Saturday, 29 December 2007


The Class 56 has been a big part of the British railway scene for the best part of thirty years, with examples still in active service today.

The class is a particular favourite of mine. At one time, wherever my Dad and I went we would see them. Familiarity sometimes breeds contempt, but for me, this never happened with 'Grids'! (The nickname, incidentally, I have been told comes from the rather prominent horn grilles on the cab front - though as with many nicknames, various explanations exist!) I fondly remember spending hours on York Station when Farewell Tour ran in 2004 - the Station seemed to be packed with enthusiasts who patiently waited for the locos to be swapped round after a problem with their multiple working gear. Nobody complained though, we got an extra hour or so of seeing the locos!

For the Diesel and Electric modellers, the 56 is a key part of many layout schemes. Therefore, if a manufacturer could produce a good model of one to modern standards, then they're bound to be onto a winner! The thing is that the model we have become so used, originally from Mainline, was one of the best of its generation, and still stands up well to this day. In terms of capturing the look of the prototype, it did very well; this showed up some more recent releases which have failed to capture the look of their own prototypes in any shape or form!

I've had high expectations for this model since I learned of Hornby's intention to produce it. Their Class 60 is the benchmark for Diesels now, so I was very much looking forward to this release! Sadly, it lacks the 'wow' factor of the Sixty. I'm not quite sure why though. One reason may be that it has a couple of issues which I think really let it down.

But before that, I'd rather consider the positive aspects of the model. It undoubtedly looks like a class 56. The face has been captured rather nicely and the nose equipment is very nice indeed, and is a world away from that on the Mainline model! The underframe and bogies look superb - the area around the fuel tank and battery boxes is every bit as good as the Sixty!

Compare it with the underframe of 56 003 and you'll see just how good it looks.

Once this area is covered in grime it will really come to life. As ever, Hornby have done a wonderful job with the cab interiors and the glazing is a good effort too. it still has that prismatic effect which most moulded glazing has, but it's not that bad. Something to replace in the fullness of time though. The bodyside grilles at the number 1 end are nicely etched and are pleasingly flush with the bodyside. The shoulder grilles seem to be faithful reproductions too. The windscreen wipers are reasonably fine, but I wonder why we can't have etched wipers. Most die-cast buses get etched wipers and they really do enhance the front end appearance of the models.

For the later type of cab Hornby seem to have captured the look quite well - I can't comment on the earlier 'cabbed' examples because I haven't had a good look as yet. The cabs are different, but not obviously. The aluminium cabs are more 'rounded'.

The worst part of the whole model, for me, are the fan grilles. They suggest the roof is made either from concrete or three inch steel plate!

It really puzzles me how this could be considered to be acceptable. It really lets the whole model down, since we tend to view models from above. Thankfully Shawplan's range of parts will come to our rescue here!

When Hornby's class 50 appeared, we all of a sudden had the perfect non-rotating oval buffers - which were available at quite a decent price from spares dealers too! However, the buffers are poor, which seems odd because Hornby's class 50's buffers are very near perfect. Something else to replace, but there's no reason why this couldn't be right in the first place. The only other thing which I think I'll amend will be the horn grilles because they're printed on the model.

The mechanism is right up to the standard we expect. But remove the fan drive belt, on mine it acted as a very effective brake! I'm tempted to fit a small coreless motor to power the fans! Re-wheeling should be fairly simple. Brake blocks are in line for OO, but I for other gauges they may cause problems. A simple solution may be their removal! You can't really see them in real life anyway!

Perhaps the ultimate test of a new model is whether it makes one want to abandon or dispose of your previous models of the same type. The new 56 doesn't make me want to bid farwell to my previously converted models.

New and Old - Hornby's new class 56 alongside a converted Mainline model - I think that the Mainline can hold its own still. Its tooling may be a little heavier, but it still looks rather good.
My much travelled (and slightly careworn!) model of 56 031 still compares well with the new model. Well enough, I hope, to sit along side each other and not be from obviously different sources. It has, of course, had an awful lot done to it; but I see no reason to replace it. Likewise the other couple of 56's I've been working on (for some time!) will be finished as planned. I would like to incorpate some parts from the new model though - if I can get the undertframe parts as spares I'll have an awful lot of work saved!

I can see the new Class 56 being very popular - in many ways this is deservedly so. For me, sadly, a couple of silly errors take the edge of the release. This is a real shame. But don't let these stop you, it will form the basis for a superb model!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Milk Bottles

It might seem like a rather strange title, but allow me to explain...

My father grew up in Hull during the 'fifties and 'sixties when Hull's rail network was still quite extensive, with many freight and trip workings crossing the city. The former WD 2-8-0's ('Dub-dees' as they were often called) were a very common feature of Hull's railways during this time, working in the city and the surrounding area right up until steam finished in that part of the world.

One thing that my dad has often mentioned was the clanking that dub-dees made. Nothing else really sounded like this, and the best comparison I had to go on them was that it sounded a bit like milk bottles hitting each other when the milkman collects the empties! This sound was something I'd not ever heard.

Today, along with my fiancee, mum and dad I visited the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway for the first time in a couple of years. Arriving at Haworth station reminded why it's one of my favourite lines. It really does have the feel of complete branch line, rather than the 'cut-off' feelings that some railways and rebuilds have.

As we arrived, a train was just arriving at Haworth, hauled by 90733, the only survivng WD 2-8-0. The story is fully explained on the Railway's website - It really is a wonderful achievement and a credit to all those involved with the restoration.

When the loco returned to Haworth, just before we joined the train, my dad and I were at the platform end (my mum and Suzi just leaving us to it!) I finally heard what my dad had talked about at various times over the years, that clanking so familiar to him during his youth!

It's strange how things other than sights are able to trigger memories - my dad said that seeing the dub-dee reminded him very much of steam in Hull. If anyone ever produces a sound chip for one of these locos, then the clanking will be a key part!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

A New Standard

For Christmas this year this was one of the gifts which my dad received. It's a nice simple renumbering and weathering job (by myself) of the new Standard 4MT 2-6-0 from Bachmann. This one is 76022 now, Hull's only resident of this type. At some point, Eastmoor could justify a model of 76021 which was a Selby engine at the same time during the 'fifties. We've still to add couplings and front steps - the latter will be Comet items. The Christmas deadline meant I didn't have time to to this, or at least, I didn't want to risk not having it in a presentable for Christmas Day!

The pipework is superb! If you need an example of this type, then I don't think you could go far wrong than having one from Bachmann! BR designed locos seem to be one of Bachmann's real strong points.

I find it interesting how modern RTR steam locomotives are better than many kit built locomotives of even just a few years ago. Models which are to this standard (no pun intended) of the Bachmann loco we see here really does speed things up. It's rather satisfying that with a a little work one has a very usable model in OO which allows time to be focused on times where this option doesn't exist.

The main thing, for me, was that my dad was very pleased with the loco! He'll want me getting on with the rest of the locos in our 'to do' pool!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Botanic Gardens

The East Yorkshire Area Group of the Scalefour Society's layout, Botanic Gardens now has it's very own blog!

There's not much there yet, but we will be updating it soon! It will provide us with an ideal place for us to display information about the layout as well as providing a place for readers to follow our progress. I think 2008 is going to be a good year for the project!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Flat Bottom Track

It's amazing that within the 'finescale' world of railway modelling that flat bottom (FB) track hasn't really been fully addressed. In the UK FB track has been commonplace on our mainlines since the 'fifties. It almost seems, at times, that when people imagine 'finescale' track, they think of bullhead (BH) track and pointwork. Why this should be I'm not entirely sure. A lot of historical modelling does require BH to be accurate, but many layouts have a need of FB track.

The visual difference between the two types of track is quite distinct, even on plain line -

This was taken by myself at the Hull Docks ABP/Network Rail boundary earlier this year; in the foreground is a recently laid FB track and beyond is old BH. This difference should be obvious to the observant modeller! The chairs/rail fixings, rail section, sleeper types and spacings all differ. FB track is very much an integral part of the modern railway, and something which, for me, needs to prominently feature on finescale layouts based in recent times.

For modellers one problem in accurately modelling FB S&C (switches and crossings) is that compared with some older BH pointwork, it's huge! High speed (100+ mph) pointwork is incredibly long, in 4mm scale some crossovers would be 12' or more in length! If you're used to PECO points, even slow speed FB (and a lot of BH!) pointwork will seem massive.

This is not to say that I'm dismissing PECO track completely, if you're working in 00, it's a very good and durable system, but we're often told that it's not that accurate, being HO. This is true,m it a slightly smaller scale, but it can be made to look very realistic for British FB track. I can do no better than suggest you have a look at the Wirral Finescale Railway Modeller's layout, Widnes Vine Yard which has track which is most pleasing in appearance. (It's also a very good layout overall too - at the Hull MRS' show in November I and a very good friend were watching, and agreed that Widnes shows the 'modern' railway we see everyday incredibly well - it's worth searching out when it's at a show!)

In the 'finer' gauges, EM and P4, we don't this option when it comes to FB track. We have to build our own. There are, however, two big problems. Firstly, the hardware isn't readily available, and what there is, is only a limited selection. And secondly, drawings are very thin on the ground. DEMU's society magazine, UPDate Issue 45, contained a useful drawing of a BV9.25 turnout but I haven't seen any other drawings published other than this one. You could probably build FB turnouts using BH templates, but it wouldn't be accurate (though having said that, London King's Cross is FB laid on the BH geometry, due to the cramped nature of the approach). If you work in the Rail industry you may be lucky enough to have access to official Network Rail drawings.

In this case, I'm not sure what to suggest - I do think it's an area DEMU should be addressing as soon as possible - though a CD of various drawings and diagrams has been available, they are not in a form which many people would be able to make use of. The problem is that accurate track like this is not a priority for a lot of people. Strangely, PECO are our saviour for many FB parts! The company who make track for the masses also produce a useful little range of parts in their 'Individulay' range for use with code 82 rail (which is 0,082" high and spot on for BS113A FB rail). Exactoscale produce their 'Fastrack', one type is concrete sleepering for FB plain line. it's not much, but it's a start!

With an eye to future layout projects, I wanted to try to see just what I could achieve using the parts I've mentioned. The first thing I did was to track down a suitable drawing - I used a copy of the NR drawing for a CV 9.25 & CVS 9.25 SINGLE TURNOUTS AND CROSSOVER, which includes details of a crossover and various types of crossings (this is the correct term for what many people call the 'frog'!). As an aside, I obtained the drawing by official means. I reduced it to scale size and mounted a full crossover on artist's mounting board which in turn was fixed to a 3' shelf. This would provide a good solid base for this test piece - check the shelf isn't warped though!

I placed the Class 66 in the middle to give some idea of size; remember this is quite a small example of FB pointwork! Despite this, the appearance, even at this early stage, is rather pleasing. The loco's size looks 'right' when compared with the size of the crossover. This is one of the attractions of getting things right for me. The brown card is really there to provide a lift for when the track is ballasted, other than this is isn't really needed. I can get away with such a thick plank because I won't be wiring the track or needing anything underneath.

The drawing I have shows all the information you should ever need! It provides far more than modellers need to know! In order to interpret the drawings, good photographs will be needed - these will help with positioning the different types of fixings too.

I decided that my crossover would have concrete bearers, so I used Evergreen styrene strip for this - no one makes concrete bearers anyway! And it's much cheaper than moulded timbers, so it a texture was added with course sandpaper I'm sure this product would work well as timber - but I'd be tempted to use thin ply for this. One thing to remember is that concrete bearers have chamfered edges, which can be tedious, but looks so much better than sharp edges! I'm only part way through adding the bearers it can be quite repetitive! But strangely relaxing at the same time.

Once they're all fixed in place I will sand them down to ensure that they provide a good and level base on to begin adding the rail and fixings. The plain line will be added last - I'm not sure if the Exactoscale sleepers will need any packing to match the height of the pointwork - I am, of course, screwed now if the crossover sits lower than the plain line! But I've made an educated guess that this won't be the case, well I hope not!

As progress is made I will be adding updates here, it should certainly be an interesting exercise.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Bolier fittings

I'm sure I'm not alone in this; when I fit chumeys, domes and safety valves, I spend ages making sure they're bedded down properly so there's no unsightly gap between the fittings and the boiler. Well... I took this photo back in September of the NRM ex-LNWR 0-8-0 at Pickering (above) while I was waiting to meet a good friend of mine, who was running a little bit late - not that I could really complain, waiting for him watching trains coming and going!

There is quite a clear gap there! In fact, in reality it was quite bad! Obviously locomotives need the dome cover to be removed from time to time and this obviously has been. It showed signs of being a working locomotive, something many of us, I'm sure, strive to capture in model form. However, would this look right in model form? I'm going to hazard a guess that it could look quite shoddy! It reminds me that what we're doing is creating an impression fo the real thing; capturing the 'feel' of the real thing is, perhaps, the biggest challenge we face as modellers.

A Good Start?

Recently I have been working on a loco which will ultimately be in the Botanic Gardens fleet. It's an example of the North Eastern Railway's Class E, which later became J71 under the LNER, and was very similar to the Class E1, or J72 from grouping onwards. The similarity has not gone un-noticed, MRJ 12 featured an article by John Wright on converting the Mainline J72. More recently Mainly Trains have added to their own range, a chassis kit for the J72 and a chassis and conversion kit for a J71The latter is what I have been using. I'll apologise for the quality of the photographs - it's been very dark in East Yorkshire today! Hopefully they'll still give you a good idea of what's going on with the loco! This would, I think, make an excellent start for someone who was thinking about P4.

The chassis itself is good, and makes provision for compensation. Included are 00 frame spacers and 'EM/P4' spacers, which I'm sure will be fine for EM, but are not really wide enough for P4. It would leave over a mil' between the wheels and frames and wouldn't look right. So I replaced these with something a little wider. My chassis is a 'bog standard' as P4 can be! Simple three point compensation with drive on a fixed rear axle. The motor is a Mashima 1224 flat can and it has a 53:1 Branchlines Multi-box. I have used Gibson wheels and crankpins. I know some people report problems with Gibson wheels, but I have never had any problems with them; I'm sure the GW Models quartering press I have helps in this respect. It puts the wheels on square and ready quartered and is something I couldn't do without now!

I have yet to fit the brake gear, or the pickups, but progress has been quite swift, mostly working in fits and starts. This really isn't the best way to work with projects like this. The short bursts can, I've found, lead to mistakes being made but many will know that work and other commitments mean that modelling can't always be the priority we would like it to be! It perhaps shows that the kit is well thought out that it has gone together so easily. It would make a relatively easy start for someone in P4 too.

This photo of the chassis was taken a few days ago, as the presence of the sun may suggest! On thing is does is show the rather satisfying relationship between the wheels and frame. The small gap between them does look rather nice in this view. Hopefully the simplicity of the chassis can be seen here. It's well within the capabilities of many modellers. Towards the rear of the chassis you may notice the gap between the spacer and frames; this is due to incorporating of of the original spacers. The kit makes use of the original body-chassis securing arrangement, and I saw no reason to not use this either! So the kit spacer was solder to one of my own spacers to allow this. It shows some thought has gone into the design of the kit.

The body is where work on the E and the E1 differ. The kit for the former includes new front splashers to allow for the wheels being 6" larger in diameter. Also included is a fold up cab interior.Sadly I was unable to use this; it is, understandably, designed around the kit's frame spacings and since mine has wider spacing I can't use it. I made a replacement from black plastikard. No backhead is included in the kit, so I'll be using one from Alan Gibson's range (GE rather than NER, hopefully no one will be able to tell the difference!). I added a replacement chimney from an old K's J72 kit; the moudled chimney had a small crack in it. I only discovered this when I went to drill out the chimney! Oops! Thankfully it didn't take too much to sort my 'misfortune' out! Still to be added are other cab bits and pieces, handrails, lamp irons, brake gear, pick ups, whistle and clack valves. I have already modified the buffer beams to the plate variety, using the kit's etched overlays as a basis. The moulding allows for the beams which were of sandwich construction with oak planks between two plates. I'm very happy with the way the model has come on, hopefully it won't be too long before this one is finished!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

No trains today

On Friday I had to go to Pocklington; on the face of it, it did seem strange being sent to a town which hasn't has a railway for over forty years!

Pocklington was once a stop on the York - Beverley railway and I took the opportunity to take a few photos of the station (right); it's something I've meant to do for a long time now, but never really got round to it. It's a fine building which was designed by G T Andrews, who designed many buildings connected with George Hudson's ventures. It's an elegant structure which had an overall roof and it now serves Pocklington School, as a gymnasium. From the outside the only changes are the missing track and platforms and the ends of the roof are now bricked up (left). It still, to me anyway, looks like a station. Those elegant arches still greet travellers in Pocklington, but only those who arrive by bus. Either side you can still clearly see how the line made its way out of the town. It does feel like the line could be easily re-established.

Indeed, if you approach the station of Kiplingcotes (below right), which is further east along the line, from certain directions you could be forgiven for thinking the railway is still there. You can see a station with its singalbox and good's shed still there as well as a larger brick span over the road. It is how many imagine the country way-side station - I would love to model Kiplingcotes one day. It's not hard to imagine, especially on a cold November day, a B1 making its way through station here; working hard as it heads towards the summit just east of Kiplingcotes. However the track is long gone; trains won't be heading this way anytime soon.

The reopening proposal has been made on many occasions by various people. It's not, sadly, something I can see happening though. Despite the argument that the line shouldn't have closed, rebuilding is a much harder task than keeping a line running. The 'Reshaping' report wasn't there to predict what would happen in the future, and it did it do what it set out to quite effectively. However, towns like Pocklington, Market Weighton and Beverley have grown in ways many in the 'sixties would never have believed. If the line did exist today, I have no doubt that many more people would be travelling along it. This, though, is not the case. You can still travel between Beverley and Market Weighton along the line, but it must now be on foot.

As I headed back, over the top at Arras on the A1079, I caught one last glimpse of the line in distance. The road was slow, just 40 mph with lines of cars in either direction. I did wonder if some of these rather miserable looking motorists would be happier travelling quickly along the line in valley below us... Guess we'll never know.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to my first ever post here! The first of many hopefully!

Firstly, I'll introduce myself. I'm James, 5' 9" (though my medical said it was 5' 8 ¾", but rounded off sounds better!), I'm a 24 year old child from just near Beverley in East Yorkshire. I work for GrantRail in Doncaster - seems like the perfect job for someone like me. Most surprisingly I'm actually engaged to be married! My fiancee, Suzi, has an awful lot to put up with!

You may have noticed one of my main interests is railways... I model in 4mm scale, both OO and P4. In OO, a large, long term project which is a joint project with my dad and in P4 my main activity now is with the East Yorkshire Area Group (EYAG) of the Scalefour Society. My interests are very varied; Eastmoor is the late 1950's, allowing the last ex-North Eastern types to prototypically run, though we stretch things a bit with the odd green diesel! Eastmoor is somewhere along the York - Beverley line - some maps mark 'Eastmoor' as an area near the line, hence our use of the name.

My other main activities concern what many would call 'modern image', a term which is pretty meaningless! However, my preferred period is 2000, or so, onwards. I'm slowly building a fleet and stock for this era for a future layout. Not sure exactly what this layout will be, but who knows; in a couple of years I might even know! I'm experimenting with 'flatbottomed' track at the moment. Building on templates which have been scaled down from official Network Rail diagrams - I'm fortunate to have access to these through work.

The EYAG are building Botanic Gardens station in Hull as it was around the time of the Great War. The exact date hasn't yet been decided. The layout is, of course, built to P4 standards and will be around 30' x 15'. I have come to the project only relatively recently; it has the potential to be quite something. A large pre-group layout with long trains in an urban setting, the whole thing is a rather exciting project! The group is based within the Hull MRS, within whose clubrooms the layout is worked upon and resides. Further details may also be found here and here.

Anyway, that's it for now. Do pop back, there should be updates very soon!