Wednesday, 22 July 2009


The first time I remember seeing Southwell was in a copy of RailModel Digest; my dad had been looking through it in the bookshop on Embsay station and he bought it specifically for the John Sutton’s article on Southwell. The layout is built to 3mm:1ft scale and a gauge of 12mm.

The layout looks superb; the scale becomes irrelevant when you see just how convincing it looks in photos – its builder cheerfully admits that the gauge is too narrow and the rail too heavy but somehow you don’t notice this! Even though locos have no brakegear it just doesn’t seem to matter – the layout as a whole is very convincing indeed.

Perhaps one of the best things with Southwell is that it is all very ordinary. Now, this is certainly not a criticism because the modelling is to a very high standard but the result is a very normal day to day scene of the railway in the nineteen fifties. There is nothing twee about the railway in Southwell; it looks like a hard working part of the system. It’s the sort of place which probably wouldn’t have captivated many enthusiasts in reality yet this in model form becomes very appealing. Even after more than tens years since I first saw the layout in print it remains one of my favourites; up there with such legendary layouts as North Shields, Borchester and Bramblewick.

Clicking on each photo will take you to a different gallery of the layout.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Fading Fast

Recently on RMweb the subject of fading paint came up. All liveries fade to some degree but it seems especially noticeable with more modern liveries on diesel locomotives. Though I say ‘more modern’ but all of this applies equally well to BR blue too!

Looking at more recent examples, diesel and electric locos can often see long periods of inactivity. Firms like DB Schenker often rotate locos through store if there isn’t enough work to keep all the members of a particular type employed as it means no loco will spend a very long time in store thus avoiding the possibility of costly work when the loco is eventually returned to traffic. This store tends to be in the open air too so paintwork is there exposed to the elements. The effects can range from a slight dulling of the paint to severe discolouration. The example I’m going to use here is a half way house.

The class 37s used by Eurostar for stock movements can end up standing for much of the time. As a result their once bright and shiny blue roofs become dull and faded over time, as can be seen here –

To achieve this effect is surprisingly simple and can be either applied with by a brush or an airbrush. In this case the colours were applied as intended and not varying the shades at all – changing the base colour can be used to create alternative effects as I will mention later. The basic ingredients for the EPS loco are matt varnish, your usual weathering colours and matt white all from your preferred brand of paint. My chosen brand is Humbrol and I wouldn’t use anything else colours wise.

I use white plastic bottle tops to mix paint – Diet Coke (my preferred soft drink – if you’ve met me you may have spotted the irony!) and cheap lemonade tend to provide a good supply of these. My airbrush doesn’t have a large cup and about half a top full will fill it! If we make a mix of three quarters of the bottle top we only need a few drops of well stirred matt varnish and the rest is enamel thinners. This will provide a workable thin matt varnish for spraying – if brushing I’d still use the same mix, the only change will be the extra patience I’m afraid. One drop of well stirred Matt White will tint the varnish to the degree we want. Now if you applied it in this state the effect would be very stark and not very realistic. So to this mix I add a hint or something like a sandy colour and maybe a touch of Humbrol’s Leather. This will just give a touch of realism to the mix once applied. It may even be worth adding a hint of green if your subject has been in long term store! These ‘hints’ need to be very subtle; once applied if you can immediately tell you added green then you’ve added to much. The whole process needs to have a huge dose of delicacy! Applying multiple thins mists (or coats if you brush paint) is the key to this so if the first couple of coats aren’t quite the right shade you can vary subsequent mixes. Once you look at the model and think it looks about right – walk away! Leave it a couple of days and then decide if it needs anything else; it’s much easy to add a bit more in the case than try to reverse the whole process.

With 37 603 once I had faded the paint to the degree I wanted I left it a few days then came back to it. On the face of it the roof was now one big bleached patch and looked, in all honestly, awful! This is where we need to breathe life back into the model. I used a very, very thin ‘dirt’ mix washed across the roof and let it collect around the raised details. I left this to dry and then used the same mix to go around panel lines and rivet runs to build up the dirt. The same mix was applied with a chisel brush over the engine access panels and exhaust silencer to build up an impression of deeply engrained exhaust deposits. The model was then weathered as I would normally and the finishing touch for the roof was the exhaust staining. The end result is something which, I hope, is convincing.

Other options for faded paint involve using different shades of paint as a base for weathering. My model of 37 677 is a good example of this; the real loco was incredibly faded in its triple grey livery. The roof colour was originally very dark and the tinted varnish method wouldn’t have worked at all. Well it may have done but it would have involved a stupidly huge number of coats! The decision early on was made to spray the roof in an approximation of the colour the roof had become. A full run down of this project may be found here.

There are of course many ways to approach weathering to get the effects you want; my methods are just one approach. The most important thing is to just to have a go yourself! Until then you won’t find what works for you. Weathering is great fun too!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Coal through Rawcliffe

Well despite saying "the chances of getting stopped at the crossing are slim during the day" looks like that'll be changing now! On Monday GB Railfreight began a new flow of imported coal between Hull Docks and Drax Power Station.

I timed my detour just right and managed to see 66 722 heading for Hull at about 1720. Further photos can be found on Tony Buckton's excellent photo site. If you follow the link you'll be able to see 66 722 moving over the junction at Hessle Road; if you look closely you'll see the newly installed crossing assembly on the diamond too!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

To Hull and Back

Just back from a twelve hour shift at Hessle Road Junction - all part of 'fine tuning' the junction, as well as replacing a crossing on the diamond which had previously suffered a broken rail which, although repaired, was awaiting a replacement.

I'll tell you what, and I may seem a bit odd, but a shift like this really does beat being couped up in an office!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Railways around Rawcliffe

To break up the monotony of the motorway on my way home I often leave and use local roads. Progress may not be as quick, but it’s much more interesting! On my way home there are A and B roads which parallel the Motorways. There aren’t too many highlights for the railway enthusiast (though if you know where to look - if you're in the vicinity, try and work out where Airmyn station was - not as easy as you may think!) but there is one curiosity…

Rawcliffe is a rather pleasant village just near Goole and Howden on the old main road between Doncaster and Goole and thanks to the motorway isn’t too busy. It has a railway station on the line between Wakefield - Goole line (ELR – WAG1). This is only a shadow of its former self though as this was once the Lanchashire & Yorkshire Railway's main line to Goole Docks.

As you approach the village you come to a slight incline up to a level crossing, nothing usual there at all, but if you look down there’s actually an under bridge with very little headroom. Every time I drive past it I wonder why there is such an arrangement – it does mean cars can continue their journey if the crossing is closed to road traffic. The line is very lightly used so the chances of getting stopped at the crossing are slim during the day – though I did have to stop a while back for a Fastline Tamper heading for Goole. I was puzzled why it would head this way though; route learning perhaps?

If you have time Rawcliffe Station is worth a look if only for the rather nice Station Master’s house, though it’s now in private hands, and the station is little more than a halt now.

It was a comment in a recent e-mail asking if I knew which station could be seen from the M62 where the M18 joins that made me think I should really go and take a couple of photos. By having a close look I noticed things I'd missed previously; like part of the old second line still in situ! Notice also how remaining line has been slewed across as it approaches the bridge. This is often to allow use of the best parts of the formation and to minimise expenditure - the Hull Docks Branch was similarly treated in the late eighties when that was reduced from twin to single line. The surroundings form a great example of the modern, no frills branchline. Worth a look if you have a few minutes to spare.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

First TransPennine Express

Today was eventful. Well, the journey home was anyway!

Since starting in Manchester I’ve not had any real problems with the time keeping, everything has been within three or four minutes if it hasn’t been on time. Today was a little different however. We were due to come back on a Class 170, which is unusual as it’s normally rostered for a Class 185 when I travel back at 1542 – though I much prefer the one seventies. The unit arrived with little time to spare before the advertised departure time. It soon became obvious something was up due to the way so many First TransPennine Staff were on and around the train. It turned out the leading vehicle of the unit had no power; none at all, no engine and no electrics. The give away for this was them explaining they were attaching and ‘emergency headlight’ which is only needed when the vehicles own lights have failed.

We left about twenty minutes late and progress was slow – the trans-Pennine routes are not known for easy gradients, far from it! Even early on in the development of Multiple Units these routes required ‘power twins’ to ensure good progress. We reached Huddersfield about half an hour late. The crew were very helpful and gave constant updates on what was happening. Not long before Huddersfield we were informed that we would be terminating there which was just what I was expecting. It was explained clearly that we’d need to get the following Hull service. Following services were delayed thanks to our poorly 170. Our unit eventually limped off in the direction of Manchester…

FTP’s supervisor on Huddersfield station was excellent! He gave everyone updates every so often as to what was happening. It turned out he was a former driver. So we knew exactly what was happening all the time! Eventually the next service bound for Hull arrived with, surprisingly, our failed unit on the front! The defective coach was locked out of use as it had no air conditioning and was, I guess, like an oven inside! The train staff was very professional and courteous. Progress wasn’t quite as quick as usual as we still had one unpowered vehicle in the formation but we weren’t loosing too much time as a result.

What I really don’t like is how miserable and rude many passengers are – shouting and swearing at railway staff doesn’t make the trains run any quicker! I don’t know how they manage to keep their cool when dealing with the public. I’m just pleased I don’t really have to deal with the public at work! Although we were late, I was very late home, in the grand scheme of things I’m not sure one incident like this really matters. Yes we were late but we will all have got home, will all have gone to bed as the world keeps turning and we wake up and have a brand new day! As I’ve recalled on a previous entry "Don't cultivate your woe, cultivate your happiness!" It was a beautiful evening and the views from the train were superb – God’s Own County at its best!

In the end I was home about two and a half hours after I should have been but I was very impressed with how FTP’s staff behaved and dealt with the situation.