Monday, 30 August 2010

The Whistler Conundrum

Class 40s, also know as 'whistlers' due to the noise their four turbos make, have been part of the railway history for over fifty years now. They're a favourite of mine even though most had been withdrawn before I was born! My dad also has a soft spot for them as he remembers them regularly working into Hull when they were new. He always said how massive they appeared! Indeed, their size was the reason for their wheel arrangement, 1Co-Co1, the extra carrying wheels being required to spread their weight! D208 was the first one he saw and this was one we had to have for Eastmoor. This was the result of a teenage project based on the Lima model and detailed using various Craftsman parts. When I finished this I really felt I'd achieved something!

Some parts of the Internet seem to be busy discussing the news that Bachmann are to 'retool' their class 40 after the news appeared in the latest edition of Rail Express Modeller. I must admit I hate the use of 'retool' - there seems to be a lot of confusion as to whether this means that we will see the results of new tooling or if the existing tool. I find it frustrating when people seem not to care that there is a difference between the two since the results of the process could be very different indeed...

Anyway, the Bachmann class 40 has had a hugely difficult life. It seems to be accepted now that the model is severely challenged in terms of dimensional accuracy which throws out the proportions of various parts of the model. As such it's not just a case of the odd misplaced grille which can be rectified by the determined modeller at home, but a something which was so compromised that it could never be corrected without virtually starting again! The rather flat and slab-like appearance of the windscreens didn't help the 'face' of the model either. Even the bogie pivots are in the wrong locations making it hard to add certain chassis details because they would now be in the way of the bogie's wider swing when they weren't in reality.

Now I don't want anyone to think I'm criticising Bachmann for the sake of it; the model in question isn't an excuse to do so. I think my views com from a feeling of disappointment more than anything else - if you look at some of their other offerings, such as their BR standard locos, the class 08 and the mark 1 range of coaches you can see just how good the results can be. This is why it was so frustrating!

So any positives at all? Well, out of the box it appears less offensive to the eye (once they sorted out the ride height) than the Lima model and it has the now familiar central motor and flywheel arrangement driving both bogies, albeit just two axles on each one. Even so it could haul a decent load quite comfortably.

Fairly soon, even in the original Rail Express review in fact, people realised that the chassis frame perfectly fitted the Lima body....

Ah yes, Lima's effort - doesn't look too clever out of the box does it?

Well, with a bit of work it can look superb. Still not a 100% but for many people it could satisfy their desire for a decent class 40. It suffers from numerous problems out of the box but with care can make a decent model, as I hope my effort with 343 above shows. Hornby are just about to release an upgrade version of the Lima model in their Railroad range - it'll have a much better motor and could provide good starting pointing still.

The wide bogies (with the water tanks widened to match) are the major and most obvious visual failing. Careful weathering can help disguise this, but here the Bachmann chassis looks so much better - my only slight criticism being the axleboxes and springs could do with more relief, but the overall effect is much better. Combining the Lima body with the Bachmann chassis seemed like it could be the way ahead for a number of modellers.

One of my versions using a Lima body and a Bachmann chassis
I have tried this with a couple of models - the results seemed quite promising. Certainly some of the locomotives on Mostyn built using this combination are very good indeed! The article in Rail Express Modeller (Rail Express issue 115) is well worth seeking out as it contains a huge amount of useful information for anyone modelling the forties, regardless of which route they choose.

Things do get complicated though. Despite all its faults and flaws the Bachmann loco can look ok! Aside from the weathering, very little has been done.

Not bad, is it? Likewise the class 40 which I saw on Thorne Yard at Pickering, looked 'right' in the context of the layout.

This does make me start to question all of the various options I've looked into and tried out in the past - all that work to work around the problems which in these two examples I can quite happily overlook and enjoy the results as decent models of class forties! This rather contradictory view does unnecessarily complicate matters for me; whilst able to accept things on work by others but on my own work I think I'm just so much more critical. Whether this is a good or bad thing I'm never sure.

One thing of which I can be certain now is that anyone choosing to model a class 40 in four mil' is that they'll never be short of detailing parts - Brian Hanson of Shawplan is due to be releasing a wonderful range of high fidelity etched parts for the class 40! I was priviledged to have a set of preproduction parts and they are superb - his new parts are taking diesel modelling forward in huge leaps!

With the new Bachmann model due soon I'm going to hold off on any class forty projects; I really want to model D282 as there's a superb photo in one book I have of it passing through the village station a few months before the lines closure. I have high hopes for the model as Bachmann's latest round of class 37s have been huge improvements on the original release.

But one thing I'd encourage all those interested in modelling the class forties is to make their own minds up. There are so many people out there ready to make decisions on your behalf but at the end of the day, if a model pleases you despite all its faults, then maybe this is the main thing? There's a wealth of information in books, magazines and on the net to allow a very informed decision to me made. I sometimes think that many models are as good as we want them to be if we're prepared to make the most of all things at our disposal and put some time and effort in. Much like life I suppose.


Diesels in Depth: Class 40s by David Clarke
Rail Express 115: Class 40s for Mostyn


Class 40 Appeal

Monday, 23 August 2010

Pickering 2010

This is the first post of here for a while - life seems to have been very busy lately, chasing even the vaguest job opportunity and with a funeral thrown in. This time of year seems to move very quickly anyway and in the space of a week many of the golden fields which surround the village have now turned to a freshly ploughed shade of brown - autumn's knocking on the door now.

Over the weekend we made a family visit to Pickering, which nicely coincided the Scarborough Model Railway Society's exhibition at Pickering's Memorial Hall. A small show but with a pretty decent selection of layouts. Niddbeck Bridge is a favourite of mine - it has been mentioned here before too! It's a wonderful advert for 2mm Finescale, showing just what can be achieved in a small space.

One layout which I really liked was Thorne Yard - very much in the heart of the blue era (early eighties I think) it was well presented and is one of the few times when an exhibition layout, in my opinion, has presented DCC sound locos effectively. There was no conflict with other sounds and it worked superbly and really complimented the layout. It was, undoubtedly, helped by being in a room with no other layouts so other layouts couldn't 'leak' their sounds over it! It was placed, thoughtfully, next to a rather nice DCC demo too.

Although 00 the handbuilt track was carefully executed and at first glance you could have mistaken it for EM! Certainly positive for when we re-start Eastmoor where the intention is to build all the track in the scenic areas, which could be a large task, but the result will hopefully be worth it. Thorne Yard convinced me that handbuilt track in 00 won't look too obviously 'narrow gauge'. We returned for more than one look at the layout, which is always a good sign!

My only criticism of the show is that it wouldn't be easy to get a push chair round - the lift to the upstairs would actually be OK, but the main hall would be a struggle, I do realise that the layout of the building itself contributes to this, but we noticed that one visitor in a wheelchair didn't seem to have an easy time. So only my dad and I went in leaving my mum, Suzi and Thomas to look round the shops, they seemed to cope though! I know Thomas is only eight months old, but he does like watching things go past so it was a shame we couldn't have easily taken him round.

After the show we had a drink sitting outside the Beck View cafe which was rather relaxing and civilised aside from my mad dash across the road to I could get a few detail photos for my on-going class 24!

So, my one issue aside, Scarborough MRS' Pickering exhibition is a show which is well worth visiting if you're free this time next year!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Project 31

This project has been brewing for a little while however life has been very busy of late - thankfully part of this was preparing for an interview! Waiting to hear on this, but it was nice to be able to speak to someone and not just go through online applications.

So back to modelling for a little respite and to start by being a little controversial; I don't like the Hornby 31! There's something about the body that just doesn't do it for me. I'm not sure what it is, but the overall shape just doesn't seem right - maybe the sides are too flat? The mechanism, however, is rather better than Lima's standard motor but the Lima body looks so much better to me. The curve of the bodysides look 'right' to my eyes. I must say at this juncture that if you're happy with your Hornby 31, then you'll be saved all this aggro!

When the Hornby 31 first appeared I bought one immediately, I had ordered it once it was announced but it sat in the workshop because I just wasn't happy. A new project can justify a model of 31 171 in Railfreight grey; a photo of the loco on the line provided the impetus for this model. I had Lima model which would provide the basis, but what to do for the mechanism?

Well I decided to sell the body and use the mechanism; good idea I thought, but the Lima body is just under a millimeter short than the Hornby one, so the Hornby chassis isn't a direct fit. Even with the ends filled down the buffer beams wouldn't be right relative to the cab fronts. I considered using just the main Hornby chassis block this - I even cut the buffer beams off chassis! The only thing was I thought about how about how to locate the chassis block and then thought that since the Lima chassis frame locates perfectly within the body I'd save myself a whole load of work! The lost weight can easily made up using lead. Therefore I began to cannibalise the Hornby chassis for the bogies, motor, drive shafts and the battery box details and use these with the Lima chassis frame.

The set up is very simple - the total time is about an hour, allowing for any extra ballast to dry. The work was very similar to that of 37 219 which appears at the top of my blog. Very simple cut outs at the former non-powered end and simple bearing pieces from 60 thou Plastikard with 1/8" holes to take the bogie pivots. I also fitted the Hornby battery boxes and once they were in place filled them with lead and added a flat piece of Plastikard over them to provide a seat for the motor. This was secured with silicon sealant.

The chassis was very quickly wired up using the original pick up wires to test it. The loco has now a much better mechanism (though a good Lima loco is still very useful!) and will no doubt improve further once it has new Gibson wheels. The other advantage is that the bogies have finer detail too which can only enhance the overall look.

Which brings us nicely up to date!

The rest of the work will be quite a standard detailing project, well within the capabilities of most modellers! Just a little care and the result should be very pleasing.


For those who wish to see a little more of the project, it is currently being discussed on RMweb and Jim Smith-Wright has a variation on the same theme too.