December 23, 2011

"Merry Christmas"

This will be my last update for the year, so to tie up a few loose ends...!

Firstly, I have posted the prizes to the winner of the Day of the Diesels competition - they should be with the winner next week, or the week after. Huzzah!

Secondly, the winner of The British Railway Series' Christmas Competition on the series' Facebook group has been chosen - and the winner will receive his prize next week or the week after. Congratulations to our worthy winner, who posted a stunning photograph which encapsulated the "railways in snow" guidelines I set out.

Thirdly, my thanks to everyone, friends and family alike over the last year: it's been a tough one, but hopefully with several bright lights on the horizon, 2012 will be a year to remember.

And finally, to everyone waiting for the first book to be released - stay tuned. I may have some very exciting news come the new year.

Until next year, ladies and gentlemen - thank you for reading.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!


December 15, 2011

"Rant of the Week: Manufacturer Bashing or Constructive Criticism?"

"Manufacturer Bashing" - a get out clause phrase for people who want to pussyfoot around problems with manufacturing, research & development, and good old fashioned quality control.

I refuse point blank to pander to the idea that we cannot in this day and age communicate positively on the drawbacks, negatives, or problems thereof, of a product with its manufacturer if it is warranted.

If everyone was so unable to coherently put forward their point of view on a product and point out factual shortcomings, then we would not see improvements in anything. We'd all still be driving around in Model T Fords and running clockword trains, whilst balsa wood and canvas aircraft float clumsily around our heads.

Equally, we should praise manufacturers when they get it right: and I am choosing to do so by asking everyone to vote for Dapol as manufacturer of the year. Over on RMweb, their company's representative, "DapolDave" has been exemplary in his communication and willingness to help with any problems.

That, and they've made some very fine models this year of prototypes you wouldn't have dreamed of being made. Beattie Well Tanks for Kernow Model Rail, Class 22 diesel hydraulics, and a plethora of N gauge models of excellent quality.

Until next time - remember: if you do wish to criticise a product, do so constructively and factually. If you want to praise - do so openly and honestly.

Until next time.

December 11, 2011

"Hub Worlds on Youtube!"

Something I hope will make things a little easier on Youtube - a "Hub World" video where all of the episodes are linked in the form of the Youtube annotations! Give it a try. Episodes 1-12 are in the first set, episodes 13-20 will appear after The Last Run airs in 2012.

Until next time!

December 07, 2011

"Artwork & Musings"

Dean's handiwork once again bringing to life the characters I write about.

Another piece of the puzzle. But who, what, and where is this happening?

All will be revealed in Tale of the Unnamed Engine!

Coming guessed it, "to a platform near you!"

I have updated the pictures to the right with their descriptions, putting to rest (I hope) some of the rumours going round various websites. It should make my intentions quite clear.

Until next time!

December 02, 2011

"Engage Smug Mode"

Sir Ralph seems to be making a habit of being the subject of the header pictures in my rants and general posts recently. This picture shows him being SO smug, I just had to share it with my readers. With special thanks to Dean Walker, the stories' superb artist.

Why is Sir Ralph so smug? You'll have to find out when the first book goes on sale! Trust me, he doesn't stay this smug for long...!

I am in the process of finalizing the pictures, story, and a new addition to the Colour version of the e-book - an appendix with some history of the characters and locations seen in the book.

This will, I hope, become a normal fixture. Haven't as yet decided on a title for it - my first instinct was to make it narrated by Stephen and call it "Stephen Says" (as "Simon Says" might be a bit too self serving!!!)

I can confirm that the e-book will be published on the Kindle, in a supremely cheap grayscale version, and a slightly more expensive full colour version. Both will work on the original Kindle, but the Colour version will be of course, at its best on the full colour Kindle.

I am also working on an iOS (that's Apple) version of both e-books to be sold on iBooks. I can't guarantee it will be out at the same time as the Kindle one as there is slightly more paperwork to put through, but hopefully it will not be too much longer.

I can also confirm I will be releasing a full colour paperback version of the book, in a limited amount, release date to be confirmed.

You'll also notice I have enabled comments on the blog for the first time. I have put in place settings that will allow users to comment without fear of reading vast amounts of spam.

Thankfully, with everything now set up on my smart phone, I can moderate the blog and Facebook group while on the move, so my fears about the blog being unmoderated at any time can finally be laid to rest.

Until next time!

November 24, 2011

"Happy Thanksgiving & 'Tis the Season!"

To all of our American readers, I'd like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope the day goes well, and that we get to see the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon at Macy's Thanksgivings Day parade NOT puncture its head on a lamppost this time around...!

On another note, the blog banner has been updated - well, we are in the run up to Christmas after all...!

Happy Holidays!

November 23, 2011


Just a musing I had. What if Gresley's proposed 4-8-2 had been built...and what if Thompson had rebuilt it?!!

Horrors! Or not, I rather like the idea. Please excuse the missing half of the driving wheels!

Until next time!

November 20, 2011

"Rant of the Week: New Build Steam!"

It's been a while since my last "Rant of the Week", but I have just seen something so extraordinarily frustrating and aggravating that I had to share it.

Over the last six months, the "in thing" in railway preservation has either to join the "haters gonna hate" campaign against Scotsman (see previous blog posts), or start up a new build scheme for making a steam locomotive.

So we've had a Claud Hamilton announced, a Gresley J39, most recently a couple of Diesels including LMS no.10000, and to be fair, all of the above involve to some extent enthusiastic individuals who have all taken part in railway preservation at some level over their lives.

To the above, don't worry, you're not the topic of my rant. No, the subject of my rant is this:

The Great Bear New Build Project

Yes, there is a now a few individuals wanting to build a new version of The Great Bear, Churchward's only Pacific, and the only GWR Pacific ever built. What has been written on this locomotive extends to somewhere between extremely inefficient and useless, and adequate but needing modifications to get the best out of it.

So my first reaction was to groan, and think "really? Another one?"

Then it hit me.

This actually could be the most sensible of all the new build projects that has been announced.

What? Really? Well, let's think about it. The original locomotive was essentially an enlargement of the Star class of locomotives. It was later rebuilt into a Castle class locomotive.

The Stars, Castles, and this behemoth all shared certain standard Swindon components. In fact, let's be frank here, it's because so many of the GWR engines shared common, standard components, that we are able to see so many of the classes that were lost to the scrappers built afresh.

For example, Didcot's Lady of Legend, 2999 is one locomotive I have been keeping my eye on, a rarity for me as the Great Western isn't my thing normally! That is being built out standard GWR components with some new parts manufactured to complete the look.

Overall I think this will be one of the more stunning locomotives in preservation, and particularly in its place between the GWR of old, and the Star class locomotive Lode Star at the National Railway Museum.

So my feeling is, if you can build a new "Saint", a "County" and a "Grange" from standard GWR patterns and spare components, how hard can it be really to build a new GWR Pacific? The only real stumbling blocks (big ones at that) are likely to be the main frames, the unique boiler, and the tender.

But if you can build a new Peppercorn A1 from can do anything, that I firmly believe, with just one caveat - the first hurdle for all of these projects will be regular funding and enthusiasm, and it is this I feel most strongly that needs fixing for many of them.

If enough people can get together to build a replica of the GWR's lone Pacific locomotive, why not let them try.

They could do worse than to have a go. If they don't manage to build it, the reconditioned parts or any new parts made could just go on another GWR locomotive, after all!

Until next time!

November 13, 2011

"Selling on!"

I am thoroughly, thoroughly broke at the minute and require money to push forward the development of my children's book, website and associated bits and pieces.

So what better way of raising funds (other than my part time job!) is a quick firesale of items I no longer forsee a need for.

First up - a very good condition Hornby Duchess 4-6-2 (one of the latest batches).

Yours for £70 or make me an offer!

Second one in - a terrific example of Hornby's County Class 4-6-0.

Yours for £45.00 or start the bidding at £15!

Finally - a virtually unused example of Bachmann's popular Dynamis system 36-505.

Yours for £90 or start the bidding at - get this - just 99p!

All proceeds go to - ah - me - and rest assured are not going on beer money.

Well, maybe the odd ale at the odd preserved railway.

Until next time - where I'll have a few more updates on the book, the upcoming new website, and various other bits and pieces.

November 11, 2011

"We will remember them"

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

November 10, 2011

"Thompson D Class 4-4-0, The Morpeth"

Finally made a start on my Hornby D49 conversion. During the war Thompson rebuilt The Morpeth with two inside cylinders of the Director (D11) type, and it is this locomotive I am portraying with my modifications.

Two spare D49 bodyshells were sourced off Ebay, and one was cut along the front portion of its running plate, up to the front of the leading splasher, and and at the bufferbeam end for the curved running plate section.

This was then mounted further back, forming the curved section of running plate ahead of the leading splasher which the prototype had so prominently.

Plasticard strips were then added to form the running plate and one side of the bufferbeam. This was repeated on the alternate side:

...and then painted black after Humbrol plastic filler had been applied and sanded down several times, to see the overall finish.

Note I also made for each side a representation of the frames which are seen more prominently on this inside cylindered locomotive. This was done with very thin plasticard I had lying around, cut to shape and poly-cemented into place behind the running plate (but remember to leave enough of a gap for the chassis and motor arrangement to fit between them).

Not bad, but needs a bit more work. The Hornby D49 which will be used as a donor model will lose its handrails, dome, and various other bits and pieces. I'm waiting on a smokebox door and door dart to complete the components needed to finish the model (when the Hornby donor arrives, that is!)

Until next time!

November 08, 2011

"Facebook Group Xmas Competition"

Just to say, for anyone on The British Railway Series Facebook Group, I'm running a special competition where the prize is a signed print of an artwork Dean Walker is preparing for the series.

The rules are as below:


1. Create a piece of artwork that incorporates a railway theme, and a wintry theme.

2. It can be in whatever medium you wish, showing whatever you like, that is related to railways and winter.

3. Upload it to this group for everyone to see, putting in the title "XMAS ENTRY - Your name".

4. The winner will be chosen by me.

5. The only criteria for winning there is is simply originality, and creativity.

6. The prize this year will be a special "The British Railway Series" themed print featuring more of Dean's beautiful artwork and signed by both Dean and I.

7. The closing date is the 15th December, and the winner will be announced on Christmas Eve (24th)

8. Final rule - have fun! :)

Until next time!

October 30, 2011

"Goodbye Stephen the Green Engine - Remastered"

Two years ago I started remaking the original episodes of The British Railway Series so that Youtube users and fans could view the episodes in their original format, i.e. in one single video. At the time, my Youtube account had a limit on the length of video uploads, and all of the videos were uploaded in two parts, or specially cut to fit the ten minute limit.

Now of course, having a Youtube Partner account, I can have videos of any length (though the longer they are, the longer they take to upload!), so I have been working through the episodes and adding annotations, etc etc, to them to allow people to see them as they were originally intended when first made.

In this edition of "Goodbye Stephen the Green Engine" - the last episode to be made by the team - I have replaced the opening and closing titles, added music and generally tidied it up for a 16:9 release. I think it looks much cleaner than it did originally, and may have to re-do episodes 1-5 to match (minus the annotations).

See what you think at any rate, and comment on the video with your thoughts on the "remastering".

Until next time!

October 26, 2011

"New Banner to the Youtube Channel!"

I have been working on a new banner for the Youtube channel, firstly reflecting Dean Walker's excellent artwork, most of which is going into the first book in the series, and secondly reflecting the new overall look to the blog, channel and twitter page over the last year.

You'll see that Stephen, Herbert, Sir Ralph and Allen feature in the new banner, in Dean's magnificent artwork.

Please support the series and Dean by taking a look at his website, where his artwork, general commentary and photography can be found.

You can also access his artwork by clicking the picture labeled "NER Ramblings", in the left hand side column.

Until next time!

"New Page to the Blog!"

You will notice a new tab above this post which reads "The British Railway Stories".

The aim of this page is to explain the background behind the upcoming first publication and e-book of the companion books to The British Railway Series.

Stories is used instead of Series to identify the books separately to the Youtube videos.

Here's what the page currently reads:

The aim of The British Railway Stories is simple:

To educate and entertain in the same story.

It is pure History and Entertainment coming together to provide the logical step between the imaginary, and the history, for the 7-9 age group.

The stories, set in the 1950s, at Leeds, Copley Hill, were originally written as a made for Youtube Video Series (The British Railway Series).

Since the first video appeared on Youtube in 2007, the eighteen episodes of the series have been watched 3.3 million times, as of October 2011.

The series is being developed into an e-book, which will tell the stories in the way they were originally intended.

The final episodes of the model era will soon give way to a computer generated Machinima, showcasing old and new stories in a bright and colourful new format.

Simon A.C. Martin, the author, would like to be able to help preserved steam railways of the United Kingdom through dedicated donations from the sales of future books, perhaps based on the stories of the preserved railways themselves.

Please get in touch if you'd like to be a part of The British Railway Stories.

For these are the stories we tell...

Until next time!

October 25, 2011

"End of Great Northern"

Four years after I started my Great Northern conversion of a Hornby A1 (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here,), today the locomotive was broken up for spare parts, so I could have a second go at making a model of the infamous 60113.

I've been thinking on the model for some time: one of my earliest, most ambitious, and rubbish kit bashes I've ever done. My skills have got a weeny bit better since 2007, so I've decided to use whatever I can from the now defunct model to make a new one - hopefully much better than the old one!

However that project will wait in the wings for now, until the Thompson D class, the 4VEP, the Stirling Single and the Great Central D11 are complete, my four main priorities on the workbench at this point.

Until next time!

October 24, 2011


...something I am running short on. New job has started, I'm working hard, but behind the scenes certain pieces are falling into place, by the by.

I'm currently bringing the pieces together for a Thompson D Class 4-4-0, by using the incoming Hornby D49 as a base. A few spare bodyshells, a Thompson front bogie and tender all suitable for the rebuild. The only things I need to locate are the nameplates, and the smokebox door...

More on this conundrum as it develops. Until next time!

October 14, 2011

"More Projects"

I have a line of engines and rolling stock needing work. Finally having finished the painting of the LMS and the conversion of the three Hornby Clerestories, they are awaiting transfers and varnish to complete.

However I do like to ponder the possibilities every now and again, and there's two projects I have my eye on at the moment. The first is converting a forthcoming Hornby release - the Railroad D49 4-4-0 - into the lone D class Thompson 4-4-0, The Morpeth. I even have a suitable front bogie and tender ready for it!

The second one concerns the forthcoming new Bachmann V2, which is unlikely to get a body retooling but will have a much improved locomotive drive mechanism. So the thought is to use some Hornby spare parts to improve the section of the boiler needing the most work.

Pictures to follow later when the camera decides to behave itself!

October 11, 2011

"Youtube Like/Dislike Button: Meaningless"

It's always interesting to read the comments in Youtube videos nowadays and see the amount of emphasis placed on the like/dislike button.

The problem inherent with the like/dislike system is that people will generally thumb down anything because they feel like it. The patterns for what videos get thumbed down is normally random.

I'm writing on this because I've noticed on my own videos - and a few other similar channels - that we've had a whole spate of thumbs downs over the last few weeks. It can only be a few Youtubers going around thumbing down every single video, because it's almost across the board and only one or two thumbs down at a time.

Now, I could rant and rave and disable the ratings, but glancing at the number of "likes" I can see that the videos are very much liked by a majority of the viewers I have, compared to a minority of wholly negative Youtubers. For example, the latest round of reviews have a very respectable 50 or so positive "likes" and one or two negative "dislikes".

Unfortunately, sometimes people just feel like being negative. The like/dislike button on Youtube gives an outlet to those people who have no creativity of their own and only wish to enforce their negative views on everyone else.

So - probably my mantra for this year - don't let it get you down! And don't disable the ratings chaps, the Youtube search algorithm identifies this and puts ones without the ratings lower down the pecking order...!

October 08, 2011

"Merchandise Discussion"

On The British Railway Series' Facebook group, I recently steered discussion towards potential merchandising.

Among those which proved most popular were Gomm badges, calenders, mugs, T-shirts and posters.

These are all great ideas which I will go through to examine their cost to manufacture, deliver and then at what RRP (recommended retail price) I should sell them at to cover their costs.

The final suggestion - for a bit of fun - was a diecast toy of "W.P. Allen" in a style similar to the Take N Play Thomas range, as a one off collector's piece. Lots of feedback on this one, ranging from debate over the livery (apple green, blue or dark green?) to whether Allen or Stephen should be the character made...!

Suffice to say it's unlikely I'll produce such a model in the near future, but you never know...

As my job starts to pick up again, and the funds start to become available, "Project Wedgwood" is next in the queue for being worked on - this will be the new integrated website for the Youtube Series and Book Stories.

Until next time!

October 05, 2011

"New Thumbnails for Youtube"

One of the little jobs which has hounded me for several years has been the thumbnails on Youtube. They drive me to distraction - moreso now that Youtube's new interface, Cosmic Panda, is coming closer and closer to being the standard format.

The advantage gained, however, is larger thumbnails which allow more detail in sharper focus.

The above shows the new thumbnail for The British Railway Series: Episode 1, a case in point.

It allows some of Dean's beautiful artwork to be seen more (and links to Dean's artwork will start to appear in all of the video descriptions in due course), adds some colour to Youtube's search results (always a good thing), and also allows me to tell you what episode it is by placing an "Episode Tag" in the top right hand corner.

I'll be updating all of the videos over the next few weeks to one of five templates, as above, with different coloured backgrounds and numerals in the Episode Tags. Watch out for them! Until next time.

October 04, 2011

"Rant of the Week: Weathering!"

Weathering is a very, very personal thing. What works for one person will not work for someone else. However, there are some bits of weathering which look more real than other bits of weathering.

I am not a weathering expert. I'm also not very good at it! Take this, one of my early attempts at weathering.

Horrendous, isn't it? Far too orangey for a working locomotive. However good I thought it was at the time, it certainly isn't that great now - in fact it's rubbish.

So a few years down the line, I did some modifications to this model and took the opportunity to wipe off most of the grime and do it all over again, culminating in this:

It's still not brilliant, but at least it looks more realistic than it did last time around!

I've always preferred using weathering powders to using paints and airbrushes, however the work of one particular chap on RMweb has caught my eye: for it looks very good. He's just finished working on a Thompson L1, and the results are absolutely excellent.

So, have I had a go with my airbrush yet? Not yet...! The fear of failure is outweighing the clear advantages of airbrush weathering.

However, I've done a little weathering in the past week on my Hornby 4VEP. See what you make of it:

I've even painted the black peak to the cab which Hornby had put onto the unit. The weathering has been done entirely with Tamiya weathering powders, with the gunmetal, brown dirt and rust powders all playing their part in making the bogies, chassis, and cab front look a little more work weary.

You'll notice that the orange cantrail stripe has to be repainted red - a job I finished doing yesterday. The roof vents are going to be replaced - as will the cab piping. I haven't yet figured out what to do about the corridor connection or the door yet, but weathering seems to mask most of the "wrongness" of the moulding.

Overall, I've still a long way to go in my weathering efforts, but whatever you may make of my progress (or lack of it!) over the years, it's still been a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Until next time, where I will have a few updates on some outstanding projects I have been working on for some years - including one in particular!

Unless today's announcement at the National Railway Museum, regarding their new 00 commissioned model, renders it redundant!

October 03, 2011


For years I have been despairing about fonts, logos, and generally the very plain look of the title cards I use in The British Railway Series episodes on Youtube.

Well, no more - because a friend has come up with a solution, which, dare I say it, looks utterly amazing.




Gentlemen, I believe the word is "stunned". It works in iMovie too, and in different colours!

When I go to remaster the original 17 episodes and the 4 short episodes this coming Christmas period, the new title cards will use this spectacular font. I'm over the moon: how utterly amazing it looks!

Now think how gorgeous Episodes 18, 19 and 20 will look with a proper title card...!

Until next time!

September 29, 2011

"Don't Let It Bring You Down"

I must confess that the last year has been somewhat of a drain mentally on me. The fear of not finding work (now thankfully dissolved for the moment, for I start work next Monday!) coupled with the exhaustive efforts behind the scenes to develop The British Railway Series further, along with all the other problems of life, including my own and my family's health had taken their toll by about June this year.

I was so glad to get away for a week with the Missus to Turkey, and while I was there I couldn't switch off. Stories were written on napkins, in my Red and Black notebooks, even on a towel when I couldn't find a piece of paper at the beach! The part of my brain which thinks on new stories never switches off.

You see, it's become so ingrained in me, the desire to tell a story, and a historical one at that, that the plethora of books & magazines managed to take over my room for a good long time, until I did the sensible thing and annexed the attic to make a library!

The characters I write about are more than just models with clay faces now. The potential of this series to grow and become something wholly more meaningful is there, more than ever.

There's one thing I'd like to address, however. There's been a lot of talk recently amongst the Thomas fandom: some of it good, and some of downright nasty.

There will always be someone wanting to pull others down. This is a fact of life I have recognized for some years. It first manifested itself at school, in a particularly cynical individual, whose only goal in life was to bring others down because he didn't have any dreams for himself.

The older I get, the more I understand this level of intelligence, and how to ultimately defeat it.

That part is simple, treat it with the contempt it deserves. Ignore the jibes, and the insults, and the detriment. There will always be someone, somewhere, wanting to bring you down. Whether it's jealousy, fear, or something else, you must always rise above it - because if you don't, then you may as well stop breathing now!

One of the more ludicrous things I've heard - from a few sources - is that a few individuals feel the aim of The British Railway Series is to take down Thomas & Friends!

Forget the fact that one is a multi billion pound industry, which is the number one children's brand worldwide, and forget that one is made in an attic using whatever spare parts and old model trains that can be found!

The major difference lies in the aims of the two entities. One makes an astounding profit every year. The other makes an astounding pauper of its creator every year! One is aimed at the pre-school market, the other is aimed solely at the 7-9 market, and written to that age bracket accordingly.

My intention has never been to take on the little blue engine - quite the opposite, particularly as I am still a fan of the little blue engine in my heart of hearts.

What I want to do, is that which is always overlooked; the history of Britain's railways, and make them more accessible to children through the medium of talking trains.

At the same time, if I can make through the sale of each book, a monetary donation to a good cause in railway preservation - then that too, is an aim worth working towards. To tell the story of our railways, our preserved railways, and give something back in the same breath.

There is nothing that would please me more, than to sell a book relating the history of a preserved railway, and the volunteers which run it, that would encourage children to look it up and gain an interest in their local preserved line, as well as the book financially supporting the railway in question.

If it has to be done with faces on engines - so be it, because it is a tried and tested way of bringing more emotional connections between children, and the iron horses they read about.

Engines with faces have always existed in British literature, stemming from as far back as the Rainhill Trials in 1829, through the medium of satire, cartoons, and into children's literature, not just from The Reverend W. Awdry's Railway Series; from Sammy the Shunter through to the drawing at the top of the page, found by Jim Gratton recently.

The drawing was done by a C. Hamilton Ellis, a renowned railway historian and artist in his own right, for The Railway Gazette, in the late 1930s.

The drawing depicts a 47xx "Night Owl" on an express freight - the elegant face of the female engine a stark contrast to the old time faces of the Pannier tank and Dean goods to the left and right of her.

The point is simple. Anyone could draw a face on a train. It's been a very British thing to do, ever since the dawn of the steam locomotive. The difference comes in the writing, the aim of the story within.

My aim is to educate and entertain in the same stroke of the pen. To highlight railway history and to tell it in a way that children will both understand and appreciate for what it is.

I only need glance at my inbox this morning to see that I must be doing something right. Emails galore, another forty on top of the hundred and thirty six emails I still need to get through, from young fans who've seen the videos on Youtube, to parents who've seen the videos through their children, and the associated blog and website.

The overwhelming positivity I get for writing my stories far outstrips the one or two people who, from time to time, feel the need to voice their negativity with friends of mine. You see, no one ever tries to discourage me directly. They know they wouldn't break me.

I've come this far, and not given up. The hardest days are ahead, but that's okay. I'm not going to let it bring me down - and neither should you.

If you have a dream, or a story to write, and think you won't make it: try anyway! You may be surprised by what happens, and what response you get. There will always be critics looking to stop you succeeding, as opposed to the necessary critics wanting to help you succeed. Don't let it bring you down.

Until next time!

September 26, 2011

"A lovely letter"

It's not often that I feel the need to air one of the many fanmails I get on a day to day basis. I do try to respond to them all, but there's not enough hours in the day and I am currently about 100 emails behind the curve at present...!

However this evening, one particular email stood out. It reads as follows:

Dear Simon,

I am excited to see what you come up with. I am very sad to see the models go, I've always been a bit old fashioned. As much as I hate to admit it, you're right, and I'll be very glad to see progress. I am wondering though, what some of the details that would be different are.

Would their mouths and eyes move and the like? The effects are much more realistic, I must admit. I have Railworks and it is quite convincing, though I'm sure the soft ware you will use will be much more detailed.

I'm sure whatever you turn out will be fantastic. Good luck with that and the book. I am most excited about that. Just a thought, perhaps you could auction the models for a bit of money to get some really good programs for the cgi.

These are the stories we tell. Sometimes we have to find new ways to tell them.

I couldn't have put it better myself. These are the stories we tell - sometimes we have to find new ways to tell them.

How wonderfully profound. To the writer of that fanmail, you know who you are - and thank you for sending it. A lovely email which sums up my thoughts and feelings on the series at present.

Until next time!

"The Store Opens!"

Yes, Copley Hill now has its own store - for now it will be selling only related books and toys, but in time I hope to rectify that by selling merchandise relating to the series in the future.

For every sale made in the Copley Hill Amazon Store, a 10% commission is paid back to the series for its future development. So by buying that latest railway book or children's toy in the Copley Hill store, you are contributing directly to the future of the series.

At the current time of writing, the store is down for necessary maintenance by Amazon, but it will be up and running within the next few hours.

Until next time!

September 25, 2011

"Clarifying - The Last Run"

Just to clarify, and to reassure everyone who seems to think the models are going to be dumped unceremoniously over the course of the next year (and I must add, the set certainly won't be as it will continue to be used for toy & model reviews).

I have been researching this and developing it behind the scenes for well over a year. I have observed other CGI productions (Thomas included) worked out a plan of action and talked to the relevant people and compiled as much advice and thought on it as possible.

The problem inherent with BRWS as it stands is two fold. Cost and space. I haven't got a Shepperton Studios for dozens of different sets...! Making sets and modifying the models costs a lot of money.

I don't think this is something many people have grasped: the initial outlay of a model train might be £80 a time, but then it may have to be repainted/renumbered/weathered, have a smoke generator added, etc etc...

...then of course the building materials for the sets. The Day of the Diesels toy review was simple enough because I've honed my techniques in the small space, and the ability to make a scene look different has come to me over the years.

But I have wanted The British Railway Series to be more than the sum of its parts for some years now. I have been unable, at times, to do episodes simply because set A would cost too much or take up too much space to film, or model B needs to be scratch built.

Then there's the issue of time. The more complicated they are, the harder they are to film. Episode 17X didn't really progress the story because it was more of the same in many ways. Wonderful characters with a compelling storyline, but not different enough to 17 in many ways.

There is nothing to say I can't do both the models and a CGI incarnation alongside each other, in any event. The planned CGI trailer is absolutely necessary - feedback is inherent to the success of future Youtube episodes.

I could have just said "CGI trailer next year, we'll leave it till then and the models won't come out again", but I've simplified a very good script in order to give them a final run out; which they and their audience deserve undoubtedly.

I know what I have built up over the last four years and this decision hasn't been made overnight on a whim. Nothing is set in concrete other than I want to do this last big special with the models to give them a proper send off, should the planned CGI be well received.

I must make the case for CGI here. Thomas & Friends has shown what can be done - camera angles, buildings galore, proper background scenery and weather effects. The problem inherent with the brand is the writing, and to some extent the preparation in terms of the scripts.

The way I have scripted new stories is very different to the way I think T&F is done, and it will be a great advantage to me, not a hindrance, particularly if what I have been shown in private is anything to go by. Expansive sets which need only be modelled (as I do with the models, anyway!) on one side.

But the advantage is the multitude of sets I could have in a simplified fashion. I have always wanted a King's Cross set and a Leeds Central set, and it hasn't been possible to do so in model form. What about the coaling stage at Copley Hill, or Top Shed and the Met Shed at King's Cross?

Then of course there's the multitude of other minor stations and generic scenery that would be possible. Full length trains - and I mean full length trains - and smoke effects which aren't restricted to certain characters (e.g. Stephen as opposed Nigel, say).

The people I am working with are very talented at what they do, and the ideas being bounced around at the moment are very favourable.

The CGI models are going to be coloured and designed to match the artwork of the upcoming book very closely in style and colour, though of course the limitations of the software will eventually win out in some areas, as has the limitations of the models.

In an ideal world I would have had all the major characters scratch built, with smoke units, moving eye mechanisms, and in a bigger scale, but I'm a chap who earns a couple of hundred-ish each month from my adsense, and until this week was struggling for a job. Don't forget that these last episodes will take time, a lot of money, and great effort.

CGI is not the pot at the end of the rainbow; but I am well organized, I have a set vision, and I am determined to see it out and see what can be done. If it doesn't work, as I have said to several of my close friends, then the models will win out and we will return to normal viewing!

But if I do not try, then the series will never progress beyond the Copley Hill set, and that, more than anything, would be the thing which eventually kills it off. Evolution, not revolution, as they say.

Until next time!

September 23, 2011

"The Last Run"

This last year has been something of an eye opener for me, in terms of how to manage a "brand" so to speak, the sheer frustration and anxiety of the publishing world, and perhaps the most heart warming thing: how many people sincerely feel affection for my characters, and the films they appear in.

Of course, in the background I am working with several people on creating a CGI trailer to relaunch the series on Youtube - that is some way off yet, and the time between episodes looks increasingly lengthy.

So after much self debate, and further thought, and a few helpful reminders (and badgering!) by a close friend...perhaps I should give the models their final run out. A proper send off for the Hornby, Bachmann and various other models which have done their bit on the Copley Hill set, through the ages.

So with that, I've come to a decision. One last, glorious "special" of sorts, chronicling the final days of the engines of Copley Hill, culminating in the "last run" by one particular engine.

The development of The Last Run starts here, and hopefully will bear some fruit before Christmas this year.

Until next time!

September 22, 2011

"Rant of the Week: Chimneys!"

This week's rant of the week is double heading with some actual modelling - and would you believe, it's British Railways Eastern Region modelling this week! Huzzah!

So, for the rant: and to make this abundantly clear, the Bachmann Peppercorn A1 model is fantastic. None of the nine member strong fleet I own have been anything but exceptional runners, and have always looked very much like the prototype whilst maintaining a rugged, purposeful look as a model.

That is, in all but one area: the chimney. Bachmann decided, for reasons as yet unknown, to make the chimney a two piece moulding, where the top half is either the stovepipe or the rimmed chimney, and the lower portion is moulded into the smokebox.

I absolutely despise this arrangement. I loathe it! For me, it has been the strongest bug bear of any model I have owned, and for years I have put up with this strange look at the front end of my favourite locomotive class.

I can only ask "why" this arrangement was thought a good idea, when everywhere else you look, alternate chimneys on other models have been one piece mouldings straight onto smokeboxes. None of this two piece nonsense!

Well, I will put up with it no more! Thanks to Graeme King of the LNER forum, I am going to change all that, by replacing each and every chimney with a cast resin alternative. Graeme has provided for me at little cost, a total of twenty chimneys (and some spare/off cuts too) made out of resin.

My guinea pig for today's first event was old favourite, 60119, which was a renumbered model of 60114.

As you can see, the offending chimney is sliced in half, and this looks distinctly odd compared to photographs of the prototype. I disassembled 60119 down to the boiler, and pulled off the top of the chimney with a set of pliers (the top pops off quite easily), and then set to work filing down the moulded bottom half. In under a few minutes, you are left with this:

Careful fettling of the resin chimney to shape, and drilling out the holes, is vital for a good fit and authentic look.

Which leaves us with this. The smokebox was sanded down with wet'n'dry sandpaper prior to the final gluing down with a few drops of superglue - applied from inside the firebox after sticking the chimney down and into position with a little Pritt Stick. Surprisingly effective.

So the question is: was it worth it? Here's the side by side comparison of the unmodified 60114 against the modified 60119. I think it makes a great difference to the overall look of the front end.

I think it's a modification well worth the effort.

Only eight more A1s to go!

Until next time!

September 15, 2011

"Hornby 4VEP"

What a nightmare morning.

Woke up to knock at door. A fantastic brown package (sadly no longer tied up with string, but still very welcome all the same!) containing the first unit for my planned end to end layout ("Sidcup").

A brand new Hornby 4VEP. I had been looking forward to this immensely, until I started reading the extremely informative RMweb thread on the 4VEP.

Cue panic. Can I really avoid all these extra pieces to make it look more like a 4VEP? Why weren't half of these done in the first place? Oh my god, it has traction tyres...?!

All of this, and more, were nothing in comparison to the very real sinking feeling I had this morning when I opened the 4VEP box and found that the coach which was meant to be the motorised one - wasn't! No motor bogie at all.

Panic ensured again. Rang Hattons - happy to have it returned and checked - and then I noticed the other centre coach was bowing outwards slightly...

Yep, the motor chassis had been inserted in the wrong coach. Panic over. Taking the bodies off to switch them round, I noted the lugs are really fiddly - I didn't break anything luckily, but it is not as easy as it says in the instructions!

By having the coach body on the wrong coach, my whole unit would not have worked, because as far as I can tell from looking at mine, and the instructions, the wires from the coach roof (where the DCC chip is meant to be fitted) have to be pressed into a socket in the motor compartment.

Mine wasn't: it was neatly stowed (just about) between the aisles of the seats in the wrong carriage. All of the coaches have wires in some form from the roof/body to their chassis, so it took five minutes of careful checking to make sure all was well once the switch happened.

Now that it's in one piece, working, and I have time to examine it - I'm actually a lot happier with it in the flesh than I thought I would be. But I can't find out where these "missing" door handles are. There's a single missing door handle on one side of the non-powered centre coach, but that's about it.

John M Upton's excellent modifications are something I am going to have a go on, and definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, a new set of wheels for the motor bogie. The traction tyres squeal when decelerating or accelerating, I cannot live with that forever!

So in conclusion - it's better in the flesh than it is in photographs. However, it does need a lot of remedial work - the bogies are all, as a chap on RMweb said earlier, "wrong" - but I'm feeling more confident about my ability to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse this morning after surviving the earlier shenanigans, and seeing John's modifications.

So I'll leave you with this picture - of my 4VEP with the route code "40" for Charing Cross-Dartford via Sidcup. Most appropriate, given its intended new home!

Until next time!

September 14, 2011


Yes, I've finally finished the attic conversion, and clearing up the majority of the rubbish! Video making now back in business. Lots to finish...!

Until next time!

September 13, 2011

"Rant of the Week: Bachmann Thompson Coaches"

Just to emphasize: I actually really like the Bachmann Thompson coaches. They look pretty much like their prototypes, are well finished, cheap, and with some minor tweaking, run really well.

Well, to be fair, this rant is pretty petulant (!)

A month ago, there were five or six different types in the carmine and cream livery available on most of the box shifters' websites. I was broke, so buying any was not an option.

I am now not so broke, and wanted to buy a few for my various rakes. Are there any left? Just the brake coaches, of which I have plenty. The maroon ones - which are fairly out of period for the era I want to depict - are plentiful.

Drat, drat, and double drat!

It really does go to show that you need to buy the models when they arrive, otherwise you miss out entirely!

On the other hand, my painting skills are improving all the time, so I could just buy some of the maroon ones and give them a repaint...but with my clerestories and LMS suburbans sitting dutifully in the carriage works siding, awaiting transfers and final weathering, I think I'll pass on that for the moment.

Until next time - with a more relevant and thoughtful rant, perhaps!

September 11, 2011

"Reflecting Absence"

Has it really been ten years? I remember it, clear as day.

The two German classes were in Mr Pollard's and Mr Chesire's rooms respectively, overlooking the old Quad. At about a third of the way through the lesson, Mr Pollard came to the door, ashen faced, telling us and Mr Chesire to come into his form room to watch the events unfold.

We were all around the age of 13 - I had turned 14 only two days before as one of the youngest in my year.

We sat, and watched the repeated footage of the first plane crashing into the North Tower. We would later be told it had been American Airlines Flight 11. Then the unthinkable happened. A second plane appeared - and disappeared - as it hit the South tower.

No one spoke for some time afterwards. With the replayed footage earlier, many of us had not really understood exactly what was happening.

Meanwhile, my father was working in his office at the Nat West offices in central London. He, and many other money market dealers, had been on the phone to people in both towers, and after the first plane had hit, the news channel had been switched onto the television which normally showed stock market shares. One dealer had called out for someone to "switch that bloody disaster movie off" before a round of angry responses silenced the dealer in question.

The whole Nat West office followed my father's lead - everyone on the phones was telling the dealers still there to get out of the buildings. They were literally screaming down the phones, "get out - go, get out, you're not safe", as the second plane hit. The man on the end of the phone to my father went silent. I was later told that he was one of the few to make it out alive of the South Tower.

The world seemed to turn on its head that day. When the bell went for break, everyone stayed in the old quad, talking quietly about the day's events.

We watched more of it later that afternoon, watching the towers collapse, the aftermath of several hours sustained fires in the building - and it was only when we saw the dust clouds rising over New York that it really hit home the seriousness of the whole damn thing.

The images in newspapers, magazines, on television and online later that day, week, month, year - were incredible in their subject, but at best devastating. The brave men and women of the New York fire and police services had lost a great many people who tried to save as many as they could. The damage, both in terms of the destruction, and the loss of life were there for all to see.

Two giant towers - 110 floors high - which had dominated the skyline in New York for nearly thirty years. All of us - bar the teachers - had grown up in a world where these buildings existed. The death toll was insurmountable, and fluctuated wildly in the weeks that followed.

66 British Citizens would perish in the attacks. 372 foreign nationals of around 56 nationalities also died. 2669 American citizens died.

The site of the world trade centre has a memorial garden, which is still at this point, under construction. The design has been described as "reflecting absence".

Reflecting Absence. A perfect dedication for the event which changed the world forever.

September 04, 2011

"Rant of the Week: Railway Preservation"

This is all your fault Mr Walker! I really liked the idea of a "rant header" picture. So I'm nicking the idea and using a rather mad Sir Ralph Wedgwood as mine! (Which you penned, and extremely well at that!)

My rant this week generally relates to the sheer amount of diatribe that always gets aimed at 4472 Flying Scotsman - for those of you who haven't heard, the latest news as reported by a particular railway magazine is that 4472 won't now be in service until 2012. This has led to the Barrow Hill lineup of the four different classes of LNER designed Pacifics to be postponed until April next year.

My complaint is the manner in which this has all been reported. Generally it is not difficult to get a straight answer out of the National Railway Museum - they have been very upfront with all of the problems of the overhaul since it began, all the way back in 2006. It was never going to be a straightforward restoration: the locomotive has been utterly pulverized on the mainline, overseas, and on preserved railways for nearly fifty years now. That is before we take into account that the engine had a working life of forty-ish years before that, starting in 1923...!

It's by no means the same engine it was when built in 1923. It's had a plethora of boilers, probably replacement driving wheels, new chimneys, cabs, tenders and various other components and pipework that make up the entity known as 4472 Flying Scotsman. When bought for the nation by the National Railway Museum, she was a very tired engine even then - failing on her Scarborough trips every so often, until a decision to overhaul was made, and do it properly.

I've said it a few dozen times - this is the Rolls Royce of Rolls Royce overhauls. Everything is being checked, checked, and double checked, components are being renewed or replaced, and the whole thing is building up to what will undoubtedly be a fine locomotive which will earn its keep when completed. Yes, there have been setbacks - but would you prefer the setbacks now, before it is in service, or a Royal Scot style saga that ends up with the engine appearing "in service" before failing to turn a wheel for two years, and being dismantled for overhaul (again) so soon after...?

This particular locomotive is absolutely necessary for railway preservation. Forget the total cost of the overhaul (which people keep comparing to 60163 Tornado's cost to build - forgetting of course that Tornado's build was made artificially lower than it could have been through the various sponsors and goodwill of her covenators), remember that the ability of this particular steam locomotive to draw in crowds - wherever she goes - is something beyond the reach of many locomotives in preservation.

Yes, I'm calling it - railway preservation, particularly the smaller preserved railways, where she will undoubtedly visit in her first period of operation after this overhaul, absolutely needs her. 4472 will bring the visitors in their droves to these railways/centres/museums, and the simple fact is that she will almost pay for herself in her first period of operation, whilst directly benefiting many preserved railways simply through turning up.

So give the good people of the National Railway Museum, Ian Riley's Works, and the many more hard working volunteers besides, a break. They have worked unbelievably hard to overhaul a locomotive which by all accounts just kept giving up new and dark secrets of previous overhauls, and their dedication to the cause, which is the absolute gem in our railway preservation - a locomotive of immense beauty that touches the hearts of the general public in a way no other locomotive - bar perhaps Tornado most recently - has ever done.

Her importance to railway preservation as a talisman and figurehead should never be understated or underestimated, and we should all be sincerely grateful to those people putting her back on the mainline, and visiting a preserved railway near you sometime in the future.

That's why she's dual braked, after all.

Until next time!

September 02, 2011

"Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-ch-changes..."

Oh dear. I returned from my trip away to find my attic room - where I film The British Railway Series, and more recently, the Hero of the Scales review series - had been completely overrun with a "late spring clean". In short: not only can I not actually get at the train set to film, I can't actually get in to sleep in my own bed, which used to rest in a corner of the room, but has apparently gone down the dump...!!!

So no videos for a week or two whilst I try and tidy up everything. It's going to be great when it's finished mind - I will even have room for my new layout, "Sidcup" on one side next to Copley Hill.

Until next time!

September 01, 2011

"The Roll of Honour"

I came back from a brief holiday away in the South of England this week, and opened my inbox to find a beautiful selection of messages regarding the possibility of the first The British Railway Series book. The idea came to me that I could do a "roll of honour" which could highlight to a potential publisher the real, palpable desire for a book on the series.

I've received so many emails over the last month in that vein, that publishing them all in the intended roll of honour page on this book hasn't been possible thus far. But I will update the page every so often as I get around to reading all the emails. Here is the link: The Book Roll of Honour - which you can also visit by pressing the page tab above, too!

I can't reply directly to everyone - my apologies - but I hope by including your message on the roll of honour, and by answering a few general questions in a forthcoming blog regarding the potential book, that it will recompense everyone for the valuable time they took to write to me.

Suffice to say, I am very, very grateful, and a few of the more beautifully written emails really tugged at the heart strings a few times! Thank you so much to everyone who has written in thus far.

Until next time - when I'll be doing a Q&A on the book as it stands. Good night!

August 27, 2011

"The Booklist"

Just a heads up to everyone - I have been away for a week, so if you've not heard back from me, RE signing up to the BRWS potential booklist, I am working on a separate new page for the blog - a "roll of honour" for those who have taken the time to write in and express their interest.

Watch out for the new page this week - I also hope to bring a few little surprises to the fore.

Until next time!

August 18, 2011

"To absent friends"

In this day and age, you will meet someone on the internet in anonymity, and on those rare occasions when those pix-elated words on a screen actually becomes a human being, in the flesh, and you get on famously.

I am not ashamed to say that several of my closest friends I "met" on the internet - all through two railway related forums (go figure!) and to say that we take for granted this wondrous means of communicating with each other using only our fingertips on a keyboard is an understatement.

Over the last few days, one particular group of friends has suffered a blow. A very popular member of the forum died, at a very young age, and his bravery in the face of overwhelming odds is something that will last with me all my days.

Compare that, to the dismay and anguish when another of the group ups and leaves, and you are left wondering what more could have been done. Life can be brutal sometimes, and I am in no doubt that it is at its most brutal when you see the unfairness of a young life, lost, and the parting of a friend without reason.

In short, treasure your friends and colleagues, for life is too short to dwell on the bad times.

To absent friends.

August 17, 2011

"The 4th Anniversary of The British Railway Series"

Has it really been four years?

So much has happened in that time.

Rest assured, the series is going to return to Youtube with new episodes.

But for now, enjoy the video and the revelations therein.

Thank you for watching.

Until next time.

August 15, 2011

"Win a Back to the Future Delorean!"

Yes, this exquisite Back to the Future Delorean DMC-12 could be yours! I ship anywhere in the world, just lay in a comment on the video with your answer to the competition question.

Until next time!

August 14, 2011

"Three Days to Go"

With three days to go, I am in real danger of losing it! I simply cannot find the original trailer that was uploaded in late 2006. It hasn't been lost entirely, I know its on the hard drive somewhere, just where exactly is the key!

It has been such a frustrating and busy week that I'm finding the stress levels - always ridiculously high at the best of times - to start affecting my writing. The riots in London - some of which could be seen first hand, in and around my area, and particularly visible, the damage in Croydon, which I drive through regularly, have been playing on my mind greatly.

The safety valve - normally modelling - has been halted while I carry out necessary work to insulate, and reorganize the lofts in which the Copley Hill set and my collection are stored. My hobby is without doubt, the one thing which calms the nerves, but it's been doing me no good this last month by any means!

Until next time.

August 09, 2011

"60500, Edward Thompson - Graeme King Build"

There's something rather magical about Graeme King's modelling. The ability to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse - such as a commission he took on for me, making a Hornby Railroad A4 into a Gresley W1 last year.

This time around, it really is just amazing. I suggested to Graeme quite a while back that an A2/3 could be made from the latest Bachmann A2, and he agreed; he had been thinking on similar lines. We came to an agreement, whereby I would supply a Bachmann A2 for him to use as the prototype for a conversion kit, and I would in return get said prototype to add to my collection when done.

Over the coming months Graeme wove his magic to create this fabulous machine, which I christened Edward Thompson this morning.

The model uses most of the Bachmann A2 model, with the cab and front running plate removed, a smokebox extension ring added, Comet V2 valve gear, and various other details which complete the transformation. It's now available as a conversion kit, details of which you can find here - I am but a very grateful and delighted customer!

I haven't made my mind up whether it will go (as intended) into BR Dark Green or stay in apple green, but for the time being I am simply enjoying its presence on Copley Hill. Oh, and by the way - it gets round second radius curves without derailing. Simply brilliant modelling from Graeme, as always, and I get one more class to add to my Copley Hill stud that adds to the intended realistic atmosphere of the yard.

Did I mention we've had a brief discussion about a possible A2/2 conversion kit as well?

The one thing about this build which is hugely advantageous is that you can have one for roughly a third of the price of the PDK or DJH A2/3 kit, and it's been designed to be extremely simple to convert. I personally think the conversion is much more convincing than either of the aforementioned brands, but that's just one man's opinion!

Until next time!