Tuesday, 15 July 2014

"…Mallard, and a minor rant on buffers"

So I am aware I may be boring a large majority of you at present. For the last two years, the majority of my blog posts - when it comes to modelling anyway - has centred around the Gresley class A4 Pacific. In my defence, they are a large part of my future modelling plans and my test pieces I do now will provide valuable experience for when I go to do future models.

Case in point: I have decided beyond reasonable doubt that I severely dislike Hornby's front buffer apron piece. The actual buffer beam shanks are much more slender on the real thing in my opinion:

Bittern, masquerading as Dominion of New Zealand three years ago, showing the very thin buffer beam shanks.

Now look at the buffer beam shanks on my two A4s. There's no comparison: the Maygib products on the Great British Locomotives body shell is by far superior. A real pity as that's the one thing which really lets the Hornby Railroad and super detail models down in my view.

(And before anyone starts, yes I am aware of the difference in shade between the various photographs of the models and the real thing above. Wait until the models are weathered and then sealed with Johnson's Klear and then judge!)

Things still to do on no.e22 Mallard include adding lamp irons, cab spectacle etches, cylinder drain cocks, bucket seats, cab glazing, transfers on front of casing and stainless steel numerals on cabsides fitted.

Quite a list, but it does feel good to get off my backside and do some modelling, even if it's just a respray with some added details in this case.

Until next time.

Monday, 7 July 2014

"Casting resin tenders…"

The great thing about model railways, is that one day you could be building baseboards, painting a train, or messing around with rubber moulds and Alumilite resin plastic.

As regulars to this blog may be aware, I am currently in the process of building a fleet of A4 Pacifics, and as a prototype I made a model of no.17 Silver Fox. Well, that model hasn't got the right tender type behind it. Until now...

This is a semi-successful first casting of a streamlined 1935 A4 corridor tender. This is intended to go behind Silver Fox, and hopefully will lead to further castings for the rest of the intended fleet of A4s which share this tender type (more than you'd think!)

I will make another attempt later next month with this mould and a two piece one, but for what it is, not bad for a first casting.

Please note that this one is a solid lump of resin! The weight of the piece means it probably won't need metal weights on the chassis when fitted to the Hornby tender frames it is intended for.

I am going to try a two piece mould next month to compare methods. The weight of the solid one means I probably won't need to add metal weights to a set of Hornby frames! The Alumilite resin used is extremely hard. I will clean this prototype up during the course of this and see how it comes out as a tender.

You'll note I left the window moulding on the rear of the tender - will probably just paint the window black and the surround silver. You can't see into the non existent corridor on the Hornby ones anyway…

Until next time!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

"The layout building begins…"

Many years ago, I had a little six feet by four feet model railway. It was a Christmas present from my father and grandfather, when I was seven years old.

The baseboard which formed that first model railway formed the next, which was christened Copley Hill in 2006 and formed the basis of this blog for many years. I had lots of fun, whether it was filming those early episodes of The British Railway Stories, filming the Hornby Vs Bachmann review videos (sorry for the lack of updates there by the way!) or just watching my favourite trains go round and round.

Times change, and interests grow. I wanted more than a roundy round with a shed in the centre. I wanted something which could sustain my interest and increasing locomotive fleet.

This Christmas, that baseboard turns twenty years old, and it will form the centre board of the fiddle yard for my new model railway, as yet unnamed.

So in the last few weeks I made a start, finally, on replacing Copley Hill. I started with building the first of what will eventually be six scenic baseboards.

They are laser cut baseboards, available from Tim Horn here. The reviews in the model railway press had been favourable, so I thought I'd give them a try, buying his pack of three light weight baseboards first.

They go together very well, with nothing more than press fixing, a bit of wood glue and a small mallet. Perfect for my hamfistedness!

This afternoon, I finished the last two of the first three boards, and then started layout planning. I have a vague idea of what I want from the finished layout, and so put together a bit of a photo opportunity.

So the idea is to create a mainline on a lower level and one on a higher level, with tunnels at either end and making use of retaining walls almost everywhere.

What I like about this side is that the width and length of the baseboards make them pretty easy to handle.

The crossover of the two lines is likely to include a girder bridge, which I am working on.

The embankments are likely to be built up by sections of off cut foam board.

So I'm afraid, not a lot of detail today. Forgive me, it is Sunday and I am preparing for the week ahead.

Please feel free to say hallo to me at the Talyllyn Railway on Friday if you see me out and about. I will be there with The British Railway Stories' artist Dean Walker, presenting a special piece of his artwork for them to auction off in aid of repairing their no.1 locomotive.

Until next time.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

"Little Bytham"

A little video of some runs Silver Fox made alongside a proper Hornby A4 (namely, Merlin) owned by Tom Foster and my solitary Thompson A2/2, Wolf of Badenoch, on Tony Wright's exquisite Little Bytham layout.

Sunday, 29 June 2014


I have spent an inordinate amount of time, effort and some (budgeted) money on building up a few prototypes of A4 Pacific models to help myself develop my modelling more, and to provide a clear cut way of making the locomotives I want for my future layout.

One locomotive I plan on having is Mallard, and to be frank given my previous (extremely flawed) attempt at making the speed record holder (seen above) I need to make the next one look the part on a number of levels.

So, to our third prototype in the A4 conversion story. This one is based on the Hornby Railroad A4 model, which funnily enough is of Mallard herself.

This conversion requires new valve gear (super detail set from eBay) and new cylinders (super detail, from eBay) and though costing more in terms of the modifications to the chassis, actually in effect requires less work and effort to get to this stage than the Great British Locomotives A4 models.

Since this already has the valances cut away, it was just a matter of removing the moulded handrails on the cab and fitting new brass ones, and replacing outright the ancient tender drive tooling that Hornby bizarrely brought forward to produce with their new Railroad model. That is literally it aside from the same repainting that we saw with Silver Fox earlier in the year (though I will have an interesting blog on that soon).

Lining up my three prototype A4 conversions makes an interesting case study. On the extreme right, no.17 Silver Fox, which was the first and is a GBL body shell on a Bachmann chassis with a Hornby/GBL hybrid tender.

In the centre, what will be no.8 Dwight D. Eisenhower, following loosely the same method as Silver Fox but with the non corridor streamlined tender.

Then of course, we have what will be no.E22, Mallard for contrast. The big difference between the three models is in the front end: resin chimney and after market buffers make Silver Fox look rather different to the Hornby model, despite being of the same locomotive class.

I'm leaning towards the Railroad model again at this point, because not having to cut away valances is something of a relief. But the cost of replacement valve gear and cylinders puts the overall conversion project for a Railroad A4 above that of the my cheap £3 GBL body shells plus whatever Bachmann A4 chassis I can get my hands on, second hand from eBay.

I hope I can emulate this photograph, seen in one of Peter Townend's excellent volumes (I thoroughly recommend picking up The Colour of Steam, Volume 4, if you like Gresley Pacifics and have a penchant for late British Railways steam.

Until next time.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

"Tender thoughts…"

The next stage of my descent into madness over building A4 Pacifics for my new layout has arrived. I have taken delivery of a 1935 tender for which I am confident I can now create a mould for a much simplified resin copy. I ideally need eight (!) of these for my future plans and it's worth taking the time now to get it right.

This means that Silver Fox, which as has been correctly observed, has been pulling the wrong tender previously, will now be united with the correct type. This is probably a good moment to show how we can sling any type of Hornby tender behind the Bachmann models - I've standardised on the Hornby Tornado/Railroad Scotsman drawbar, which is extremely useful. 

On a related note, the (practically mint if a tad dusty) A4 locomotive (Golden Plover) which I bought specifically for the tender, has become available for sale. Feel free to PM with an offer, it won't be used in my modelling plans.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

"LNER no.97, Humorist"

No prizes for guessing the identity of my latest Railroad Flying Scotsman conversion I hope…? 

This particular model was second hand off eBay and advertised with a broken buffer beam. I decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up, and besides, I had always fancied a model of no.97. Since I was going to carve up a body shell extensively to make it right for a 1947-49 era Gresley A3 anyway, why not go the whole hog and modify an already broken model into something rather nice and unique?

This build took place over a three day period and is perhaps the quickest project i've undertaken, intended for running in at Little Bytham tomorrow…but that's a by the by for now.

Humorist is going to be painted in the LNER's apple green livery, albeit with her Thompson renumbering scheme number, 97, to be applied. I have followed the same methods I undertook for no.103 here and grafted the replacement cab from a GBL Flying Scotsman model onto the body shell, once the cab was completely removed.

At this point, the buffer beam was glued back on and worked on using Gamesworkshops green putty to seal the gaps.  

The round dome was cut off using a hacksaw, and the remnants filed down. A small cut off of plasticard (0.2mm thin) was stuck underneath the gaping hole, and Gamesworkshops green putty was used in conjunction with this to fill the gap. Humbrol filler went over the top later and was filled down to make a smooth, strong bond.

Note also that at this same stage I took a scalpel to the right hand drive steam pipe, also filing and sanding it down to smooth the sides of the boiler out. In the same session, I fitted the Graeme King resin super heater headers. 

I then put the boiler and smokebox into grey primer to check the finish of certain parts, before fitting the resin stovepipe double chimney after removing the original single chimney using a hacksaw. At this point I fitted the Graeme King resin dome to the boiler, simply gluing it in place with super glue.

The GBL Flying Scotsman cab was test fitted, and then later glued in place with super glue. Fitting the cab requires cutting down the lower sides of the boiler's back head and filing down all around the edge of the cab space. Once done though, the fitting is pretty clean and looks neat enough.

On Friday, Isinglass delivered a set of drawings for no.97, and I set to work creating its unique smoke deflectors. I photocopied and then printed the smoke deflector drawings, and then created a paper template from which to cut and file back a spare set of Graeme King A2/3 deflectors (left over from my A2/2 build a few years ago).

Returning to the locomotive, a further blast over with primer showed I had a long way to go with the scars on the cab and boiler from removing moulded handrails and the like.

I used a GBL Mallard's steam pipe, suitably shortened, to make the model left hand drive instead of right hand drive.

One detail I forgot to mention last time around is that if you fit super heater headers, you will need to move the second set of handrail knobs from the front of the engine forward slightly to compensate, as they did on the real thing as it happens!

I used a scalpel to remove the reverser on the right hand side of the model, and then relocated it to the left hand side. Sprayed all over grey Humbrol primer. Lots more still to do but she is at least presentable for tomorrow.

I finished off, and then fitted the smoke deflectors (which have had their handrails added).

White metal buffers from the usual supplier were fitted too. 

I also did a bit of tidying up around the buffer beam area, which had originally been broken off prior to receiving the model off eBay. In retrospect, more needs to be done but at least it looks straight and true now, if a bit rough and ready!

Humorist was then paired with one of my spare GNR tenders in LNER livery, a perfect companion for the intended no.97.

And to round off the blog entry, here's a "before and after" shot with another of those Railroad Scotsmans, currently not modified at all and waiting to take its place in the works queue.

You know, I know, everybody knows that my modelling is not perfect. It really isn't: it's flawed, sometimes rough and ready, but I strive to do better with each build and with this one, I feel there's a lot I could have done a lot better.

However I had never up to this point converted a right hand drive Pacific into a left hand drive one so had no point of reference with which to work with. Therefore the results above should be indicative of a successful first conversion using the Railroad 4472 model as a starting point. Lots to do better but not bad for a first attempt.

Truly, budget modelling is going to be the way to go for me. I've already had to sell a lot of my more expensive models and take up modelling, I figure why not continue in this vein and enjoy it for what it is.

On that note, enjoy the sunshine, and until next time.