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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!


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.

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!

Another ‘tweaks’ post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little something I’ve been dipping into.

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the canal.

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

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

Last tweak to the presentation.

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

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

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

A simple little project

A simple little project using a left over base toys trailer.
This is what I started with. which is, lets face it, a bit naff
Using the Langley models kingwheel kit you can turn it into something half decent. The kit caters for single and twin wheels so that’s all to need for both axles. In reality you could knock up the tailer bed from bits of plasticard in a leisurely 10 minutes!
The finished trailer after a spot of weathering. The reason for posting such a simple little project is to demonstrate that anyone can have a go at something like this for very little money. There’s no need to attack your latest RTR loco as a first attempt as this can teach a lot with ultimately very little to loose. We have the modification of the plastic bed. Use of white metal components (Have a crack at low melt soldering) adapting kits for your own uses and weathering. Sure its tempting to go for a headline loco if you are new to the hobby but something this simple will also teach a lot of skills. Plus if it all goes horribly wrong you can just throw it away, the lessons learned never follow it into the bin!

Return to the roof

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

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

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

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

Brettell Road 2

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

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

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

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

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

Why we still need books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invisible fixes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the most from older models.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Quietly influential

The two wagons pictured above were the first 2 wagon kits I ever built. The grampus is from the older parkside kit and the turbot from the Cambrian kit. Both have been upgraded since I built them with Rumney models parts and both have seen RTR versions appear in relatively recent years.

When I built these though the options for 4mm scale modern wagons was very limited indeed. Hornby had their range of air braked 4 wheeled wagons on a very generic underframe and Lima had some useful bogie wagons (all with somewhat useless bogies). Bachmann hadn’t really appeared back then so if you wanted the trains you could see at the time you had to build them yourself.

Admittedly the grampus (which was my first kit) was a bit of an odd one out in the Parkside range and it was more the longevity of the prototypes that made this kit suitable. While Cambrian had carved a very nice little corner of the market for themselves with their dual ranges of engineers wagons and airbraked prototypes. Without these who knows where my interest in the making things aspect of the hobby would have gone?

The reason I’m being nostalgic is down to 2 people that the hobby has recently lost and will be sorely missed. Richard Hollingworth was the softly spoken gentleman behind Parkside Dundas while Colin Parks was one of the 2 brothers behind Cambrian models. Rest in peace gentlemen, and thank you.

Hornby Hacks 2 – The NBL class 21, part 1

I’ve mentioned before that Brettell road is a ‘what if’ layout and that extends to the stock as well. So what if the NBL class 21s were trialed in the Midlands? It’s not a huge leap to make from reality really and its reported that they did appear on the Condor’s occasionally (anyone got any pictures of this?). I’ve always had a passing interest in the Hornby class 29 as its melancholy look seemed to stand out from the other diesels in their catalogue as a kid. I never had one though so why not get one now?
I prefer the original look of the class 21 to the re-engined class 29 so that’s the plan. The Hornby model has bits of both. (I know about the upcoming Dapol model but I figured going this way would be more fun!)

The Prototype

©53A models of Hull Collection, used with kind permission. Click here to go to the original.

Although the class 21 and class 22 became something of an irrelevance in the history of British locomotives their story does hold a bit of interest.  NBL could have been said to be at least as experienced in British loco production as anyone else at the time with their LMS commissioned prototype 10800 and the class 16s which shared a strong resemblance. Both were powered by Paxman engines and both were somewhat problematic.

When it came to type 2 units (or type B at the time) they abandoned the Paxman power unit turning to their own built MAN units, built under licence from Germany.  It’s not clear if NBL actually had any real experience in building these engines at the time and to say they were somewhat disastrous wouldn’t be far from the truth. NBL would return to Paxman to repower some of the class 21s and they would be class 29.  Truth is they were little better. Poor cooling and badly laid out equipment only made matters worse for the class.

Where they do hold an interest is in that the class 21’s were diesel electric while the class 22’s were diesel hydraulic. If they hadn’t have been so problematic then a reasonable comparison of the 2 propulsion types would have resulted.  This was the only opportunity for main line locos in the UK. The 2 classes look very similar with the class 21s being just a smidge under 5 feet longer and at least to my eye, looking more ‘designed’

D6109 the odd one out.

D6109 became the odd one out of the true class 21s having received most of the body modifications for conversion to a class 29 but not the Paxman engine (reportedly down to problems discovered in the frames). So D6109 became the only class 21 to get a headcode box.  Interestingly there was one class 29 that didn’t but got all the other modifications.

The Model as it comes.

Being reasonably unfamiliar with the real thing some time has been spent comparing the model to pictures of the real loco and I’ve drawn up a (quite long) list of things I think are off.
So here we go then

A – I think the peak of the roof is wrong – it looks flatter on the real locos. Also the rib behind it doesn’t seem as prominent as it is on the model.

B – The water fillers seem the wrong shape and are missing from one side completely/ the handrail next to it is too long.

C – The bodyside steps seem a bit too round and are too shallow.

D – Ignoring the moulded fan/etch thing for a moment. the whole panel with the radiator fan on is in the wrong place. It should like up with the bodyside grills.

E – There’s a lot of rivet detail on the model. It’s too heavy and I am not convinced it’s all really there on the prototype.

F – As with all Hornby diesels from this era there are moulded on paint guidelines.

G – I think the lower faring tucks under the loco more than it does on the model.

H – Wheels are too small and should be spoked not solid.

I – Central part of the lower bodyside faring looks a lot deeper than the prototype. It looks more like a class 31! I wonder if this was deliberate to compensate for the body being mounted too high as was the norm for Hornby models of the time?

J – Battery box detail is kind of suggested at best.

K – Bodyside door windows aren’t deep enough – they should line up with the bottom of the other bodyside windows. The lower bodyside rib goes across the door on the model – it doesn’t on the real loco.

L – Bodyside grills arent deep enough, they too should line up with the bottom of the bodyside windows.

M – Bogies look a bit filled in to me. Brake shoes don’t line up with the wheels (again common with Hornby diesels from the era. )

N – Steps under the doors are a bit freelance.

O – Bufferbeams blend into the lower bodyside – there’s a distinctive shape to these visible on the prototype.

P – Buffers and bufferbeam are too high.

Q – lower cab front isn’t deep enough

R – Horn covers are a bit basic

S – Cab end lights are very basic too! the upper ones are too near the cab edges.

T – More moulded on paint lines. the lines for the doors stand out. they should be grooves.

U – Headcode box – not on a class 21 (except D6109 as mentioned above.

V – Its well-known that the cab windows are not wide enough. I don’t think they are right vertically either. The prototype seems a pretty even height all the way along. Hornby’s are taller in the middle.

In addition the exhaust port is the wrong shape and somewhat freelance.

So, to work

Side views compared. Woking down from the roof I’ve replaced the exhaust and flattened the cabs a bit.  The radiator grill was cut out as an offset before turning it around and sticking it back in so that it now lines up.

The bodyside steps have been drilled out and the handhold replaced (not really worth the effort with hindsight) and the bottom of the grill frames carved off to be replaced with microstrip. The bottom faring has been reduced (the white strip is where I took a bit too much off).

Power wise the model uses a Bachmann class 25 chassis with the bogie centers spaced out by about a mm each end. I kept the original Bachmann brakes and overlaid the Hornby sideframes after opening them up a bit. The original battery box was shortened and mounted in a new plasticard frame.

The cab fronts have been detailed with Extreme Etches window frames and headcode disks. The bottom of the can being extended and the original detail filed off.  I scored the inside of the tumblehome and bent it in further to match the prototype pictures. The bufferbeams being cut off first and rebuilt.  Hopefully a bit warmer weather and i can get it painted.

Some thoughts on wagon loads.

Ok, it seems a little odd to start a post on wagonloads with a couple of vans but they do give away subtle signs that they are actually earning money and not just trundling around.  Chalk markings and labels are the give-away here.  The chalk markings are done with a sharp chinagraph pencil which allows you to smudge them and rub them out. Much as could be found on the real thing. The labels are from Hollar Models and can be distressed with a scalpel or fibreglass brush before applying. The easiest loads are the loose ones such as coal, ore, ballast etc. This is real coal glued to a foam former (the dark foam in RTR loco packing is ideal). Remember to weather the inside of the wagon first though. One loose load I struggled a little with was coke. In the end I used larger lumps of coal but when set sprayed it with gunmetal to give the dull look coke has. Sheeted loads tend to come in 2 forms. Above the load is sheeted as a stand alone item.  This was a cheap load i found on ebay. The second form is that the load is added to the wagon and then the load and the wagon itself is sheeted over. These are more cheap loads from Ebay which were quite crude. The sheeting is black latex cut from a surgical glove. Sometimes the load is just open to the elements. This is a drawbar converter from Langley Models.Finally, sometimes the load is a wagon itself. An RT Models molten slag wagon loaded onto a Lowmac and ARM-E

Return to the back scenes

I’ll admit I wasn’t planning on the back scene post being a 2 parter but thanks to some helpful feedback I’ve had another look at what I did before. Changes are to add detail to the windows and make them more yellow/darker. Ive taken some magenta out of the prints and added some blur to various buildings to knock them back a little and give a better sense of depth. Ive also added a few extra details. Ive also left the roofs gloss while the rest of the prints are matt in an attempt to emphasise the wet effect I’m after. You can judge for yourselves the results below.

Moor street bridge and its little known history.

This is the view of the real inspiration behind Brettell Road. This is taken from Moor Street bridge looking towards Brettell Lane/Stourbridge.  The remains of the sidings can just be made out to the right of the running lines. There is nothing to show it now but this location was, in 1858. the site of what was, at the time, Britain’s worst rail disaster.

The story starts on the morning of the 23rd of August and the The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company (which was known as the worse and worse, a nickname it never lost) had organised a day trip for Sunday School children from Wolverhampton to Worcester. In the event the ticket offices mostly ignored the instruction that the trip was for school kids and many sold the tickets to anyone.  The train set out from Wolverhampton made up of a tender loco, 24 4 wheel coaches and a guards van (info is sketchy it seems that the guards van was a good van although apparently some guards coaches were included in the train).

It picked up passengers and vehicles along the way as by the time it arrived at Worcester it was made up of 2 locomotives, 42 coaches and at least 2 brake vans. The outward journey hadn’t been without incident as they had coupling failures at Brettell Lane,  Hagley, and Droitwich. It was estimated that there were between 1500 and 2000 passengers on board when it got to Worcester. The train was examined by the inspector of rolling stock at Worcester, the repaired or replaced side chains were replaced by four-link goods couplings before the return journey, but no attempt was made to repair or replace failed centre couplings as the inspector considered that a re-made screw coupling was weaker than the goods couplings.

For the return trip the train was divided into 2, the first being made up 2 tender engines, 28 carriages, and 2 brake Vans (one at each end). The other was made up one tender engine, 14 carriages and a brake van. The second train followed the first 15 minutes behind. The line was worked on the interval system, in which trains were allowed to follow the previous train without positive confirmation that it had reached the next station, relying instead on it having been an adequate time interval ahead at the last station. The guard on the first train was a man called Frederick Cook who it was alledged had allowed passengers into the brake van and even let them operate the brake while he played cards and drank with them.  He was normally tasked with being the guard on freight trains and might not have been all that suited to passenger work.

The line from Brettell lane rises on a 1 in 75 gradient towards round oak so the second train had an additional engine added to cope with this at Stourbridge.  It was after 8pm when the first train arrived at Round Oak, the second arriving at Brettell lane at about the same time. Reports say it was dark and there was a lot of smoke blowing across the tracks from the local factories. The train of the first crew hadn’t spotted that another coupling had broken and 17 coaches and the brake van, with about 450 people on board were now rolling back towards Brettell lane.  A porter tried to chase the carriages but they soon became to fast for him.  The last hope was that the guard would stop the train. Frederick Cook was not on the train though, he was on the platform.

A telegraph message was sent the staff at Brettell Lane to warn them.  Unfortunately the second train was actually departing the station at the time and the telegraph was missed. The second train was struggling with the incline and when the driver did spot the runaway, very late, he slammed on the brakes. Hit train slowing to 2mph at the point of impact. The free coaches were doing about 16 mph but construction at the time meant that the brake van and 2 coaches as good as disintegrated. 12 people died in the crash, 150 were injured of which 2 would pass away later. All of the victims were on the first train.  The driver of the second was said to be ‘shaken’. His loco had its buffers ripped off but was otherwise not too badly damaged.

Amazingly several hours later the track was cleared and the 2 trains carried on their journeys to Wolverhampton. Some of the injured getting back onboard as they just wanted to go home.

Frederick Cook claimed at inquest that he never left the train, that the brake hadn’t held the train and he had jumped for his life at the last moment. He changed his testimony when it was established the brakes were off and he looked remarkably clean and uninjured for someone who had apparently jumped from a train doing 16 mph! Test showed the brake would have held the train and he was charged with manslaughter but acquitted. Some alledge the jury was bribed.

The view looking towards Round Oak/ Wolverhampton

Tweaking the lighting and yet more rain.

I wasn’t all that happy with the positioning of the yard lamps shown last time.  The one on the right masked the tail lights on the lorry (as several people didn’t notice them) and it didn’t do enough to light up the entrance to the yard. Leading a couple of people to enquire how the lorries actually got in. So I’ve had a bit of a fiddle. I’ve moved the light further along so that the back of the lorry is in shade.  This on its own didn’t do enough to illuminate the gate area so…I’ve added headlights to the lorry.  (this picture was taken on a phone).  They are much to bright really but you can’t see them from the front of the layout anyway. Here is what I was aiming for.  Again its too bright for a lorry of that era but I’m happy with a bit of artistic licence for effect.  You can see the difference when the headlights are blocked (on the left).

I have also been busy with more AK interactive wet effects fluid.  Below are a few overviews that give a better hint of the rain. Finally another video, time for another cuppa and a biscuit!

Return of the rain

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

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


More on bananas, couplings and a short time lineside.

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

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

Returning to the coupling conundrum

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

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

The Dapol Flying Banana

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

First steps in converting to P4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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