January 30, 2013

"Stocklist musings"

Or perhaps it should be better titled "why there's a Duchess in the midst".

I like Stanier's Duchess, or Princess Coronation class. I really do. It's always struck me as a magnificent locomotive class.

I don't, however, buy that the often repeated mantra that it was the highest echelon of British locomotive engineering. I also don't buy that it was the most powerful, or the best, express passenger steam locomotive that British Railways inherited.

The statistics for economy and reliability show without a shadow of a doubt, that Peppercorn's A1 Pacific was the best by a long way, and I say this based on years of study of the different time keepers, writers and engineers who have put pen to paper and given us the most balanced views.

Duchess of Hamilton, now streamlined, remains an 
exquisite exhibit in the National Railway Museum.

D.W. Winkworth, who remains one of the most balanced writers on the Bulleid Pacifics', was fair in his assessment of the relative worth of Britain's express passenger locomotives, giving good accounts of all the express locomotives on offer in his book, Bulleid's Pacifics.

Cecil J. Allen, who I consider to have a definite Eastern Region bias, is surprisingly circumspect and fair in his views when assessing the worth of the Duchesses, in his book British Pacific Locomotives. If only he was so circumspect and balanced when writing about Thompson's, but that's another story!

The point I am trying to make (and perhaps failing to do so) is that there is a lot written in the railway world on the magnificence of these specific locomotives. There is no doubt in my mind that they are magnificent. They are, however, like all steam locomotives, not perfect, and it was in their continued development, all the way up to a few roller bearing members of the class, that fascinates me so.

To claim that any locomotive is "perfect" is a big ask, and I do feel that the best Pacific locomotives on British Railways were the Peppercorn A1s. If you were going to ask "for all time" then I would say the Duchesses have a decent shout against the excellence of Gresley's A4 Pacifics.

It's on that basis that I find myself drawing up plans for a Duchess in my planned stocklist for Ganwick Curve. Given I am modelling a section of the East Coast Mainline, with a view to portraying trains running between 1948 and 1950, I have a reasonably good excuse for buying a Duchess.

That being, the 1948 Exchange Trials, chronicled in The Locomotive Exchanges by Cecil J. Allen. It's a terrific book, with some excellent descriptions of the runs, and the locomotives which took part, as well as some choice photographs.

I decided very early on that I wanted one of each of the Big Four's contenders to be present on the layout. This meant modelling A4 Pacifics Seagull, Mallard (previously done) for the Eastern region, Great Western "King" King Henry VI for the Western Region, Stanier Duchess City of Bradford and Stanier Royal Scot The Queen's Westminster Riflemen for the Midland Region, and finally the Bulleid Pacific, of the Merchant Navy class Belgian Marine for the Southern region, all locomotives which worked out of King's Cross, and into Leeds Central during the exchange.

So as you can see, I've started with City of Bradford. I do have a confession to make though...I only have the tender thus far! This was a cheap second hand purchase on eBay, which has made my life a little easier. When I do manage to get the correct combination of LMS black liveried Duchess, I'll be able to swap the tenders pretty easily. At which point, the LMS one will become spare. Make me an offer if you want it!

I'll cover the full build in more detail at a later date.

For now, I'll return to my reading, and thinking of the day when Ganwick Curve has track running round it, with a black, lined red and straw yellow Duchess stomping round as a garter blue A4 Pacific hurtles past. It'll be a colourful and fun sight, I am sure!

Until next time!

January 28, 2013


I thought I'd share a few of my photographs of the TUGS handover. It was a terrific day, sadly missing a few members of the planned Trust, but we more than made up for their absence later at the pub in the evening!

Ten Cents was one of the first TUGS I laid eyes on, and I was genuinely happy to see him. That warm, fuzzy glow of nostalgia truly is alive in the TUGS models, which have struck that chord and then some with the many people commenting favourably on their salvage.

I thought this might be a decent shot. As you can see, the whistle has a face! A detail which completely passed me by for many years until I joined the Sodor Island Forums in 2008. Amazing model making, and a superb bit of good humour too!

Sunshine doesn't look very happy! It turns out that the vast majority of the names are actually self adhesive stickers or transfers. They are extremely delicate, as it happens.

"Devious man...Devious".

"But I GOT to have garbage..."

"Beat it Zorran!"


Who is the mysterious tugboat?

Is it Bluenose?

Is it Sea Rogue?

Who knows...

A right Burke!

Boomer or Uncle? Both as it turns out!

Zip a dee doo dah!

"You're clear Vienna, god speed!"

"Yes, Mr Cuba sir...oh no..."

He has a moustache! How did I miss this for all these years?!

Our "Thomas" connection - OJ the paddle steamer, also capable of being turned into Lakesider III!

It was Sea Rogue after all!

The detail on Zug's cabin is amazing - just look at that patch!

Members of the Trust at the handover.

Allen and Sir Ralph also get in on the proceedings later. It's the least we could do for them: for without the efforts of The British Railway Stories Ltd, helping the overall bid from The Sodor Island Forums, none of this would have been possible.

It also highlights just how big some of the models actually are...!

Until next time, goodnight!

January 26, 2013

"Saved for the Nation: The TUGS are coming home!"


Last November, we were contacted and asked if we’d be interested in taking over the custodianship of the original surviving TUGS models. The owner had taken good care of the 18 remaining vessels since acquiring them, and expressed a great desire that they be kept together and remain in the UK where TUGS was filmed.

Serious discussion amongst the staff and VIPs of the Sodor Island Forums resulted the creation of The Star Tugs Trust, a group of Brits (but including a few from the U.S.A. and Canada), committed to the preservation of these models, and who share the owner’s wishes. An acceptable offer was made and agreed to by both parties, with the TUGS fleet secured in whole by the Trust.

The TUGS fleet has arrived safely home to port, and today, the 26th January 2013, the TUGS were officially handed over to the main representatives of the trust.

We’d like to openly express our gratitude to the owner for naming us as the preferred bidders for the collection, and thank him for his support and kindness. We'd also like to thank our friends here and from other forums, for their support and patience in the negotiation stages.

As 19 large boxes of TUGS models and equipment takes up a lot of room, we have  found an interim solution by entrusting the TUGS between six named custodians, until we are able to provide a long term plan for a permanent, single location for the TUGS to be displayed for all their fans to enjoy.

A short term goal that we have, is to take detailed photographs of each and every boat from all angles and to share these with you, the fans. 

Future plans also include restoring the models to their former glory, the details of which will be worked out by Trust members after full surveys and discussions as to the best way to proceed.

At the same time, we'll be happy to recognize any financial contributions that will help bring us closer to that goal, and we are open to welcoming additional serious investors to be part of The Star Tugs Trust.

We’re also investigating the possibility of 3D scanning the models to better understand how they were constructed, in the hopes of using this information to build replicas of the missing TUGS for which only the faces remain. Notably absent from the fleet is Top Hat, for example.

In closing, we will always remain indebted to Mr. Thurston for looking after the TUGS models, and for entrusting them to us.

Simon A.C. Martin, Ryan Hagan & The Star Tugs Trust

January 16, 2013

"Baseboard Construction - thinking out loud..."

One of the things I've been thinking over for a good long time is the baseboard conundrum. I have experimented with a short baseboard made out of carbon fibre, with a ply centre to allow for scenic work and track to be fitted.

The biggest obstacle I found with carbon fibre was its cost. It was certainly lighter than wood and also stronger (in a compressive sense, not a tensile one), but was around three times the price dependent on its thickness (where it could even be as ten times the price).

It was, in my view, worth having a go and finding out what it was capable of. As a framework in which to hold, say, plywood or foam board bases, it was superior to wood most certainly in terms of weight saving. It was however, more difficult to work with. Drilling into carbon fibre not recommended except in well ventilated areas whilst wearing a mask, for example. It doesn't react well to glues, and nailing in any form is liable to damage the fibre structure which holds the material together.

So whilst mulling over my Ganwick Curve project, it occurred to me that I could have a go at building a smaller layout with further experimentation of materials for the baseboards. It's Styrofoam which is the subject of my next experiment. I have noted that many modellers use ply to veneer the styrofoam, with a timber or plywood casing. This saves a lot of weight in terms of the construction materials used, but I think we could go further than that by thinking outside the box more, and using some off the shelf plastic products.

While I was at school, a friend built a small display circuit for his collection of remote control cars. This circuit, though small in size and pretty simple in shape (a large rectangle of around 6ft by 2ft), used Styrofoam, veneered in plastic sheet, which was cut to size and glued to the sides of the Styrofoam, and also arranged underneath as a trestle of sorts for strength. The whole 6ft by 2ft circuit could be picked up and carried around almost with one hand, it was so light.

My thought is that this technique could be very easily adapted to a model railway, if also included in the overall construction was an easy means of clipping the separate baseboards together, along with simple plumbing for wiring between boards.

The savings in weight would be drastic, and make such a model railway easier to set up, and then store away. In addition, by careful choice of materials when creating buildings for said model railway, further weight savings can be gained.

There's a very useful thread here which I have pondered on for a few days now. The various techniques and ideas shown there prove there's no one set way to doing this. Several of the posters have thought outside the box, which I like in particular.

I'm away for a prolonged period from next Tuesday, but will have some very, very exciting news up on this blog on the 26th January. It's not related to the BRWS, for a change, and I am certain it will make a lot of people very happy. It has been a long time in the making, that much is certain!

Until next time.

January 08, 2013

"The Weathering Bench: Grubby Pacifics!"

King's Cross' lone Thompson A2/1, no.60508 Duke of Rothesay sits on shed with two of members of the class A1, pioneer no.60114 W.P. Allen, and no.60119. The latter is in an extremely grubby state, having recently been deployed to Haymarket to cover for a shopped Gresley Pacific.

I am really enjoying this weathering lark. I can consider 60508 officially "finished" with its weathering in place.

Unlike no.60119, where the aim of the game was to get it looking as utterly grubby as possible (more or less copying its form from Yeadon's Register!), I wanted 60508 to look as it did in a photograph found in an old Locomotives Illustrated. Grubby, but still mostly green and very much not decrepit!

Metalcote paint was wafted onto the locomotive with an airbrush after an initial covering with Johnson's Klear. This was removed with thinners until I had a look I was satisfied with, and T-Cut was used to bring out the shine.


The cab and tender were, however, left a little more grubby than the boiler. The photograph in Locomotives Illustrated shows an engine which has been slightly cleaned at the front end, but not very much at all the rear, remaining dusty but with a hint of green paint and lining out peering through.

Overall, I'm feeling happier about my modelling. It's not perfect, it's not going to win awards, but I'm happy.

And that's all that counts.

Until next time, when I hope to have fitted a few name boards...

"The Wolf nears completion"

This has been a long time coming: the home straight for my sole Thompson A2/2 Pacific, Wolf of Badenoch. It's been pushed from pillar to post, been overtaken by a good many other projects (in the same way The Morpeth has - but more on that locomotive later this month!) but now, with the application of transfers, we're finally approaching the finish line.

I actually started building Wolf of Badenoch in 2011, albeit originally intended to be no.60503, Lord President. However, when I started the P2 project in mid 2012, a quick change of identity ensured the best possible outcome for the two projects.

Sitting a little smugly alongside the Wolf is no.60508, Duke of Rothsey, which was built in a period of just two weeks last November, and overtook 60506 in quite a spectacular fashion. To put this into perspective, 60506 has taken nearly two years to build, using many of the same parts as 60508...!

There's still quite a lot to do, but most of the boiler bands are done on both sides, and one set each side of washout plugs has been painted. There's still the lowest washout plug to line out on firebox and cabside (the one on the firebox hasn't been fitted yet, which is why it's missing!), along with a lot more black and white lining.

I see now why many LNER modellers go for the BR Dark Green era - it's a lot easier on the eyes to line out these Pacific locomotives!

The tender has had the main bulk of the lining on both sides, and on the rear, applied, with the white/black lining out of the edging of the green to be completed still. The front bufferbeam needs lining out, and then the coupling and buffers to be glued in. These three items have remained loose for a year, and it's a wonder they haven't been lost yet (touch wood!)

For the record (as one reader has asked nicely) the transfers being used for this conversion, and for any conversion which needs LNER lining out in this vein, are transfers taken from the standard HMRS LNER locomotive sheet. The nameplates and numberplate come from Fox Transfers.

So overall, we're pretty much halfway to completion in terms of transfers, very near the finishing straight for the locomotive overhaul. Next time I hope to have applied all of the transfers, sealed it all with Johnson's Klear, added the glazing for 60506's cab, and got to weathering 60506 along with 60508 and 60500 too.

Once done, my Thompson 6ft 2in Pacific line up will finally be complete, and ready for action on the future Ganwick Curve layout.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

January 04, 2013

"Hopping mad! Story of a Hornby Hopper Wagon"

Hopping mad or hopper mad?! I've always wanted to do one of those amazingly long coal trains you see in all of the old steam railway photo albums.

With this in mind, I recently picked up a Hornby wagon very cheaply on a stall at a preserved railway. it looked like new, had an "E" for what I assumed at the time meant "Eastern" region, and looked like a coal hopper suitable enough to bung behind my forthcoming Thompson O1 model in a train of hopper wagons.

So, what is it?


According to the packaging, it's a "BR 20 Ton Hopper", but this didn't seem to be right to me.

In terms of decoration (and I say decoration, not physically, for a reason - I have absolutely no idea about steam era wagons at all, but I like learning new things) it's a fairly plain wagon, but everything is very nicely printed and everything is legible.

It clearly states in white lettering the legend "HOP 21", so presumably, the model is actually intended to be a reasonable portrayal of the LNER's standard all steel coal hopper wagons (which British Railways did indeed continue building after 1950, I should add).

So in theory, it should be perfect for putting behind a Thompson O1 perhaps...

It has the older style couplings, unfortunately, and no NEM pocket, so a degree of modification may be in order for this and future wagons of this type I choose to purchase. I note on a certain Liverpool box shifter's website that they are for sale at £10 a piece and £2 off an order of four wagons, so at a later date I may take them up on that order!

As a result of a quick Google search this morning, I am currently traipsing through this excellent resource: Paul Bartlett's Photographs of 21ton Hopper Wagons. There's some terrific prototype shots, giving me some ideas for how to weather these Hornby wagons and make the best of them. He also includes this very useful summary of the type:
In 1936 the LNER introduced all steel hopper wagons for coal. Built until about 1950, (when BR continued building the same design) they used three different solebars, riveting and welding for the bodies and a batch of heavier duty wagons were built early in WW2 using fittings originally intended for wagons destined for continental Europe; minor differences were numerous.

So Hornby's model more or less captures the basic proportions of these wagons, which is good to know. My next job is finding out whether the grey livery is at all correct for the 1948-52 period I am intending to model, and if so, I will consult Mr Bartlett's excellent site further for some very much more in-depth examination of weathering patterns and similar to build up my eventual train of wagons with.

This particular wagon I may have a play around with in terms of weathering powders and airbrushing, to see what effects I can actually do in terms of rust, dirt, and so on and so forth, and how far away I am from being to proficiently weather a train of these vehicles!

Until next time: for now I'll leave you with a shot of my thoroughly filthy Thompson O1, pulling the first of its intended heavy and numerous coal hopper train!

January 02, 2013

"The Weathering Bench: 60011, Empire of India"


You may remember this locomotive, no.60011 Empire of India. Made using Peter Harvey's A4 Conversion kit, all it required was a touch of grime to finish it off.


I have now applied that grime, using similar techniques employed in the weathering of the recent Hornby Thompson O1, found here.

Of course, there has been one significant change since last time. The nameplates have been replaced with the correct stainless steel, red backed nameplates it carried in 1949. 

The one thing I wasn't happy with on the previous A4 conversions, was the lack of a sheen to the bodyshell. This technique, developed mostly from the excellent Dave Smith's own weathering, is clearly not quite where I want it to be yet, but I think I am getting closer.

One thing that has struck me about these weathering projects is just how simple it is to make a complete mess of it all! That cab door will need seeing to...!


Overall I'm very happy with the finish on this one, and will be applying this weathering technique (albeit with some variations) to the rest of the A4 Pacifics intended for my future home layout.

Until next time!

January 01, 2013

"Happy New Year!"

Happy New Year to all our fans and friends across the world. Thanks for making 2012 a terrific year for The British Railway Stories Ltd!

Now onto 2013. Let's make it a better year than the last!

Simon A.C. Martin