Sunday, 15 July 2018

Crisp Apple Strudels

Or perhaps gooey goulash, in this case, because this wagon has Romanian roots.

It was built for the WHR push to Porthmadog to supplement the SAR ballast wagons, and it's party piece is to spread the stones in all sorts of directions rather than just to the side of the track.

It was a hideously complicated shape to make out of styrene and I'm really chuffed with it, including all the brass bits I shaped and soldered for it.

There's no way I could have taken it on without a very kind insider taking pity on me and giving me a copy of the plans and lots of photos of it under construction.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Cream Coloured Ponies

Since I began modelling the FR I've always been drawn to the quirky items of rolling stock, and they don't come quirkier than the Parry People Mover.

This complete technological flop - sorry, but it was in Welsh Highland terms - never made it beyond Dinas before it left the railway.

(In fact it barely made it to Dinas at all without frequent stops to spin up the flywheel.)

So running it on Bron Hebog is a classic case of Rule Number 1.

However, I justify it on the basis that if it stayed on the railway long enough - and if it somehow managed to limp to Pitt's Head - it would certainly be able to freewheel quite happily all the way down to the sea again.

It runs on a Kato 4 wheel chassis with a body I made out of styrene.

I think it has something of the spirit of the BR / Leyland prototype railbus, which morphed into the Pacers, about it.

As a kid in the 80s I remember thinking that machine was pretty cool.

Alas, the PPM looks unlikely to lead to a railcar revolution on the WHR.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Warm Woollen Mittens

It's totally unprototypical to be sitting in the siding at Beddgelert, for lots of reasons, but this model of one of the FR's former oil tank wagons counts as one of my favourite things.

The model was a challenge to make because I had to kit-bash a plastic kit for a vintage road tanker - from Cooper Craft if I remember rightly - to get the distinctive oval shape, and then scratch build quite a complicated chassis.

The bogies are also home made being a very unusual Polish design which the FR acquired a number of once, and for which I could find nothing similar on any N gauge wagon or carriage.

It also makes very creative use of waterslide transfers to represent the livery carried by this vital, yet unsung, fleet of waggons which have now passed into history.

Can you see how the word oil is made to look like a loco?

Monday, 9 July 2018

Bright Copper Kettles

I suppose, by rights, it should be steam engines we're featuring today, but I'm posting these photographs in the order I took them so you've got a pair of diesels instead.

Both of our Funkey locomotives are made from Worsley Works kits sitting on Farish class 90 chassis, but we've added quite a few extra details to improve them.

Most obviously, we've added false pieces on the chassis block to create the effect of the very tall bogies on these engines.

Himself has also cut back the front of the roof on the Vale of Ffestiniog, which is too long as supplied, and they both have some headlight jewels, handrails and extra bits like horns on the bonnet.

Our Caernarfon Castle is currently confined to light traffic, suffering from some transmission issues.

How prototypical!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Whiskers On Kittens

I can't pretend that the Rodgers and Hammerstein lyrics bear any relation to the models in these posts, so please don't waste any of your time looking for hidden meanings.

This time I thought I would feature our Cinderella Garratt, K1.

For the locomotive which was supposed to be the icon of the WHR reconstruction - the WHR's Double Fairlie - it's remarkable how low a profile it had once it returned to steam.

I suppose that's the WHR for you - commercial to its wheel flanges - and K1 just couldn't handle the loadings the railway requires.

I hope we will see it steam again, though.

This is a Backwoods Miniatures kit, and until the latest vintage carriages came along, with all their gold leaf, I thought it was Himself's ultimate lining job.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Raindrops On Roses

Recently there have been comments that there are not enough pictures of our collection of rolling stock on this blog.

(In fact, for those who care to look, there is a link to archived Model Of The Week posts from a few years back which feature a lot of what we have in our stock boxes.)

However, I thought I would take advantage of a fortnight's enforced separation from the modelling bench to show you a few of my favourite things.

(Have you cottoned onto the title now?)

For me, the most satisfying models are always the ones you've scratch built, because you have the double challenge of working out how to do it and then actually doing it.

It also means you can own unique and obscure models like our version of the FR Cherry Picker wagon.

The bucket at the end of the boom was really difficult to form out of styrene - and it was even more difficult to get it to keep its shape - so I have no hesitation in choosing it as my first favourite thing.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

It's A Start

Things are progressing quite slowly at the moment - I blame the weather.

However, I have done something about beginning the 'Erics' project, casting the chassis so that I can begin making the masters for the sides and the ends.

I've decided to use one of the B wagon chassis as a base.

They differ slightly from the DZ wagons which are a little longer, mostly on account of the way the kits are put together.

I could extend the procrastination by going on to make up the brass bogies and cast the side pieces for them but I think I'll probably pull out my scalpel and start cutting some styrene.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

Master Of Disguise

Efforts to continue fettling the board joints have been thwarted by the freak heatwave on the Costa del Clyde this week.

To make sure that everything's correct at the Porthmadog end Himself ideally needs to erect the whole layout, but the garage is not big enough.

He reckons it might be possible by poking the southern end out beyond the garage doors but the heat has been so intense that were he to try doing so we'd probably end up with buckled rails, just like those which have been stopping the full sized trains running at times this week.

So instead he's been getting on with another little task, to try and disguise the board joint which runs the length of the layout and across the fields above the station.

One way of doing this is with a strategically placed wall.

For our stone walls we use the plaster castings by Ten Commandments, and the one here is in the condition them come in the packet before they are painted.

We're also having to do some spot re-turfing after a little bit of damagae was sustained dismantling the layout at Bressingham last month.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Engineering Possession

For the purposes of checking the alignment of the board joints Himself has been testing them with what prove to be our most derailable stock: the B Wagons.

Or to be more precise, my resign cast B Wagons.

This, I'm sure, is just because when running empty they are absolutely featherweight, unlike the Worsley Works kits for the earlier, flat-ended design, which are made of brass.

I suppose one idea might be to fill them with some removable loads of loco ash, as these wagons have made quite regular trips up the WHR carrying all the clinker generated at Boston Lodge to be used as infill.

At any rate, I saw them sitting parked on the layout on the usually inaccessible S-bend and thought they made a good subject for some arty shots which also show off the ruined barn well.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Spy In The Sky

Nothing much new to report today except I spotted something the other day which I thought you might enjoy seeing.

While Himself has got parts of Bron Hebog set up in the garage to realign the board joints it's left some of the boards which are not being used standing upright around the edge of the room.

(Usually they are stored in pairs, face to face.)

The one at the south end of the station with the Oberon Wood scene on it caught my eye.

I realised that you when you have the layout set up you never really get the chance to get a birds-eye from directly overhead, so I took this snap.

If you'll forgive my immodesty I think it looks pretty damned good.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Return To Service

There was a complaint received recently - or perhaps we should give it the benefit of the doubt and call it a comment - that there are not enough photos of our models on the blog.

Well, we pride ourselves on responsiveness to our audience, so please allow us to spam you with a series of snaps taken of our Darjeeling C class pacific out for a wee test run after it's reassembly.

The purpose was twofold.

As well as testing the running of the locomotive we were also using a engine with tiny wee bogie wheels to test the board joints after the work to realign them.

I do think it's a lovely looking locomotive and although totally unprototypical for the WHR we make no apologies for invoking Rule Number 1.

Such a shame the real ones are stuff and mounted in India because I can't help thinking they'd go very nicely on the WHR - like souped-up Penrhyn Ladies on the FR.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Join The Cavalcade

Never let it be said that we are unafraid to jump on a bandwagon at Bron Hebog.

As the FR celebrates the 125th birthday of Hunslet 'Ladies' Linda and Blanche by inviting lots of other Loiners to come and play in the top left and corner of Wales this weekend we thought we'd get in on the act too.

My social media feeds have been full of pictures of line ups of little locomotives so Himself decided to do the same by posing all our Hunslets together.

This collection was made possible by Brian Madge, Robex, Roger Chivers and Backwoods Miniatures - and we're very grateful to them for their wonderful kits.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Dark Side Of The Van

I've hit a snag in my effort to complete the transfers on the WHHR / VofR brake van - I don't know what the other side looks like!

All the pictures of it I've seen in its current BR blue livery are taken from the platform side and they show the stickers for the Midland Region running number on the right hand of the double doors.

The question is, where are they on the other side?

Are they also on the door? Perhaps the left hand one also at the Pen-y-mount end of the carriage? Or is it also on the right hand side of the carriage, in the big panel at the Porthmadog end?

Also, where is the 2 running number at the uphill end? In the top right hand corner of the lower panel as it is at the end with the windows?

Any confirmation from a reader - ideally with photographic evidence - would be much appreciated.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Boiler Shop

Himself is going through one of his odd job phases, and this is one of those tasks that he's been meaning to get around to for years.

It's a sorry tale about a locomotive that, by rights, shouldn't have any place in our stock boxes.

Many years ago when Backwoods Miniatures brought out a kit for the Darjeeling C class pacific Himself bought one on a whim - he's always said it was one of their easiest kits to make.

With clever design the motor was mounted in the tender but drove the driving wheels through a shaft and universal joint to a worm gear above the gearbox in the firebox area.

This meant the boiler could be a solid white metal casting, so there was plenty of weight for traction.

All of which, in hindsight, makes you wonder why he thought it was necessary to fill the firebox area with lead, but he did, and over the years the lead expanded until it caused a rather spectacular throat plate failure with a large chasm opening up between the firebox and the boiler.

With the lesson learnt he has stripped it all down and refitted the firebox wrapper and now it's ready to be reassembled.

Of course, it has no place on either of our layouts because neither of the two prototypes have ever run on the FR or WHR, and nor are the likely to because they are both stuffed and mounted in India.

I suppose the only connection for what are now layouts that live in the west of Scotland are the these rather attractive mainline narrow gauge locomotives were built by North British in Glasgow.

And, of course, Himself rather likes it, so what other excuse do you need?

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Reverse Engineering

One of the things we understood would be crucial when we began building Bron Hebog was that on such a large layout, with a sinuous trackplan with many board joints - both end to end and side to side - was to make sure they were always perfectly aligned.

That's why Himself invested in some very high quality German engineering dowels to try to ensure that the boards would always fit together accurately regardless of whether the wood had shrunk or expanded with the season.

So imagine our consternation on the day of the exhibition at Bressingham to discover that one of the track joints, which is slightly on a skew, had moved ever so slightly during the night.

It wasn't much but it was enough to derail one particular Garratt pony truck and occasionally a bogie too.

Considering what to do about this he came to the conclusion that although we had fitted a system of dowels all around the layout they were low down on the frames, but much of the trackbed sits quite a few inches higher on an embankment.

It seemed that maybe there was still potential for this to move off the vertical?

His solution is to fit another series of dowels just below the trackbed.

However, this is easier said than done because these are supposed to be fitted - for precise location - by drilling all the way through the two pieces you are connecting.

This is not possible on a finished layout where you can't get a drill up behind and underneath.

He's just had to do it very carefully from the outside instead.

Let's hope it does the trick.

Friday, 15 June 2018


I've been wondering what to build next now that the big effort for getting ready for Bressingham is out of the way.

I've got yet another set of Superbarn castings to be built up into a carriage - 120 - but I rather fancy doing something different.

I've got a notion to make some more vintage WHR carriages from brass kits, as well, but then I remembered there's been another project waiting in the wings - some BZ wagons.

These are the hybrids which have been created by Boston Lodge with the mostly-fixed sides of a B wagon with the more user-friendly height of a DZ wagon.

The two are them are not identical - needless to say - so I won't be casting them by the dozen as I can do with B wagons - but I will still make the master from styrene and produce a mould and a resin cast from it because it will make it more rigid.

If you're wondering why the reference to Eric in the title the answer is, of course,  the Monty Python song 'Eric the half a bee." Geddit?

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Heat Stroke

It's true that people living on these islands are never happy about the weather - there's always someone moaning! (Usually me..)

By some freak of nature the west of Scotland has been living through one of the driest and warmest spells of weather for many a year.

Garden lawns are turning brown and cracks are appearing in the turf. Trust me when I say that this is not normal!

There is, of course, always a downside, and for me it is that conditions have been less than ideal for resin casting.

It's either so hot that the stuff is setting too fast, or it's been a little on the humid side so it comes out like that honeycomb foam that builders squirt out from a can to fill caps.

This is especially inconvenient as I've been trying to produce a batch of some very fiddly pieces which make up the interior of the Superbarn carriages and the two new FR Observation Carrs for customers who approached me.

The bases for the bucket seats and the side tables have some very small bits and one tiny air bubble can ruin the piece completely.

The reject rate has been running close to a 50% for some of them but I'm winning the battle I think.

Ordinarily I'd just wait for the weather to turn but it's been like this for so long that I felt I couldn't keep the customers waiting any longer.

You just watch the weather change now I've written this....

Monday, 11 June 2018

Return Visit

I suspect that some readers have guessed this already but we're delighted to be able to announce that we'll be bringing Bron Hebog back to the top left hand corner of Wales, and specifically, Dinas Goods Shed, later this year.

We've been invited to have the layout as one of the extra attractions at this year's Superpower event over the weekend 14 - 16 September which is themed on celebrating 21 years since the opening of the first section between Caernarfon and Dinas in 1997.

The team are very much looking forward to bringing it back to what has almost been it's second home and seeing some familiar faces again (although we expect a number of locals will be casting a very critical eye over some of the new features, like the completed estate scene, since it was last on show here in 2015.)

Saturday, 9 June 2018


It was only a few moments work but it's amazing what a difference one small transfer can make to the appearance of the WHHR van - it really sets it off.

It got me thinking a little about the old 'arrows of indecision' and how it really is quite a remarkable piece of functional art, and perhaps we are beginning to appreciate that again.

When I was young in the 70s and 80s it seemed to symbolise dire standards of service

But perhaps more than half a century after it first appeared there is a growing awareness that it is one of the most effective corporate logos which has ever been created.

Consider how there is still nothing else in this country that so instantly says train or railway.

I've recently been involved in rebranding a local sports club and the process of choosing a new logo gave me a new appreciation of the qualities of the old double arrow.

It is remarkably simple, bold and adaptable, and we've never come close to anything else on the railway that works so well again, it's closest rival perhaps being the Intercity swallow?

All the more remarkable is that it was created towards the end of the 1960's when it was replacing an ultra-traditional logo drawing on the heraldic tradition.

What a brave and far-sighted decision it was to go for that new look.

I think there's a lot of simplistic, idealistic and downright disingenuous nonsense talked by the 'Bring Back British Rail' campaigns sometimes, but we do need to give credit for many of the things that monolithic organisation got right, and did better than any of its successors have so far managed.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Look Back At Bressingham

I promised you a proper review of our experience at Narrow Gauge East, and now we've had the best part of a week seems like a good time to reflect.

There's no denying that going all that way for a one day show was a test of stamina - if not sanity!

I calculated we drove around 900 miles in 60 hours, with a full set up and pack down within those hours, as well as 7 hours of running.

But was it worth it?  Definitely!

For one thing it was the first opportunity we've had to put up the full layout, let along play with it, for more than two and a half years.

Considering that it didn't run too badly, although a spate of uncouplings from a mystery track defect deep inside Goat Tunnel and a board joint imperfection which appeared during the course of the show (probably due to a change in atmospheric conditions) were a little frustrating at the time.

It was terrific to hear from so many visitors that seeing Bron Hebog was their reason for coming to the show in the first place.

The location was inside the Exhibtion Hall at Bressingham Steam Museum which is partly given over to housing an impressive collection of Dad's Army memorabilia, including mock sets.

We found ourselves positioned in front of Frazer's funeral parlour, which seemed somehow appropriate for a Scottish-based layout, although I suspect the dour undertaker would have dismissed model railways as "Rrrrubbish!"

Another of the reasons I was inclined to say yes to the invitation to go there was that I had never visited Bressingham, which has a legendary place in railway preservation.

I'd known about the steam giants which had been kept there decades ago, like Duchess of Sutherland, which have since moved on and returned to the mainline, but I didn't know about their collection of narrow gauge engines and that they have a number of reasonably lengthy loops which they run them on,

I was delighted to be invited to take a footplate ride around one of the circuits on board the 'Port Class' Quarry Hunslet 'Gwynedd'

We were treated by the staff organising the show like honoured guests all weekend.

They didn't flinch when we turned up more than an hour before they'd said the hall was available for setting up.

We were able to bring our van right into the museum to unload at the precise spot where the layout was to be assembled - and this was a great bonus when packing up on the Saturday afternoon when it was teeming with rain.

All our travelling expenses were paid, as you'd expect, but they also agreed to accommodate our operating team not just on the night before the show but also on the Saturday night following, meaning we were properly rested before facing a 400 mile drive home.

We were put up in a high quality bed and breakfast with a lovely village pub just across the road where we spent a couple of very convivial evenings.

Nothing was too much trouble. Free water, tea, coffee, lunch and biscuits were provided.

They dug out some crush barriers for us to protect the front of the layout where the trains run along an embankment closed to the edge.

Now you might think that this is quite standard for a well-run model railway show, and you'd be right.

What impressed me was that this was a commercial event put on by a charity / businesses, not a dedicated model railway club and I know that quite often people who take their layouts to these type
of shows can feel rather ignored and taken for granted.

This was not the case at Bressingham, so credit where it's due to Philip and his team of museum staff and volunteers,

And probably most impressive of all, when we popped into the café to buy a pot of tea after we had arrived on Friday the girl on the till accepted a Scottish bank note without a second glance!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Cutting Room

I spent most -of Saturday at Narrow Gauge East at Bressingham attempting to multi-task, which is no easy thing for the average bloke and even harder when you're attempting to operate a large, traditionally controlled layout.

I was trying to capture as much still and video footage of the layout as I could in the first opportunity to see it running for two and a half years - and that went for us as much as any of the paying visitors.

My camera-wielding efforts frustrated Himself a little at times, who clearly thought I was too distracted - and I'll admit there were a few operator errors as a consequence - but I hope you'll enjoy the end result which is some little clips of action like this.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Great North Road

We had a terrific day at Narrow Gauge East yesterday and it was great to see some old friends, make new acquaintances and learn that so many had made the trip just to see Bron Hebog.

We were very well looked after by the team at Bressingham.

I'll write more about the event later this week, for now it's time to hit the road on the 400+ mile drive home.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Diss Debuts

By the time you read this Himself and I should be well on our way to Bressingham to set up Bron Hebog ready for Narrow Gauge East tomorrow (Saturday).

It's been more than two and half years since the layout was last exhibited so we've got lots of new things to show you, like our exquisite model of observation car 150 and our equally lovely Lilla.

Both of us have been burning the midnight oil to get a couple of current projects in a state fit to run this weekend.

If you appreciate a nice bit of lining then be sure to look out for our new model of carriage 15 in all its Victorian finery.

I'm also hoping we'll be able to run our embryonic WHHR set with my kit-bashed Dundas Bro Madog carriage and the infamous BR blue-livered brake van.

Unfortunately I've not been able to add any of the iconic 'arrows of indecision' yet, but it's painted and has its glazing, handrails and door handles fitted so my intention is to give it a little test run.

Remember, this is just for one day only, and we're looking forward to running the layout for you to enjoy in Norfolk.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Weight Watcher

As a general principle of modelling in 009 you aim to make your locomotives as heavy as possible and your rolling stock as lightweight as you can get them.

I'm completely ignoring that with the WHHR brake van project because I spent time last night trying to discreetly add some weight to it.


Well, this kit-bashed Dundas van is made entirely from plastic / styrene and our thinking is that with it being the end vehicle of a set it pays to have a little bit of mass about it so it avoids being caught in a tug-of-war between the locomotive and the bogie carriages behind.

Especially if your coupling heights are a little off, you can end up with the first vehicle in a set wheelie-ing along the line behind the engine looking like a plane about to take off.

As I didn't have any sheet lead to hand to fix between the fames I decided the best thing to do was form a wee box on the floor of the van, fill it with some 'liquid lead' shot that I've had in the drawer for years, and seal it with a lid on top like a coffin.

(I was careful to leave it loose and not make the mistake of fixing it in place with PVA glue because the lead will react to it and expand, with unfortunate consequences.)

The other benefit is, should be wish, we can now form a Bron Hebog percussion section using the WHHR brake van as a maraca!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Blue Van

The painting of the WHHR van is going very smoothly so far.

The exterior has now had three coats of Rail Blue.

For a colour that was so ever-present all through my childhood it's very novel, and fun, to be applying it to a narrow gauge model.

It won't be properly finished in time for Bressingham but I'm hoping it might be possible to get the van, and the Bro Madog carriage, in a state fit to at least make an appearance as the first stage of a WHHR set.

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.