Tuesday, 23 June 2015

"Empire of India"

I just thought I'd share a few pictures of a project I have been working on, the London & North Eastern Railway's no.11 Empire of India. I sold my original Empire of India a few years ago and really regretted it.

Of course, this one was made in a completely different fashion to my current A4s, and I've turned the clock back on the livery chosen for my model, which will have the 1946-48 LNER stainless steel lettering and numerals fitted instead.

At the end of this month there'll big the now usual big update regarding my modelling for the month, but I just wanted to share a few pictures to garner some feedback on the garter blue livery.

You will remember that I have been formulating my own paint and methods of painting my models. Well, I think I've finally cracked it with this model, which requires a Tamiya light blue being applied onto grey primer, followed by my latest reformulated (and a bit expensive now!) garter blue shade.

And yes - the tender is the wrong type (it should be a 1928 corridor tender) but rest assured, no.11's tender is in hand (and currently drying after painting. This tender will be going behind no.8 Dwight D Eisenhower).

I'll go through the full build in some detail on the 30 June 2015.

Until next time!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

"New stockist for Tale of the Unnamed Engine - the Kent & East Sussex Railway"

We are delighted to announce we have a new stockist for The British Railway Stories. Tenterden Town station on the Kent & East Sussex Railway is now selling copies of Tale of the Unnamed Engine in the shop.

We will be adding their details to our partner page shortly and will be making a full report at a later date.

Tale of the Unnamed Engine is now available at the Bluebell Railway, Kent & East Sussex Railway and Talyllyn Railway in Wales.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

"No.4480 Enterprise"

A quick recap needed on the building of my Gresley Pacific fleet, given I've actually finished one of them now!

So we start with one of Hornby's newest Railroad Flying Scotsman models.

Then some modelling happens...!

Essentially the cabs, washout plugs, cylinder blocks, smokebox doors and chimneys are replaced, and smokebox superheater headers and sometimes domes are added. The domes and superheater headers can be bought from Graeme King on the LNER Encyclopaedia Forum, whereas the chimneys are spares bought from Hornby many years ago. The smokebox doors are my own resin casts of the super detail Hornby A3 smokebox door. The cylinder blocks were cheap lined out spares from eBay.

The cab replacement method can be seen best here. The front loco has the replacement cab with the shorter cut out fitted, and the one behind has the original cab with the side sheets extended. Fitting the replacement cab requires cutting the original one off, filing down the top of the boiler backhead a little bit, and several rubber bands and slow drying super glue.

Truth be told, replacing the cab altogether gives a much better, more accurate finish, as the addition to the cab side sheets doesn't hide the fact the sides don't curve in as they should do. Plus, the replacement cabs (from the cheap Great British Locomotives magazine models) have full cab glazing - very useful!

The reason for replacing the cab is simple: this gives the cab type accurate for 1946-9 era Gresley A3s, as well as the right hand drive detail that I need for all of my A3s (except for Humorist, which as you can see above was actually converted from right to left hand drive in addition to all of the detail differences added including the stovepipe double chimney.).

The modifications also include adding lamp irons, handrails, couplings, vacuum pipes, smokebox door darts and white metal buffers, and cylinder drain pipes too. The white metal buffers

The chassis gets either a repaint of the wheels, or replacement with lined Hornby alternatives and a new front bogie in many cases.

Well, I finally managed to finish one - no.4480 Enterprise. The paint is just a standard Plasticote gloss black paint, bought from B&Q.

She looks very glossy here compared to the unmodified Railroad model behind.

Very, very glossy in fact! Note that although a lot of the detail is moulded on, it does look superior to older Hornby Gresley A3 models if not quite as refined as the super detail model.

The comparison between the two models - as bought and as modified - couldn't be more marked.

Enterprise received some light weathering and some lamp irons and lamps, in addition to some real coal in the tender. The weathering was mostly brushed on with some powders, and a light touch with a fine brush on the smokebox and around the front and on the tender. Games workshops' Purity Seal spray was used to seal everything in.

Toning down the shiny paint has still left something of a metallic look to the boiler, which I like.

Although annoyingly NONE of my transfers appear to be on straight. They looked it when I put them one, and they look it in real life. New glasses needed...?

Aside from the transfers problem (which I'll deal with in due course), I've really enjoyed turning a budget model into something more accurate. It was great fun, cost me a lot less to do than buying the top detail model from Hornby, and I've another seven to do to complete my fleet. The chassis of the Railroad model is a lovely smooth runner, and the flywheel drive is excellent. The diecast cartazzi and extra weight really add to the haulage stakes too, making it better in my view than the super detail alternative if you feel like putting some effort into your modelling.

Picking the wartime livery for 4480 wasn't entirely a cop out though, as I intend for four of my fleet to be apple green, and four of them to be wartime black. 

This way I have a variety of tender and boiler types and combinations and liveries ranging from NE Black to LNER apple green and British Railways on the tender. Lots of interest for the impending model railway!

Until next time.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

"BRWS Update #5: #day252..."


The count down begins...

...for a return to a simpler time...

...to old friends...

...old locations...

...in a new format.

The British Railway Stories returns: coming soon to YouTube!


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

"Book review: The Rare Monkey with the Colourful Bottom..."

It's always been difficult for me to review other writer's work. I tend to be critical with an aim to be constructive, and almost always end up missing the point. I had the pleasure of meeting the author recently through a mutual friend, and we inevitably starting chatting about writing. Finding out that Joanne Gale had written a book, I offered a trade to review it. I like helping fellow authors and in Joanne I found a kindred spirit in the sort of writing for children we like to see.

So naturally, despite everything we talked about before, when I was presented with this colourful children's book with the intriguing silhouette of a monkey sitting in a tree, I didn't know how to begin to review this!

I think all writers have this problem: we build up ideas about our own work, and others, and when presented with something so beautifully written and illustrated, it destroys those illusions and makes one realise that one's efforts have missed the point a tad. Yes, there is effort, and there is effort, but I find true artistic talent comes from knowing your audience and writing for them whilst also retaining the soul and clarity of your own vision.

So with that in mind, here goes: the honest review.

The Rare Monkey with the Colourful Bottom is brilliant. 

I was blown away by this children's book. Here is a rare thing indeed: a children's book with a strong moral message whilst also presenting an artistic and creative flair. The - on the face of it - simplicity of the text is actually its strongest asset. The third person narrative - that's narrator to you and I - brings the heart of the problem to the fore in a gentle way.

The storyline - without wishing to give too much away - is that the monkey who is our hero has a colourful bottom. He doesn't fit in the wild, and the other animals (who are all very plain colours) laugh at him for being different. He leaves the wild and goes into a town, and sees lots of bright and wonderful sights, thanks to the generosity and kind nature of a young girl photographer. He returns to the wild, and stands with head held tall. The other animals stop making fun of him, because, as is said in the book, what counts is being yourself and liking who you are.

This storyline has, as I see it, two central morals. Firstly: that being different isn't bad, and is not something to be sad or ashamed about. Secondly: be yourself, and liking who you are. That comes from within, and sometimes we do need help from our friends.

These are powerful ideas, and they are kind and true ones. Joanne Gale's kind and true nature shines through in the writing, and I loved every single word of it. There aren't enough books out there like this, where the morals have presence but don't overpower the storyline.

The book's artwork is also brilliant. Jeffrey Mundell's almost impressionistic, but wonderfully colourful artwork brings the story to life, and the use of curved sentences and coloured words make the book fun to read. The colour palette is well chosen and the quality of the paper and printing is exquisite.

Children will love this book, albeit at the younger end of the spectrum: but I'm convinced that like minded parents will love its morality and honest goodness. It's fun, more to the point, and that counts for a lot in anyone's....well, book!

The Rare Monkey with the Colourful Bottom is available here and I wholeheartedly recommend it for children.

Now Joanne, how about a sequel? I want the monkey to find another monkey with a colourful bottom!

Simon A.C. Martin

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

"Locomotion's new Ivatt Atlantic C1 model: a review"

When the Shildon outpost of the National Railway Museum (NRM) announced their latest National Collection model, I was overjoyed. For many years the large boiler C1 Ivatt Atlantics had held something of a fascination with me. So much so, that one of the first models I bought for my own model railway was a part built DJH kit of an Ivatt C1. Coincidentally, and as the picture below shows, I turned it into a model of 62822. 

That model is now long gone, and in its place is the recently arrived Bachmann made model, the model I ordered coming in exactly the same livery as my original! It is a model of 62822 with ‘British Railways’ on the tender (product number 31-766).  So, how does it shape up?

The Bachmann model is superior to the kit model in almost every way conceivable. The shape of the boiler, dome, chimney, cab cut out, the depth of and finesse of the running plate are all a spot on match for the Isinglass drawings of the C1 class and photographs of the class. 

The tender is a very accurate recreation of the one of the types the C1s pulled, and the level of detail on the footplate is astonishing.

Gauges, piping, levers, regulator...all picked out in appropriate colours. There is a fire shield for the fire hole door, and it works! The shield can be opened or closed. This is a mind boggling bit of detail. I cannot think of a time where I would actually pose it on mine but the fact it is there is impressive.

The turned whistle and safety valves are beautifully turned metal items, though the safety valves look microscopically taller than they should be. It's a very minor niggle.
The printing of the letters and numerals on the tender and cab are crisp in application, a nice accurate cream shade and also the correct font (Gill Sans). All are, however, perhaps a smidgen too large and again, thats a very minor criticism for what is otherwise a well applied and handsome livery.

The works plate is entirely legible and is a wonderfully printed version of the real thing. I do feel this should have a little more relief, but that's a very, very minor nitpick and to be frank isn't anything new from any of the model manufacturers in Britain (works plates, if they are included on models, are almost always printed).

At the front end, the motion is very fine, but the connecting rod to the rear driving wheels is cranked roughly halfway down its length. I had my C1 running back and forth, and I suspect if I had not been aware of the nature of the design choice, I would have been unlikely to spot it straight away. 

It does beg the question – given that the Great Central O4 model from the same stable has a similar set of outside motion and a step in the way too, as to why this was considered necessary? This bothered me for some time until I decided to inspect one of my Bachmann O4s to find out: and I was astonished to find that its connecting rod is also cranked in a similar way! Interestingly I think it is hidden better on the O4, which has the crank in its connecting rod further down, behind the step. This gives the illusion of there being no crank at all!

However, I do think of this as one of those potential solutions which might have worked as good as any other. The other solution would have been to make the steps thinner – and potentially more fragile) and push the motion out further to clear the crankpins on the leading driver (which is the source of the problem). Overall it just doesn't strike me as a big deal. Putting the locomotive through its paces, I am positive it's not actually discernible at a scale forty miles an hour.

It is interesting to note that, unlike my original DJH C1, the driving wheels on the Bachmann model are scale for the wheelbase but potentially a little under scale in actual diameter. It's as good a solution as any to the problem of modelling the wheelbase of a Great Northern built Atlantic, the gap between the driving wheels on the real thing being somewhat tight in itself! 

Again this is barely – if actually – discernible and I think Bachmann have done an excellent job in replicating the driving wheels of the real thing.

On the boiler, we find that the smokebox door even opens! This was a detail first featured on Bachmann's Standard 3MT locomotive, and on that I felt it was a gimmick of sorts, not really producing the effect needed by having the blast pipe arrangement too close to the inside of the door. 

On the Atlantic, it looks more realistic and that is is in no small part due to the fact the blast pipe arrangement is actually directly under the chimney. I question the need for it but there is no denying that it is well made and looks rather realistic. The door itself has a beautifully moulded dart and handles as well, which are all separate.It very much captures the shape of the GNR smokebox door.

There is a bag of additional details which include, in no particular order, three link couplings, brake gear, cab doors, fire irons for the tender, additional replacement parts for the tender (once the coal load has been removed), there are sight screens for the cab sides in clear plastic, a speaker mount and even a single white painted GNR style lamp.

Separately fitted handrails, lamp irons on loco and tender, all wheel pickup (except the front bogie) and the surprising number of detail differences between this 1948-50 era locomotive and its GNR and LNER versions all give this model an incredible presence. In reality, it's smaller than a Thompson B1, and yet gives off this wonderful air of being bigger than it really is.

There are, however, a few minor negative points which are worthy of mention, even if they don't necessarily ruin the model in a practical way.

The first concerns the brake blocks on the tender. These are moulded in line with the frames, and look very flat and awkward. Even if the model was to be converted to, say, EM or P4, by moulding them in this way it means the wheelsets will not ever be actually in line with them. From normal viewing distance, and probably with some weathering, it's not discernible but given this has been done very well on previous Bachmann models, it is a disappointment to see them here.

The buffers are not sprung. This had me scratching my head a little. I am almost positive that Bachmann already make suitable buffers (and if not 100% accurate, they are very, very close). That product is still available – 36-032 – and simply fitting a set of them at front and rear instantly improves the overall specification. 

Very few models these days don't have sprung buffers, save for the design clever era of Hornby Plc, so why Bachmann have decided to fit unsprung buffers here to a premium model is something of a mystery. Now, practically, we all know sprung buffers are actually of limited use and sometimes a bit of a hindrance if we're honest (where buffer lock occurs with sprung ones on locomotive and coaches, for instance) but for the price of the model and in comparison to similar specifications that Bachmann and other manufacturers have followed, having unsprung buffers seems retrograde.

The final negative point is another minor niggle, but for me it's actually a very avoidable error. I've checked photographs, Yeadon's Register, I've gone through a nunber of my Atlantic books, I've looked at British Railway Pictorials and almost every source I know that shows 62822 in its plain black livery, and in its final livery with the lined out tender. Every single photograph I've seen shows that 62822 should have had the cut out in the tender side sheets as per the cab. In other words, the same tender top fitted to the GNR liveried model and not this type.

Let's be fair about this. Renumbering the model to no.2877 in plain black livery would be correct, and yes for a modeller this is a simple enough job, including perhaps removing the smokebox numberplate. However, looking through my reference material, it's not correct for 62822 it is also not correct for 62825 in this time period either. 

Of course, I could be (and often have been) wrong, and for X amount of time in Y year, 62822 could have pulled this type of tender instead. If so, let me be the first to humbly apologise to both the NRM and Bachmann. It is as far as I can see currently, an error.

Is it a serious one? A learned LNER modeller of many years remarked to me a few weeks back that something along the lines of “a loop of wire and a drill will sort that”. He's absolutely right and as a modeller, it is something I am prepared to do but it seems a shame to tool up the correct tender body shell and then to not use it.

Do the negatives outweigh the positives? Absolutely not. I highly recommend this model for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, it's beautiful. Look at it. There is no better proportioned or elegant steam outline model being sold today. It's a wonderful scale model.

Secondly, after some running in, it's as smooth as a sewing machine, and actually has some guts despite its wheel arrangement (I have so far with my model of 62822 managed seven of Hornby's top range Gresley Teaks. The model is always a bit slow to start, but with careful driving round my test track, it hauled the train comfortably). 

Thirdly, you are not going to get an alternative to this model. If you model the London and North Eastern Railway in any way, shape or form (or Great Northern Railway, for that model) then you need one of these models. There isn't going to be an Ivatt C1 coming from Hornby, or Dapol, or Heljan, or Oxford Diecast, or anyone else credible. It's this model – and no alternatives.

Given they were ubiquitous on the Pullman and London-Scotland expresses before the Pacifics came along, and even when replaced en masse effectively by Gresley, Thompson and then Peppercorn machines on their original workloads; they soldiered on, through two world wars and just into the turn of the 1950s. Accepted, the Ivatt C1 is not going to be suitable for the smallest and lightest laid of branch line layouts but anything with a hint of a mainline set in the LNER period should probably have at least one or two knocking about.

So, am I happy with my purchases? Very. The negatives do not by any stretch of the imagination outweigh the positives of this model. If you're a serious modeller of the LNER, you need one. No kit will match the quality of this product, frankly, and I can say that having built and re-built one.

There is one thing I do want to address, separately from MREmag. There's been a lot of comparisons made between models over a number of years, not least because of the Model of the Year awards given out. A few people are clamouring for the Atlantic to be this year's model of the year.

It's a close run thing for me, but Hornby's J15 just edges it. There are less compromises in that model overall, with an equally beautiful level of finish, and the specification is higher for a model significantly lower in price. Yes, one is a "main range" and one is a "limited edition" but they're both new tooling and both from the main stables for our hobby. There are therefore certain expectations of both models.

If the Atlantic had come out last year, I'd have had no hesitation in labelling it model of the year. However, in a year with the release of Hornby's K1, J15 and D16/3 on the horizon, it really would have had to have had a higher specification overall to win.

That does not, however, mean it's not worth having and I thoroughly and wholeheartedly recommend this model to any modellers interested in the Ivatt Atlantics of the Great Northern Railway.

Until next time.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

"BRWS Ltd Update #4: Great Western Glory, Erith Model Railway Club and more"

So, here's our fourth update of the year! What's changed? Well, April was a terrific month for change.

I have joined a delightful (and local!) model railway club - the Erith Model Railway Club (details here). The level of modelling on show is of a high standard and varied in subject, which is lovely.

They also have a couple of test tracks, and it meant I could fully test out the types of train I intend to run on my new layout. Here is no.17 Silver Fox - ever the stalwart of the A4 fleet - testing out a nine coach train of teaks.

No.60506 Wolf of Badenoch also got in on the testing, albeit on an eight coach train and on the other test layout.

There was some embarrassment when no.103 Flying Scotsman (still in the process of being built) failed spectacularly with a bent coupling rod.

That rather put a crimp on my day as I had intended to run one of each of my main Pacific fleets!

So the Wolf got another run out instead...with a slightly longer nine coach instead.


...and we have some video to show for it! The remarkable haulage capabilities of my sole Thompson A2/2 did not go unnoticed. I'm very happy with the hill climbing capabilities too!


The club itself has a friendly atmosphere and a cosy, well lit location. I'm very much looking forward to going back there in the next week or so with another, different, test train.

Lastly, there's been a huge advancement in the writing of the follow up book in The British Railway Stories...

...to the extent where I have two copies of the book, ready to send to our artist, Dean Walker, and to a mutually interested party willing to help me edit it together. This should help avoid some of the errors seen in the first book!

I am very excited by Great Western Glory. The themes and stories within draw on a lot of real history, and we get to meet characters old and new throughout. If you loved meeting Stephen in the last book, you will enjoy meeting our new "Star' even more!

Of course, she will be a little grumpy to begin with...!

Until next time.