Monday, 28 July 2008

Best RTR Diesel?

Over the last few years there has been an increasing amount debate about Ready-To-Run (RTR) locomotives and stock. Steam RTR has improved out of all recognition in recent years. Diesels have improved much more subtly.

There are, I think, three contenders for the best four mil' RTR diesel. My criteria for this is simple - the basic outline of the model does not require altering in order to provide a good likeness of the prototype - even the new Bachmann Class 37 needs some work in order to achieve this.

The first contender has to be the Heljan Hymek - it lacks some of the fine separately applied details which later models have but the overall appearance is absolutely spot on. Although the model still needs its headcodes and couplings fitting (both of which I've always fitted both at the very end of the process) it still looks completely 'right'. The designers were very much on to a winner with this one - something is just so right about the shape of the body. The only real issue is that the buffer beam valances are moulded in plain black plastic and require painting in order to get a result which looks right.

The Hymek just requiring headcoes and coupligs - even without these you can see that the overall look is spot and and very convincing.
For me one of the most convincing RTR diesels of recent years has been the class 66 from Bachmann - it captures the look of the common 'Shed' perfectly - I do think it can be hard to capture something with which people ares o familiar. In the same way the 16T mineral wagon captures the fifties and sixties railway scene, the class 66 is a key component of the post privatisation railway. Bachmann have done themselves proud with this and they created a perfect workman-like model which captures the shape of the class 66 perfectly.

Another key piece of motive power has to be the class 60; Lima did an excellent job in the nineties with their version of this type - however it was held back ultimately due to its old-style mechanism and lacking some of the finer details which we now like to have, but it did capture the look of a sixty very well indeed. However, when the new class 60 from Hornby arrived it immediately knocked the Lima model into touch. It looked right, had a whole host of separately applied details, opening doors, etched grilles, interior details behind the grilles, fully detailed cab interiors in fact everything one could hope for.

An example of the Hornby 60 - how things have changed - this is just how it came, with transfer changes and new wheels (EM). I weathered it for a friend of mine and the result is most pleasing.
The Heljan Hymek doesn't have opening doors, etched grilles, interior details behind the grilles nor fully detailed cab interiors. But I still think it's one of the best. When it goes past on a layout hauling a train, you can't open the doors anyway! I would always take a model which had the right shape and look to it over something with lots of 'extras' that doesn't look right. Hornby sixty's manages to fulfil both of these areas magnificently, but somehow, their Class 31 just doesn't do it for me. The Hymek doesn't have any gimmicks, but captures the look of the uniquely shaped prototype to perfection. This must, surely, but worth more than any number of opening cab doors? I'll leave it for the reader to decide...

Sunday, 27 July 2008


There's something special about Goathland station. Not that it's been on the television or featured in films, but something of the station itself - which may, of course, be the reason why producers and film makers have been drawn to the place. Of all the stations I know, it seems the archetypal North Eastern Railway country station to me. In East and North Yorkshire we are spoiled for choice when it comes to surviving North Eastern Railway structures, but the quality Goathland station is hard to beat.

The completeness of station is a big appeal for me - goods yard, goods shed, coal drops, all things which were once common at virtually every country station. The goods shed is now a cafe and tea room. This is an award winning project, and rightly so, which makes wonderful use of the existing buildings and facilities. All too often 'preserved' railways sacrifice things for the sake of making money. Now I realise that they have to make money to survive (all the 'enthusiasts' who turn up purely to take photos contribute very little) but sometimes things are lost for the sake of money. Here the goods shed has been used very cleverly - it's obviously a goods shed in appearance but also provides wonderful accommodation for visitors.

We were up at Goathland this last weekend - the weather was perfect and it wasn't too busy either. We had lunch in the goods shed too! My dad was pleased to have an excellent view of the K4 hammering up the bank towards the station - you get a grandstand view from the footbridge.

Finally, one last part of the station which I think has a charm about it; the signalbox. It's a classic little NER 'box, still performing its original function. It's lovely just sitting watching the signalman going about his duties in such surroundings. Definately worth a visit if you haven't already been.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Waste Not Want Not Part 2

It can be strange revisiting things you did or made in the past but it can often show you why and how things are as they are currently. I've found this when revisiting a model I started some years ago. For my seventeenth birthday, I think, I received a Nu-Cast kit for an LNER J21; I remember asking for it because I'd been very pleased with my efforts on rebuilding a part built J27 -

I'd used Alan Gibson frames and wheels and mixed and matched castings and parts a wide variety of sources and I really felt I'd achieved something. Looking back, I think this was a huge milestone for me and even now, if you don't look too closely, it still looks OK.

So, the J21 was started in the same vein; Gibson frames, wheels, etc, etc...

I replaced the tender's very heavily cast coal rails with my own versions - which in hindsight were far too thin! But at that stage I was rather pleased! However, I think this was when I realising about the 'finer' details and was trying to do something about them. Building a pair of RSH tanks from High Level Kits had given me an insight to what I really wanted from models.

The chassis was rigid - I didn't feel confident enough to attempt a three axle compensated chassis at that stage. Though it had to be set up in the same way using blanking plates in place of hornblocks using axle jigs and the coupling rods to ensure the axle centres were correct. As can be seen, the motor and gears are a nice simple set up. Although I like the multi-stage gearboxes, especially High Level's 108:1 gearboxes for shunting and industrial locomotives, I've found this set-up with a Mashima 1220 or 1224 motor and high quality gears from Branchlines are still an excellent combination for 'main line' locos. My previous entry will show this still applies to some current models of mine.

Having found the interior details supplied by High Level very satisfying to apply I really made an effort with the cab details of the J21. Again I was very pleased with this at the time; it could be better but it was an immense improvement over the large hole in the backhead for a large old fashioned motor to protrude right into the cab.

The reason for titling this post as I have (with reference to what I have said previously) is that I don't really want to leave the model in this unfinished state forever. I'm not sure why progress was halted, maybe because during J21s weren't that common in the Hull area by the 1950's so perhaps it just slipped down the priority list? However this happened, it has been in this condition for a number of years. What I want to see is if it would be possible to convert it to P4 for use on Botanic Gardens - it would mean a new chassis obviously and I'd be tempted to give it a new tender so it would have decent coal rails if nothing else! The thing is, as it was a gift originally I don't want to attempt all of this to find it wasn't possible and then I'm left with a hulk which is of no use to anyone!

So, we'll see what happens - if I can re-use the loco it'll be very satisfying and would be great if I can re-use it especially as it was a gift. But it may be a while before we see if it works or not!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Pacific Update

Just a small update on the A7 pacific tank. Progress isn't bad, even though it only ever seems to receive a few minutes attention at a time. I'm pleased how it seems to convey the 'bulk' of the prototype quite convincingly.

As you can see, it's progressing quite well now - not long and it'll have the correct number of wheels! The rear carrying wheels should be carried as part of the main frames;if you build the kit to 00 as intended, the cast pony truck works very well, but here I need something which will work in P4. I think I'll be building this from scratch so I get exactly what I need. The footplate still needs large chunks carving out to allowing the cods to go round, but it's the P4 choice again and lack of clearances. It's not much of a hardship really.

The chassis has come on very well; the wheels are all now in place and the tyre edges have been blackened. The motor drives through Branchlines' new 51:1 Wide Gearbox and looks like it should be rather good and suit the loco well. The main achievement today is that the loco has moved under its own power! Admittedly on wander leads, but nevertheless, it has moved! I think it'll still fine tuning, but far less than I expected - I'm rather pleased with it so far!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Making History?

EWS 66 193 aproaches Newland Avenue in Hull in June 2007 - currently there are eight coal trains in and out of Hull each day, following the completion of our work, there will be 22 in and out of the city every day.
Here's an interesting thought, well I think it's interesting anyway! As you may aware by now, the railways of Hull and East Yorkshire interest me greatly, and I have read everything I can find on the subject. It's seems strange that I, due to my recent work, have now become, albeit in a very small way, part of this history.

The work being undertaken will see a huge increase in capacity on the former Hull and Barnsley route through the town; currently there are eight coal trains each way, following the work there will be up to 22 each way per day. It's rather nice to think that I'd made a contribution to something which has interested me so much over the years.

Work taking place at HJS-23 on Stoneferry Road, Hull - start of a long shift!

Stamford Bridge

In case you were in any doubt...
The York - Beverley line continues to hold a great fascination for me; it must partly be because it's (or rather it was) my 'local' line but also, I think, because it seems to be a real sleeping giant. The remaining infrastructure seems to stand defiantly, waiting for, well, I'm not sure. As I've mentioned before (No Trains Today), the prospect of reopening seems unlikely, despite the benefits such a scheme could take. However, enthusiasts can still enjoy the legacy of George Hudson's scheme in the form of the remaining stations, bridges and earthworks.

Stamford Bridge was not a station I had actually visited previously, despite having been past it on other occasions. Despite it being on the line between York and home, it's a little out of the way if we're driving home from York. However, I was travelling home from York on Friday afternoon and decided to make a point of passing the station. The building itself is unmistakably GT Andrews, with it's imposing columns greeting travellers. Elslewhere the good shed and loading dock still remain in situ, though unlikely to ever see railway use again.

The users of the building seem to be embracing its heritage; although the sign show 4771 Green Arrow on the Settle - Carlisle line! Not that this detail detracts from it in anyway; the building is obviously well cared for.

The building has been extended over the former platform, but even this is built in a sympathetic style. This view looks towards Market Weighton and Beverley and shows quite clearly one of the problems any rebuilding scheme would face; on the other side of the level crossing, a building sits right across the formation. Although this one is only a small garage, but a couple of hundred yards east of the former crossing a housing estate has taken possession of the old route.

The goods yard entrance still retains its old gate posts but now serves cars coming in and out of a car park. Though I would say, despite the rather gloomy view of these buildings not being in their intended use, they still seem to be fulfilling important roles with within their community. And from an enthusiast's point of view, the fact that these buildings survive should be enough to keep us happy.

Just by the road one of the former crossing gates stands; ironically for such an obvious symbol of the railway having once run here, had the line remained open the CTC scheme would have done away with such equipment. It serves as a curiosity now; children who may never even have travelled by train may ask what it is and at least be aware that a railway once went by here. Sadly, the gate will never be closed to road traffic again.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Waste Not Want Not

As time goes on new products will always outshine older products. Model railways is one area where this has been very true over the last few years. We have some absolutely superb locomotives coming through, where previously the only way to get a model of such a standard was to build from either a kit or from scratch. Bachmann's standard 2-6-0 4MT which has appeared here previously is an excellent example of this.

Likewise their Ivatt 2-6-0 4MT is equally good and can be transformed into a truly excellent piece if one uses Brassmasters' detailing kit. One only has to see what Chris Pendleton, who is a modeller I greatly admire, did with his Ivatt 4MT in MRJ No. 175. However, my dad and I still have a (nearly) untouched Millholme kit for this type which we bought second hand at an exhibition just before Bachmann announced theirs. For this reason it was left alone sitting on a shelf in a corner of the workshop. So what should we do?

The castings themselves are not bad at all, the rivet detail is pretty good too. There is some flash, but then there is on most whitemetal kits to some extent. The boiler is the only bit which was touched by the loco's previous owner and isn't too bad, though I suspect they gave up as they were struggling with it - it appears they used normal electric solder... Anyway, it looks in good shape. Some of the detail castings are quite impressive too I think - worthy of further thought anyway...

The etchings are reasonable, if a little heavy - this probably reflects their age. The frames are thick and simple (much like me I suppose!) but should provide a sound base for the loco in 00 or EM at least (if I wanted a P4 the Bachmann-Brassmasters route makes much more sense).

So will it get built? Well, that's a good question... Undoubtedly the Bachmann model would provide a way to very quickly provide Eastmoor with an Ivatt 4MT but we don't currently own a Bachmann one, but we do have this one at our disposal. So, yes it will get built, though when is another matter entirely!

We also have a couple of old Nu-Cast B1's too - one is currently dismantled but this one is complete. It is a superb runner and is very smooth even with it's old XO4 motor! It looks like a good representation of a B1 although it does lack finer detail. The plan is to make use of Dave Bradwell's castings nto improve the body with either Comet or Gibson bits and bobs for the chassis - and the result? Well hopefully a decent looking and performing 'layout loco' which is just what Eastmoor needs. Logic may say to replace the chassis with a Comet one, but why? In this case we need a nice running loco and we already have this here. The locos must be at least thirty years old and owe us nothing so why not make use of them?

I think it's a shame we don't make more use of older products which we may have in stock already. It costs us nothing to, at least, try and make use of them. The model railway hobby has, of late, become a rather wasteful pursuit at times as new models come on stream. As modellers surely we should be more resourceful than collectors when it comes to building up a 'fleet'? Sadly consumerism has caught on big style in some quarters and we may be loosing in the long run. Personally I think the world would be a better if we were prepared to make better use of what we already have than always striving to get the 'latest' products...