they don’t even provide a foot for modellers to mount them.  The idea of fitting a surface mount LED and hiding the wires on the none viewing side went out of the window!  I must be able to do something better than this surely? Especially as, at most I will only need 5 of them.So with some K&S metal section (1.5mm square for the top and 2.4mm Hex for the main trunk I made this. The base was blended into the main columns and sprayed with Plasticote suede. I also very lighty dusted some grey primer and blank over it to give a more concretey colouring. Below is how it looks in position.

Baby Grampus

Flicking through Simon Bendall’s bookazine ‘Modelling British Railways – Engineers wagons’ I was taken by a wagon I’d not come across before. The GWR designed ling.  A 14 ton open wagon that looks like a baby grampus. In the bookazine, Hywel Thomas built one by cutting down a Chivers Tunney but I decided another route would be to stretch a Cambrian starfish instead. So 2 starfish kits were found and a lot of cutting ensued. The doors on a Ling are shorter than a Starfish so each door had a section cut from the middle with new strapping from microstrip. Buffers are from Lanarkshire models, W irons from Bill Bedford, door bangers and steps from Rumney Models and the test of the underframe from plastic section and the spares box.Above is the reason i referred to this wagon as a baby grampus.  Along side one it’s considerably smaller.  Comparisons between the shortened doors and the starfish originals can also be seen.

18th February 2021


As I developed parts for my models, some may have been of interest to others. I was not a trader as such and I did not hold stocks of all of these items all of the time. I also do not do commissions. As time went on I found, working full time shift work I couldn’t devote the time I needed to do this properly and so I regret that I will no longer be able to offer any of the parts I developed to others going forward.
Should this at some point in the future change I will re-add my goodies to the goodies page but only if they are in stock and available.

Midland brake van evolution – a visual guide.

One thing the Midland did well was use standardised bits and adapted them as they went along. This is quite noticeable in their signal boxes but also in their brake vans and, visually at least, the evolution is pretty obvious and logical.  So from left to right…
So starting with the early midland 10 ton van.  This was very much of its time and featured 3ft 6in wheels with a veranda at one end only. The open platform thats so familiar to the idea of a brake van wasn’t something that the Midland really went with and only one lot (D2096) of 4 vehicles would feature this in the future.  The rest of standard Midland brake vans would all feature a full length roof.

The later 20 ton van was built to diagram 1659 between 1924 and 1927 and featured a longer 12 ft wheelbase with 3ft wheels and a cabin that was 13ft 4in inside. This would become the standard size cabin for the rest of the midland vans that followed The similarities between the 2 type shown are pretty obvious with vertical planking and basically the same end panels.

Next came diagram 1657 (the diagram numbers don’t seem to follow in a chronological order) built between 1927 and 1931.  The obvious change was the duckets on the side.  The outer ends also evolved to feature a smaller opening and flush planking but still with the same offset central vertical spar.

From diagram 1657 to diagram 1940 built in 1933/34.  Virtually identical except for an increase in wheelbase of 14ft which resulted in a visually less nicely proportioned vehicle. It’s suggested that the increase was an attempt to improve stability at higher speeds.

On to diagram 1890 also built in 1933/34.  Still 20 tons but with another wheelbase increase to 16ft and an increase on overall length from 20ft to 24ft. The cabin size remained the same but there was a change from vertical to horizontal planking. Note the end central spar now really is central!

Finally diagram 2036.  Basically the same as before but with the door opening moved to the far end.  The planking on the ends is now gone as is the central spar as well as the upper part of the opening following the roof line. There were a few slightly different variants of this design such as diagram 2068 (the last being built in 1950) which featured a deeper ballast box between the wheels. Some of this last batch were also fitted although many of the other types were through piped at times in their lives.

Good old fashioned kit bashing (with a spot of RTR bashing too)

OK this one isn’t a particularly difficult exercise.  The Oxford tank wagon re-liveried to Shell/BP livery.  On my first Oxford tank I mentioned that the printing came off really easily with white spirit but not this one.  This needed IPA and a fair bit of elbow grease!   I added a discharge pipe and the logos came from Fox (they are a smidge to big for this little tank to be honest).  I noticed, too late, that Oxford have modelled both of the vertical end ribs facing the same way on these tanks.

Next up, a bit more fitting in with the post title. A diagram 2070 12 ton goods van.  When I built my diagram 2108 van from  parkside kit I used the ends from a ratio 12 ton van as the Parkside ones are the wrong shape. The rest of the ratio kit sat in it’s box until I recently decided to do something with it.  These vans, although looking very LMS were actually built (for the LMS) by the Southern in 1942.  I files off the metal framing a the ends and re-scribed the planks. The ends were just scratchbuilt from plasticard using the vent left over from the afore mentioned Parkside kit. The finished van.  Bufffers are from Accurascale and the old label from Holler.

Next, an Airfix LMS brake van chopped up to be rearranged into a Diagram 1890 version or ‘reverse Stanier’ as they are sometime called. As can be seen theres not much too this one and it makes quite a good project for those new to chopping stuff up.  These models can be found really cheaply so theres not a lot to loose.  The ends have been scribed as the upper ‘window’ section squared off with plasticard as filler.  A bit of microstrip for the vertical frame and the upper beading on the sides was sanded back. The finished Van.  Don’t forget to redo the steps on the solebars!

This is a cheeky little one. Basically the Parkside kit for the diagram 1657 20 ton brake van but with the wheelbase extended from 12 to 14 feet to produce a diagram 1940 version. One of those ones that i’ll be surprised if anyone notices!

The same cant be said for this though, I think people might notice!  Same start point of the parkside kit but rebuilt to a diagram 1799 40 ton bogie brake van.  The LMS built 3 of these specifically for the Copley Hill to Armley line and thats where they stayed.  I just liked it for its wierdness really!


Old stuff

While I’ve been in a brake van kinda mood I finally got around to improving an old Hornby LMS 20ton version I had and making it a tad more suitable for Brettell Road.

Pretty basic detailing job on this one. A selection of Midland versions.

Actually this brake van originally came from the Amlwch layout along with the above 47 and 24. Of the three the class 24 is as it was brought. the 47 having been brought a bit more up to date (well 1987 anyway).  I wonder if Amlwch is still around somewhere?

Bit of a different angle.  Let’s call this train an internal user?

Haven’t done a rainy pic for a while. NBL class 21 nestles between another pair of type 2s.

Building plastic kits – some thoughts

Thought I’d do a bit of a more detailed post about building and finishing plastic kits and the thoughts behind it as I go along. As always other methods are available and no one has to follow every step slavishly. Just take from this what you want if it helps at all.  The intended victim in this case is a Parkside LMS (ex MR) 20 ton brake van, kit PC58.  Im not sure how long this kit has been in the Parkside range but it has the look and feel of one of the later kits however the instructions do refer to the Woodhead transfer sheets as a source of lettering and they vanished a long time ago now. More importantly and the reason to devote a little more than my usual ‘heres a bunch of pictures, hope you like them’ approach is this is the last original Parkside kit in my stash so it’s also the last kit I will build that I brought from Richard Hollingworth himself.

So armed with the kit, the instructions, a selection of glues and other rudimentary tools plus the all important prototype references I set to work. Generally parkside kits are as close to model railway lego as you can get.  They kind of fall together however don’t take this for granted and in this case I found that the floor was about 30thou too narrow.  This was evened up with a couple of bits of microstrip either side. The importance of a dry run to check the fit of all of the parts parts cant be overstated.

Another thing not to assume is that the kit is right or accurate. Again generally speaking the vast majority or Parkside kits are but theres a couple that have a few clangers. The vac’ braked 16ton mineral wagon with a 10ft chassis not 9ft and the LMS fruit can with the wrong shaped ends are the better known examples. It’s strange how the right chassis is in the range for the mineral wagon and the common fix for the fruit van is to use the ratio LMS van ends and roof.  As these are all under the Peco banner now you would think this would be an easy fix for them. Perhaps they don’t know?The glues I will be using. as theres no metal to metal joining required the soldering iron can stay turned off for this one. The main glue I will use is the Tamiya extra thin cement.

Building the body

The body assembled,  I drilled the holes for the handrails before putting it together, the instructions say to do this after but i find it easier this way.  Although not really a decision as such with this kit as the handrails aren’t moulded on this is usually the first point where you will start to make your own decisions.

Handrails – do models look better with separately fitted ones?  Yes provided you don’t mangle the body too much removing the moulded ones and the replacements are not all wobbly.  I use 0.35mm nickel silver wire and flat nosed tweezers to shape them.  You need to keep the bends crisp and the straight bits straight. If you mess up a bend don’t waste time trying to straighten the wire out as you wont. Just start again. Separately fitted handrails that are all out of shape against a gouged body will not look any better than the moulded ones you carved off. Whatever you do though if you do have messed up handrails and someone points it out don’t try to claim its because they were bashed about in real life as it’s obviously a bodge! I think this stems a lot from the late 90’s when people were fitting all manner of after market bits and dodgy etches to Lima diesels. The fact that a lot of these parts were worse than what people were carving off the original body seemed to pass people by as separate bits was what you did back then!

Decision 2 – the lamp irons.  Will they look better separately fitted?  Yep but theres another thing to consider, will I knock them off in layout use?  When people are new to finescale models (I don’t like that term but it serves a purpose here) theres a tendency to fit every tiny bit of detail that you can.  With experience of operating your stuff at exhibitions you will find that you tend to draw back from that to point where practicality takes over. Where that point ends up will naturally be different for each of us.

It helps a little to delve into how human beings work. When I was working as an illustrator we placed a lot of emphasis on learning to see. Although we have sight we are not really wired to properly look at things. We are designed to make quick judgements and move on, basically can I eat it or is it going to eat me? What we are good at though is spotting something wrong or out of place.  So a moulded lamp iron in this case will go unnoticed by most people. But one thats been knocked off wont. This pre-determined fascination with the out of place can cloud our judgement of many things.  We notice graffiti on a wall so we think it’s prevalent. We don’t notice the 100 other walls we walked past that didn’t have any. We notice the wagon in a train that looks like it should be in the scrap yard and ignore all those that don’t look like anything like that. This extends to our history too, especially our photographic history. Photographers like the rest of us will ignore the mundane as focus on the thing that catches their eye. If you look at pictures of New Street in 1987 you would believe pretty much every train had a class 50 on the front and there was one DMU a day, as for EMU’s you can forget those completely!

This next stage will be dictated by how the kit in manufactured and can in the right circumstances save time later. If the kit is moulded in all the same colour (and its not black) you can skip this bit. However if the body is one colour and the underframe is black you can safe a lot of painting later if you paint and finish the body before you move on to the underframe which is what I have done here.

The Underframe

A wagon of this size is border line for needing springing or compensation in my experience. On wagons that don’t need it one tip I’ve found that works is to slip a piece of thin paper between the axle and the bearing at one end only while putting it all together. The other end should have no slop but the width of the paper gives just enough movement of 1 axle to keep everything on the rails. A piece of glass to check that the wagon sits square on all 4 wheels at this stage is another must however. Another handy thing is the Brassmasters axle spacing jig that ensures the axles are parallel.  It doesn’t matter how nicely your wagon sits on the glass if its constantly trying to steer itself off the track!

This is the underframe with all the supplied bits in place (except the steps) Its up to you if you chose to stop here or not.

I went for ‘not’ and added the break linkages and safety loops. If you are going to do this drill the holes you will need in the brake shoe moulding before you fit them to the model, it’s nigh on impossible to do after. The safety loops are glued in to bits of 80thou microstrip that have a hole drilled through them.  This is my stop point as there’s more detail that you can add regarding the correct shaped linkages and operating gear behind each wheel.  It’s not something i can see on the layout unless I make a really determined effort to look for it.

Hang on a minute, what was all that rubbish about bits of paper and not compensating stuff then?  Well sometime you can kill 2 birds with just the single bit of garden aggrigate!  Of all the options I am on record as believing that rocking compensation is not the first or even second best option of the 3 we have. However the internal ones do handily provide more rolling resistance than pinpoint bearings and on a brake van and a layout with gradients thats not a bad thing.

Let’s talk about buffers. If your plastic kit has moulded plastic buffer heads, let’s not beat around the bush here, they will be crap! I have yet to see any that aren’t! Options for replacements come from Lanarkshire models, MJT, Wizard and Accurascale. As always check your prototype pictures as the ones on the wagon you are building might not be the ones the kit represents. This applies to axleboxes a lot of the time too.

In this case I opted to keep the moulded stocks and replace the heads with those from MJT, The housing was drilled out very carefully using a hand held pin chuck. Don’t be tempted to use a powered drill as the wall you are left with is very thin and even the slightest bit of heat from the drilling will melt it.  A 0.5mm hole was drilled through the centre of the buffer and through the bufferbeam to account for the tail of the buffer head.   You can chose to spring the buffer if you like. I don’t find it makes any real difference though.

Weight – I try to aim for 50 grams for a 2 axle wagon.  If you have the room inside then these self adhesive car wheel weights are ideal.  This brake van needed an extra 30 grams adding.

Next stage is the running trial. With any kind of van I do this before fitting the roof as once its on i don’t want to try and get back inside. The wagon is tested through all the pointwork and sidings and any derailments or unpleasant jolts or bumps are investigated and corrected. In this case I’m happy to report there were no problems.

The finished build, even at this stage you still need to constantly check your work. note the bit of white near to the closest handrail?  Something I’d not noticed until I looked at the photo. I used the Revell liquid polly shown earlier to fix the roof.  The reason is that the Tamiya stuff evaporates too quickly.  The Revell version is thicker, wont run and gives me a little longer to position the roof.


Im very much of the opinion that a restricted pallet is best for all sorts of modelling applications, You don’t want to go too mad! As discussed earlier unless you are going for the scrap yard look you kind of need your weathering to be one of those things thats there but its not really noticed.  An important point I feel is don’t expect one technique to give you all the effects you want and try to work with each technique rather than against it, Things are so much simpler if you do!

So stage 1 washes – to represent washed on dirt you need to wash on the dirt! I make the wash from a mix of Revell 89 and no 9.  If you are doing multiple wagons at once keep changing the mix and the paint to thinner ratio unless you want them all to look the same. Don’t be afraid to go in with neat paint as well to mix it all up a bit and work ‘wet in wet’. Ive done that here on a few planks and the roof. It doesn’t matter if it looks a mess at this stage as you will need to leave it for no longer than 24 hours and potentially clean it all off again with cotton buds and clean thinners. A big part of weathering is not about how you put stuff on but how you clean it off. Having said that I have found on many occasions, especially with planked vehicles, you can skip the cleaning stage and this was the case here.

Next stage is airbrushing.  For this I use AK interactive dark mud as it comes and a mix of black and Humbrol gummetal for greasy/ sooty deposits. Think about in the real world the direction that the atomised dirt hits the vehicle and try to emulate this. Track dirt from about 45 degrees below the model and roof dirt straight down. As aways refer to photos.  What you don’t want is a rally car look as if the model has been flinging itself around a Welsh forest for a week!

The last stage is best described as titivating (and its pretty hard to show the effect it has in pictures but i still think its worth doing).  I use the burnt umber gouache for small deposits of rust. It doesn’t want to sit on enamels all that well so will naturally give a rust like effect. This can be fiddled with with water or paper towels/ cotton buds until you are happy. Its worth noting that if you are doing a vehicle with a lot of rust it’s best to do the gouache stage before the washes.  Ak interactive also make sets of weathering pencils, including a set just for rust, which work well in combination with the gouache.

The lighter brown and gunmetal were used to dry brush areas of wear on the steps and the underframe respectively.  The grease is a wash that contains particles and is used neat around axleboxes and bits of the underframe that are greased in real life.

As I said its hard to see the difference this has in photos. The oval crop is before and the main picture after. While you have the gunmetal out you can pick up some of the thicker paint that always forms on the inside of the lid with a cotton bud and dab it on to the buffer faces to represent more grease.

And there you have it. All that work for a mundane wagon that will hopefully just blend into the scene and go about is business in a most unremarkable, unnoticed way!


Here comes the PR!

A while ago I showed a picture of a Powsides ED 7 plank wagon.  ED stands for Earl of Dudley and I said at the time that it was a bit early for the layout and that that PR, Pensnett Railway would be more appropriate. A chance discussion on an industrial railway modellers Facebook group revealed that Planet Industrials actually do a set of transfers for PR wagons so a set was duly ordered. A couple of existing wagons were repainted into red oxide (the ‘shunters truck’ and a grey 7 plank RCH design) and a couple more RCH wagons were knocked up from good old Parkside kits. I decided to keep the Powsides ED one as it was  (although weathered a bit more to make it look more tatty) and do the shunters truck as ED too in a sort of crossover period.  Ive never found a photo of ED and PR wagons mixed together mind you.

The above train is all very ‘corporate’ and it wont appear at shows like this.  The PR wagons will be jumbled up among other mineral wagons. One thought I have had though is by making Brettell Road 2 tracks the industrials will look too out of place on the mainline so the plan is to extend the siding the train is on to the fiddleyard and have them appear from behind the warehouse, using the yard as a exchange sidings.

I was intrigued by the recent Oxford rail tank wagons and decided the yellow Carless Petrol version would break up the sea of grey and bauxite wagons on the layout. As with the ED wagons its really a bit to early for Brettell Road so I’ve weathered it up to look pretty tired.  Theres a few things worth noting with this model. The first is the axle length is odd. Happily its still 2mm and its not odd in a crazy short, Lima way so you can swap P4 wheels onto it and use the original axles. The second thing is that the lettering and the red stripe don’t react well to white spirit. If you want to remove them then great but if you use enamel washes thinned with white spirit for any of your weathering, as I do, and you want to preserve the livery its best to give it a quick coat of matt varnish first.

New stuff

With the growth of 3d printing theres been quite a few new companies appearing this year offering 3d printed products. The quality of these can vary somewhat and many show CAD renders on their sites so you can’t be all that sure what you are actually going to get. Ive mentioned 3d Printing corner before on my road vehicles thread as supplying some good stuff and recently I’ve been equally impressed with Model Railway Scenes as supplying equally high quality bits and pieces. Some of which are shown below.

The salt and grit boxes come a pack of 4 (2 of each) while the platform litter bins (ideal for New Street) come in 12. The oil drums (which incidentally are a close match to the Bachmann ones although these are a fraction shorter) also come in packs of 12 while the 2 different sized lineside relay boxes come in packs of 6 each.   None of the stuff I’ve had so far show any of the layering you sometimes see from a 3d print.

Another new (to me) product that I’ve come across recently is this…

Mr Surfacer liquid filler.  It seems to be something that the aero-modellers are familiar with as they use it to fill unwanted panel lines. It comes in several grades,  500, 1000, 1200 and 1500 and much like sandpapers the lower the number the coarser it is. The 1500 also comes in black and they can all be brought as a spray as well. They can be used as primers although I haven’t tried mine for that use yet.


3d Printing corner

Model Railway Scenes 

Just the simple things.

Sometimes it pays to drop back a gear and just do a few simple things that are not too taxing.   Things like a few simple wagon kits or just some pictures. And what could be more simple than the good old Airfix mineral wagon kit?  This ones been converted to a diagram 102 variant and weathered with gouache and a hint of AK interactive weathering pencils for the rust. Next up a mix and match of parkside bits to produce a Hybar.  The rail itself is a neat little etched kit from Rumney Models.

Below a few pictures.


DMU project – Done!

One of the things that struck me as a bit weird with the pics of the class 103 underframes I showed last time was that the bogies seemed to be too far inboard from the ends.  The class 103 (and class 110 for that matter) have bogies centres of 40 feet but Hornby have them set closer to 38 feet.  This is not something I’ve ever seen mentioned before with regards to the Hornby 110.On the trailer and the none powered end of the DMBS, because i had used Brassmasters bogies it was simply a case of moving the bogies out. Originally the mounting plate sat neatly inside the moulding (although raised by some 100thou evergreen strip.  Now they sit outside of the moulding by 20thou as can just be seen in the picture.  At the powered ens U opened out the floor at the inner end and simply bent the forward clip of the bogie to push everything back (the sideframes aren’t the best fit to the power bogie and were way to stiff before anyway!).

The bogies have been backdated with bits of wire and microstrip.  Happier now.   With that, some paint, the seating modified and some LEDs, aside from some windscreen wipers I can call these done.

Class 103

The roof vents were kindly printed for my by my friend John Chivers and I extend my thanks.

Class 129

And finally both units together.

The last few DMU’s – Part 2

Attention has moved the the under frames of my DMU project. As I mentioned when building my class 114 the easy option for the 103 would be to stick with the 110 under frames and I would expect most people wouldn’t notice.  However as per my 114 project that wont really do.

The DMBS.  Its easier to start with a center car chassis than a power car as when you cut off the Hornby details it gives you a flat floor to work on rather than just a hole. The battery boxes are from Replica and most of the other (black) bits are spares from a Heljan class 128.  The white bits are scratchbuilt and the buffers are from Lanarkshire models. The heating ducts on a class 103 are quite distinctive as is the way the exhausts are routed past the inner bogie.

The DTCL I must add a note of thanks to Eddie Knorn for his assistance in helping me work out were the bits all go.

For the class 129 the obvious thing to do would be to mount the body on a Bachmann class 105 chassis.  However the class 129 chassis is a bit different to a normal cravens unit and shares some parts with a class 108, especially the distinctive battery boxes. So most of these one came from a Bachmann 108 with again some scratchbuilt parts  Buffers and their stools again come from Lanarkshire models.

With all these there is still a little more to do before paint, namely bogie steps, air horns and lamp irons.

The last few DMUs

Long time followers will recall this old picture of a Hornby Class 110 DMU that I intended to chop up into something a little more ‘local’.  With the acquisition of a Bachmann Derby lightweight as a gap filler it kind of fell off the radar a little. I did debate doing another class 100 but in the end I have decided that a Park Royal class 103 would be the target of my attentions.

A little about the prototypes

These units were introduced in 1957 to the Birmingham LMR region. 20 sets were produced and the last vehicle in passenger use lasted until 1983.  A few vehicles survived a little longer in departmental use (Derby RTC Lab5 lasting until 1991) or as a Sandite unit (1985).  There was another oddity in that one set was converted to a Viaduct Inspection Saloon.  This was withdrawn in 1978 but was saved for preservation.

The 20 sets were all allocated to the Birmingham area for their first decade operating mainly Walsall services before moving on initially to Chester then spreading further afield. Although none standard they did use the blue square coupling code so could work with the majority of other DMU types. Pretty early on they started to suffer from cracking in the bogie frames and their poor reliability saw steam hauled services return to many of their diagrams while the problems were sorted out.  Aside from the oddballs mentioned earlier they only carried 2 liveries. Green (with or without whiskers and later with a small yellow warning panel) or BR Blue (small panel or full yellow end). None received blue and grey livery.

The Model

The similarity between a class 103 and the class 110 is reasonably obvious and (as with my class 100 and 114 conversions) the desired result can be achieved buy cutting parts out and shuffling them around, Plus a few spare panels from previous projects.

The above diagram may be of assistance. The red lines are cuts or areas than need to be removed.  The orange areas are surplus and the blue areas need filling in.  On the driving trailer everything aft of the last door stays the same as the class 110. I didn’t cut into the roof.

Initial stages of assembly.  You can see the additional panel from another body shell in white.

Face on you can see where the windows are opened up to match the class 103. The new frames are 10 x 30 thou microstrip secured to the inner edges. Incidentally in working on this conversion I have come to the conclusion that the class 110 windows aren’t right as supplied. They need to be wider and the angles tops need a slight curve.

The 2 body shells after a coat of primer and more work with filler. The angled tumblehome Hornby used has been rounded off and any missing hinges replaces with etched ones from Southern Pride. I need to add another cental filler to the DMBS yet.

Why do one when you can do 2? 

While in a DMU kinda mood I have started work on a class 129 DPU using a DC kits body kit.

A bit on this prototype as well

3 of these single car units were ordered from Cravens by the LMR.  These had a none standard coupling code (yellow diamond) meaning that the could work with the original Derby Lightweights. Introduced in 1958 they lased until 1973 with one going to the RTC initially for brake testing but later for hydraulic transmission tests and gaining the name ‘Hydra’.  None of the 3 survived into preservation. Although 55997 was initially allocated to Walsall it was 55998 that was most often to be found working int he Birmingham area during the late 1950s mainly on New Street to Walsall, Wolverhampton or Coventry services. Later it would regularity continue on to Rugby and one slightly unusual service was Alrewas to New Street with produce from market gardens.  As with the other DPU class, class 128 they would regularly pull a tail load.

The Model

Charlie supplied his class 129 kit with a standard class 105 cravens DMU cab moulding (no doubt tooling up another cab just for this class of 3 units wouldn’t make a huge amount on commercial sense).  So there is a little work to do to make it closer to the prototype, mainly removing the destination box and moving the marker lights down. I elected not to use the supplied flat bass etch for the route indicator box and made my own from microstrip.

The main bodyshell assembled with extra little details.  On something so plain sided it pays to add these little things to break up the sea of grey plastic



More thoughts on Brettell Road 2 but not kinda not at the same time

A while ago I shared my initial thoughts on extending Brettell Road.  For those that missed it click here.

The initial plan required some modification to the Left hand end of the existing layout but otherwise it was pretty much an add on.  Then the coronavirus happened and while plans were firmed up no wood was cut (lazered) and its not progressed to any kind of physical reality.  In that time my thoughts have turned to correcting the first regret, that being that Brettell Road 1 wasn’t double track to begin with.  This would also have the benefit of replacing the mainline track bed with ply as initially I used MDF.  The layout was only supposed to be a play thing if you remember.

This would require some additional tweaks to Brettell Road 1 but actually not as drastic as one might think.

Starting with the left hand end, where the new boards would attach to the existing layout in addition to the track.  I was actually quite generous with the track spacing and the double track would fit with only a slight tweak to the wall shown by the arrow. There’s another advantage here as my first plan would involve splitting the single slip across the baseboard joint but the double track pulls everything further in to the layout meaning the entire slip falls on this board. No changes would be required to the bridges.

At the right hand end there’s a benefit to slewing the track away from the front of the layout with space then for the second track in front of it.  The plan is to extend the furthest siding a little while shortening the front one a smidge.  This would allow me to start curving the front wall just after the canal bridge to generate the extra space.  I will need to build a new bridge. None of these tweaks are particularly drastic.

Below is a mock up of how it would look.

Compound finished off.

So back to the Bachmann compound then.

The body  looks pretty much spot on to me and the firebox Bachmann had modeled suits the loco I have chosen to do. 40925 was a late survivor and based at Bournville so that’s local enough  for me.  I added the lifting points to the front frames and the large pipe coming from the smokebox. This is an exhaust steam injector and not all compounds had them. As far as I can tell they were only fitted on one side, that being the side opposite the driver (compounds came in both left and right hand drive versions).  The smoke box has been painted in Revell no9 and the difference looks a little stark at this stage.

The ejectors are the Bachmann ones cut down, again refer to a pictures of your specific loco as these varied a lot. There’s a connecting rod that appears to go from the back of the ejectors to somewhere near the slide bar support bracket. In the pictures that show this well it always looks extremely close to the face of the rear bogie wheel. I decided the best way to replicate this was to mount it on the actual bogie instead.

Crew from Modelu – the driver looks distinctly uncomfortable straining to see. As the compounds had very large cab roofs I haven gone for a rain sheet on this model.

On to the tender

The body Bachmann supplied was a later Fowler type with coal tunnel and doors. Of course the loco I had picked had the earlier type without them. Luckily Brassmasters do a conversion kit and coal rails so that was what I used. The floor in the Bachmann model is flat so I knocked up the coal chute from plasticard.  Incidentally the supplied handrails are absolutely fine and don’t need replacing. They had to be on the one side for no other reason than I mangled it!

So the model has been weathered (to look tired but not scrap line) and aside from the wheel balance weights I can call this one done.

A slight diversion

One thing that’s always bugged me a little about the above image is the coupling rods on the class 11 (left). I cant remember why but I used the Brassmasters standard rods rather than their finescale ones. Well I finally got around to swapping them over.

Another little distraction is this Bachmann anchor tank wagon.

A simple wheel swap with a new etched discharge wheel and new ladders from Stenson models.

A bit more of a ‘proper’ project was this diagram 1/163 iron ore hopper from Wizard models. Quite a neat little project this one.

Finally, i don’t want to remind anyone but the nights are drawing in again!

A few more trailers

Been busy knocking up a few more trailers.

Starting with this offering from Knightwing. Although the cabs they supply are to a slightly larger scale the trailers, or at least this one, is pretty much spot on for 4mm scale. I changed if from a 3 axle type to 2 axles and fitted some spare Base toys wheels but that was pretty much it.

This 40ft flatbed is something I’ve had for a while. Its from RTI, brought when Frank was still with us. It’s a somewhat basic kit with just the bed, bogie and wheels supplied. The rest is knocked up from bits and bobs.

When I built my last batch of tractor units I printed enough registration plates for the trailers too. Do you think i can find them now?

The Bachmann Compound – part 1

I found a relatively cheap Bachmann Compound recently and thoughts have turned to what to do with it.

Lets start with a little disclaimer. Alan Gibson supplies a set of wheels to convert this loco to P4 and I would have every confidence that just swapping the wheels would get a p4 steam loco up and running pretty quickly. After all a 4-4-0 has got to be about the best case scenario you could really ask for. I didn’t try it myself but we’ve had a wheel swapped GWR Grange (I think) running on Moor Street for years now.

Being relative new to RTR steam locos, this is actually my first RTR tender loco I’ve had since i was a kid, there’s always 2 areas that stand out to me as looking a little weak on pretty much all RTR steam locos. No, not the wheels although big, in your face, wheels do perhaps yield the greatest benefit of swapping to p4 visually. The areas I am talking about are bogies and tenders. More specifically in the case of the latter, tender underframes. They just always seem so, for want of a better description, flat!

The bogie

So to the bogie. There was nothing about the supplied RTR one that i wanted to keep so its a straight swap with a Comet example. As supplied they can be built with central springing for side control but no springing on the axles. Setting some simple springs up however couldn’t be easier.

The loco chassis

To the loco. I decided I wanted to use some of the Comet chassis bits but not exactly as intended. So the first process was deciding what of the RTR offering I wanted to keep and what I wanted to replace.

I wanted to use the sideframes in a sort of Brassmasters easychas inspired way and keep the original Bachmann drive. Initially I thought the crosshead was just an RTR bodge but they do actually look like that. So that and the cylinders were keepers. I also liked the brake gear so that stayed.

The Comet chassis is not designed for this model and is too long. The wheelbase between the driving wheels and hence the coupling rods are also too long. Comet do specify this is the case on their website. The Bachmann frames are actually the right width at the front of the loco but narrow from the cylinders back to accommodate the 00 wheels. The cylinders look, from underneath that they might fit on little pegs coming down from the footplate. They don’t, they slot sideways into the chassis. Its best to pop them off and keep them safe.

I decided to split the chassis behind the forward step to loose some of its extra length. The front part being a relatively easy fit. The rear part needed some trial and error to cut away little sections to get it to fit. The Bachmann model is driven on the front driver ( it looks like the chassis was designed for gears but to both axles but it doesn’t have them), so the Comet chassis was carefully titivated so that the rear axles position matched. I wasn’t too worried about the front driver as I has decided to keep it rigid.

By leaving the RTR style bearings off the rear driving axle you get a little room for vertical movement. A Brassmasters sprung bearing was modified with a bit of tube (the Bachmann and hence Alan Gibson axles are an odd size). The frames were glued in place using 60 thou plasticard to space them out to something more prototypical. The springs are part of the RTR keeper plate so they are too to far back but I decided to leave them as is.

The brake gear needs a bit of modification to fit over the new frames and it was here that I hit a little unexpected snag. Bachmann use bigger wheels than scale. I wonder if this is because its a development of the national railway museum model which being an earlier example had bigger wheels? Anyway the effect of this is the brake gear sits too low and would likely hit the rails when crossing pointwork. The solution is to take a mm out of the top of the keeper plate so that everything moves up a little.

Valve gear

Lets be honest RTR valve gear is generally a bit weird. Its often both too big and to thin at the same time. The Bachmann coupling rods are about scale height (ignoring the bosses which are huge!!) but being only 1 piece of metal aren’t thick enough. So these were discarded and the Comet ones used in their place. Suitability shortened by 2mm.

The connecting rods as supplied are quite good though. Much more meaty and they feature the big square bosses that the Comet ones don’t, so hybrid valve gear it is then! The Bachmann crank pins are 2mm wide (really!) so a bit of tube was soldered in to make them fit the Gibson crank pins. While I was at it I made another 2 collars for the trailing driver a the coupling rods on a compound are outside of the connecting rods.

On to the tender

Body great but underframe – ugh!

Luckily Lanarkshire models do a replacement chassis kit for a Fowler tender. This was assembled as per the instructions. For the outer frames I was kindly supplied a spare etch by Brassmasters and mated this with some Comet springs and axleboxes. I decided to keep the Bachmann steps as they are moulded as part of the tender body.

As is often the case with this sort of stuff, the most pleasing view is the one you wont ever see!

Class 120 revisited.

One of my earlier DMU conversions was a class 120. Built from Craftsman overlays on a Lima 117 it’s done many shows on Moor Street and was probably due a bit of an overhaul.

I had already rebuilt the underframe to better match the prototype and a few years ago I swapped the bogie side frames for Dapol ones* as they better matched the Swindon design the class ran on.

*the older ones from their trans pennine mode not the newer ones from their bubblecars

The big thing I wanted to address was the inner ends. When I built the model the inner ends were void of detail and the instructions just said to stick the Lima gangways and exhausts back on. However the class 120 exhausts are somewhat distinctive and look nothing like what Lima supplied. So the ends have been detailed up to better match the real thing.

As mentioned before I am a fan of the Masokits gangways for DMU’s however I don’t see a lot of point using them if they are hidden behind the exhausts. So for this model i have use paper bellows and moulded gangways I had in my spares box.

A somewhat unfocused post.

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

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

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

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

Crew from Modelu

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