November 30, 2013

"Christmas offer, giveaway, A4 conversion parts update & more"

From today, all copies of the Tale of the Unnamed Engine books ordered before the 17th of December 2013 will receive a free promotional Christmas postcard, as our way of saying thanks to our supporters and customers.

I won't be processing any orders from that date until the 17th of January 2014. This is due to the holidays and some medical appointments I need to fulfil in that time.

Finally, the first production batch of A4 conversion parts has been made and was delivered in November 2013. My thanks to Peter Harvey of PH Designs who has done a superb job at all stages of the development of the etches.

I have sold out the first set of complete kits, those who have pre-ordered will be contacted shortly to confirm details and payments. 

If demand is there I will order more of the largest etch in order to make up more full kits. 

Etches 2 and 3 are now available to order and payment buttons will be added to the model railway page soon.

Until next time.

October 06, 2013

"Railroad Flying Scotsman - further conversion and tender builds"

So after what seems like an age, I've got my scalpel out and started work on the second of my Hornby Railroad Flying Scotsman conversions. Much like the last one (which became St.Simon, and pictures of which will be available as soon as it is dug out of the trunk) spare cylinders, bogie wheels and a few resin parts from Graeme King and my own moulds, and the Gresley A1 is well on its way to becoming an A3 Pacific.

Something different for the second build however: I have built up a lot of spare Hornby tender chassis for just such an eventuality that I would build some tenders up for the Pacifics I want. I was given a few of the older tender drive tops from a friend, and an idea formed after considering that I simply don't have enough of the Great Northern type eight wheel tenders.

The bodyshell itself is too wide, and slightly too tall, but it's a nice enough moulding. The idea is that I'd modify this first one to create a decent silicon mould for resin copies to be made. The relevant Isinglass drawing will be a purchase in the next week or so towards that aim.

You can that the moulded coal does the tender absolutely no favours either, to be frank. Here, like the last Railroad Scotsman, the cab sides are sanded back to create a false turn in, in addition to raising the corner up for its 1949 form.

On the locomotive body, I've repeated the addition of superheater headers, a new chimney and have started on one side replacing the washout plugs with the correct type (and in the right place) for an A3 Pacific using resin washout plugs. I suspect that etched alternatives will be a better bet and will have to do something about that in the near future too.

So in essence, we're getting there. I am thinking about removing the cylinders, and replacing it with the original black set, along with the bogie wheels so that this model can be of Robert the Devil, albeit in express passenger blue (a much easier livery to apply than apple green, to be fair).

Until next time, when hopefully I will have some news of the A4 Pacific Conversion etches - emails will be going out confirming orders soon. I won't be taking payments from anyone until I have the etches and have sorted out the orders thoroughly. It's being done a first come first served basis, however if we sell out of the kits very quickly I will of course look to do a few more.

Until next time.

September 29, 2013

"Books, A4 Conversion Parts and new artwork"

It has been a very busy few months at The British Railway Stories Ltd. The first book, Tale of the Unnamed Engine, is out on Kindle, Kobo, and now in paperback from here on the main site, available from the Sheffield Park shop at the Bluebell Railway, and will soon be available at four other sites around the United Kingdom.

We've almost sold half the print run of 1000 copies, so if you want to get your hands on the children's railway book of the year, now is the time to do it! We ship all over the world with reasonable postage rates.

If you have had problems with your order, don't hesitate to contact me on - I am always happy to talk and fix things. I have recently made a few special messages in books, also signed, on request so it's just a matter of asking me. If your book hasn't turned up yet - don't panic!

There are around thirty orders going out in the post tomorrow. The delay has been caused by a family wedding at the start of the month and moving into my new accommodation.

The wonderful artwork at the top of the page hints at things to come! In addition to the new titles Drew the Colliery Engine and Gresley's Goliaths, we are preparing a new book called Great Western Glory, which will centre around the exploits of three of the Great Western's best. Namely, Star Class no.4054 Princess Charlotte, Castle class no. 5071 Spitfire and King Class no. 6028 King George VI.

Stanley will be returning in all three books, each with a new locomotive narrator, and new sections to the books which we will reveal at a later date...

Finally, the production run of the A4 conversion etches will be incoming over the next month. I will be emailing everyone who has inquired about them later today with full details. We may have to increase the price of each individual item a small item to cover costs but I intend to keep the full kit priced at £27.

Until next time!

August 22, 2013

"Tale of the Unnamed Engine - now available at the Bluebell Railway!"

A further dream has come true this week, with the paperback book now on sale at the Bluebell Railway's wonderful Sheffield Park shop. I can say categorically that Dean and I are thrilled by this news.

Hopefully a few more railways will follow suit over the next week or so.

If you are from a preserved railway and would like to stock Tale of the Unnamed Engine (at wholesale prices, or sale or return) in your shop, drop us a line at

Until next time!


August 08, 2013

"A great start!"

It's been a great first week for our first paperback, so far emptying one entire box of sixty books...and moving swiftly onto the next!

All books will be signed on request by the author, and sent out within seven days of purchase.

Allen Token pre-orders will soon be getting their special link with which to buy the discounted book via email.

Review copies are heading to the railway magazines shortly, as are samples to various railways and bookshops up and down the country.

It's all go and we couldn't be happier!

Buy Tale of the Unnamed Engine here - the perfect children's book for the summer!

August 03, 2013

"Tale of the Unnamed Engine - now on sale for UK and the rest of the world"

The paperback you've been waiting for is now on sale! Tale of the Unnamed Engine is now available direct from this website, for both the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. Simply click the button relevant to your location to go onto the payment link for the book.

Please remember that although I am a "one man band" in terms of the distribution of the book, I will endeavour to send out orders as quickly as possible.

All copies will be signed on request.

After six years on YouTube, The British Railway Stories is now in print for the first time. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and hopefully this will be the first of many.

On behalf of myself and Dean, may I say thank you for your patience, your support, and your kindness.

These are the stories we tell, and we have many more to tell, rest assured.

Simon A.C. Martin

August 01, 2013

"Tale of the Unnamed Engine - taking preorders!"

We are now taking preorders for the first book in the series, Tale of the Unnamed Engine.

However, there is a catch! The company email address to place your pre-order is now... cope with the renewed demand.

Therefore if you wish to order the book, or any other product from this blog (including the A4 Conversion Etches, which will be the subject of a blog next week giving an update), please email me there with the name of the product in the email header.

I will advise on postage and packaging costs tomorrow evening for the book, including home and abroad. The RRP remains £7.99 (however if you have an "Allen Token" from purchasing the eBook on Kindle or Kobo devices, you will get your £1.14 discount honoured until the 30th of September).

Until next time!

July 31, 2013

"Tale of the Unnamed Engine...will be on sale shortly!"

I absolutely loathe last minute hiccups! So it was with today's intention to have the book on sale for the first time.

The first hiccup is the PO Address - which is not ready to give out yet (entirely my own fault!) and the second hiccup is the Paypal address, also giving some problems. I intend to have to have these problems fixed by the end of the week. Please accept my sincerest apologies for the wait yet again, however it's for the best to get the bugs sorted so we don't have any problems ordering.

In the meantime, anyone who wants to buy a book can reserve their copy by emailing us at the address on the "contact us" page and requesting a reservation.

Postage and packaging costs to be confirmed by close of business tomorrow.

The final thing - and the BIG NEWS - you may remember that buying the eBook would entitle you to money off the paperback book? I am extending the deadline to the 30th of September 2013, to allow everyone to have the offer (because the deadline for the tokens expired a few months ago)

More on this as it develops this week, however I thought I'd give an indication of the finished product, which looks utterly fantastic. Photographs do not do it justice. Dean's artwork looks grand, inside and out, and the writing is all perfectly printed on high quality paper.

Not long now everyone!


July 29, 2013

"Tale of the Unnamed Engine - the paperback - on sale from tomorrow night!"

Get your chequebooks and Paypal accounts ready: the books will be ON SALE from from tomorrow night! (RRP £7.99 plus postage of £2.50)

Our stockists will be informed later tomorrow night as to the delivery of their allocations. Anyone who would like to stock the book, we have a limited number available for wholesale purchase.

The first paperback book in The British Railway Stories: Tale of the Unnamed Engine, is finally here!

July 06, 2013

"What constitutes moaning, and Hornby's Gresley P2"

It's incredible what constitutes "moaning" these days!

I really do tire of the cyclical debate that model railways seem to create. It's impossible on the internet to HAVE a debate sometimes, let alone approach one with a critical and a modelling eye.

Some people also seem to have switched their brains off and forgot that constructive criticism in the pre-production phase can sometimes generate even better results. Suddenly we have all manner of people coming out of the woodwork, "defending" the manufacturers by berating anyone who speaks out of the party line.

The "party line" by the way, is alive and well on a certain model railway forum and I don't think I need to tell you how wearying it is to constantly read people stating that those of us with a more critical eye are "berating the manufacturers".

Sorry to disappoint, but nobody has berated Hornby as far as I can see. I can certainly surmise that the moaning about someone else moaning about "plastic buffers" will have been aimed at me, but to be fair this is a criticism of Hornby's Tornado and Railroad Flying Scotsman models too, and in both cases it has been proven that the thin, moulded plastic buffers are no substitute for proper metal turned ones (whether sprung or not) in terms of their durability.

Here's what I was quoted as saying on MREmag this week:

Hornby's Gresley P2 has made its debut, and what a debut. Despite my natural reservations (moulded plastic buffers, square axleboxes and moulded handrails), Hornby's newest "big green and named" locomotive looks like unexpectedly bucking the trend this year and proving to be the stunner of stunners.

My only real criticism at this early stage are the plastic buffers. The 2012 Railroad 4472 model and the Hornby Tornado both share this trait, and they are very easily damaged or broken off altogether whether in the youngest or oldest of hands.

I do not understand how the recent 42xx/72xx Heavy Tanks can have unsprung metal buffers (probably the best compromise if the aim is to reduce the number of separate parts from the sprung alternative) but the Gresley P2 and the Duke retain plastic buffers?

I reserve judgement on the square axleboxes, though it is with some regret that we see Hornby move away from their excellent chassis design of years past. The Railroad Tornado retained the brass bearings inset into the chassis principle of the best of Hornby's most recent Pacific and LNER outline models, and remains one of their smoothest operators in the range.

On this occasion, despite the head leading with a firm desire to be constructive, and despite the reservations outlined above, the heart melted at the sight of the perfectly curved deflectors, the exquisite valve gear and the handsome high shoulders of the Gresley P2.

Truly, Hornby could have a winner here. I do so hope they do. Nobody in the model railway world wants Hornby to fail: to do so would be counterproductive to the future of the hobby. We must not, however, be blind to their discrepancies when they arise, and be as constructive in our critique as possible.

Simon A.C. Martin

(And thank you to MREmag for printing it un-edited: it is nice to know that there are still places for model railway enthusiasts to discuss topics without being censored or silenced altogether).

So, where exactly is that "berating" Hornby or "moaning?" We are in danger of letting the lunatics take over the asylum in terms of being able to talk about our hobby, whether it's latest releases and how the manufacturers can improve them (before manufacturing them) or improving the latest model by - well - modelling!

The biggest problem I have with model railways at the minute, and the one thing which has spurned me from being able to talk about them on the blog, is the politicking, point scoring and general sort of reverse snobbery which stops people from being able to produce fair, balanced opinions with all the facts to hand.

I'm currently working for a superb organisation whose core beliefs centre around "there are two sides to every story", and in the case of Hornby's Gresley P2, there are two sides to the debate: those who want to have one and discuss it maturely, and those who do not and want to silence everyone else.

Pick your side carefully!

In my case, I choose to remain constructive, cautious and looking towards the future with an open mind but also a practical one. Railroad range models, intended for younger hands or for older ones returning to the hobby should not have plastic buffers which can be easily broken.

That's my view, it's based on actual experience and testing this out both with children and my own modelling experience. If you don't like it, feel free to have your right to reply here and give your view. I will publish any and all comments on this blog (if it doesn't work first time it's because I have a spam filter in place and will publish your comment at the earliest available opportunity).

Until next time, have a great weekend, enjoy Wimbledon today and tomorrow and remember: model railways are meant to be fun but can also be a great source of informative, constructive debate that feeds the mind.

June 20, 2013

"News on the book, A4 Conversion Parts and a new job..."

We're getting there! Yes it's been long, protracted and not without some blood, sweat and tears along the way.

I am finally at the stage of feeling like we are going to have a superb product at the end of it all, having seen printed samples of the final pages, and the front cover, gloriously produced by the London College of Communication.

I have worried for nearly seven months solid as to whether or not the book was going to look the part. I can say categorically that we have a product which can sit on a shelf in a bookstore and be seen, and taken seriously.

It was never my intention to go into this half-heartedly, and by going through this first book and getting to the print stage, it has taught me a lot about self-publishing, and what can be done better for the next book.

Apologies for the lack of blog posts recently. I started a new job with the Financial Ombudsman Service, which I am absolutely loving. The office and its staff are wonderful, amazing people and I'm very happy to be back in work and earning a full time wage again.

That is not to say I am giving up on the blog, merely that I am scaling back my modelling activities.

That does mean that I have had to delay the A4 conversion parts, however this is a minor set back which I will rectify once certain events are out of the way (my impending holiday to Malta, the fiancee's sister's wedding, and a few other family events). I intend to have the kits and parts ready for sale by August, so please feel free to email me with your orders and queries.

Thanks to everyone for their continued patience too. Remember that The British Railway Stories Ltd is a one man operation, with a two man publishing team and both members with full time jobs and other commitments which limit the scope sometimes of what we can do.

We do try very hard, and will continue to do so, to bring these wonderful stories to you in both print and eBook form.

I hope to have finished Drew the Colliery Engine (Book 2), Gresley's Goliaths (Book 3) and our as yet unannounced Book 4 (featuring another preserved railway locomotive) over the course of the next three to four months. Writing has been difficult due to the job change mostly, but things are getting back on track slowly but surely.

Until next time!

June 13, 2013

"Shires and Hunts"

This superb model turned up in the post this week. I say "superb" mostly on the basis of the potential for some modelling this plucky locomotive offers. 

This model has latterly been described elsewhere as one of Hornby's more bizarre choices of Railroad offerings (which to me made some sense, given the use of the same chassis underneath the revitalised Midland Compound, Great Western County and Maunsell Schools class locomotives now on sale) and to be frank, I suppose you'd expect that I'd be very critical of this model, particularly given the awkward detail problems the model has. 

The problem stems mostly from the combination of the outside steam pipes, piston valves and the pick of the name/number from the "Hunt" sub section of the Gresley D49 class, along with the tender choice. 

Hornby have previously offered the D49 as an out and out "Shire" without the outside steam pipes and certain choice identities, but here the combination is a tricky one to sort without some modelling, which I intend to do much later in the year after some research and study.

Previously I have bought one of these models as the basis for my Thompson D Class exercise, and whilst that model is by no means a perfect representation of that unique locomotive, the project itself was good fun and gave me something rather unique to play around with.

The point of the matter is that the Railroad D49 is perfect material for further modelling, and the results (as can be seen across the internet and in particular on the LNER Encyclopaedia Form) can be really rather convincing.

My job now is to convince myself into modelling either a Hunt or a Shire, and to what extent I modify the locomotive bodyshell or replace it altogether. One thing which IS going to be replaced is the tender, for which I have a cunning plan involving resin casting and one of Bachmann's excellent Robinson D11s. Purely for my own use, you understand, and this will solve the tender issue of the Thompson B3/3 as well...!

Until next time.

June 05, 2013

"Hornby Heavy Tanks: In defence of consumerism"

Sometimes I think railway modellers are inclined to look at things through rose tinted spectacles a little too often. 

We live and work in a consumer orientated society. Every single manufacturer in every single market (except ours, apparently) is open to constructive criticism and debate on quality and pricing.

Take for instance, the recent Xbox One news. Consumers and critics alike questioning the specification, the design and the eye watering price, both in comparison to its rivals and in terms of its overall value for money.

This is a healthy debate: consumers are, after all, the target market and its their needs and desires that companies develop their wares for. If a manufacturer gets overly expensive for what is no longer a premium product (for examples look at Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones of years past) then their popularity will decline and they'll come in for justifiable criticism from all angles. 

Sometimes it makes a company pull their socks up and reinvent their own market (see apple) or generally improve their products or lower their prices accordingly.

We are, after all, in a capitalism driven market and capitalism itself is what drives manufacturers like Hornby and Bachmann. They are businesses, they exist to make money and to make profits year on year. Their drive is not to fulfil every single whim of the railway modeller (though it helps, of course, to listen to what your market is telling you) but to make railway models which sell out and generate their own demand year on year.

For all the world recently, though, you'd think that manufacturers like Hornby and Bachmann were put on this earth for a very different reason. To keep this hobby alive, no less, and for that may we all be truly grateful...

It's utter tosh, and a fundamental basic principle of business is being completely overlooked by those who are so very keen to push a particular agenda. The facts are stonewall in this particular issue I am afraid, and it goes a bit like this.

There is a line in the sand where a manufacturer in any market can go too far, whether it is reducing the quality and specification of their wares but at the same time keeping their prices artificially high, or higher. Or, to go the other way and price their wares out of reach of the vast majority of their customers.

We see this all the time elsewhere in the consumer led markets, and magazines, websites and TV shows are not so afraid elsewhere to cast a more critical eye.

Richard Fosters review of the Hornby 42xx Heavy Tank (which should be praised for being balanced and critical where it counts for the consumer) has been unfairly ridiculed, lambasted and described, rather preposterously, as "violent" by Simon Kohler, no less!

The review has been rather heinously described as "Hornby bashing", and anyone who has shown agreement with the point of view have been vilified, to the extent that yours truly was accused of over-egging the point on a certain forum for daring to disagree with the rather silly view that I have no right to voice an opinion which is concerned for future Hornby releases...!

All of these people have missed the point entirely and I'm afraid Simon Kohler's description of Richard Foster's review does him no favours. No, the 42xx Heavy Tank is not a bad model but it is a very average one being sold at a high premium price comparable to this:

Or this:

Or even this:

Last year I praised the Hornby Thompson O1 and the Gresley B17 in particular. 

They are superb models, the O1 for me being the true "model of the year" is an incredible depiction of its prototype, with very, very few minor "flaws" (one being the smokebox door which covers a small proportion of the class, but that is fixable and several very able modellers have done that with some aplomb).

In Hornbys own range it is clear that the 42xx Heavy Tank is a step back in terms of technology (both body shell and chassis) and is available at a price comparable to these much superior models Hornby have produced only a few months ago.

Can you imagine the future iPhone 6 being sold without wifi capability? The next Samsung Galaxy phone sold without a touch screen? Can you imagine your new car coming without power steering and yet being sold at a price comparable to another manufacturers, which does have power steering?

In the real world of other consumer led markets, quality and value for money is key, along with desirability. Hornby are fully capable of hitting all of those targets and have done consistently for some years (with the odd lemon that is the Hornby 4VEP) that but have fallen down here for me.

Does saying that out loud, firmly, and without intent (lest you believe the ridiculous assertions of one webmaster in particular) harm Hornby itself? Only if they do not react to the justified criticism of their latest models. Their models have to continue to improve, or keep the standards high, and if not, should be priced accordant with their quality.

Modellers are having to be more cautious in their spending. Times are hard and lots of expensive railway models are booming increasingly difficult to justify for many people. It is value for money which is most important elsewhere in the real world, and so should it be in our hobby when buying the latest ready to run models.

I'm afraid the reality of this debate is that a few individuals have seen fit to turn a positive of our railway media (constructive debate and criticism) into some form of monster, which neither exists in the form so pompously described by one who should know better as rivet counting, nor is it as unwarranted as they would have you believe.

Railway modellers are consumers too, and it is your right as a consumer to be critical. It is your money, your hobby and the manufacturers are businesses which exist to make money. Nothing more and nothing less.

They must, as other manufacturers in other industries do, sink or swim on the basis of their wares. If their wares are not good enough, they will fail. If you want them to succeed, tell them where they are going wrong in the most constructive manner possible.

Which is exactly what Richard Foster did last month, and I applaud him and Model Rail for their honest and critical review. 

Shame on those reviewers who have forgot the consumers and turned a blind eye to the 42xx's premium price and less than premium overall quality.

Value for money indeed!

May 26, 2013

"Heavy Tanks & Forum Discussion"

It's quite simple really: Hornby have not quite got universal praise for their latest round of steam outline products, the 42xx and 72xx Great Western Heavy Tanks.

Across the internet, whether it's on MREmag, the New Railway Modellers Forum, Modellers United or similar, there is definitely an undercurrent of disappointment from would be purchasers of these models and future products from Hornby.

Now, it's fair to say that the Heavy Tanks are flawed. Not so flawed that they are absolutely dreadful, but simply not up to the specifications that modellers and collectors have come to expect for their £120-£140 RRP.

Richard Foster's review in last month's Model Rail got it absolutely spot on. They're not good enough for their price, and they are certainly not up to the very high standards Hornby themselves have set. Not the consumer, I hasten to add, but Hornby.

I think the point that Model Rail were making (and I myself amongst others across the internet) is that you cannot continue to push prices up at RRP and put detail standards down without at some point going past an accepted level of "value for money" and thus alienating your core group of consumers.

No one notices sprung buffers, but to tool up a new set of unsprung ones when you have the correct types already tooled up for use on previous GWR models is bizarre.

The Thompson trio of L1, B1 and O1 from Hornby all share certain components, plus some portions of their research and development, so not only do we know it can be done, we know Hornby have done it previously.

A case in point is the Railroad Peppercorn A1 and all the other loco drive LNER Pacifics that Hornby offer. Their chassis in particular are exercises in reusing shared components amongst different models.

The 42xx/72xx feel like they were built down to a price and marked up at RRP to the limit of that the market would stand. Most modellers will tell you that's how it works across the board, and I wouldn't deny that, but the heavy tanks feel like an extreme example.

I feel almost confident that, had the models been at an RRP of £100 instead of in and around £140, reviewers might have been more inclined to overlook things like the door dart, sprung buffers and similar. In terms of price at sale, models have to meet the standards met elsewhere at similar RRPs (like Bachmann's magnificent Midland Compound. For the same RRP, and at similar discounts at the box shifters as the Heavy Tanks, you can have one of these. Not helpful if you really want a Heavy Tank, but it puts the specification versus price debate into perspective).

However couple that with the chassis design (for which I am not convinced the sudden loss of brass bushes set into slots on the chassis will prove a long term gain for Hornby in terms of reliability and running characteristics), the poor paint job and printing (look in particular at the buffer beam numerals and crests) and the whole model just doesn't match up to Hornbys high standards or their competitors.

Richard Foster nailed it in my view. If these had been the first of the new generation, and not the MNs and BoBs/WCs over a decade ago, and at a price suitable to their spec, we'd be extolling their values and praising them to the hilt.

The world has moved on, Hornby has taken a step backwards, Bachmann and Dapol continue to impress and push up their own standards.

Why Hornby have to be so Jekyll and Hyde in their approach to model railways is beyond me. I will tell (and no doubt bore) anyone who'll listen how brilliant their LNER models are.

We can't afford to be blaze in our purchases anymore, money is tight for everyone and its clear people are not going to pay out for everything if it doesn't quite meet their expectations anymore.

So that's my point of view on the 42xx and 72xx discussion. It's shared elsewhere by a good number of people. I can only say (as I always say) that you should treat forum discussion as a sample, but the sheer number of disappointed purchasers and bystanders is surprising.

Now, I am convinced the 42xx and 72xx can be turned into excellent models by changing a few things. Sprung buffers, smokebox dart, a better paint job and some weathering. However, it's the starting point which has changed. The price is higher, the specification is lower. Modellers are a discerning bunch, and they have to be.

There will be modellers looking at Hornby's future products and wondering if they are going to come out like these models. Will they pass on future models if they're not up to scratch? In my view it's best to tell Hornby now how you feel now, be constructive and be upfront and honest, than to stay quiet and wait for the inevitable to happen.

So what do we think of this post by Andy York on RMweb?

"The flames seem to have been fanned by some that I wouldn't think would have an interest in the specific product but have used it to register concerns about future potential releases and it seems in some cases that some people have been on an active search to find faults to add to the list. Let's just keep it level-headed, it's beginning to sound like some are calling for blood".

Well yes Andy, that's the point. If the models are not meeting the expectations of their purchasers, or potential future customers of Hornby, why can't people make their viewpoints heard in the most constructive manner?

If you actually bothered read back through your own Heavy Tank thread on RMweb, you won't find people "baying for blood" or actively trying to find the most preposterous faults to devalue the model. 

You'll find a group of modellers actively trying to define their feelings on Hornby's latest steam outline models, and the "design clever" strategy (which, lest we forget, Messers York and RMweb were actively extolling the values of in December last year) with as much reason, careful discussion and genuinely good natured debate as is the norm in the hobby.

What is frustrating is the amount of incomprehensible doublespeak that comes out of the mouths of people who should know better, or who have previously allowed good and positive, constructive discussion to influence the development of some excellent models.

So is this "Hornby bashing" as it's become fashionable to term, by people who can't debate and have no idea how to be constructive? No, of course it's not. We all want Hornby to do well. Anyone who actively wants Hornby to fail is not acting in the best interests of the hobby and future models.

We have to make our voices heard in the most constructive manner. People like myself have done so without resorting to name slanging, or accusations of "fanning flames" and generally being unpleasant and abusing our positions of power. We need to continue to do so without being beaten down by people who try to control news, views, and viewpoints.

Until next time - and apologies for the lack of blogs this month. Have started a new job and time has been at a premium. Normal service will be resumed soon!

May 09, 2013


The results are in from Locoyard, part of the UK Heritage Hub, in their quest to find the world's most famous steam locomotive...

The results are more than a little surprising...!

With an absolutely stunning 15% of the votes, "our Allen" has narrowly pipped a certain little blue tank engine into third place, behind Australia's no.3801 in second, and the UK's Flying Scotsman in first place.

It is an absolute honour to come third in the poll, and it is a testament to our fans around the world.

Thank you all so much for your support, particularly with the book nearly ready to hit the shelves at long last.

Thanks both to Locoyard and the UK Heritage Hub for setting up the poll, their coverage and their support.

Until next time!

April 27, 2013

"April blues"

It's been one of those months unfortunately - being made redundant at the end of March has put pressure on the finances, but happily it's affecting my hobby in a positive manner. I have made it my duty to sell off anything and everything absolutely not required. So many things have already gone up on eBay and sold, so the money is coming in at a steady pace and more or less keeping me afloat.

It's difficult to keep the hobby going when there's so much pressure on getting back into work. That has to come first I'm afraid (yes, even ahead of the book at present - which is still on course for being released very, very soon).

So it's been a sparse April, my apologies. Things can and will get better, but there's a few priorities I need to work on first, mostly regarding my better half and a certain holiday abroad we need to take towards the start of the summer...

Until next time, when hopefully things will have picked up for the better.

April 14, 2013

"News on the book"

It's been a long old road, but we're nearing the finish line with the printing. Delays of all sorts of types have come to try us, but now it's just a case of signing off on the front and back covers, and we're there.

I will be contacting our stockists soon to confirm allocations and delivery dates.

There will be a limited number of books available from our Amazon shop at full RRP with postage and packaging. Pre-orders will soon be invited on the shop, with members of the BRWS Ltd's Facebook group being offered first refusal.

In theory, although our first batch of books has sold out, I have a number of them reserved for magazine and newspaper reviews, and some for friends and family.

A second batch of books may well be printed and delivered before the end of the summer, dependent on funds available.

I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their patience, and apologise for the lack of communication recently.

Yours faithfully,

Simon A.C. Martin

April 09, 2013

"Thompson B3/3: Cab, balance weights..."

Building model locomotives has been my way of letting off steam for a few years now. I can feel the stress and anxieties melt away as I start chopping, filing, gluing and soldering bits and bobs to make new models.

The current project is my Thompson B3/3 build, which is starting to get into its stride and take over just about all my modelling time. I see it on the workbench and I long to get the next bit done. The "next bit" in question this evening, along with the driving wheel balance weights, was sorting the cab.

If you're a Peppercorn A2 fan, best to look away now.

A cab left over from a Thompson A2/3 conversion (in fact THE Thompson A2/3 conversion: the prototype Graeme King did as a commission for me, and which spawned all of the other Thompson conversions which have come to pass in the last two years) was used as part of a cut and shut. This is because I discovered the Peppercorn A2 cab's side sheets had the windows pitched in exactly the right position, with the right shape, and were (in addition to the width of the side sheets) also the correct length for the B3/3.

I therefore cut them out, and then cut them to size to the existing B1 cab. The side sheets on the B1 cab had to be removed, along with the splashers in the cab.

With the  cab roof was cut along the centre line, and moved back. This gives the correct length cab, and now all of the roof's vents and panels are in the correct locations too. The roof was given a thin plasticard lining to cement it all together, before it was then

I should mention that the original splashers were not deep enough for the larger Royal Scot wheels and consequently a new set will have to be fabricated from plasticard, along with a new cab floor.

Gamesworkshops green putty, along with some Humbrol plastic filler, were used to bring all the pieces together, and also fill in any redundant Peppercorn A2 odds and ends. This will be carefully filed back and sanded down smooth tomorrow after my errands.

The final job for the day was fitting some new plasticard balance weights for the driving wheels. Once these have stuck firmly, I will filed away the Royal Scot balance weights which are just about visible underneath still.

All in all, not a bad day's work on the B3/3, and I even managed to fit in a good hour's running on the rolling road too.

Until next time.

April 08, 2013

"Thompson B3/3: a tonic for insomnia"

It's amazing sometimes how quickly things seem to go together when it's half two in the morning.

I had another batch of insomnia last night, something which affects me particularly when I am stressed. I cannot switch off. The brain will not be told to go to sleep. It continues unabated, incessantly repeating the worries until I nod off through lack of sleep around 4am before having to get up at 8.30am to go through my usual writing routine, along with job applications, orders for the book and more planning and writing of future books and videos.

So in order to take my mind off things (job prospects, the book being published, sister heading off to Madrid to be in a play, paying for car repairs, girlfriend's teaching career troubles) and all the other little things at present, I decided to get my Isinglass drawings out and see what more could be done to my Thompson B3/3 model. This was just after midnight last night, and I didn't stop until it was actually half two in the morning.

I bought a spare Thompson B1 bogie off eBay last week. This bogie has actually come off the latest Hornby Railroad Flying Scotsman model, which for some reason doesn't use the correct type but re-uses that on their B1 model. This suited me as the spare B1 chassis I bought did not originally come with a bogie.

In a similar vein to the changes I made to 60113 Great Northern's bogie recently, I will chop off and file down the obtrusive NEM pocket when I get a chance.

You will notice the difference in buffer heights. This is the next stage of the build which I have to work through. The B3/3 had the B1 boiler pitched higher than the B1, which necessitated deeper "shoulders" over the cylinders. It also had deeper and longer cab sides to compensate, which I will tackle at the same time.

The next step was to cut off the existing moulded dome from the Bachmann B1 body shell, filing the boiler smooth afterwards. This is so I can fit one of Graeme King's excellent Gorton style domes instead, which the B3/3 was fitted with (being rebuilt in real life at Gorton).

You will notice I've cut and moved the rear steps and running plate away to show where the cab needs to be modified along with the rear curve down. The cab side sheets need to be replaced, and luckily I have worked out a way of doing this so that the correct length and depth to the side sheets, along with the correct window placement can be done. The curve in the running plate will need to be cut and then extended to match.

The rear splasher can be taken care off very easily by retaining the cutout in the existing cab. The difficult bit is adding the small splashers further up the running plate. Holes will be drilled to fit, and then splashers made in plasticard and fitted thereafter.

I'm planning, once the front running plate is cut and shut to the correct depth, and the spare Hornby B1 buffers have been added, to fit a set of false frames over the bogie wheels to give the model less daylight in that area, and preserve the bulky look further.

The next stage is to finish the work on rewiring the model, and adding pickups to the tender to help with the running capabilities. I've been astounded at how smooth the model is on the rolling road, particularly as no modifications have been made to the valve gear or the driving wheels to fit each other. It was a simple drop in replacement for the original B1 driving wheels.

So there you have it. A few bits of cutting and shutting, dome replacement and the addition of a front bogie to push the Thompson B3/3 build a bit further on. It is proving to be the tonic to my sleep problems as I nodded off shortly afterwards, still at my workbench. I am glad I had put the scalpels away by then...!

Until next time.

April 07, 2013

"A4 Conversion Parts, Production Batch planned for May 2013"

Some of this blog's regular readers will be aware that I've had a set of etches developed by PH Designs in order to model Gresley A4 Pacifics of the post war period, by removing the valances and adding etched detail to Hornby A4 Pacific models.

These etches are also suitable for modelling Sir Nigel Gresley or Bittern in their post preservation guises. I've had the costings back for the production etches, and the prices I am looking at are as follows.

The cost of a full conversion kit (including all of the etched components and the valance cutting tools) is likely to be around £27.

One kit will fully convert one model from an A4 with valances to one without, with lamp irons, lower firebox sides, reverser, access hatches, smokebox numberplate and cab window spectacles included.

The breakdown of the individual etch prices comes in at RRPs of £20 (cutting tools, lower firebox sides, AWS plate, lubricator arm), £5 (access hatches, lamp irons, smokebox numberplate, cab doors) and £2 (cab spectacle plates).

I intend to have the first production batch made in May 2013 or shortly afterwards.

Postage & Packaging will be separate, and I will investigate prices to set a standard cost for the full kit, and the individual etches accordingly.

Due to the higher cost of the largest etch to set up and produce, only a very limited number of full kits will be available straight away. They will be sold on a first come, first served basis. If demand for the full kits is higher than expected, I will look to increase the number in the first production batch.

If you email me on and let me know of your requirements, I will take orders on the full kits and individual items on a first come, first served basis. I will also create a waiting list for full kits and individual etches dependent on the demand. It may be possible to reduce the prices of the etches for the second batch if I can guarantee the batch will sell out.

Further details can be found on our products page here.

On a related note, I am looking at perhaps having etched some sundries for Gresley/Thompson/Peppercorn Pacifics, with washout plugs, mudhole doors, cabsides and bufferbeam overlays all being mooted at present. If there's anything in particular you think you'd like to see, let me know and I will investigate further.

Until next time.

April 04, 2013

"Thompson B3/3 from a whole host of spare parts..."

I'm not even going to pretend that this particular build is anything other than using as many spare parts and different components as possible to make something which, in reality, did more or less the same thing!

I mused on building Thompson's lone, short lived B3/3 locomotive a while ago, but with the arrival of a set of 6ft 9in driving wheels (actually standard Hornby Royal Scot spares), I decided to push it up the queue a little bit to see if the idea was a goer or not.

The answer is...yes, it's definitely a goer. So much so that it's jumped ahead of quite a few projects whilst I'm developing it further!

I have fitted the new driving wheels, which required re-quartering on two sets to the proper configuration, along with the correctly sized brass bearings from the Hornby B1 chassis' wheels. It is somewhat infuriating that the Hornby Royal Scot and Thompson B1 share axle sizes, but not, apparently, the brass bearings. Try as I might, I could not get the set which came with the Royal Scot drivers to fit the chassis, but the B1 bearings fitted first time with the Royal Scot drivers. The result is a working Hornby B1 chassis, re-wheeled with 6ft 9in wheels.

In order to get the wheels to fit good and proper, all of the brake hangers plus any other details such as the sanding gear, need to be removed from the bottom keeper plate and surrounding area. I have kept all of these moulded details for reuse later on in the build (the brake blocks, in particular, can be simply repositioned to fit properly).

Stunningly, all of these modifications have helped to give me a chassis which is only 1mm out on for the actual wheelbase of the B3/3, and that's on the rear drivers which are 1mm too far backwards.

I think I can live with that though, as the front end is absolutely spot on, both for the level and inclination of the standard B1 cylinders, and the placement of the valve gear. I really did not expect it to be fit quite so well as it did!

The next job on the chassis is to fit new brass pickups. Fitting larger wheels meant that the brass wipers already on the bottom keeper plate, would not be long enough (larger diameter, longer distance to circumference of the wheel where the pickup meets the tyre). I therefore need to make some bespoke ones. In order to test the chassis, I simply attached the red and black wires to the terminals of my Hornby rolling road. It ran smoothly through all of the power ranges, and in reverse too.

The driving wheels will need new balance weights to be fitted (it is likely that thin plastic overlays will be the order of the day) in addition to refitting the brake blocks, hangers and similar along with the sanding gear, and as mentioned previously, rewiring and making new brass pickups before the chassis is complete.

In the body stakes, I've discovered a very interesting fact. The B3/3 had its B1 boiler pitched higher than the Thompson B1, with a shorter chimney and a squarish Gorton dome fitted, but the cab and the boiler fittings at that end remained in proportion to the boiler, as per the B1.

This meant that the high shoulders on the B3/3 are actually deeper than on the B1, and at the rear, the running plate dip under the cab is deeper too. The cab itself is longer and deeper, although the roof remains the same more or less. In theory, cutting and shutting two Bachmann B1 bodyshells should give us the correct length running plate at both ends, and cutting and shutting two cabs will give the deeper, longer B3/3 cab.

Obviously the above is by no means a finished picture, but it's an interesting amalgamation of components to present my progress on the idea. That we've got a working chassis (albeit minus pickups at the minute) is a great starting point. I sincerely did not think it would be this easy to simply replace the driving wheels and refit the valve gear!

I've quite a bit of work to do on my other outstanding projects. The Ivatt N1 needs coal rails, Great Northern needs her running in before a coat of blue and transfers (but the nameplates have arrived!) and I've got to finish that Railroad A3 conversion before the end of the month. The B3/3 will fit in and around those projects as they come to completion.

I've also got a layout related update coming up this month, surprisingly!

Until next time, thanks for reading.

April 01, 2013

"Thompson L1: brief catch up..."

I had completely forgot to finish reporting on my recent Thompson L1 renumbering and weathering exercise. The worksplates arrived, and together with some Johnson's Klear on the valve gear, have finished off the model nicely in my view. I'm much happier with it now as a result, though I feel I still have a ways to go with my weathering in general.

Until next time, sorry for the mini-update!

March 30, 2013

"Railroad Flying Scotsman Conversion"

I was given a challenge by the owner of this Railroad Flying Scotsman to turn it into "something authentic". I accepted the challenge, and went for it with gusto today, despite suffering what what my doctor has described as something "akin to the flu" for the last week.

The first thing to change were the cylinders, as I wanted to be able to fit a set of Hornby's cylinder drain cocks. This set of the super detail cylinders (complete with lining out) were left over after the conversion of an A3 chassis into the A1/1 Great Northern type. The rear portion of these cylinders (which the valve gear fits into) were used on a special set of resin cylinders for said Great Northern conversion.

Since this new Railroad model uses the same type of cylinder, I reasoned that the rear parts would be removable, and that they would fit this super detail cylinder block. I was right: the rear part of the cylinders came out, and fitted perfectly. can be seen in this demonstration on my rolling road.

In addition to the cylinders, I also elected to use a spare bogie from a long broken up for spares second hand NRM edition Flying Scotsman model to replace the (completely inaccurate) Thompson B1 type bogie which had been used for this model.

The bogie wheels are a slightly darker apple green, and are lined out. I think I will have a go at lining the driving wheels (the model will be weathered quite extensively below the footplate so I am hoping the difference in the colour of the plastic won't be such an issue.

It's on the bodyshell that we find the biggest changes. The plastic buffers and the plastic hook are gone, to be replaced with more suitable items.

The smokebox door (which was a new tooling, surprisingly) has been replaced with one of my own resin casts, based on the super detail Hornby A3.

I've fitted a pair of Graeme King resin superheater headers (though you will need to move a handrail knob forward slightly on each side to put them in the correct position). This helps to both date the model and to confirm its intended type as A3.

The original chimney has been replaced with a shorter Margate made Hornby spare.

At the cab end, I've removed all of the moulded handrails, and extended the cab side sheet upwards (to take into account the fitting of the bucket seats), and given it a hint of turn in, as per the tender which it will be married to (a super detail Great Northern Railway eight wheel tender).

Which leads me neatly onto this mess:

How was I going to be able to couple up the existing tender to the locomotive? The solution was extremely simple and obvious with a bit of lateral thinking. Lateral thinking which I can't really take any credit for. My late grandfather was in the Royal Engineers, and I'd like to think it's this sort of simple solution to a problem he'd be proud of, but it is my father who always tells me that "there are no problems, only solutions".

So here it is: basically a round plastic plug, attached to the end of the attachment point on the locomotive, with the metal bar reused from the Railroad tender, but with the close coupling mechanism facing the opposite way to how it was originally fitted.

This allows me to use the close coupling bar as it was intended with the super detail tender. Result: the locomotive can now pull its own tender! The way I've manipulated the bar round also means that the tender can be put into either of the holes for close coupling or for dealing with train set curves.

So that's all for today's modelling. You'll note that I removed the washout plugs, these will be replaced by resin alternatives (giving the correct number and type for the 220lb boiler), and that I have not as yet touched the dome.

There's a reason for this: if I leave the model as is, I can turn it into 60110 Robert the Devil, but if I remove the dome and give it a banjo dome, I can turn it into e112 St.Simon thus presenting my good friend who owns this locomotive with a permanent reminder of the challenge he presented me with.

He did not expect me to get this far: needless to say, I intend to have the last laugh in this challenge!

Until next time, goodnight.