Thursday 30 August 2012

Preview: Model Rail October 2012 (174)

Preview: Model Rail, October 2012 (174)
On sale 6 September 2012, subscribers could receive copies earlier than this date.

MR174 Contents:
  • Guest editorial by Chris Leigh 
  • News: Hornby 2-8-0Ts and Hatton's Beyer-Garratt. Plus we've got exclusive pictures of Kernow's Thumper DEMU taken in our studio. 
  • Reviews: Bachmann SR brake van and Ixion 'O' gauge Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T 
  • Widnes Road OO layout
  • Modelling railtours
  • 6 by 4 layout designs by Paul Lunn 
  • Looking back at 1997 
  • Hungerford EM gauge layout 
  • Model Rail Live preview 
  • Dragonby N gauge layout 
  • Workbench: How to - 
  • fit replacement wheelsets 
  • Build a signal kit 
  • Build a cassette fiddle yard 
  • Improve Bachmann Bulleid coaches 
  • Model a cornfield 
  • Make your own buildings 2 
  • Improve a Beattie Well tank 
  • PLUS Spencer Pollard's Finishing School. 
  • All the regulars including, Q&A, Show and Tell, Exhibition Diary, Backscene.
Subscribe here!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Trusty Collett

Ex-GWR Collett No 3206 shunts the siding at Polbrock. Click on the photo for a bigger view.

The loco is a tweaked Bachmann jobby I performed around 10 years ago shortly after I returned to the hobby. Initial work involved removing the hook and bar couplings and replacing with the Smiths etched screw couplings. The gap between the loco and the tender was closed up by shortening the existing bar and inserting a small screw into the end for the tender to hang off, the screw replacing the spigot which was chopped away with the shortening.

This loco is an older ready to run release from around 1996 and has no fall plate (it's the floating floor than stops the crew falling between the loco and the tender) as you'd expect with more recent releases, so one was fabricated from a small oblong of black painted business card as recommended by George Dent who is far more of an expert in loco matters than I'll ever be. Thanks George!  Why a business card? Well it flexes just enough to allow attachment of the tender into the drawbar, other materials would require some kind of hinging like the real thing, something that would be far too complicated for a bodger like me.

The engine was weathered up and renumbered as Templecombe's 3206 using bespoke plates from Narrow Planet, these were only applied at the weekend and could still do with a little more toning down. Coal is the real thing, crushed up and glued into place with some PVA.

A crew provides the finishing touch, and were from that chap whose name I cannot recall who frequently appears at shows in the south with ready painted pewter loco crews in different poses, many of which are produced to match popular ready to run locos.

This is a great loco for shows, it runs very well indeed through the entire speed range when using a feedback controller, something I always favour for any slow kind of operation. There is no need for DCC, that would in fact mean more button pressing. Another good thing about this loco is that the wheels hardly ever appear to pick up any dirt, that probably being the result of good wheel and rail contact and well laid track. I have a relaxed view of many things, but track must always be well laid, and I think that homebuilt track will always win over ready to plonk pointwork because it can be tweaked to match ones stock perfectly thus reducing slop, wobble of roll of a tracksystem designed to work with a wide range of wheels from different eras. Along with well aligned track, wheel back to backs must be consistant, with a strict 14.5mm adhered too, most tready to run locos, especially Hornby needing attention in this area.

The layout is Polbrock which has been serialised in recent issues of Mode Rail as below....
See Polbrock at Model Rail Live (see advert top right of this page)  on 22/23 September 2012

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Tuesday's Photo

Polbrock yard, and the weekly delivery of ale from the Marriott Foster & Dent Brewery has just arrived from Bath in an old unfitted ex-GWR van, the brewery being too tight to pay for a fully fitted train.

The beers are mostly for the Armchair & Pedant pub next to the crossing, the pub which as you know is popular with socially challenged squeaky voiced middle aged men who still live at home with 'mother' (dead and kept in the wardrobe). This pub reputedly was the inspiration for the BBC's dark comedy Psychoville, the Librarian being a regular to the 'A&P' along with David Sowerbutts who was his shandy drinking train-spotting buddy.

Just above the van in front of the halt can be seen 'Harriet', who today is dressed as a lady customs official. Don't be seduced by her flowery feminity, for when not in character is in fact a 'he', the hairy top lip and Adam's apple being the giveaway, though from this distance you'll be forgiven for not spotting that. 'Harriet', also known as 'Harry' in railway circless, is a keen diesel fan and can tell you everything about the inner workings of a Brush Type 4 in great detail. Harry dresses up up as all sorts of characters, 'Harriet' being only part of his huge portfolio, another favourite being the Beast of Bodmin Moor, though his slight frame is non-too convincing with the squeaky roar being more of a meow as he runs through people's back gardens in full costume. Other days he dresses up as a cave man (like Mister Muscle) and tries to bunk engine sheds, the notorious Guildford shed not known as the friendliest being always a challenge, his nimble sparsely leopard skin clad frame being ideal for nipping past the grumpy shed forman.

Harry is now getting on a bit, and until very recently it was thought that he'd passed on to the great humpyard in the sky, but recent sightings in Essex would suggest that he's still up to his old tricks, and I'm sure I saw him as 'Harriet' at a recent model railway show.

People often comment on the wooden ales casks, saying that they look nothing like wood; here's the secret, they're not wood at all but fibre glass finished to look like wood. In principle they work just fine as long as a full one is not dropped, and they do make the beer taste a little plasticky. Occasionally they've been known to explode too, fibre glass not being ideal for the secondary fermentation which takes place in the cask.

So there you go, that was Tuesday's load of old guff, and please let it be known that some of my best friends have squeaky voices, live with mother (often dead) dress as lady customs officers, lions and that I have several Brush Type 4 diesels.

Monday 27 August 2012

Finally finished after 30 years!

It's taken me 30 years to complete this kit; Cooper Craft GWR van. 1003W Dia. V5 Wooden Mink Van 7' 0 1/2" High.

I started it back in '82 shortly before my interest in toy chuffers waned for 15 or so years, it then ending up in my parents loft and more recently my loft with other half-complete projects. A chance find the other week whilst going through old stock found it in a semi-complete state, building and basic painting being as far as it got all those years ago. Time forgotten fragile items like this tend to get broken, but I was pleased to find this one in a complete state.

Yesterday was a nice afternoon so I took it into the garden with weathering paints, powders and brushes to finally finish it off. The weathering here is the usual mix of watery acrylic paint washes applied adn then wiped off along with some Carrs powders rubbed into the wet weathering wash. I tend to use powders this way, they adhere better and are less likely to be rubbed off with handling.

The wagon had some 'scale' sized 3 links, and whilst they look good are almost impossible to use, so the loops were replaced with the popular slightly over sized ones favoured by loonies like me who shun other coupling types.

The black panel for the numbers were painted on 30 years ago but never had any numbering applied, but because my modelling is more about effect than number crunching I simply scratched the black paint off alittle to reveal the grey paint underneath to suggest some kind of numbering. Once weathered over they work OK but without the head ache. I'm thrilled to read that fellow modeller Phil Parker has a similar philosophy with regards to numbers on wagons.

This wagon kit all these years later is still made by Cooper Craft and can be seen here in their current online catalogue.

Friday 24 August 2012

Medstead & Four Marks needs saving!

Click to enlarge

This delightful OO gauge working model of Medstead & Four Marks station on the preserved Watercress Line could soon be going to the local tip if a new custodian cannot be found.

Sadly its creator passed away a couple of years ago and now his widow needs to downsize which means that this cracking model of this well known Watercerss Line station needs to go to a new home or tragically be broken up.

The layout is a permanent layout which has been built into the loft room, but having examined it, I think with a little careful use of a jig saw and Dremel to slit the track to create some baseboard joins for extraction through the loft hatch. later reassembly at its new home could consist of a simple sub baseboard which would support the original structure. The layout as seen here is around 75% complete, so there is plenty of scope for a new owner to make his or her mark on it whilst allowing its creator's vision to live on.

Click to enlarge
Fiddle yards are built into the property, so the the owner would need to build new ones, these could either make the layout form part of a roundy-roundy or end to end depending on location.

The size of the scenic section is around 10 feet long and about 2ft 6 inches deep, and to my eyes the station area looks to be around scale length as I discovered whilst trying to match my model shots to photos of the real station whilst shooting this delightful layout for a forthcoming Model Rail magazine. 

There is no stock supplied, the locomotives and trains here being borrowed from a Mid Hants Railway driver for the shoot. But luckily most of the trains suitable for this model can be found ready to run, and of course it being a preserved railway means that almost anything will go!

The model is based near the Watercress Line in Hampshire, and If you'd like to discuss giving it a new home drop Eddie Field a line on eddie @ bussolutionssouth . co . uk (remove the gaps) who'll be able to give you more information and arrange a viewing for serious seekers.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Thursday's Photo

120812_arnewharf_DSC_8123 by nevardmedia
120812_arnewharf_DSC_8123, a photo by nevardmedia on Flickr.
A Roxey Mouldings 'Famagusta' formerly of the Cyprus Government Railway potters about at Arne Wharf.

This loco is a white metal kit designed to fit onto the excellent running Graham Farish GWR 2-6-2 chassis and is a great loco for exhibitions, the good weight and long wheel base ensuring excellent performance all weekend. Interestingly the wheels pick up very little dirt, suggesting good contact with the rail tops at all time, something that is a real bonus, because 009 with the very narrow rail profile isn't always known for the best running qualities. At some stage I'll get around to fitting some boiler handrails!

The little tipper trucks are the well-known Roco wagons which I believe have been produced for around 40 years. They've permanent loads to add a little weight to these tiny little wagons.

It's not known what the wooden barrells on the loco are carrying, it could be anything from beer to gunpowder, or maybe even one of each!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Layout Focus: Catcott Burtle

 I'm often asked about Catcott, so here is a reprint of my 2008 Hornby Magazine feature on the layout with a couple of more recent updates.

‘Forget motor cars. Get rid of anxiety. And here, to the rhythms of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway dream again that ambitious Victorian dream, which caused this long railway still to be running through deepest, quietest, flattest, remotest least spoilt Somerset.’ Sir John Betjeman 1963
Size: 5’00”x15” (11’00”x15” including fiddle yard).
Scale & Gauge: 00/16.5mm finescale.
Era: 1950’s & 1960’s British Railways, former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway.
Location: Somerset Levels.
Scenario: Part reality and part fiction ‘what if’ scenario, had the real Catcott Crossing become a small halt with sidings.
Track: Hand-built using C&L components and C&L flexi-track.

Pre-contruction sketch
In this delightful area of Somerset also known as ‘Sedgemoor’, the topography in this area just to the south of the Mendip Hills is very flat with the boggy land being only a few feet above sea level. Made famous by the 1963 BBC documentary ‘A Branchline Railway’ hosted by poet laureate Sir John Betjemen, viewers of this delightful film will know that railway between Glastonbury and Highbridge for much of its length followed the course of the Glastonbury Canal - much of it running straight as dye for mile after mile.

Many spots where roads crossed the railway utilised manned level crossings rather than bridges, with each crossing having its own crossing keeper and railway cottage. Several of the cottages had no running water or electricity right up to closure in 1966, the water being delivered by train in milk churns!

The model here, is a ‘could have been’ scenario is heavily influenced by the aforementioned BBC TV film, with the layout’s creator being taken in by the wild open feel of the area much dominated by willow, water and big skies (and the odd jug of rough farmhouse cider!).

Catcott, was one of the many crossings on the line, but it never was a halt or had sidings. In the ‘parallel universe’ world here, imagine if to serve the local peat deposits things had been very different?

Foamboard and ply contruction - light!
In the summer of 2007, I came across some 5mm foamboard from some display boards about to the thrown out and it crossed my mind that they could form part of a lightweight baseboard. This was the catalyst!

The baseboards sort of evolved over a couple of hours messing about on the longe floor from this lightweight material and then to toughen them up were finished off with an external shell of marine ply which can take impacts better than bare foamboard. The result being a very light but strong main baseboard which is ideal for single handily carting up and down stairs.
The whole layout (without fiddle yard)
Here we see Catcott’s entire 5 foot by 15 inches. The board can be lifted with just one finger if feeling brave. The backscene is formed of 2mm marine ply to allow a nice arc with no corners – for they would destroy the ‘big sky’ effect which is so important to the character of this layout.

360 degree fiddle yards reduce stock handling
With previous layouts, I’ve used cassette type fiddle yards to manipulated stock when it is off stage. This is a good system, but I felt that with a small layout like Catcott and awful lot of time would be spent precariously turning whole trains around for their return run. For this reason I adopted the Denny Type Fiddle Yard which allow the turning of a whole train 360 degrees without risk of chucking it all on the floor or having to couple or uncouple locomotives and stock. The only downside I can see is that if I wanted to hide the fiddle yards, the baseboard would have to be as wide as the longest train, though I find that people are often happier looking at this part of the layout in the open than the scenic section! The slightly tatty effect of spinning the 360 degree plate around will shortly be addressed with some fine slippery cloth that I’ll bond to the surface before the layouts next outing.
Right; the plate that can hold 4 complete trains with engines can rotate 360 degrees. This means that there is no need to lift the engine from one end to the other. This design of fiddle yard was made famous by the great Peter Denny of ‘Buckingham’ fame – not surprisingly this design of yard is often referred to a ‘Denny Type Fiddle Yard’.

Track down and platform under construction
This was a chance to built my own again; I hadn’t done this since Combwich in the early 1980s. Much to my surprise I managed to locate the roller gauges that had been lying dormant for quarter or a century through various house moves! One thing that hasn’t been lying dormant is what there now is available to aid the mad keen souls who wish to built there own track – well pointwork to be more precise, for gone are the days of replicating bullhead rail chairs with big blobs of solder. Now we have the like of C&L who produce highly realistic ready to lay bullhead flexitrack and the various components to make great looking pointwork. With a layout this small I felt that there was no excuse not to use the best that is available.

To make up the plans for the points, I used the inexpensive downloadable software called Templot. Whilst the initial learning curve to get the best out of this package may be a little steep, there is plenty of online help though the Templot Forum and RM web. Actually to be honest, one very kind soul sent me an email with precise instructions to create exactly what I wanted! The resulting crossover is around 2 feet long, and is pretty well scale length, it being the minimum I could get away with to unsure no buffer lock when propelling a 4 wheeled 16 ton mineral wagon with a long Western Class 52 diesel when using scale couplings. 

Point control is via SEEP point motors operated by a small panel on the left hand end of the layout. They're attached with double sided tape.

Once the track was laid after following the C&L instructions for making up the pointwork, it was ballasted in two different ways; firstly I wanted to replicate the fine ash and clinker used in sidings. This is an area frequently misrepresented with course granite – quite often by the rivet counter brigade too! I think this is due to people making models of models rather than using old photographs of the real thing – who knows?

To create this effect I used DAS modelling Clay, working it in and around the track with a screwdriver and then pummelling it into place with a stiff brush. In turn it was painted with pale greys and beiges. Ash and clinker is of course dark when seen close up, but when outside from some distance it takes pale tones – this is known as scale colour.

'Mainline' ballasted with beach sand
The main running line required something coarser. Many use N gauge granite chippings. To my eyes at least it still looks too coarse and is the wrong colour, it is also tricky to use. With Combwich my 25 year old layout I used sieved sand from the beach, so with Catcott I decided to use the same, the locality I chose on the south coast having a nice beige colour that makes a good base for what I wanted. Sand, because it’s formed by erosion over millions of years is made up from little spheres. The shape really helps the ballast to literally roll into place prior to dribbling with diluted PVA to fix it into place. By complete contrast, granite chippings being shards of rock do not roll where you want them to, making the whole procedure a taxing exercise. Colour adjustment can then be performed with thinned down matt enamel until the desired effect is achieved by copying photographs of the real thing, not other layouts.

Be inspired by the real thing!

In the days of steam, only the main running lines were ballasted with granite chippings. Sidings were usually ballasted with fine clinker or ash. This is an area often ignored by the most dedicated of rivet counters.

The view that greets the motorist
Catcott crossing keeper’s cottage is based on what few photographs I have been able to uncover. Typically after I more or less finished the little building, I then came across some 1930’s pictures revealing that the entrance on the front of the building is in fact a later addition after the railway shut. Oh, well, it doesn’t detract and removing it would be tricky, if not impossible without spoiling the side – so it remains!
The real Catcott Crossing in the 1930's

The cottage is made up mainly from plastic card using commercial available brick effect sheets. The roof has several hundred small ‘slates’ made up from junk mail stuck on individually. This really doesn’t take very long if a fresh pointed hobby knife blade is used to position them. Nothing comes close in my opinion, not even strips of scribed paper which look like just that. A bluish grey enamel paint was used to complete the effect. Chimney pots are made up from rolled up paper, and the sash windows are thin strips of self adhesive label stuck to clear plastic sheet.

The brick effect, after painting it in ‘brick red’ (whatever that is) was then washed over with magnolia matt emulsion and wiped off to leave it in the groves. Colour pencils were then used to create further variations of brick colour. The wonky guttering and downpipes are from plastic strip and some leftovers from a Wills good shed kit!

Watiting at the crossing
The level crossing gates were very kindly acquired second hand from 009 guru John Thorne are Model Signal Engineering white metal ones which can be hacked about to represent various different railways. Whilst they do open and close and holes are in the base to allow remote operation eventually, though to be honest mechanical gizmos are not really my thing so that might be years away!

The little good shed, is a quickie, it starting life as the well known Wills kit. The base has been changed to stone and the moulded tile roof slates have been replaced with corrugated iron.

Concrete Platform
Standrad Southern Railway pre-fab platforn and shelter
The structure I’m most proud of is the pre fabricated Southern Railway concrete platform which is similar to that of Ashcott & Meare Station and Stourpaine & Durweston halt on the actual S&DJR and other stations on the former Southern that survive to this day.

The thought of carving out the platform supports filled me with dread until I found that Monty’s Model Railways aka Dart Castings produced them in white metal. A quick look at there website would suggest that the rear section is now not made any more (please prove me wrong, for there’s a business opportunity for somebody!). To aid construction if what could be a very weak structure was built up on a 2mm plastic base to allow me to work ground up allowing me to drill holes to accept the supports. The concrete platform tops are made up from little squares of 1.5mm plastic sheet. Rather than scribing one long sheet for the surface, using individual squares like the real thing allowed the slightly wonky effect often seen on the prototype.

The shelter, again based on Stourpaine & Durweston is scratchbuilt from plastic card using photographs of the real thing. Like with the platform, it is a standard design still seen on the former southern Region.

The concrete effect seen on this and other structures on the layout is a doddle. It is just white, red, grey primer and matt black misted on from aerosols from a few feet away. The slightly speckled effect is dumbed down with buff coloured interior matt emusion washed on then mostly wiped off. Simple!

The Backscene
Backscene, composed from 6 photos, printed 8 feet long
With a layout as narrow as this, it to me was important that the backscene is a nice neat job, for there would be no room for paint brush marks and dodgy handiwork. The Somerset Levels are known for their big skies, so I was very keen to represent this feature as effectively as possible.

Taking pictures for *Hornby Magazine has also made me very aware of layout backscenes, or frequently very low or even total lack of. Unlike in the magazine where I frequently have to remove the layout owners front room or garage from the pictures digitally and then pop in some kind of sky in place, I was very keen with this project not to have too do any clever electronic jiggerypokery picture wise, wanting the viewer at a show to see the layout for real just as it is here.

I’d been messing about merging photographs in the past – usually panoramic scenes taken off the top of buildings when on holiday and whilst these had been fun technical exercises they were really of little use. At last though I had a plan for the technique, and a visit to the actual area on a nice summer’s day (the 9th of July 2007 actually) allowed me to take a selection of photographs with a good overlap – and what better way to commemorate 40 years of the end of steam on the Southern?

After a little work in Photoshop using panorama tools I ended up with a 7 foot by 14 inch file, and through a connection of our very own ‘Ed’ Mike Wild, a week or two later I ended up with hard copy on sticky backed plastic. The seamless 7 foot long photograph was pressed into place onto the curved plywood backscene base and then sprayed with matt varnish to make it ‘wipe clean’ and to get rid of the shine.

A rare visitor to the branch,
note the canal winding along the front


My favourite bit, and in my view the most important element of any model railway; scenery is the element that can be judged by someone with no interest in our weird obsessive hobby. Some people judge realism by the correct number of spokes on a particular locomotive or whether the motion bracket on their Ivatt Class 2 was correct for the 12th of March 1949 – though to be honest unless you have the drawing or a photograph in front of you, it’s most likely that you’re going to be painfully dull person to invite to a dinner party where nobody is ever going to know or care.

My quest is the impossible task to make model railways ‘cool’, OK, I’m probably asking too much so will settle for ‘tepid’ if nothing else and I try to get the bits right that will appeal to the unconverted – with scenery being one element at least that most can relate too. The public usually perceive model railway enthusiasts as grown men dressed as engine drivers playing with a train set on the dining room table, though increasingly I find that when they see the scenic aspect of the hobby if done well they’re frequently gobsmacked. My sister in law, who has always treated this pastime with suspicion, looked at Hornby Magazine recently and said “I never knew that this is what it’s all about – what a great hobby, I might try it myself!”

Static grass is an important feature with a layout like this
The grass – this is something that for years people have been representing using that wretched lurid green ground up sponge from the local model shop. Even those rivet counters who can probably tell you the inside diameter of that hidden bolt not seen since the locomotive was put together at Crewe Works in 1889 will often use that product, which if you were just an inch high looks like that squidgy thing you wash the car with every second Saturday afternoon (or in my case maybe once of year). Grass is fibrous; it even was in the halcyon day of steam and these days we have many alternatives available to use, either from the local DIY store or model shop.

Flowers are great, but limit them to small areas
On Catcott I used a mixture of three different materials, each having that all important fibrous characteristic.

Hanging basket liner – get the green fibrous one hanging basket liner is a very economical means to a great looking result, the trick after gluing it down is to then thin it out and trim it well. A little water colour or acrylic can then be applied as needed to vary the colour.

Silfor grass matting from International Models was used extensively, their ‘Long Winter Pasture’ suiting the English landscape the best, some of their other colours are just too rich for my liking. I find the trick with Silfor is to cut it into small random shapes and stick it down like a large jig-saw rather than try to lay it all in one big sheet. In some places the tips of the Silfor fibres were dry-brushed with beige to lighten the ends for that late summer look.

Canalside grasses, plumber's hemp was used here
Noch Static Grass applied with their famous Grasmaster as favoured by Mike Wild on Bay Street Mk2 was also used randomly in varying amounts. I really like the ‘tall’ 6mm grasses mixing together mainly beige with a dash of green for that later summer look.

The few trees and bushes are either ‘sea foam’ dusted in that dreaded green foam (which looks more like leaves than grass) or made up from twisted wire, covered in masking tape, plaster before spraying grey. The foliage is Woodland Scenics ‘Polyfiber’ stretched out like a gossamer and coated on more of that ground up foam.

The remains of the Glastonbury Canal, note the lilies
Much of the railway was built along the course of the Glastonbury Canal, but nearer the coast the waterway ran parallel with the railway giving that distinctive character. Reeds are made up from some coloured plumber’s hemp and asparagus tops sprayed with diluted PVA glue. The water is borrowed from ace modelling guru Allan Downes, which consists of several coats of thick PVA over brown and grey paint. Water lilies are little circles of olive green paint and the whole lot is sealed under a thin layer of Humbrol gloss enamel to give a little extra ‘wetness’.

Vegetable patch
A unusual visitor
In the ‘olden days’ before ready washed clingfilm wrapped food, much use was made of the trackside to grow vegetables and the little crossing here is no exception. The soil is from Treemendous (I can imagine a big hole in the producer’s back garden) and the various horticulture represented is coloured foam, rolled up paper and blobs of paint to create the desired effect. The highlight has to be the bamboo frame for the beans, or is it peas or even hops for the homebrew? That is brass wired soldered up.

(updated 15 March 2023) Catcott was a chance to try lots of new techniques, but above all provide a bit of theatre in a pint sized area whist trying to represent something that gives the impression of much bigger space, the big sky being the key ingredient.

15 years on since the original build the layout is still in great condition, it being covered when not in use to keep dust a bay. Dust is the biggest factor which ages a layout.

Would I use foamboard these days to such a great structural degree for a layout of this size? The answer is no. But I do continue to use foamboard as a track base, but it is bonded to a more traditional and sturdy plywood base.

The local preservation group is running steam on the peat tramway, must be a Sunday

The photographer's car, posed in front of the mixed train from Bridgwater.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Building Focus: Catcott's Goods Shed

The Wills Proveder Store used at a goods shed on Catcott Burtle.
Click to enlarge.

Continuing the focus of model railway bits, today's post is about the Wills Provender Store seen on Catcott Burtle.

This inexpensive and useful kit features on literally 1000's of OO gauge layouts, it's simple contruction an compact size making it ideal for many modellers looking for a generic looking railway goods shed. It also lends itself to modification to create something a little more individual. Here's the story behind Catcott's one.

 Here's the basic kit, which took no more than a couple of hours to assemble. The kit is designed to sit on a supplied open framed wooden platform, my twist was to cover it over with some stone effect embossed plastic card. The roof has moulded slates, they would not match the individual slates on Catcott Crossing keepers cottage so I replaced them with some embossed 'corrugated' plastic card.
Next a little painting, most tend to paint their buildings in a pristine condition and them weather the result down, I work in reverse. The first paint is a misted blend of Halford grey primer and matt black. The roof getting a little red primer added to the mix from above until I get a result like the above which makes it look like it's had an altercation with a muckspreader. Next comes the magic.....
The next step is to dry brush on the railway colours, which in this case are faded green and cream colours to suggest old Southern Railway or Region colours. I like matt enamel, it dry-brushes better than acrylic. I always choose pale shades, avoiding what the colours would have looked like when new, I don't use authentic railway colours, but tend to browse the manufacturer's regular generic colour ranges. I real life the colours faded very quickly, the green in particular taking on a copper oxide colour over a period of time.

Working this way allows some of the Halfords primer undercoat to show through which gives a worn faded effect. The way that the primers are applied tends to produce a slight texture which is ideal for dry-brushing onto. If you like, further diluted colour washes can be added, greys and browns working well, but take into account of the environment of where the shed it supposed to be.

The shed above has been bedded well into the ground, gaps around the base of building, whilst not always too visible to the eye will not get past the camera lens. A little undergrowth works well, in this case being produced with some trimmed hanging basket liner from the garden centre, static grass or grass stufts would be just as good.

Monday 20 August 2012

Limby Class 59

As part of the occasional looking back at specific items of modelling, today's BLOG post is looking at the '*Limby' Class 59, this one being one of the 2008 Hornby re-releases after a bit of cut and shove. Sadly Hornby got it completly wrong with the ends for a 59/0, so quite a bit of surgery was needed, along with new new grills and plates etc. Howver they did do a good job with the paint finish, this bein the incentive to have a bash converting 59004 to 59005.

When relaunched by Hornby there was much promise of improved running over the previous Lima incarnations, but sadly it's still rather lacking in that area. The answer could probably lie in the replacement with a Bachmann Class 66 chassis unit, but alot of work would be needed to cosmeticaly morph the chassis into that of a class 59 sadly. So for the time being (forever most likely), it's just been pumped full of lead and is best run with a non-feedback controller, feedback making it more twitchy than a hamster on too much Red Bull! The wheels have somewhat deeper treads than regular Hornby locos too, so they rattle along C&L trackwork making more of a clatter that a half full money box bouncing down the staircase making this release far more 'Lim' than 'By'.

I blogged about it back in 2008 here, these pages touching some of the work needed to represent 59005:

*Toy chuffer fanatic's jargon for Hornby re-releases of old Lima tat, aka 'LIMBY' - gettit? 

Sunday 19 August 2012

Narrow Gauge - French Style

We've been in France for a few days - I'll never complain about UK beer prices ever again!
But whilst the family went and did family stuff, I managed to excape for an afternoon to have a spin on the metre gauge Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme line about 60 miles south of Calais.

I rather liked this railway because it hasn't been over-camped up like so many British lines and The French have a relaxed view about walking around the trains relying on something we sold off ages ago called 'common sense'. We traded it for having to look after people that have sold their brains on Ebay or car boot sales, when really natural selection should have been be alllowed to take its course.

The diesel loco above which looks like it was designed by Fisher Price, is certainly no toy, when it's diesel electric transmission (read Geoffrey Nickson's update below) it given some welly it sounds like something much bigger, its straight 8 cylinder engine having a hint of 'Deltic throb' - wonderful!

Right: This little trippette to foreign climes has made me look at this little freelance modification of a Bachmann Zillertalbahn loco I undertook a few years ago - it's now quite French looking with the long deepened tanks and modified cab.

Smart types will note the rear pony truck missing, just like the WHR Russell did in the 1950's when on the Isle of Purbeck. The reason here is the same, some of the Arne Wharf curves it was snapped on here are stupidly tight. One of the joys of freelance 009 - nobody can tell you it's wrong and alot of fun can be had, the only history book being the one in my dreams after far too much cheese, beer and curry, but not in France becasue it costs too much.
UPDATE, Monday 20 August courtesy of Geoffrey Nickson of Voie-Libre mag fame I've a little more info regarding the narrow gauge diesel, it would appear that I was given duff info by the chap at the station, though the chances are that it was simply lost in translation though!
'Just one remark: our "Fischer-Price" 351 & 352 diesels are not diesel-electric, but quite basic diesel-mechanical. The slow-running straight 8 is from Willeme, an erstwhile manufacturer of lorries that used to be very popular in France in the 50s and 60s (Jean Gabin drives a Willeme lorry in the 1955 feature film "Gas-oil", by Gilles Grangier.)

Willeme diesel engines found their way all over the place, including narrow-gauge locomotives and electric generators. Recently, we were so fortunate as to lay our hands on a second-hand Willeme engine which had run just 400 hours since built new: it used to power a generator at the French atomich research plant in Saclay near Paris! (and, no, it ain't radio-active!). It will be used to re-motorize our N° 301 diesel, which is deep storage and a little different in appearance to 351/352. Geoffrey'

Saturday 18 August 2012

Blue Bubble

W55033 slows for Polbrock. In the mid-1970's this unit was a regular performer on the Bridport branchline in Dorset. Click to enlarge.

The model here is a 'Bubble car' conversion from a 2 car Lima unit. This conversion was done around 1984 when the real thing was still in BR Blue and running on BR. In more recent times the Lima 'pancake motor' has been replaced with a Black Beetle power bogie. The glazing has also been replaced with 'Gem Flushglaze' and those with eagle eyes will spot the window that's fallen out! After almost 30 years, it could still do with passengers, crew and some destination blinds.

The real W55033 is still around and is based at the Colne Valley Railway in Essex painted in green with the distinctive small yellow warning panels of the era.

In due course I'm hoping one of the mainstream manufacturers with release an updated model of this useful prototype with proper flush glazing and flywheel for good slow running. Whilst this tweeked 30 year old model looks OK on its own, it doesn't hold muster against modern ready to run releases too well when in such company.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Building Focus: Combwich Signal Box

270502_comb_03 by nevardmedia
 270502_comb_03, a photo by nevardmedia on Flickr.
Combwich signal box as it was in back in 2002, the photo above being shot on B&W film*.

Churstantion signal box from the LSWR days

It is based on a standard LSWR design, used to have a different roof in its early days, the days when Combwich was an LSWR branchline called 'Churchstantion' and based in Devon. Around 1982, I discovered the SDJR and decided to SDJR-ise the layout and changed the roof to look like the signal box at Moorewood Sidings on the SDJR, the layout becoming Stogursey

With the modification of the box, it moved across the tracks from the end of the platform, and then later when I re-erected the layout in 2000 moved it again to its current location. The reason being the change of viewing side, I thought it better to see the front of the box rather than the rear. Also the forthcoming engine side would get in the way of the signalman's view of the incoming line to Combwich.

With the move to SDJR and relocation of the box
the layout was next called Stogursey
The box is scratch-built from plastic card and the windows acetate with the frames indicated with a bow-pen. sadly over time the acetate has distorted and broken away from the building. As a quick fix some 1mm clear plastic card was placed immediately behind the old glazing in an attempt to minimise the distorted acetate. 10 years on I have still yet to further address this, there always being another more pressing or intesting job to do!

In 2002, I widened the layout and added the popular wharf scene, the 'could have been' location moving the layout down from the hills to Combwich on the edge of the Parrett river. Ths box obviously getting its third change of name. The various nameboards have always been scratchbuilt from plastic card, Churchstanton and Stogersey taking advantage of Slaters cast plastic lettering, Combwich used the home computer and glossy photo paper to represent a 1950's enamelled sign.
*this is what photography used before digital, you've most likely heard it pronounced as 'fill-um' by people wearing baseball caps and TV journalists.

Tuesday 14 August 2012


Above: a frozen Ivatt Class 2 tank is being warmed up on wharf siding at Combwich on a bright but freezing day in February 1963. Somebody needs to clear the platform before the arrival of the next passenger service.

The snow is cream of tartar, simply because that's what I had in the cupboard. Since snapping this one I've tried out various types of 'snow' aimed at toy chuffer fans, and guess what? The cream of tartar is the best (and vacuums off just fine)! Cheapest too!

Below: I went back 6 months later and grabbed an almost identical photo - amazing eh? Hardly anything has moved either!

Monday 13 August 2012

Chris' Room of Railway Modelling Chaos

People often ask me where much of the railway modeling happens and to whether the layouts are set up all the time. Here's the layout room as it was a couple of months ago - the captions will say the rest, just click on the photo for a bigger view above if you can't read them. The room changes weekly, with Arne Wharf being curently set up.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Mr Potter's Pannier

120527_railex12_IMG_3397 by nevardmedia
120527_railex12_IMG_3397, a photo by nevardmedia on Flickr.
As we draw into the latter half of the summer, I cannot believe that it's around 10 weeks have passed since the excellent RAILEX in Aylesbury, the event at the end of May that marks the end of spring and the beginning of summer, well in the olden days anyway!

My Super D enjoying the freedom of Albion Yard at
RAILEX '12. The view here reminds me a little of of views
 seen at the long gone Aylesbury Town Goods.
Brewhouse Quay was the layout I took along this year, my no-hassle brewery layout which features mainly small locos due to the restricted curvature of the wharf embedded rails, points and tight loading gauge. There I was surrounded by some great modellers and layouts, with the only other OO gauge layout at the show being Paul Marshall Potter's Albion Yard, which as a layout goes is the complete contrast to Brewhouse Quay, Albion Yard being designed for proper goods trains, albeit in a backwater environment.

Being a buddy of Paul's the obligatory loco exchange just had to happen, me swapping him a big loco that's far too big for Brewhouse Quay in exchange for one of his delightful superdetailed ex-GWR Pannier Tanks. As seen in the photo at the top of this page, it's likely you'll notice that it's got God's Wonderful Railway on the side, so it can hardly be 'ex' as the parriott made famous by John Cleese in the 1969 Monty Python dead sketch can it? Paul did his research well, for 7788 lasted in its former owner's livery well into the 1960's and had a bit of a cult following on spotterland for quite a while. Indeed, if Facebook had been around in the 1960's it would almost certainly have had its very own 'like' page.
And now for the real reason of this post, Paul is the subject of a Q&A with Steve Flint of the Railway Modeller where you can read more about Paul's thoughts on railway modelling and Albion Yard in the September issue. This blog post is also my way of saying thankyou for mentioning me in such a kind manner in his blog. Gosh I'm soft today! Cheers!

Saturday 11 August 2012

0 Gauge for the People

From the official Ixion Press Release -  a full in-detail review to appear in Model Rail in due course.

Pic: Ixion Model Railways  - click to enlarge

Ixion Model Railways are pleased to announce that its finescale injection-moulded O Gauge model of the Hudswell Clarke standard 13in x 20in inside cylinder 0-6-0 contractor’s saddle tank locomotive in 7mm scale (1:43.5, for32mm standard gauge) is now available to purchase from retailers and on-line.

Made in the same Chinese factory which produced our acclaimed On30 CoffeePot models, the model features:

Pic: Ixion Model Railways  - click to enlarge
• An injection-moulded ready-to-run body and chassis
• Finescale wheels
• Six-wheel electrical pickup
• High-torque flywheel-equipped motor, driving the rear axle
• 40:1 precision gearbox for slow, smooth running
• Sprung rear wheels, and prototypically correct 'inside-out' coupling rods (front rod outside rear rod)
• DCC and sound ready, with provision for speaker installation
• Cab detail
• Sprung buffers
• Hook drawgear, with three-link couplings
• Choice of three liveries: lined maroon, lined green, and unlined black.
• Included is an etched brass fret containing a selection of prototypically correct cabside Maker’s plates, plus suitable saddle-tank nameplates, and engine number plates
• Also included is a set of injection-moulded 7mm scale loco tools, including shovels, picks, pricker, bucket and oil cans.

Pic: Ixion Model Railways  - click to enlarge
The UK recommended retail price is £299 including VAT, but some retailers are offering the locomotives at discounted prices.

The fire-iron and toolset will also be available as a separate item priced at £3.75 including VAT and £2.05 trade excluding VAT.

The models are available now from retailers in the UK and Australia and directly on-line via the Ixion website. Ixion Model Railways

Pic: Chris Nevard/Model Rail  - click to enlarge
My comment:
Having been in the lucky position to see and handle one of the pre-production models at Warley last year, I was very impressed with the quality of the mouldings, fidelity of the detail and good heavy weight of the model, and with a sub £300 price tag (with some being discounted as low as £225) it's sure to spur a new interest in the scale especially from those without deep pockets or short of space. The the small size of the loco makes it suitable for small industrial layouts and maybe even minimum space light railway. With Dapol due to release an LBSCR Terrier in due course, this will further enhance an interest in this 'senior scale', but to a whole new audience which can only be a good thing - I personally cannot wait!