Saturday, 26 May 2018

First Coat

Yet another week has gone by with less progress than I might have hoped for on the brake van project, however I have been able to begin applying some of the final finish.

It's been given a coat of cream around the interior and the underframe received some matt black last night.

Hopefully over the course of the weekend I might also be able to begin applying a little bit of Rail Blue to the outside.

I ordered a bottle of Railmatch enamel from a very well known, large, model shop in the north west of England and was very impressed when it turned up on my doorstep within 36 hours.

The packing was perhaps a little over the top for a small glass jar (and thanks to postal restrictions these days the courier charge was more than one and half times the value of the product) but these are just minor grumbles,

I'm really looking forward to having narrow gauge model in BR blue - the colour of my childhood.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Running Out Of Puff

Being a legendary cheapskate I decided that rather than buy a whole new can of primer just to coat the new brake van, I would try to eak out what was left in an old aerosol on the shelf in my modelling den - with predictable consequences...

Well, at least the outside is more-or-less covered - it's a thin coat but it'll do.

There wasn't any paint (or puff) left in the can to spray the inside, but I'm sure it won't matter too much in this case if I paint the top coat straight onto the styrene - it's not as if anyone's going to see much in there because the van doesn't have many windows.

As it is I've already had to set free the digital moths from my wallet by ordering online an entire bottle of BR blue paint for one wee model - I'm hardly likely to need it for anything else!

In the same manner I'm also facing the prospect of having to fork out for a whole sheet of double arrow transfers when I'm only going to need 2 of them.

My dedicated to the cause is unstinting, as you can see.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

It's All In The Detail

Himself and I spent an enjoyable afternoon at one of those typical small, local shows at the weekend - in this case the Kyle MRC event in Troon.

I hadn't expected to find much of narrow gauge interest - continental modelling is surprisingly popular here in Scotland in my experience, much more so that south of the border it seems to me - so I was delighted to find an excellent little OO9 layout called Bachdale and Dibley Level.

It's not large - in fact so may call it a 'rabbit warren' - and it's completely freelance, basically running anything which will fit inside a loading gauge which makes the original FR seem generous.

What impressed me, though, was the high standard of execution in everything to with the layout, especially in places that you can't ordinarily see into.

The engine shed is a case in point.

The interior has been modelled in exquisite detail, but you won't see any of it unless the operators are kind enough to remove the roof for you.

Among the items of rolling stock which caught my eye were these four wheel carriages.

As far as I can tell they've been made from plastic kits which are readily available, but they've been finished with a beautiful teak-effect scumble.

I clearly wasn't the only one impressed because, quite deservedly, it was voted the best layout by the visitors.

The other thing which really pleased me was to get my first proper look at one of the new Bachmann Baldwin 4-6-0 tanks.

Previously I'd only seen them in a display case so this was an opportunity to hold and examine one and see it running.

(And it was a case of only seeing it because it ran almost silently.)

The level of detail and finish is extraordinary - like nothing that's ever been seen in 009 ready-to-run before.

Bachmann haven't just raised the bar, they've shot it into orbit!

It's only increased my excitement for receiving the 590 version which we have on order, and I can't wait to see what sort of job they do on the Quarry Hunslet tanks.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Van Rails

I've been adding the final details to the WHHR ex-VoR brake van, such as the couplings, air brake pipes and grab rails.

The holes have also been drilled for the T door handles and the glazing cut to size.

The next stage, I suppose is to prime it.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Hitting The Road Again

It's still two weeks until Narrow Gauge East at Bressingham but Himself is already getting things organised and Bron Hebog has been packed up ready for the long journey to Norfolk.

The main reason for getting so far ahead of the game is that the stacking arrangements have had to be revised since it last went out.

The boards are paired up, face to face.

In the last could of years, however, we've done a lot more scenic work, in particular planting trees.

Trees have an awkard tendency to raise the height of the scenery and so some of the bracing pieces have had to be adjusted to take account of this, making some of the units slighty wider.

What we won't know for another fortnight is whether we've gone our back of the envelope calculations correctly so that it still fits in the same size of hired van it always used to fit into......

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

More Bling

On Monday I showed you the finished 'blinged up' bowsider number 19 - but work continues on our other Victorian extravagance, number 15.

Himself has finished applying the gold lining - and my goodness isn't there a lot of it! - to one side, and he's also added the FR crest and monograms.

(These may be slightly overscale, but who's measuring?)

He's also intending to try and fit a tiny number 15 inside the middle of the crest!

One end of the ends he's started to apply the white lines around the panelling.

Again, this is not strictly prototypical because there should be two incredibly thin lines either side of the beading, whereas the solution we've got for here is one single line on top of the beading,

But quite frankly, this is so damned small and fiddly to do that I think it's remarkable enough that there's anything there at all, don't you agree?

Monday, 14 May 2018


Our new model of bowsider 19 is ready to join the fleet.

The carriage has been given a coat of varnish - which has come out a little on the matt side, but never mind - and put together with its glazing and the final details added like the door handles, which Himself made from scratch from very fine brass wire.

I think the lining looks absolutely stunning, especially the stuff along the frame at the bottom.

It's going to look great running in a small Victorian set along with the curly roof van, 15 (which is coming along nicely - more on that soon) and the first class Ashbury 4-wheeler.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

I Love It When A Van Comes Together

I was able to enjoy the best bit of a model build last night when I glued all the basic parts together and you get your first impression of how the finished thing's going to look.

The plan to graft a new body on top of the 'frames' of the Dundas kit for the VoR brake van seems to have worked out well, and I've clearly been able to accurately replicate the dimensions of the original kit because the roof still fits on perfectly and when you offer up the redundant sections of body side (which I sliced off) they match the new ones.

I've made a couple of adaptations to improve it's longevity and performance.

Just as with my scratch built carriages I've installed a flat false roof at the top of the body shell to try to ensure that they don't bow inwards over time.

On the chassis, before I glued the parts together, I drilled out the axle boxes and fitted brass bearing cups.

Experience teaches us that pin point axles running in plastic axle boxes is a recipe for wheelsets working loose, and eventually dropping out.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Plastic Surgery

I had a couple of hours free last night to do a little bit more work on the WHHR brake van.

First, I cut out the windows and then added the panel detail - such as it is - onto the two end pieces.

Then it was onto the make or break bit which was slicing the frame and footsteps off the Dundas kit mouldings and grafting them onto the bottom of the new body sides I'd scratch built.

It seems to have gone quite well but I need to add the window drop lights to the back of the doors on each side and fix some blocks on the back to set the height the floor sits at before I glue it together into a box, but I'm very satisfied with how it's progressed so far.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Gold Blend

After many long sessions of painstaking work, one side - just one side - of our carriage 15 has its ornate gold lining applied.

Looks amazing, doesn't it!

Himself tells me that it took the best part of a whole day's work to complete the last half of this side, and he felt quite cross-eyed at the end of it.

He's got to do exactly the same on the other side and then there's a lot of white lining to put on each end of the carriage plus more gold leaf around the panelling on along the frame, which you cannot see in this picture.

So it's going to be quite a while before this carriage joins the fleet.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Name Board

Himself is slowly working through the list of things to make Bron Hebog look more like it's 'finished' for taking it to Bressingham.

Something that we'd never got around to until now was making up a proper name board and some lighting.

It's not an optimum solution, because what we'd really like is a pelmet that goes all the way around the front of the layout, but the difficulty we have with Bron Hebog is it's unusual depth on the main S bend section.

It's not realistic to have it supported from the rear without some advanced, lightweight engineering and we really don't want to break up the views by having posts along the front or at the corners.

(Another curiosity about the layout is that you can view it on three sides.

We've mounted as many LED spots as we can on the brackets and they'll hopefully improve the illumination a little but it is a big area to flood with light.

The big test will come at Narrow Gauge East next month.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Side By Side

With anything in life once you've got the first one out of the way it's always easier to do a second, so it only took me around an hour to panel up the other side of WHHR brake van 2.

I've been pleased with the positive response I've received to my plan to finish it in the BR blue livery it's wearing in 2018, complete with the 'arrows of indecision'.

I suppose this might be because narrow gauge modellers are by definition rather deviant from the mainstream, and perhaps a lot of you share my affection for quirky items.

However I'd also like to think that perhaps my generation - the children of the '70s - are beginning to reclaim their own heritage which has decried and denied for too long in my humble opinion.

On the big railway diesel preservation came of age a long time ago and so many of them are now being proudly displayed in rail blue livery.

In fact, nostalgia for the '80s is creeping in with more of the machines sporting the large logo livery again.

I'd like to think that one day the Vale of Rheidol might be brave enough to explore its own unique heritage as the last outpost of BR steam, but sadly, for me, they seem determined to present it as a 1930's 'chocolate box' GWR branchline.

It's perhaps not the most original offering in UK railway preservation, but they have a business to run and they must do what they feel they need to do.

They're not the only ones apparently determined to forget the '70s, alas....

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Side 1 Of 2

I found time for a little bit of modelling over the weekend and began adding the panelling to one of the sides of WHHR van 2.

I haven't cut the windows out of the end pieces yet, and nor have I been brave enough to take a scalpel to the sides in the Dundas kit to sever the frame and the footboards from the rest of the bodyside.

The downside of the plan is one false move with the blade and I could end up having to buy another kit, or rethinking my plans.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Van With A Plan

My Dundas kit for the VoR van arrived just in time for the weekend and I managed to snatch a few minutes to see how I could use it as the basis of a model of the vehicle as it runs on the WHHR now.

The main issues to address are that these days the van has lost its matchboard sides, replaced by large, smooth panels, and windows have been cut into the ends.

The look out duckets are also gone.

My plan all along has been to make a new body shell from styrene, but looking at the injection moulded parts - which are as fine as you'd expect from Dundas - I decided it would be a shame to waste the solebars and the footboards which are nicely detailed and a stronger part than I could make myself in styrene.

So what I've decided to do is to try and cut them off and then graft them onto the bottom of new sides and ends.

I've already got as far as measuring and cutting out the blanks and making a hole for the window in the single door on each side.

Now I shall be getting out the fine strip and starting on the panelling.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Killing Time

I had a odd situation this week where I had an evening with an opportunity to spend a couple of hours doing modelling, but no obvious project to be getting on with.

This is most unusual.

If my Vale of Rheidol van kit had arrived I would have made a start on the BR blue WHHR van, but it hadn't, so I couldn't.

So instead I decided the best way to make use of the time was to get ahead of the game and get out the resin and cast the pieces for Superbarn 120.

This is an enormous gamble because I haven't yet seen any decent pictures of the latest FR carriage being built at Boston Lodge, let alone looked at it in person.

Perhaps it shows I'm getting complacent in my old age?

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Fiddly Furniture

I've had (yet) another of those spells where you suddenly realise to your horror that you've not got any meaningful modelling done for the best part of three weeks.

(I my case I blame the Easter holidays, a visit from relatives from the other side of the world and finding myself used as an unpaid chauffeur for the kids.)

Clearly this situation is unacceptable, and with Himself otherwise engaged this week the blog would have ground to a halt if I didn't pull my finger out and do a bit of work.

So I've been getting on with assembling the seats for the new observation car 152 from the castings I made around a month ago.

It's quite fiddly work completing the sixteen seats for the rear saloon which need to have the arm rests created out of small pieces of square section styrene strip.

Twelve of them are fixed back-to-back to be located at the window pillars.

The carriage body is with Himself to have the brass roof and the front window pillars made up in brass so these seats will be set aside until it comes back to me for the interior to be fitted,

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Garratt In The Gap

Having fixed the last bits of rock onto the sides of Cutting Mawr and added various bits of infill and foliage to finish it off Himself decided to pose 138 and a selection of carriages in there to show it off.

One of the things which really pleases me about it is that it's hard even for me to tell at a glance which are the genuine pieces of rock and which are those which had been cast in resin.

I have to run my fingers along them and feel for the cold ones just to be sure sometimes.

It's a vindication of the decision to try to save weight by making copies, although it's perhaps not the most cost-efficient way of doing it because you do get through a lot of RTV and resin.

I hope you enjoy these views because it's only possible to get angles like these when the layout is disassembled.

And if you'd like to see if with your own eyes then come along and see us at Narrow Gauge East at Bressingham in June.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

On The Wind Up

It's provocative enough us giving a run out to our model of Russell on Bron Hebog and we could see even more muttering with what I'm thinking about as my next project.

If the pictures had emerged a couple of days later you'll have thought the WHHR painting their ex-Vale of Rheidol guards van in BR blue livery was an April fool.

I've always had a thing about the blue livery on the Rheidol, it takes me back to my childhood, and one day I'd really like to have a model of one of the Swindon engines in that condition.

We'll need a brake van to run in the WHHR train I'd like to assemble, and this van has made it to Beddgelert on the test trains, albeit in a brown colour scheme.

There is a Dundas kit for these vans, although they're in original condition with matchboarding and lookout duckets.

My plan would be to employ chassis from the kit and use the sides as guides for making alternative sides from styrene.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Welsh Weather

So in the end we poked around in the collection of old paint cans, as you do, and thought we'd give this a try.

I think it'll do the job for now.

It's very neutral and to my eye at least gives the impression of a dull, overcast day.

(Not that you ever get many of those in the top left hand corner, of course....)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Scene But Not Seen

Himself has finished the woodwork for the backscene.

That was the easy bit!

The difficult bit is deciding how to decorate it and I don't mind admitting that we're both in a bit of a quandary.

What sort of colour or effect should we be going for?

Any advice or suggestions are most welcome because the situation here, frankly, is that one of us is colour blind and the other hasn't progressed much in the artistic department from drawing stick men in playschool.

There's the potential to ruin with some very subtle scenic work on the layout with a backscene that sticks out like a sore thumb.


Monday, 16 April 2018

Away From Prying Eyes

The task of completing the pre-exhibition snagging list continues.

(You have got Narrow Gauge East at Bressingham at the start of June in your diary, haven't you?)

The job this weekend was starting to build a removable backscene screening off the fiddle yard at the back of the layout.

I have mixed feelings about backscenes.

On the one hand, as a visitor to exhibitions I quite like to be able to see what goodies they've got lined up in the sidings to whet the appetite.

On those occasions when you are the exhibitor, though, I also feel the opposite urge to want to keep things hidden.

Running a layout is like putting on a performance and you want our audience to be concentrating on what's being played out on the stage, not watching the actors waiting in the wings.

You also feel you'd like to maintain the element of surprise about what's coming down the tracks next.

With neither of us having a particularly artistic bent we're not about to attempt to paint a scene onto the plywood.

In the long term I suppose we could look into getting a panoramic picture of the slopes of Moel Hebog printed out and pasted onto it, but for the moment Himself will most likely just give a wash of paints to represent a untypically overcast Welsh sky.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

The Depths Of Cutting Mawr

Himself has spent most of this week adding more rock, and resin fake rock, to the sides of Cutting Mawr.

It occurred to me that the picture I posted last time might not have given an impression of just how deep it is, so this time I thought I would pose one of the WHR saloons on the track to give you some perspective.

The bulk of the job is done now.

He's sent me away with a few more selected lumps of slate to mould and copy to finish off the inside wall and then it will be a case of infilling the gaps with rubble and foliage.

The irony is that most of this will be unseen.

Not only is the cutting so deep that you have to peer over the top to see into it but it's also 15 feet away from the front of the layout.

At least you know it's there, though.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Gold Leaf

Himself has begun applying the transfer lining to our new, old carriage 15 (if you can follow that logic).

This is an even more thankless task that on carriage 19 which completed not so long ago because there is even more of the fine gold lines and tiny weenie curves to be slid into position around the intricate beading on what are reputed to be the UK's first bogie carriages.

At the moment he's just done the very start of one end, but it's a painstaking business but I'm sure the end result will look fabulous.

Once again he's using the Fox Transfers waterslide lining sets.

I suppose it may be some consolation that it's no easier doing it on the real carriage where all of this detail is applied in an equally intricate fashion using genuine gold leaf.

If you've never been to one of the FR's Victorian Weekends you really should make the effort to go because the restoration, rebuilding and recreation of the vintage carriage fleet is something to behold when you see them all brought out and being played with.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Keep On Rocking

Himself has started work on the last major scenic operation on Bron Hebog, completing the rock lining of Cutting Mawr at the back of the layout.

Most of it is not actual rock, but it is a perfect copy because I made moulds from pieces of genuine North Wales shale which I cast copies of in resin.

Himself has given them washes with a variety of acrylic colours and they are fixed into position by being pressed into a bed of plaster.

It does look very deep, doesn't it!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

You Can't See The Join

Now it's had a coat of primer on it I can asses how good a job I made of the conversion of WHHR carriage number 7, chopping off the top of the sides of the Dundas kit and adding the row of windows.

If I say so myself you wouldn't be able to tell that it wasn't meant to be like that.

Himself is also planning to add a few finer details, like slicing off the moulded handrails and door handles to replace them with brass ones - you can just make out the holes he has drilled to accept them.

He's also replaced the plastic air brake pipes which come with the kit and has made up his own from wire.

On with the painting now.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Bogie Bearings

The first of our WHHR carriages is on wheels now.

While the plastic used for the injection moulding in the Dundas kit is nice and soft for cutting and altering when I was kit-bashing the body, these days they're now using it for the bogies as well.

This means that it's a very necessary precaution to drill out the axle boxes from the inside and fit some brass cup bearings.

With Bron Hebog being a very long layout by 009 standards the chances are that left in their original state the pin points on the wheel axles would very quickly bore out the locating holes in the bogie
frames leading first to loose wheels, and then eventually, no wheels.

This was certainly our experience with Dduallt so we're taking no chances with the even longer run.

You can see in the picture that he has also soldered an extension to the Greenwich coupling so it can be glued into position on the bogie.

Next it's onto painting the carriage in a mix of green and brown shades which is never going to end well for Himself, alas....

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Comfy Seats

It's been a quieter period on the modelling front for me.

The one small job I have managed to get done is casting the seats to go in the Superbarn observation car 152.

The castings are fresh out of the moulds and so still need their flash cleaned up.

Bucket seats in the front saloon come in two halves which need to be glued together and the big arm chairs for the back will require me to add legs at the front and arm rests in styrene.

They will be fixed back-to-back before they're put in place in the carriage.

There's no hurry to have them ready because the body shell is at the back of the long queue of work in progress with Himself to fit the brass roof and the window pillars at the front.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Tools Of The Trade - 2

Although Himself's in no hurry to begin the Robex Gelert project he couldn't resit having a fiddle to see how the Fleischmann chassis would fit within the 3D printed body, and I couldn't resist giving it a test run to check whether the chassis (which has been sitting in a drawer for more years that I care to remember after being bought on German ebay) actually worked.

The short answer is that it did, and made a very ghostly sight running around Bron Hebog.

Now, anyone who's ever modelled one of these Bagnall tanks will know that the design is very rear heavy, even in featherweight 3D form, and the pony wheel is essential to keep the front driving wheels on the rails.

Well yet again Himself's hoarding of 'bits that might come in useful one day' has come to the rescue.

In his former life working on pianos he saved some little cylindrical lead weights (they're used to counter-balance the keys) and it turned out that one of these was a perfect fit inside the hollow smokebox, and also the perfect weight to balance the loco on the track without a pony wheel in place.

So remember that the next time someone near and dear to you is ordering a clear-out and tells you: "you're never going to use that stuff,  you know......."

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Finding Faults

Himself is plugging away at the snagging list prior to taking Bron Hebog to Bressingham for Narrow Gauge East this summer.

The problem is that in trying to sort one issue you discover others.

So it was when he set up one half of the fiddle yards to try and sort an electrical niggle on the 'cab control' wiring and found that a number of the indicator LEDs on the Rhyd Ddu end panel had failed.

So he's had to open all that up to replace them.

Quite why they've failed is a mystery.

The ones in the control panel on Dduallt have lasted for more than 20 years, but after just two years in the west of Scotland climate these have gone pop!

Is there a connection?

Anyway, I thought you might also like to see a snap of the loco he's been using for testing duties.

Our original Dundas Linda, which had major surgery to its Ibertren chassis to fit it with cranks and outside frames (and a heart transplant with a Mashima motor) is still going strong.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Doing The Twist

As I alluded to in the previous post, Himself has been getting on with fixing a couple of irritating track faults which have been there since we first started running trains on Bron Hebog.

Coupling heights are critical in OO9 perhaps more than any other scale, certainly if you use the very fine (in both senses of the word) brass Greenwich couplings which we do.

A slight imperfection in the track can also cause stock to derail which sometimes happens to trains as they descend the hill into the station where there is a little dip on one side on the Cwm Cloch road bridge.

The remedy is not particularly difficult, it's just taken him more years than I care to remember to get around to fixing it.

So the three pictures here show how he first dug out the ballast..

...put some bits of packing under the sleepers on one side...

...and then re-ballasted.

You may be wondering how there came to be this dip in the trackbed, especially if you're used to building your layouts on a solid, flat piece of baseboard.

Bron Hebog was built with what is known as the open baseboard approach where a narrow, plywood trackbed is raised up on stilts all the way around, even in places where the trains are running in a cutting.

This makes it easier to model embankments or underbridges and you can see the same section of the layout under construction here.

The place where there was the problem is where it's a narrow, single track formation, going uphill on a slight curve and it seems that at some point there was a very slight twist got into it.

Hopefully that will be sorted now and he can take a look at the issue in the tunnel I mentioned previously, and a rather odd electrical gremlin in the fiddle yards which cropped up the last time we had the layout out on show.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Fully Enclosed

Himself is concerned - quite why, I can't imagine - that I might think he has been swinging the lead and so sent me a couple of photos with the caption that they prove he has been busy lately.

Quite where he's got this notion from is beyond me, because his output has been prodigious these last few months.

The latest project has been completing the wire fencing along the front of the station.

This is made up of 8 sections of etched brass fencing panels from Wizard Models.

He tells me they're quite fiddly to put together and it takes quite a while to paint them.

(If he describes it as fiddly then you may draw your own conclusions...)

The one thing missing from the station area before we can consider it complete is to make, or obtain, some portaloos.

Oh the glamour!

Next he's talking about getting on with sorting some of the things on the snagging list including some relaying in Goat Tunnel.

The track bed has always had a slight dip in the middle which sometimes causes stock to uncouple.

It's never a good look leaving the back half of your train behind...

Sunday, 25 March 2018


Before I pass 152 over to Himself to do the metal working there's a something I can do which will give him more of a solid foundation to work with.

All the Superbarn family of carriages have a very obvious underframe which the body sits on top of, but I represent this on the models with a rather flimsy-looking skirt which I fix on the bottom of the chassis.

Normally these are made up only of straight sections of 90 degree bends but on these two carriages there are curvy corners at the front to be formed.

Fortunately the Evergreen styrene strips I use are very soft and pliable and it's usually possible to form a bend which will stay in shape long enough for you to weld it in place with solvent.

You can see that I have also drilled the holes for the bolts for the bogies (centrally, this time, I hope) and the bolsters are in place to set the correct ride height as well.

This skirt makes the floor piece rigid and it also provides a firm base for the carriage body while it is being worked on.