Tuesday, 31 March 2015

"BRWS Ltd Update #3 - Of J15s, cabbages and Kings…"

Goodbye March! It's been a tough old month. I started my new job on the 23rd and I am loving the change in work stream. I have to work very hard over the next few months and really concentrate, so the change to monthly blogs is an advantage for sure!

So I started the month with a simple enough task. I had to change my Hornby J15 into something more personal to me, and one which no one else had done yet. One with a stovepipe, suitable for my layout set in 1946-49. I scoured books, magazines and online to find one...

So the most obvious change was to the chimney, which was a straight swap for an Alan Gibson turned brass stovepipe chimney. I simply removed the plastic Hornby one with pliers - surprisingly not damaging it (it can be re-used for something else I suspect - an industrial steam engine?) and glued it down onto the boiler.

The cab and tender sides were then shorn of emblem and numerals, using a glass fibre pen worked carefully with a little water.

This image is a composite of two pictures showing the difference between my J15 as bought, and modified. The stovepipe chimney is more obvious as a result. A further change to the model was the removal of the smokebox numberplate from the smokebox door, which was removed using a scalpel and a thin, edged file to finish.

The body shell and tender body were removed, and gloss black sprayed over the top. I have been using standard plasticote paints for some time with plain black models, and the reason for this may become more clear later on. I used press fix HMRS transfers for the number and lettering.

No.5398 was a Stratford based example that retained its stovepipe due to wartime austerity. I managed to find a number of pictures of this locomotive and it was clear to me it would be the only one suitable for my needs at this time.

You can see here that the lack of a stovepipe and removal of the smokebox numberplate really transforms the look of the model. But it is in weathering and adding a crew that I find Hornby's J15 really comes alive...

I used Tamiya weathering palettes to get the overall finish I wanted on the tender frames and locomotive chassis, before dry brushing a variety of Humbrol enamel paints over the top, and sealing the whole model with a few coats of Gamesworkshop's Purity Seal varnish finisher.

The result is a model which has a nice, unkempt look and will fit in nicely amongst the other models I am working on at present.

The crew is from Bachmann and have been weathered to match the locomotive. I do like the pose on this fella, watching the road ahead.

Adding a lamp indicating a K class goods train rounds things off.

I am slowly getting there with this vision of having set trains and train engines for my layout. I hope to have a lot more updates next month (I've been saying this for a while).

- - -

On an entirely different note, I notice a lot of hullabaloo on a few infamous websites regarding a certain product announced last year (which I also felt was controversial at the time). Here's a little hypothetical for you all to mull on, and bear with me whilst I explain further later on...

If a bank said to a consumer...

"That product you ordered? We're cancelling it, you won't be able to buy it from us now".
"But you can have it from an appointed representative of us, in a nice new box".

"Oh, and it'll cost £30 extra for the trouble of reordering".

 ...we would hear no end of complaints about the bank's behaviour, clamours for heads to roll, who thought that up, and a general agreement that this is not good business practice nor is it fair on the consumer.

So why do I bring up this example? Hattons announced practically the same scenario this week, via email, for their model of King George V to be manufactured by DJ Models, and for all orders they had taken to be cancelled, directing their previously potential customers to STEAM instead to buy a now more expensive product.

As a loyal Hattons customer, and looking at both sides of the story, I feel it is only right to say that I have only ever received excellent customer service from them. Delivieries, returns, and pre-orders, they have never put a foot wrong with me.

However I feel, looking from the outside in, that this could have all been handled very differently. Good customer service is looking at what might potentially inconvenience your existing customers, and being pro active in not looking to appease them but to genuinely help them in a positive and constructive manner: and where things have gone wrong, putting them back on track.

It is very interesting to note how customers, who have in some respects been let down and now have to consider their order and its new cost, are being pilloried for their disappointment in various locations. Are we no longer allowed to question the quality of customer service, just because it happens to take place in the model railway world?

I can't help but feel disappointed on two fronts here. Firstly that such a situation still happens: and asking myself would it really have broken the bank to simply ask the customers of that model at Hattons if they wished to have their order transferred to STEAM, and if they still wished to proceed at that new advertised price? It would have only taken an e-mail or an update on the Hattons website.

In my view that would have been the right and fair thing to do, rather than cancelling all the orders as they have done.

On a different (but somewhat related!) note, I can see that Hornby have put a few sound files out for their TTS fitted King, due later this year, in addition to photographs of the model rapidly taking shape.
It looks excellent, and for my money, is going to eclipse the recent Heavy Tanks and Star by some way. As well it might, being designed post "design-clever" and on the back of the recent excellent Peppercorn K1 and J15.

- - -

Oh, and one update for fans of The British Railway Stories. Book Two - Great Western Glory - is getting close to entering the artwork stage. The book is now finished and being readying for printing before being sent to Dean Walker, our artist, for illustrating.

Exciting times! I have also promised a new set of films featuring a few familiar faces…but more on that another day.

Until next time.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

"Hornby J15 - quick peek at some modelling…"

I thought I'd share a few photographs of my first Hornby J15, which has been modified extensively. These photographs appeared on MREmag today, and will be the subject of my big blog at the end of the month.

The fireman keeps a sharp look out whilst the driver nurses no.5398 home...

One of the few J15s fitted with a stovepipe chimney as a wartime austerity measure, she still carries shaded lettering and NE on the tender...

She's seen better days, but she won't be withdrawn for almost another decade, despite her looks!

She simmers, waiting for the signal, with a K class goods train.

And that's yer lot for now...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

"Of forums and websites"

One particular model railway forum is celebrating its tenth birthday today, and I felt, having been passed a link to a thread on said forum, that some right of reply was needed today.

Over the ten year period of that model railway forum - whose name I will not give as I have no intention of adding to it in any constructive way in future - has seen lots of very positive, very welcome developments, in addition to some lovely moments of support and genuine help for others in need or distress.

I feel that the early and mid years of that forum were its best, forming a cohesive atmosphere where modellers and collectors alike were able to indulge in debates and discussions about modelling. It was a positive atmosphere and many positive things happened.

However, all of this positive energy came, not from one man (as has been intimated strongly) but from a large group of individuals, who, time and again put their own money into the coffers to keep that forum running and to support its creator in the original intention of making a decent forum for the discussion of and development of model railways.

To that, I have this to say to the current management.

You should not forget where you have come from, and the individuals which have helped you along the way: you should be humble, and respectful, and whatever you may think of people now, remember that every single modeller who shared their work with you helped get you where you are today.

You should be grateful for the help and support you have had, and the fact that people were willing to share their work freely with you, in the knowledge that they were genuinely helping others and not contributing directly to a corporate entity.

You should be grateful and be publicly grateful for the monetary support that many individuals - even those with not a lot of cash at the best of times - have donated directly to you in order to pay for the facility you now manage on behalf of a business.

You should also be mindful of the fact that labelling those - and all of those - who have left your forum as "crazies" and making asides such as this in your anniversary thread - does you no favours.

In fact, being the bigger man and paying tribute, not to the forum software you have used over the years, but to those who have helped you get where you are, would have put you up a few estimations in many people's views.

It might have gone some way to perhaps alleviating many of the complaints and concerns that have been put directly to the management and owners of said forum. In fact, dare I say an olive branch and some humility would have gone a long way to, if not healing wounds, then continuing down a path where mutual respect and civility could have been the order of the day.

In short, it would have been the right thing to do, and you would have reaped many benefits from it.

Now, for my part, I am one of those individuals who supported the forum in question in its early days through to its formative mid years before the takeover. Last year I was "moderated" for various reasons, one of which was for being, and I quote directly, "polite with intent".

Despite many attempts to assess what exactly that means, and what comments in question were "breaking rule 9", I was left with little to go on and understandably frustrated with the process and the manner in which moderating action had been taken.

After much discussion over a six week period with a senior member of the editorial team, I chose to walk away completely and have done so, save for tying up a few loose ends here and there where others had asked for my help or I felt I should do the right thing and say a few words.

I made several requests in my dialogue with that senior member (who I feel was doing an admirable job in light of the rock and hard place scenario he had been placed into, in my view unfairly by the other staff member), the details of which I was asked to not divulge publicly, so I will not.

I respect the confidentiality of that agreement though I understand and have been provided proof by others that this is not the case on the other side.

Doing the right thing is not just about looking at things all from your own point of view. Looking at both sides of the story and making a balanced, and if possible, as unbiased as possible decision based on the facts of the matter, is doing the right thing.

When you are the head of a forum, or a magazine, or a website, you have a duty of care to your consumers that you act in an appropriate fashion and with professional behaviour. If your customers have concerns and air these, in whatever fashion, it is for you to rise above it and present a professional air.

I do not have any regrets in walking away from that forum, and in fact my modelling has not suffered from it. In fact, by keeping to my blog and on Facebook, my modelling has improved in quality and in its breadth to the extent that I have a new layout taking shape with many new interesting models and projects to be run on it.

I am happiest being able to contribute in small ways elsewhere, not least MREmag whose three day publishing per week suits me down to the ground. I enjoy writing in to the letters page and debating with people there. It is good fun and a number of very useful posts have been made in response.

Far from sending the "crazies" away to another location of the inter web, I find that MREmag has a very active and very knowledgeable number of readers and contributors; and Phil Parker's calm editorial style puts it above a number of other sites. Long may it continue.

For those who may not have visited MREmag, please do so and enjoy reading it.

Until next time.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

"BRWS Ltd Update #2 - Silver Jubilee"

Happy Februrary, one and all! As this month draws to a close, I've been reflecting on a lot of things both railway and non railway related. All things considered, 2015 is going exceptionally well. 

At the end of January, I found out that I had been promoted at work, and I start my new role next month - can't wait! 

I've also been doing a lot of writing by taking part in 28 Plays Later - it's been great fun but also thoroughly exhausting at times!

The last couple of months have also seen seen a bumper round of modelling. You'll remember the Hornby Railroad Silver Fox train pack I picked up cheaply from a previous blog post I hope. Well, now the set is articulated and on its way towards completion. 

It is a very simply system. Two screws fitted into the Gresley bogie, and two pivot points in the bottom of the Railroad coaches. Nothing more, nothing less.

The pivot points are actually made from the retaining lugs which come from the Great British Locomotives magazine packs - I have hundreds of these now and they are proving to be extremely useful!

As you can see, just two screws (again, both sourced from the aforementioned magazine!) fitted into a standard Hornby bogie.

The coaches fit together by the screws being inserted into the pivot point. The only change that needs to be made is drilling out the pivot points to be just a little wider than the screws to allow for maximum flexibility around curves.

And that, as they say, is that.

The valances are being made out of plastic, and at this stage I have no intention to do more than make the basic shape - I tried a number of ideas for bending them to the correct shape, but to be frank these are cheap Railroad coaches and the idea of the project was to make them more passable rather than a rivet counter's dream (which they could never be).

The use of some Humbrol acrylic paint - Tank Grey - applied to the sides makes the whole presentation a bit better.

I have since fitted NEM pockets to all of the bogies, and I will be using long shank kadees with them - these worked better than the standard Hornby/Roco coach couplers.

The last alteration I have managed thus far is to the locomotive, replacing the tender and cartazzi frames with two spares I had to make the locomotive look closer to the real thing - spot the difference!

The overall effect is quite good I think and lifts the Railroad model a tad. I intend to fit lamp irons and lamps, and some glazing to the cab to finish the model off.

Where would a railway based on the East Coast main line be without the Gresley A3 Pacific? I have been doing a lot of work on mine! As you can see from the above photograph, they are all based on the Hornby Railroad A1 Flying Scotsman model.

The above model is intended to be St. Simon (a little self serving!) and has had a new cab fitted, a new dome, resin smokebox superheater headers, whitemetal buffers, a resin smokebox door, a new smokebox door dart and a Hornby A3 chimney. The original body shell can be seen above.

The cabs come from the Great British Locomotives issue 3, and I think you can tell what the subject of that model is! The white templates in the top right of the picture are for fitting Alan Gibson brass washout plugs - this allows me to drill the holes in the correct place for an 94HP boiler.

I've replaced all of the driving wheels and the bogie wheels on all of my Railroad A1 chassis now.

Now paired up with their chassis and tenders, the whole fleet is coming together nicely. There are going to be three with GNR tenders (St. Simon, Robert the Devil and Humorist, at the front), one with an A4 tender (who else but Flying Scotsman herself?) and two with the non corridor beaded tenders (one will be Trigo, the other I haven't decided yet).

Humorist is the furthest along and I will hopefully have finished her, weathering and all, by the summer. She's had the most amount of modifications as she formed the prototype from which I have developed my modelling further. She's by no means perfect but she is all my own work which is satisfying.

In January, two significant models landed for review. The Hornby Peppercorn K1 and from the same stable, the 21 ton hopper wagon. Both are absolutely superb and complement each other well. Here is my K1 - soon to be one of the Stratford based examples - pulling a rake of these wagons.

There are two Dapol interlopers in the set which will be modified heavily to match as best they can.

The Hornby K1 is more of the same level of excellence in the locomotive department that we come to expect (particularly the B1/O1/L1/B17 models for example) but the hopper wagons are on another level for rolling stock entirely.

I cannot believe how little discussion has been generated by these wagons online, but I am told by my usual retailers, Invicta Model Rail in Sidcup, that they are flying off the shelves. All for the greater good I suspect!

You'll recall, if you have been keeping up with my Twitter or Facebook feeds, that I have been working on a model of a Thompson A2/3 Pacific. This one came to me in pretty bad shape. Well, after a lot of work, the model is nearing completion.

I'm quite proud of how much I turned it around on this model. Graeme King came to the rescue with a set of front frames and a new running plate, and after that the fitting of Hornby sprung group standard buffers, Bachmann V2 valve gear, and new cylinders have transformed the model.

Add to that the painting stage is now almost complete, and the transfers and nameplates can go on. She'll be finished in LNER plain gill sans numerals and lettering as Sun Castle. This was a Copley Hill based A2/3 for a couple of years in the forties and is one I always wanted to make for myself.

I've also been having some fun outside of work and railways! On Valentines day, I took the girlfriend out to see The Railway Children at King's Cross - it is a truly immersive experience and everyone should go, even those who don't like railways, purely because it is such a brilliant performance piece.

Our evening was spent in a lot of railway related locations, including the delightful Plum & Spilt Milk restaurant - the set course there was excellent! The service was also top notch, and I can attest from my hangover the next day that their cocktail bar is brilliant…!

I thoroughly recommend the restaurant but I do not recommend my hair do for the evening!

And of course, there was some time to go round King's Cross afterwards and take in the sights. It was a wonderful evening. I was thinking I over did it on the railway theme a tad though…! Don't worry, it's not all going to be railway related in the future…!

Finally, touching down this week from Invicta Model Rail again was the stunning Hornby J15.

I really don't know how I could describe this model as being anything other than the perfect LNER branch line engine. No really - it is the smoothest running model Hornby - or any OO manufacturer - has ever produced.

Big claim, but with a five pole motor and two flywheels, a metal boiler and running plate, I think it's a fair one. Yes there's a few niggles - the handrails should be inclined, not horizontal, and I'm not 100% sure about the way Hornby have made it possible to do the two versions of the cab sides and roof, but on the whole it's an exquisite model and everyone should buy one!

Mine went straight into the works for renumbering and and some modifications, the big change is of course the chimney.

Colin at Alan Gibson very kindly sent over in the post this excellent turned brass stovepipe chimney. The intention was to put the J15 in early 1948 livery with the lettering and plain Gill Sans numerals, but I can't find a photograph of a J15 like that as yet…!

Some black paint was applied for the camera to compare with the second J15 purchase. The shininess will be toned down at the weathering stage.

So that was my month of February. If you have any questions about the modelling, please do get in touch via the email address on the contacts page. Next month's update will hopefully include some layout modelling too.

Until next time!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

"BRWS Ltd Monthly update #1"

So another year begins and yet more modelling and writing goes unreported. I did say it was getting more and more difficult to report on the blog, with work taking up so much of my time. This is part of the reason why I am changing to a monthly blog update.

This means there will only be twelve major blogs this year - a big change from the normal weekly or as and when updates of years gone by.

I apologise for this, but life has changed a lot since I started this blog at university, way back in 2006 (though in its present incarnation, 2008 when it changed to The British Railway Stories blog, now a limited company of course). Times change, and we have to change with the times.

Therefore I intend on making my blogs a lot more in depth, with a lot more photography, and more modelling as a result! All to the greater good for my readers.

Last year I took delivery of a Thompson A2/3, partially built, from a friend. This model was a commission for that friend and the modeller who had built had not finished the job.

This locomotive is now in the queue and is further along than it was previously.

Then we have the fleet of Gresley A3 Pacifics which are being modified continuously. Humorist is nearly complete (front loco) but the rest are in various stages of completion. They do now also require a new place to be stored, which will present some difficulties I suspect.

In my quest to have several of the exchange trial locomotives, I've built purely for my own whim a Stanier Pacific: City of Lancaster, built from the cheap Great British Locomotives Magazine model and using a modified Hornby chassis. It'll be out shopped in wartime black with British Railways numbering and LMS lettering.

Finally, the scenic baseboards are now wired up for Ganwick Curve, as my layout is now know. The next stage is to build the rest of the boards - two curved sections and a fiddle yard.

So that is that for the time being, with more to follow next month, when I will go back in time a little bit, and present a few of my completed A4 Pacific projects for scrutiny and comparison.

Until next time!