This is one of my favourite ugly ducklings.
In many ways you could argue the story of Mary Ann - or 'The Simplex' if you prefer - is a microcosm of the journey the FR itself has made over the last half decade.
Now considered a heritage artifact our model shows Mary Ann in its workaday condition of the 70's and early 80's.
When the new administration took over in 1954 the Simplex tractor - a veteran of the Great War narrow gauge system in France - was the first thing they got working.
In the years that followed as traffic boomed and the railway struggled to expand it was rebuilt and modified to meet changing needs, receiving a transplanted diesel engine and growing a semi-enclosed cab, which certainly gave it back something of the 'tin turtle' look of its armoured sisters on the Western Front.
Those whose only experience of Mary Ann has been as a working museum piece in the last 20 years or so, when it has been stripped back to 1950's condition, and had its original gallons-per-mile petrol engine reinstalled, may perhaps be appalled to see such mutation. But it's important to remember that during this time Mary Ann was one of the mainstays of the p-way department who inevitably ended up doing most of their work in the winter months of the year or early in the mornings. It would have been unreasonable, to say the least, to deny them even this modicum of comfort in the name of heritage, surely?
Our model is one of those box of bits machines. It came about when as a teenager I was given a random selection of old 009 stuff including the remains of a Meridian Models kit for an armoured Simplex and couple of very crude old French 0-4-0 chassis which had been used for a scratch built Garratt.
As it happened, one of these chassis fitted neatly beneath the Simplex body which was opened up at the sides and Himself created the cab from styrene and added some etched brass grills, nameplates and vac bags.
Back them I considered this a marvel of miniaturisation, never for a moment imagining that in years to come there would be kits of the market for a fully open Simplex with the tiniest, rubber band powered mechanisms such as those produced by Nigel Lawton.
That's progress for you.