Sunday, 30 December 2018

Review Of The Year - Part 4


So to the final post of the year.

Dduallt was making yet another comeback, appearing at our home club's exhibition over two days in Greenock, and there will be more outings in 2019.

Himself hadn't wasted any time in getting started on the first of the new Garratt kits, which we decided would be 143.

He was making very rapid progress on the power units - here's the front one.

We were also taking apart our eldest Backwoods Fairlie, Merddin Emrys, to try and get to the bottom of its very poor performance.

It turned out that what it needed was new brushes for its Mashima motor.

Fortunately these could be fitted by twisting the motor round in the mounting, because it's impossible to remove it without deconstructing a lot of the locomotive.


I was making more progress on superbarn 120 which was having its underframe detail added by this stage.

Himself was adding the valve gear to the first of the Garratt bogies, which was being test run.

I had taken on the job of making up some wagon kits as repeat business for a customer.


Progress on 143 had got the point where both power units had their vale gear fitted and much of the detail was in place on the boiler unit as well.

As I write it has yet to be joined together or pick-ups fitted, so there's be no test running so far.

The ballast wagons and B wagons were completed and delivered to the customer ready in time for Christmas, even though there was no deadline on the contract.

Thanks to you for reading the blog in 2018 and all our best wishes for 2019.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Review Of The Year - Part 3


And so to the second half of 2018 where there was much excitement at the arrival of our first ready-to-run model, the Bachmann 590 Baldwin.

I've never made any secret of my enthusiasm for the mainstream manufacturers discovering 009.

The intensity of the debate online around this has been second only to Brexit, but unlike the latter subject I can see only positives in this development for our scale.

I'm hugely excited about the next project in the pipeline, the small quarry Hunslets (especially the cab-less versions) and for what this innovative firm might decide to do next.

In this month I began work on a project which had been on the back burner for a while, to make models of the hybrid BZ wagons made at Boston Lodge for infrastructure trains on the FR.

I decided to make masters and cast them in resin, even though only two have been produced so far and they are far from identical.

July was also the month where, quite by chance, I discovered that the last two Backwoods NGG16 kits produced were available to buy.

We had to dig deep to avert the possibility of them being offered for sale in an online auction, but we'd been looking for a number of years for the opportunity to complete our Garratt fleet and it was too good an opportunity to miss.


The first of the BZ wagons had been cast and was being put together.

The fold-flat end doors are a right pain because I had to scratch build the triangular support brackets in styrene, which was a very fiddly job.

Himself had been putting together a Chivers kit of a tiny Hunslet diesel to replace our model of Harold, the Boston Lodge shunter, which had been stolen when we were exhibiting Dduallt in Leeds a number of years ago.

And to have a bit of fun for when we took Bron Hebog to show at the Welsh Highland 'Super Power' weekend I decided to add a very contemporary scenic feature - a reminder of the day when a driver tried his luck racing a Garratt to Bron Hebog crossing - and the Garratt won!


Himself had taken an executive decision to invest in panoramic photographic backscenes for the show at Dinas.

The result was very effective indeed!

We had a fabulous time - as we always do - showing Bron Hebog in the goods shed, this time in its finished state.

The Lynton and Barnstaple Baldwin Lyn was the star attraction on the railway and Himself pulled out the stops to get the Backwoods kit we had been given running.

Once again we couldn't resist being cheeky and double-heading it with Lyd knowing that the real locomotives were not being allowed anywhere near each other that weekend.

Back home the production line of superbarns continued with a start being made on assembling number 120.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Season's Greetings

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Review Of The Year - Part 2


By this point my Bro Madog kit-bash had got to the point where the body had been assembled and was ready to be primed.

The main change to the carriage was creating the toplight windows by cutting out solid plastic and inserting new pillars and a top rail.

I was pleased that you really couldn't see the join.

Himself was tackling the biggest outstanding scenery job which was lining the walls of Cutting Mawr.

Some of it was done with genuine pieces of Welsh rock, although most were copies I'd cast in resin.

He also set about fitting a basic backscene to hide the goings-on in the fiddle yards from view.


I had started work on a second WHHR vehicle for a new rake, and again it involved a kit bash.

The ex-VoR brake van has changed a lot from the version with matchboard sides which is made by Dundas.

What I decided on was using the chassis and the very bottom section of the body (showing the frames) and making the rest out of styrene.

It was coming along well.

Himself had done a quite remarkable job with the gold leaf lining on a second vintage carriage - this time number 15.

And I was busy starting work on yet along superbarn, this time casting the parts for what would become 120.


This was a very big month for us as we took Bron Hebog out on the road for the first time in a couple of years - and what a road trip it was, all the way to Norfolk for a one day show!

The Dad's Army section of the museum building is certainly up there as one of the more unusual venues we've exhibited at, but they looked after us very well indeed all weekend.

It'd got the WHHR brake van ready to the point where it had been painted in BR blue, just like the real one, to wind everyone up.

Unfortunately I had yet to get my hands on some of the famous double arrow transfers to complete the look.

We'd had a few issues with track alignments during the show. It was nothing major but it's still and irritation when you're exhibiting, so Himself decided to invest in some additional  measures after we'd returned home.

These precision engineering dowels don't come cheap, but hopefully it will be money well spent.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Review Of The Year - Part 1

I've established a tradition on this blog in the last days of December of taking stock of everything that Himself and I have achieved over the year.

I usually find there are things that I've forgotten about, and I'm always surprised by how much we've got done.

So here's a look back at what we were up to in the first quarter of 2018.


Looking back now I see that there was a lot of carriage building going on at this time.

FR 'superbarn' 118, which I'd built up from resin castings, had been painted, assembled, had its transfers applied and, finally, varnished.

Himself was also starting work on a very long-term project indeed - the completion of a Worsley Works bowsider 19 which had been sitting in a drawer in its naked state for years.

I was also busy trying to keep up with the expanding WHR carriage fleet and had started work on saloon 2047 which was being scratch built in styrene - as opposed to the resin parts I use for the latest FR stock.


This was the big reveal of our finished Robex 3D printed Lilla.

I thought at the time - and still do - that it looks absolutely stunning!

We'd decided to finish it in its current, highly ornate, plum livery with oodles of gold leaf lining.

It was taking up all Himself's reserves of patience and concentration but it was already clear the results were going to be worth it.

He'd also restarted work to plug the last remining scenic gap on the layout, landscaping around the last two houses I'd built.


There was yet more carriage work going on with me kit-bashing a Dundas 'Bro Madog' carriage to make it look like it's current condition on the WHHR.

As to why I was doing it, that was about to be revealed...

I'd also been putting together the castings for the second of the latest FR observation carrs 152 ready for Himself to add a brass roof and the window pillars at the front.

The reason I was making a WHHR carriage became clear when I handed over Himself's birthday present - a Robex print for the Bagnall Gelert.

I had confidence that he'd make a fine job of the body, after what he'd done with Lilla

The challenge for him was going to be doing the outside frame adaptation on a Fleischman chassis to go under it.

I had a feeling he wasn't going to thank me for that...

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

We Shall Need Gladstone

Don't worry, we're not about to go standard gauge on you.

It's just that the line from the Will Hay classic "Oh Mr Porter!" came to mind when I was pondering which project to take on now I've got that contract job on the SAR wagons out of the way.

Given the recent political breakthrough between the FR and the WHHR (which, let the record show, we anticipated in miniature by three full months!) we're going to need a more authentic train for our Russell to haul on Bron Hebog.

This summer I finished the ex-VoR brake van in BR blue, and the Bro Madog carriage, and I think what I might work on next is a 'Gladstone Carriage' - so-called because the lengendary Liberal Prime Minister is reputed to have ridden in it once.

I have built one before, in styrene, for a customer.

The question is whether I scratch build again this time for myself or invest in a brass body for it?

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Ready For Christmas

With just the small matter of the bogie frames to clean up and fit it didn't take long to finish off the wagons I've been making for a client.

Time now to package them up and despatch them by reindeer and sleigh in time for Christmas.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Customer Service

The old adage goes that the customer is always right, even when they're wrong.

When I'm building models to order I always do my best to try to meet my clients requirements, even when it sometimes makes things a little more awkward.

Take the case of the couplings on the latest batch of wagons which are just about finished.

The customer has standardised on couplings designed by PECO for their ready to run range of rolling stock..

Standardising in this way makes things much easier  - but fixing plastic parts to brass? Not so much...

The etched bogie frames I use on my kits work best with the brass Greenwich couplings, which can be soldered direct onto the tongue which extends out from the middle.  Or failing that the Bemo ones with a long shaft which gives you plenty of surface area to glue them on.

These PECO couplings are designed to slot into NEM pockets, and have almost no shaft on them.

They're also made from the kind of plastic which doesn't work with Superglue.

So the solution I've had to adopt is, firstly, to solder on a brass extension piece onto the bogie, and then use epoxy resin to attach the coupling, which is less than ideal because it takes an age even for the rapid stuff to set hard.

It's done, however, so now all I have to do is fix on the resin detail parts on the side of the bogies (it seemed sensible to wait until I'd finished the soldering work) and then spray them.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Tiny Shiny Bits

More of the very involved detailing has been completed on the boiler unit of 143.

There are a lot of pipe runs and lost wax brass castings to be added around the firebox and along the frames which involves some careful soldering and a lot of precision bending of brass wire.

These are all time consuming tasks but there are a lot of external ancillaries on an NGG16 and the model wouldn't look right if it didn't have as many of them as possible on there.

One of the last things to be added will be the handrails but the holes have already been drilled, as you can clearly see in the picture.

Since the last time I posted the cab roof has also been bent to shape and is resting in place for now.

Monday, 10 December 2018

One Good Turn

I took the wagons over to Himself's place to take advantage of one of his nifty bits of kit - a spray booth turntable.

My presence was required anyway to shin up a latter to attach his Christmas lights to the guttering so it seemed a fair exchange.

It turned out it wasn't just the turntable I needed to borrow.

While enthusiastically agitating the new can of primer I'd bought just a couple of days before it slipped out of my hand and fell on the floor, breaking the aerosol spray head.


Fortunately Himself had half a can of his own left over on the shelf so I was able to make use of that.

Next I shall turn my attention to the bogies and the couplings.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Ready For Red Oxide

The wagon bodies I've been building for a customer are at the stage where they're ready to be given a coat of red oxide colour.

The thing I've found best for this is the spray cans of primer you'll find in your local car parts store, although it does chip easily so a further coat of varnish can be a good idea.

One of the final pieces of construction work on the ballast wagons was assembling the shafts with the cogs which operate the doors to release the stones onto the side of the track.

I've always been rather pleased with these.

It's the kind of tricky detail that might otherwise be missed off a kit but thanks to the very skillful design team at Narrow Planet I was able to get some tiny little cogs and brackets etched onto a fret.

They need to be threaded onto a length of brass wire, secured in the right spots to line up with the ends of the doors and then the whole thing is just glued into place.

And as I get more adventurous with the iron I have begun to solder these in position rather than gluing them onto the wire, which I'm quite chuffed with, too.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

It's Getting There

You could be fooled into thinking the new Garratt is almost ready to run.

With the valve gear complete on both bogies now, and the pipework being added to the boiler unit which is complete with a dome and chimney now, 143 is really looking the business.

Examine it closely, though, and you'll see it's still missing pony trucks, and there aren't any pick ups fitted yet so it's not going anywhere just yet.

I do like the way the missing smokebox door gives it an authentic 'nearing the end of an overhaul' look.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

B Is For Brave

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not a great enthusiast for soldering.

This is not because I am in any doubt about its benefits as a method of construction, but more that I have never done much of it and when confronted by a situation where it might be an option I am likely to either pass it over to Himself to do, or find a way of gluing the parts together.

It's what I've always done with the brass parts on my resin wagons and what I advise in the kit instructions to keep construction straightforward.

On the latest build of some B Wagons for a customer I decided the time had come to be brave and try and solder the parts together as much as possible.

I'm rather pleased with the results, I must say.

It was less fiddly than I expected.

Soldering is very different to gluing pieces together.  Not only do you get an instant, and solid, joint but also because you can't hold it in place as well because:

a) you have to hold the soldering iron in one hand, and it's a bit more awkward than a tube of glue


b) the bits get bloody hot!

This, of course, was my major concern when soldering parts which were attached to, and in close proximity to, a resin body. One false move and the whole model is ruined.

Fortunately by using relatively low melt solder and some good flux I only had to apply the iron for a second or so for the joints to be made, and I can't help noticing they feel much more solid than ones I have glued previously.

Why did it take me so long to start doing it this way?

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Wheels Of Fortune

One of the features I love best about the South African wagon kits I make are the bits I had no part in making - other than asking a much cleverer person to do it for me.

They are the distinctive wheels for the handbrakes and the ballast door mechanism on the B wagon and the NG-Y.

They were designed for me by Narrow Planet and come on a small fret along with the bogie frames, the brake gear and the cogs which go along the side of the ballast wagon.

It's a very neat piece of work and they set the kits of beautifully, especially when they're picked out in yellow when they're painted.

I always feel that they're starting to look the part when I get round to fitting them.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Double Bogies

A significant milestone has been reached in the 143 project.

Both the bogies have got their valve gear fitted and run smoothly when the motor is connected up to the juice.

Neither have their pick ups fitted test so they haven’t done any running under their own power on track, and there are still those pesky little pony trucks to add.

The inner ones are especially awkward to re-rail if there’s an incident out on the line.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Control Panel

Lots of different bits of the Garratt kit are being built at the same time.

As well as the work on the two power bogies and the central boiler unit Himself has also been doing some of the smaller jobs such as the boiler backhead.

This will be glued into position inside the cab in due course, but it will be painted first because access inside the cab is tricky.

It's not a faithful miniature of the controls of an NGG16, being something more generic, but who's going to see it anyway?

It's still a nice piece of work, though, so I thought it deserved a picture here.