February 28, 2012

"Mis-identity change! A4 Pacifics"

It's been a while between blog entries this month, mostly because I've spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping when at home. The traveling is finally starting to get to me! But I cannot complain because I like my job and it pays well for the time I put in. However with the tiredness, comes mistakes, and for anyone who has a copy of RCTS volume 2A, you'll spot the mistake which creeped into my modelling this month in about three paragraphs time.

I choose to relate it here, because in a noble sense, hopefully it will stop others from making the same mistake - and in a less noble sense, it should give everyone a bit of a laugh on here at the schoolboy error! I will make a case for the defense later on, however the background first:

One of the things I have wanted for a while now was an A4 Pacific in the BR experimental purple livery. But not just any A4 - it had to be a purple A4. I found, many moons ago, a photograph by a T. Revelly at a model fair of one such engine sitting at Leeds Central in this livery, with the Yorkshire Pullman behind.

I was therefore delighted when a recent eBay bid came up trumps and a second hand and clearly quite battered 60027 Merlin came into my hands. I say battered, and I mean battered!

I really do mean battered, by the way. The plastic cartazzi was split and needed replacing. The motor needed to be re-soldering to the connector for the tender plug. There was a chip on the tender's top side sheet, on the driver's side which I carefully stuck back and then went over with a wet'n'dry foam pad and water to hide the crack. The valve gear was split on one side and I took the opportunity to replace it entirely. The reverser was missing entirely, and like my de-frocked Mallard, Lord Faringdon is still missing this until I can source replacements.

The worst part came with the realization that the previous owner/s had clearly ripped off the original bufferbeam at some point, and replaced it with an older Margate version of the A4 bufferbeam, clearly cut from a spare bodyshell. On removing it, a whole load of material came away, and the clear extent of the damage to the front end of the model was shown.

So I rummaged around in my spares box and came up trumps with a spare bufferbeam from a Railroad Mallard model. This also provided a spare, more realistic looking chime whistle (possibly of Bachmann A4 origin), and some Humbrol model filler.

One of the things I would also need to change on 60027 would be the chimney. I knew from my research (!) that Lord Faringdon was a double chimney A4 for her entire life, and luckily I could call upon one of the excellent Graeme King resin double chimneys to fit, after carefully removing the original single chimney (which may be used for another A4 Pacific project later on).

So I fitted the new bufferbeam using a few drops of loctite, on the bufferbeam tabs, to hold it into position. The next stage was adding Humbrol plastic model filler and filling down the bufferbeam section until the seam was removed. This seam aggravates me on the Hornby A4s, and the purpose of this particular project to some extent was to see if this seam could be reasonably removed and the rivets reinstated on the front end to a good standard.

After a further sanding down with wet'n'dry paper, I added two lines of archers rivets to each side of the streamlined casing it was required, the originals having been sanded down in the rebuilding of the bufferbeam end. At the same time, I added the Graeme King resin chimney (but somewhat aggravatingly, didn't photograph it before I painted it. D'oh!)

The resin rivets were sealed with a coat of Gamesworkshops Chaos Black acrylic paint before I started the identity change. The Merlin nameplates were removed carefully with a scalpel, the area for the nameplate being carefully and lightly sanded with a wet'n'dry foam pad from B&Q, and the Fox Transfers nameplates stuck into place.

The same wet'n'dry foam pad was used, with copious amounts of water, to remove the Merlin crests and Hornby numerals without damaging the paintwork. Fox Transfers numerals were applied, and sealed with Gamesworkshops Ardcoat varnish, mixed 1:3 with water for a light sealing. The current state of play can be seen below:

The idea was to replicate the Hornby rivets whilst also removing that seam, and to some degree I think it's been a success. It looks a bit better minus the seam, but I clearly need more practice with applying the rivets to the model. Note the curly 6 numeral on the Fox Transfers smokebox numberplate, correct for this period (1949).

However...returning to the issue of the "mistake" or in this case, the mis-identity. Yes, I've managed to get it hopelessly wrong. 60034 was never a purple A4, and none of the A4s which were purple had a double chimney at the same time. Two instances have caused me to get this wrong - the first is my own fault:

Yes, I managed to get "GB" (garter blue) and "EP" (Experimental Purple) the wrong way round. I therefore should have been modelling Walter K Wigham. There is some relief as that nameplate is as long as Lord Faringdon's. Less relief when I realize I have to revert the model back to being a single chimney A4 and it needs the 34 changed to a 28.

However there is a further point which may have forced the error further. If you have a copy of Railway Modeller, February 2012, and you turn to page 138, you will see a familiar looking purple A4 Pacific, on Mr Eric Walford's excellent Boreham MPD layout. It seems this mistake is more common than I thought! With apologies to Mr Walford, whose modelling is excellent, but whose A4 is sadly identical to mine in that it's wrong.

So, what to do? Well, I will be finding out if there is a supplier of single chimneys to replace the double chimney I have fitted, and I will be changing the model posthaste over the next few weeks to Walter K. Whigham. Ah well, I only have to do it once more now!

I thought I'd end on a high after the severe low of realizing the mistake, so here is the purple A4 sitting with Mallard, Sir Ralph Wedgwood, and the lone W1 in a lineup which would never have happened either!

Until next time!

February 17, 2012

"Thompson A2/2 build - 60503 Lord President" - Brief Update

It's been a very busy start to 2012, and the time I've had for modelling has been at an absolute premium. Between travelling around the country for my work (I was in Arundel yesterday - a beautiful, magical place), sorting out the plethora of paperwork for my forthcoming children's book, and various other family related odds and ends, any time to dedicated to modelling has been solely confined to snatched moments in the dead of night!

That has not stopped me from pressing on with the 60503 build, though sadly I'm not as far enough along as I'd like to be at this point. A set of Archer's resin rivet sheets arrived this week, so I thought I'd have a go this afternoon.

Now this particular build is something of an experiment. There's no way it is going to be a model of museum quality, that is for certain, but the lessons learned from this build can be applied later in life to those that follow.

What I learned today is simple. Archer's Rivets are a brilliant product. Fiddly, at times, and you do have to cut the carrier film carefully for it to be less noticeable, but overall the waterslide rivets really look the part. Thanks to Mick for his help in procuring the correct rivet sheets. I have applied rivets to the smokebox and to the now complete smokebox saddle, going off the many photographs I've picked up for this build. The results can be seen below:

The one thing which has struck me about 60503 is that she has many, many detail differences to her classmates. In 1949, she sported a slightly different smokebox saddle arrangement (which I have tried, with various degrees of success, to replicate here), and a different smokebox superheater arrangement. The latter will be the subject of my next update, no doubt.

The washout plugs will be the next to arrive, and will be fitted forthwith. The boiler has been finished in terms of rubbing down the unnecessary details. The cab is finished too, albeit awaiting handrails, which I will try and tackle next time.

I managed to take 60503 over to a friend's last week whilst passing after work, and she was quite happy working trains of nine Bachmann MK1s without slipping. I was delighted with her performance in terms of the valve gear - I had some fears it would all go horribly wrong, but happily an intense six hour session of running in on Thursday last week has paid dividends.

So that's my not-quite so brief update on 60503 as it stands. If time allows, I should have finished 60503 by the start of May, ready to embark on the next project, which involves a Bachmann A2, a Hornby A3, a Mainline V2 and some more Graeme King resin components...! The devil is in the detail and I am taking my time with planning that one all out.

Until next time - thanks for reading.

February 15, 2012

"RCTS LNER Volumes"

If you have a more than passing interest in the London & North Eastern Railway, I urge you to go and buy some second hand copies of the series known colloquially as the "green series" - Locomotives of the LNER by the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society (RCTS).

I have been reading my copy of Part 2A - Tender Engines, Classes A1-A10 and it has opened my eyes to some amazing possibilities in modelling, particularly unusual livery and tender combinations.

That, and it gives some amazing insight to locomotive developments with a few draft line drawings of some proposed steam locomotives from all the major LNER C.M.Es.

Until next time, when I will hopefully have a bit more progress on my 60503 conversion.

February 13, 2012


We've had a few revelations recently in my family, some good, and one which has caused a great deal of sadness. Sometimes things just pile up on top of you, and you don't appreciate the good times as well as you should.

I forget sometimes that I'm a very lucky individual. Okay, so I've not yet made it as a Children's author, and money is tight, but I have a decent job with a terrific boss, a wonderful girlfriend who has supported me in everything I've done (and I, her), and a family of blood relatives and close friends who have always got my back when I need it.

If there's one thing the last seven years since walking out of Eltham College and into the big wide world has taught me, is that you can't live your life always on a high. You must have bad times, low points, ruts, in order to fully appreciate and be grateful for the good times.

We are a privileged people in the Western world, of many and varied heritages, but we are all of the same flesh and blood template. So many aesthetic and trivial differences compared to the physical reality of it all.

I think back to some of my favourite memories, and then I see only the smallest sample of some the suffering that happens globally, on a daily basis, in the media, and I know that there's so much more I can do to make this world a better place.

But where to start? Clearly I want to support railway heritage in this country. It's my passion, and my ambition to make a difference. However, there's more to life than the just the history - it's the people who will be around to appreciate that history in the years to come.

Last year, Ryan Hagan of the Sodor Island Forums and I auctioned off a print of The British Railway Series main trio of characters, to raise money for the Railway Children charity. This year I think we can go further, and raise more money for this wholly positive charity.

The question is how, this year. I want it to be a decent amount, but at the same time I want it to involve as many like minded people as possible. If this can be an educational and entertaining bit of fundraising for a deserving charity, all the better.

Until next time.

February 10, 2012

"Defrocking a streak! 60022 Mallard"

Okay, we can all admit it. There is at least one, or two, locomotives that we all want to see on our layouts. There's no doubting that everyone strives for authenticity when building their locomotive stud, but there's always one particular engine which people want "just because". Mallard is one of these for me, though happily as a regular performer on the King's Cross to Leeds expresses in the 1940s and 50s, I have no problem with justifying putting 60022 amidst the A4s in my planned stocklist for Copley Hill:

So with that in mind, we will have a brief interlude from the Thompson Pacific builds for the moment. I had managed to get a right bargain on eBay last week, a £35 "spares or repairs" model of LNER favourite, Mallard. A spare set of valve gear and a new motor were fitted last week after some investigation into the causes of its non running. It's now running as smooth as a brand new model.

However, I am modelling the years 1949-52 for the next incarnation of Copley Hill, and what I wanted was a model of Mallard in her British Railways form. Cue the scalpel, files, and the fitting of a spare smokebox numberplate from a BR Green Railroad Mallard bodyshell (used for the A2/2 and bought in a job lot of spares on eBay), and we get this: a completely "defrocked" and plainly British Railways form, A4!

I had made myself a template for the valances using another spare A4 bodyshell (from the same job lot of spares earlier). I cannot take any credit for the idea behind this conversion, as it is entirely derived from observations of a similar procedure made on the LNER forum, here.

The valances were removed by scalpel, and then filed to their correct shape with a flat file, and then were carefully primed for paint with a wet'n'dry sanding pad.

Of course, a devalanced Mallard model will be missing the bottom section of the firebox, which I created (as a temporary measure) out of plasticard. I am working on a latex mould currently, to recreate the bottom section in resin to add to the other A4s I plan on "defrocking" in the future. When the mould has cured and I've made a few resin copies, these plasticard constructs will be removed and replaced.

With the defrocking done, I turned to rebranding, weathering and fitting the etched nameplates, plaques and worksplates (Fox Transfers). Here is the result:

A bit of weathering with some Tamiya weathering powders, and real coal dust, carefully worked in against the boiler bands and rivets as per the real thing, gives the model of a bit of a "used but not abused" look. I wanted to recreate the strange darkening effect from overpolishing that I had found in a few photographs of A4s in the period I'm looking at (where the paint around the numbers and lettering is slightly darker, giving an odd shadow effect). In hindsight, it's not something I will try and recreate again...

...because it only seems to be noticeable at certain angles or under certain lighting conditions. In real life, it's nowhere near as dark as it seems to show up on camera. C'est la vie, I tried something different and it didn't quite come off.

The inside of the tender was given a bit of a wash with some PVA glue, and carefully selected and crushed lumps of real coal added. On the locomotive, I applied my usual brand of Fox Transfers decals to rebrand the locomotive, sealing them with a liberal coating of Gamesworkshops "Ardcoat" varnish.

I went over the valve gear with a wash of Tamiya's "Oil Stain" colour from their weathering powder sets, and applied several different powders to the chassis (of tender and locomotive) including, but not limited to, "Gunmetal", "Oil Stain" and "Burnt Red" for a little rust relief. A few light coats of Gamesworkshops "Purity seal" sealed the powders and coal dust, and I added the Fox Transfers etched plates to finish the model off.

Overall, I'm happy with the outcome. Hornby haven't as yet offered garter blue minue the valances in the top of the range A4 model, so this is a cheap and cheerful way of getting the combinations I want. I am not certain I will be so confident after taking delivery of a couple of Hornby Great Snipes later in the year, at nearly four times the price of this second hand "spares or repairs" A4 model, but that's another story!

I've certainly learned from this experience, and the next A4 I "defrock" will be finished even better, I would hope!

Until next time, where I will hopefully be finishing 60503 between work shifts, and starting the next locoholism project in the form of another Thompson Pacific build.

February 07, 2012

"More changes afoot"

There are going to be quite a few changes to the blog, and the associated websites. The British Railway Series mini-site may be unavailable for a period of time, so please bear with me as the changeovers continue.

This blog will officially take on the domain name of www.britishrailwaystories.com from Friday, too - the old address will still direct to this blog from this point on.

Until next time!

February 04, 2012

"Thompson A2/2 build - 60503 Lord President" - Update

Last time I was getting to grips with the major bodyshell conversions. This time, I've finished the valve gear.

Yes, it's very crude. It uses components from the donor A2 model, and a spare set of Bachmann V2 valve gear I had squirreled away. Does it work? Surprisingly, yes. It works quite well. I have managed second radius curves with the model in its current state quite happily.

I've been making modifications to the boiler - removal of certain boiler bands, and a complete redoing of the firebox end (not finished yet - new washout plugs, handrail and similar to fit). The smokebox is next on my agenda, however, as it needs the extended superheater headers fitted before the smoke deflectors I've been working on.

I've also sorted out the tender connection, so the whole model is now mechanically complete. Onto the aesthetics and paintwork in the next few weeks!

Until next time.

February 03, 2012

"Tale of the Unnamed Engine - Coming Soon!

Coming Soon to a Platform Near You!

Where it all began: the companion book to "The British Railway Series", "Tale of the Unnamed Engine" is the first book in "The British Railway Stories" eBook series, coming to the Amazon Kindle and Apple's iBooks in 2012!

Find out who the mysterious new Pacific locomotive is, from the mouth of the wise old sage and narrator, Stephen!

Travel to a world set in the 1940s, where steam locomotives rumbled across Great Britain, pulling all manner of trains, and marvel at the beauty of Dean Walker's illustrations!

This is a children's book like no other: Real Locations, Real Engines, Real History!

These are the stories we tell...

Music by Kevin Mcleod, Incompetech.com

The contents of these videos, including all text and photos
(except where credited otherwise) are
©Simon A.C. Martin & The British Railway Stories.