Friday, 25 June 2010

New RRV Kit

Today Suzi bought me a rather nice kit which was a breathe of fresh air! Everything fitted first time, the instructions were incredibly clear, simple and well thought out and it's a prototype which is at the heart of railway maintenance in the UK too! So where's the catch? Well it's not my usual scale and it's made from, er, Lego!

Joking aside, a lot of our usual model railway manufacturers could learn a lot from Lego's approach to instructions and ease of construction for the intended market. Everything and it was clear that it had been trailed before release! Many kits I can think of are very awkward in parts and I wonder if they were ever test built!

Suzi bought because it features a Road-Rail Vehicle (RRV) and I've spent a lot of time working with these over the last few years - they are at the heart of maintenance and new build rail projects now. It's sad, I think, that Lego have realised this long before our own UK model railway manufacturers (of all sizes!) have. Even though this set is intended to be played with those for model railways wouldn't need to operate at all; they could happily sit in old yards and at access points where the real machines are left between possessions. In many ways, they'd be highly useful scenic items for modellers who focus on recent times.

I do hope at least one of the UK model railway manufacturers could follow Lego's lead and produce a small range of RRVs.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Operation 24 - Part 3

So after getting all excited about some new parts the other day I spent just a little time actually working on my Class 24 while Italy lost to Slovakia.

The loco has been moving on little by little over the last few months. The cabs from the original Hornby class 25 body have been grafted onto the Bachmann body and generally patched and bodged as necessary. The Craftman roof castings have been reprofiled - this has made a huge difference to the appearance of these castings. The ends have now been remodelled as per my original drawings. All this work has left the model with a kind of 'hotch potch' appearance where it's difficult to see the overall effect because of all the different parts and materials used.

A quick mist of primer over the ends instantly united all the parts to allow you to easily see the overall effect - it will also aid final rubbering down and blending.

Obviously there is still a lot of work left to do I'll leave it up to you to decide whether the effort thus far has been worth it but my own opinion is that the 'face' of the loco is much improved over the original Bachmann product whilst retaining the best bits of the newer model.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Operation 24 - New Bits

I briefly had a look at my on going Class 24 today so thought a short update was appropriate. Brassmasters have recently released some rather interesting new parts. Of huge interest for my project is this;

It's a replacement for the original pattern for underframe tanks for the Class 24 in this instance, but other products were released at the same time for other variants of Class 24 and 25. I bought these some time ago and am really looking forward to using them at last!

Having previously scratch built a similar underframe in Plastikard this will also save a lot of time and yield, hopefully, a very pleasing result! If you want a preview of what will be required to fit these parts Brassmasters have an excellent section of their website which give a step by step account. Additionally a PDF is available showing how the parts need modifying for use on a loco which has the full valance in place, just like D5096 will. Finally a new etch covers a few small things I'll need!

It's refreshing that with items such as these and Shawplan's new 'Extreme' parts, diesel modelling is very much moving forward and has parts which now allow modellers to produce models of diesels which very accurate without having to resort to scratch building most additional parts.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Cornwall 2010

As I briefly mentioned when I reported on our visit to Pecorama we visited Cornwall for a week last week - we went with Suzi's parents and stayed in a cottage at the top of Golant. We decided not to refer to it as a holiday as it really was just a change of scene for us and also we wanted Thomas' first 'holiday' to be just the three of us but recent events meant this wasn't possible but we did want to make the most of being away.

On the way down we stop by the Scalefour Society's AGM, though not the meeting itself but there was a small selection of exhibits. Appropriately enough was Wheal Elizabeth, a layout with a Cornish theme!

So with a nice taster of Cornish railways we set off for Cornwall.

Cornwall is an interesting area - it reminded me of parts of North Wales where the slate industry remains are alongside tourist attractions providing a huge contrast between the middle class holiday makers with money to spend and towns struggling since their industries have declined. Similarly remains of mining and clay production stand silently and overgrown as car loads of families thunder by as they go between B&B's, holiday cottages and the beaches and attractions. Sometimes I felt that some things were rather cliched - cream teas available on every street corner in some places. Only when we ventured off the beaten track, and seeing the railways, did I feel I saw the real Cornwall. For example we visited the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek and although there were plenty of visitors seeing the wonderful work they do, it was much more peaceful.

Away from the postcard scenes it was still nice, probably nicer, and altogether much more appealing for me.

The first station we visited was St Austell. It was just to have a look really but it was timed perfectly as two minutes later an HST appeared. The station staff were friendly too; as I was walking off the station one member of staff came up to me and asked 'Did you get your shot?' Not what I was expecting and he also told me about the specials running on Mazey Day! Sadly that's the 26th June and we were back long before then!

Now I don't want you to think it was all railways! It wasn't but as Suzi is one of the most tolerant people in the world, most days involved making a visit to a station while we were out and about!

I had also decided to use film for any railway photography while I was away. The reason behind this was I often feel film has a warmer feel - many books I have have a lovely feel due to the films choices the photographers have made. Many digital images, although wonderful for records, which appear in magazines are so clear and crisp they almost seem clinical in their execution - only in skilled hands does digital seem to be able to have quite the same feeling.

We visited Polperro a couple of times and this is just a stone's throw from Looe so I asked nicely and we went to Looe too. It's a charming little station but unless you trespass in the Police Station car park you won't get a good view - and I wouldn't recommend that!

However the train lengths are rather short, being just one Class 153 unit which made the task slightly easier. If you glance away from the train and the station across the river you see just how delightful the setting is.

Par station was another 'regular' stopping point and very easy for us to get from the top of Golant! It's also the junction for Newquay where a lot of china clay services join the main line. However a problem with the branch would mean this little bit of my plan would be foiled...

The station itself is well kept and is very pleasant as stations go - likewise First Great Western's trains seemed to be equally clean and well presented.

However clean the units were, it still didn't make up for not seeing clay workings at Par! Though it was nice to make use of the bridge which has appeared in many photos I've seen over the years!

I did a little better at Lostwithiel; the first time we went down to the station we were met the barriers down and saw an HST hammer past! However Suzi suggested I had a look at the station anyway.

A couple of minutes later and 66 093 comes into view with a load of CDA wagons bound for Fowey!

I know many may not consider this to be the classic traction for china clay workings but this is still a fascinating operation and a pleasure to see whatever the motive power.

And as one who loves to weather models, the wagons would provide a lovely project! The contrasts between the bright clay and oil and grease could provide stunning results!

I never got the classic shot at Golant sadly - the aforementioned derailment, I was told, caused a number of operational problems and despite waiting at points on each day I never managed it. However, next time!

So we finished the week railways wise (aside from Pecorama) at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway. We went to Bodmin General station and, having paid for our platform tickets, made the most of the facilities and enjoyed a drink and something to eat outside the buffet while the train crew ran round.

Maybe we've taken Thomas to see too many preserved railways now; despite the loud noises and whistles coming from 5552 he wasn't scared in the slightest - other older children were however!

I rather liked Cornwall - parts of the coastline are superb. The railways fascinated me and subject to scoring sufficient brownie points I'd love to see more of them - especially in North Cornwall too. The areas we visited had some real hidden gems and if you want to step away from the usual tourist trails it's a lovely part of the world, not Yorkshire mind but not bad!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Here's an interesting comparison of before and after weathering for ready-to-run items. The wagons are both of Bachmann's latest generation of short wheelbase wagons and as such need very little doing to them - in fact aside from couplings these two are exactly as they come! I bought both of these at Pecorama last Saturday so I'd have them in time to weather them so I could give them to my Dad for his birthday.

If you exclude the work required to get the vans ready for their new couplings (not fitted in the 'after' photo) then it was probably a total of half an hour for each wagon spread over a couple of 'sittings'. Obviously with more than one wagon you save time by not having to mix separate batches of weathering mixes, although it's worth just varying the mixes ever so slightly for each wagon to give a little bit of variety whilst retaining a consistent overall look.

The chassis were sprayed away from the bodies to speed up work - these were just sprayed with a dirt mix varied slightly over the two wagons. Remember to paint the wheels at the same time.

The bodies were sprayed with a dusty coloured mix and left to dry for half and hour or so (though overnight would be fine too) then the paint removed with a wide chisel brush moistened with thinners. This process isn't instant and you need to go over it a number of times with the brush before begins to look right. Use vertical stokes as any brush strokes left visible will mimic the action of rain running down the sides. I finished off using moistened cotton buds. The final things before reassembly was to coat the roof in grime.

So for an hour's work here are two wagons which are ready to go -they won't stand out from the crowd whatsoever, but that's the point. They will become part of the overall scene. I think this alone makes it a worthwhile exercise.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Recording the Mundane

One thing which I have been considering recently is that I should perhaps make more of an effort to record some of the local railway scenes which we have around here - not just the remaining parts of closed lines which I regularly do but also those which are all around and very much current. The railway is an ever changing entity and it's amazing just how quickly things change. The view of 66 246 just inside the dock gates at Hull Docks on 31st January 2007 demonstrates this rather well. The view now is impossible due to development of the land in the foreground with large fences now present aqnd also the HAA type wagons are now a thing of the past on these workings so this is very much a historical image.

Likewise images like 158 910 at Beverley 11th of August 2008 is typical of the current scene locally but soon this too will one day be the thing of the past and if no one has recorded it what will future modellers and historians do?

Sunday, 13 June 2010


On our way back from Cornwall on Saturday (more of which will follow shortly!) we made a small detour to Pecorama in Beer. This first view really sums up the combination of model railways and stunning surroundings!

I have to admit that I hadn't realises that it's not open on Saturday afternoons - it closes at 1300 - so we only looked at the exhibition and not the Beer Heights Light Railway and gardens. We'll know for next time!

The exhibition is rather cleverly presented, showing all sorts of location where layouts could be accommodated within a house. The layouts themselves have appeared Railway Modeller at various points over the years.

I've wanted to visit Pecorama since I was around four years old! In Railway Modeller during the summer the colourful adverts for Pecorama would always appear and it always appealed to me! So finally visiting, it had a lot to live up to! And I wasn't disappoint I'm pleased to say!

Although the layouts are mostly, and unashamedly, 'RTR based' they are carefully and thoughtfully put together and some show real ingenuity in their design, fitting into their proposed environments very neatly - though I have to say if proposed something similar in our hallway, Suzi might not be too impressed! One thing which really came through was that model railways can (and indeed, should!) be fun and as sophisticated as you like.

Pecorama is well worth a visit and I do hope to return at some point in the future - although if Thomas is much older we'll need a large supply of ten pence pieces for the 'drive it yourself' garden railway! Actually, I think we'll need them for Suzi too!


As I've said before, I think that Bachmann's Warship, although getting on a bit, is still an excellent base on which to build. Here we have the latest example based on the Bachmann model; not much done really after renumbering and fitting new nameplates.

The modification which has the most immediate impact is filling the pillar between the windscreens with paint! This example also has had its front end 'tidied' with the removal of the headboard brackets. Otherwise the supplied pips have been added once painted and the MU gear removed - many Warships had this removed later in life.

Finally the loco was weathered using photos so it was as it appeared in 1970 and you can see the loco sitting in the summer sun!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Well, it's been an interesting few days...

The week started rather well when we went up to Robin Hood's Bay for our wedding anniversary and we said goodbye to one of our Rover 620ti's, which has now gone to its new owner in Wiltshire.

However a stay in hospital was both unexpected and not very pleasant! That's not to criticise the staff at Hull Royal Infirmary though - they were excellent and very kind indeed. I know the NHS comes in for a lot of criticism in the media but they made things go as well as you could have hoped. I must admit I was surprised that I got bored of ladies in nurses' uniforms asking me to take my clothes off though...!

I'd been rushed in having had breathing problems as I couldn't take deep breaths without being in a lot of pain. They suspected a blood clot but after lots of tests it was decided that it was muscular damage which gave very similar symptoms! I'll admit it was a little scary at times - and I'd not been admitted to hospital since I was about a couple of weeks old! Friends and family have been fantastic!

No idea what I've done though - one friend did suggest it was probably the shock of having to use tools at Mountsorrel instead of watching the lads do the work - he always says 'techs don't use tools!' Cheeky so and so!

I was very pleased to be back home, albeit rather sore. So just to get me into the swing of things I had a quick look at one 'on going' project.

I haven't done much; just added a couple more parts of the AWS apparatus as a form of recuperation. I also added new lamp irons as I felt that Bachmann's original were too big and clumsy and spoiled the clean simple lines of the loco. I also swapped the top feed for the Bradwell item - the Bachmann one is fine but I had the Bradwell casting in stock as it was on the same sprue as the other boiler fittings and it is rather nice! The front of the loco is really enhanced with the new lamp irons - they're made from 0,75 mm phosphor bronze strip from Mainly Trains which is ideal for this task!

So a little bit of progress on a personal project and a nice way to settle back into day to day life!