Monday, 16 September 2019

Seeing Red

When we posted a set of pictures of the grey Garratt 87 a few days ago there was a request for some of the red one 138, and we’re happy to oblige.

This was our third Backwoods NGG16 in the fleet.

It was the first, however, to feature those lovely huge headlights.

All the WHR Garratts differ in small details - on 138 one of those is the chimney which needed some modifications to the one supplied in the kit - another is the filler on the top of the front bunker.

Like with children it’s probably wrong to have favourites, but if pushed I’d have to say it comes just behind 87 for me just now.

I might change that opinion when I see 130 finished?

Saturday, 14 September 2019


Social media - and its menacing algorithms - reminds me that it’s 4 years since we took Bron Hebog and Dduallt to show at the Welsh Highland Great and Small weekend at Dinas.

It was an epic weekend, and a huge undertaking, and most likely not something we’ll ever repeat.

In some ways I’m astonished that its been that long since we ‘completed’ the layout in structural terms, but the recent work Himself has been doing with more trees brings home to me how sparse the layout was back then.

It’s something very evident in this shot of the Funkey from four years ago.

Our next outing with it will be in five weeks time in Greenock.

Thursday, 12 September 2019


The WHHR Buffet Car is ready to be primed and painted.

Himself has completed the underframe and added details such as the brake pipes.

We added a 10 thou styrene shin to finesse the ride height.

It should be a simple paint job with its plain green livery.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Non-Corridor Corridor

I’ve always been amused by the way the NWNGR Ashbury carriages were referred to as ‘corridor’ coaches, because by modern terminology they so clearly are not!

However, I suppose that back in the day being able to move around an open saloon, changing seat on the move if one so wished, was a noteworthy development on the narrow gauge where most other stock was made up of divided compartments.

These days, of course, we take the word corridor to mean a door in the end, so you can move from carriage to carriage, and the adaptation of FR 11 and 12 to run as a buffet/obs would have been transformative.

Anyway, as you can see, the interior for the last of our WHHR carriages (for now) is made and with a fair wind behind him maybe Himself will get the full set ready to run in Greenock next month?

Sunday, 8 September 2019


A few more trees have appeared on the layout, around the biggest feature which is the 180 degree bend leading into Cutting Mawr.

These are but a fraction of what is there in the real location, which is getting rather bushy, but the trains look so good making their way around the curve that we don't want to hide them from view behind a forest of foliage.

Friday, 6 September 2019


A few more bits have been added to the bunkers of 130 as more clues filter out of Boston Lodge and Dinas as to how it will definitely look.

I’m told this has been 3 days work.

Himself describes these as the 'fiddly bits' and they include the sand pots, mounted on the front of the tanks, which have recently been painted in the lovely deep plum colour for the real loco.

Among the most tricky parts are the lifting eyes which have to be fashioned from brass and - painfully - soldered in place.

The ‘greedy rails’ have been added to the top of the coal bunker.

The big, rectangular water filler doors have been knocked up in styrene for the front unit as well.

At the back end the vacuum pipe and the lubricator have been put in position, but this isn't being done on the front as no photographic evidence has come to light yet....

Wednesday, 4 September 2019


A small piece of progress to report on James Spooner.

Himself has fitted the drive shafts which connect the motor - hidden in the firebox - with the power bogies.

They don’t have pick ups, or an electrical connection to the motor yet, but it has operated in a test with an umbilical link to a power source.

These solid shafts are a development of the Backwoods kit which originally used long, thin springs to take the drive, but the extra flexibility was unnecessary, and from the Single Fairlie kit onwards this is what was adopted.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Tree Surgery

Himself is making up a few more trees from kits he discovered lying around.

Our trees are not the most sophisticated.

We use the Woodland Scenics kits which come as flat, soft plastic sprues which you twist to shape and glue clump foliage onto.

We’ve always believed the effect of a great number of these on the layout goes a long way to making up for what they lack as individual models.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Mr Forgetful

I’ve had the interior for the WHHR buffet car returned as faulty goods.

It appears I made a very basic mistake,  with the result that it doesn’t fit in with the roof soldered in place.

What I forgot to allow for is the brackets at each end which hold the captive nut that fixes the chassis in place.

You see, while I was making it I was only ever fitting it in from above.

A bit of a schoolboy error, really.

It should be easily fixed by chopping it into three parts.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Little And Large

It’s not immediately apparent that these started out as basically the same carriage.

Himself has soldered together the body for the original spec NWNGR Ashbury corridor and now it’s over to me to make an interior for it.

The buffet car in the foreground would have looked the same before it was cut down the the FR with the intention of through running.

It’s remarkable what difference the extra few inches in height make, but I think the biggest visual differentiator is the bars over the opening windows which alter its appearance.

Also, you can’t help being struck by how austere (and economical) these carriages look compared to the high water mark of the FR ‘bowsiders’ a few years before.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Pure Brilliant White

Himself isn’t the only one being diverted by non-NG projects this week - although mine is at least still 4mm scale.

I’ve got to the stage of refreshing the paintwork on the cottage model for my friend.

The more I looked at it the more apparent it became that the white was becoming rather dirty, so just like any real building I’m giving it a coat of whitewash.

In this case I’m using thinned Humbrol enamel so it flows better over the harling, which in model form is represented by fine ballast glued onto a styrene base.

I always have been one for doing things the hard way, but it is very effective and has stood the test of time.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Smaller But Bigger

I let Himself out of my sight for a week and see what happens?

While he was in Wales volunteering on the FR he got nobbled by the Engineering Consultant who succeeded in bribing,  or blackmailing him (I’m not sure which) into putting together some etched brass 3mm scale standard gauge kits.

Having reached a unavoidable dead end with both the Fairlie and NGG16 builds - waiting for Blodge and Dinas to finish the real ones - he has made a start on the first of these kits which is a GWR Hawksworth Carriage.

It’s rather odd to be making something in a smaller scale which is actually bigger than the models he usually works on.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Bull Bars

It can be the little details which really make a model and one of the things I like most about our Fairlies are the bars at the front of the bogies which Himself adds on.

These are the thing that instantly differentiate the modern Fairlie from days gone by.

I call them bull bars because they remind me of the bling which people put on the front of their cars to make them look more rugged.

Himself tells me these are quite tricky to fit.

Not only do you have to get them sitting level and equally spaced, but over do it with the soldering iron and you could have bits falling off, or in the worst case scenario, the plastic gears on the front axle (which are not a million miles away) could deform.

Fortunately this has never happened on any of the nine bogies he’s made.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Number 9

On the workbench just now Himself is putting together the last of our trio of WHHR carriages - the replica of Ashbury corridor 9.

There’s a slight issue with the Worsley etch because it is missing the droplights for the middle windows.

Himself is planning the remedy the situation by utilising some square offcuts and having the windows in the open position.

You can see them at the top of the picture.
The other head-scratcher is how to get the vents above the windows to appear in the open position...

Monday, 19 August 2019


Himself's probably gone as far as he dare's with our James Spooner for now.

Our model has reached pretty much the state of construction on the real locomotive.

Both the bogies have been completed to the point where they can be test run on a rig with an old motor and a spring driveshaft.

I've included the slow motion sequences on the video so that you can appreciate the really tight clearances on the motion.

Himself says the key to building these Backwoods power bogies is to have a really good set of small files!

It's crucial to ensure the bearings in the frame are as flush as they can be.

You will also have to carry out surgery on the motion bracket in order to make space for the coupling rod to rotate, and some elongation of the hole into the cylinder block is needed to give the piston room to waggle about a bit.

Himself recalls that when he built the first one, for Merddin Emrys over 20 years go, the trial and error was so frustrating he got close to hurling it down the garden path.

Now on his ninth Fairlie bogie it's all become somewhat routine....

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Hurricane Hebog

It looks like some devastating storm has hit Beddgelert, but these are, in fact, some new trees ready for planting around the S bend.

In real life the vegetation is a lot thicker around this area, but we do want people to actually see the trains on the layout.

The other issue is that we need to be careful that adding more trees doesn’t upset the very close tolerances when the boards are stacked face-to-face for storage and transporting.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Fairlie Quick Progress

Since the weekend the bogies for James Spooner have advanced with the first almost ready to be connected to a motor for a test under power.

These bogies are deceptively hard work.

You might suppose that a simple four wheel chassis with no valve gear would go together quite easily, but much like with the real things the problem is that there’s very little room to squeeze everything in.

In the case of the models the problem area is behind the crosshead which has a fag-paper clearance to the coupling rod behind.

It’s doable - but only just!

The second bogie is also coming along.

Three wheels are fitted but the crank pins have yet to be cut to length.

Despite the difficulties of making them they are lovely works of art.

Chop off the box holding the worm gear - and strip the gears off the leading axles - and you’ve got beautiful miniature models of real Fairlie power bogies.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019


Finding myself in between railway-related tasks temporarily I have made a start on renovating the 25 year old model of a cottage I made for my friend.

Some task were quite simple, such as repairing and replacing the chimney pots, and refitting glazing which had fallen out, but restoring the delicate decorative valance along the front was every bit as challenging as making it in the first place - except my eyes are a quarter of a century older now!

The whole house will need a fresh coat of ‘whitewash’ too.

I will also try to renovate the wooden plinth it sits on, as well.

Since the day I made it it’s never been quite flat, with a pronounced curve on the top surface, so I shall see if Himself can attack it with his electric planer.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Bogie Businesses

Checking in on Himself’s workbench this weekend I notice there’s been some progress on the chassis front.

The second of 130’s power units has had the motion completed.

A start has also been made on the first of the Fairlie bogies for James Spooner.

At this rate he’ll have to be careful he’s not overtaking Boston Lodge, except, of course, they aren’t building any bogies for the new double engine, they’ve just nicked the ones which were under the Earl.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Counter Service

The fitting out of the Buffet Car has come together very pleasingly.

A couple of evening sessions this week have seen me finish the smaller third class compartment and the serving area, along with the dividers.

If we were doing it properly these walls should be clad in tongue and groove panelling - but we’re not, so they aren’t.

I’ll hand it over to Himself for painting now.

It should be quite straightforward, being just a plain green body.

Famous last words, and all that...

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The Pink Seats

Thanks to a comprehensive set of research pictures taken by Himself on a visit to the WHHR last week I’ve felt able to make a start on fitting the interior into the Buffet Car.

I’ve begun with the posh benches in the 1st class compartment, which are very similar to those in the Gladstone Car we’ve just finished,  and which will also be painted pink.

I’m not one for ridiculous levels of detail - I won’t be making tiny cups and bottles to stock the shelves in this carriage - but it does seem reasonable to at least fit legs to support the front of the benches, even if they’re not elegantly turned like the real ones.

The three long ones are in place now, but I shall have to fit the compartment division before the individual seats either side of the door are glued in.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Buffet Start

I’ve made a tentative start to the interior for the WHR buffet car.

I say, tentative, but perhaps a better word would be strategic, because I know that Himself has taken a set of research pictures for me during a week volunteering in Wales on the FR, so it would be wise not to rush too far ahead and wait for some better views than the few I’ve found online so far.

The base needs to be made with two layers because of the brackets at either end which attach the floor to the body sides, meaning it is not completely flat inside along the floor.

I’ve also had to make allowances for the nuts and the bolt heads for the bogie pivots.

The blanks for the compartment dividers are cut but I’ll wait for the aforementioned photos before cutting the door windows / hatches in them.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Double Trouble?

I think the time has come for one of my occasional Op Ed pieces where I pass comment on matters in the real or model railway world.

(Pauses to reach for flak jacket and tin hat...)

One week on, I don't suppose there are many narrow gauge modellers who haven't heard of the announcement of the PECO / Kato collaboration to produce ready to run OO9 models of the FR's iconic 'Small England' and Double Fairlie locomotives.

It's provoked the predictable rows on social media, either about the cost or the fear that it will spell the end of the scale as we know it - both of which I regard as bunkum.

What I find fascinating about this development is what it says about the state of the model railway industry.

I wasn't surprised in the slightest about an announcement of RTR models of these prototypes -  what astonished me was where it came from.

You see, I've known a long while that another manufacturer has been intending to produce models of these engines - indeed, had begun work on the project - and they must be kicking themselves that they've allowed themselves to be scooped.

I've got no experience in the model railway trade but it seems to me that they have two options: to junk the work and the investment they've made in the project, or reveal their hand and try to stifle the PECO/Kato project at birth.

I wonder what they'll decide to do?

I can't help thinking that this manufacturer has been rather caught napping and left itself  exposed.

The success of Bachmann's Baldwin, and orders for the Quarry Hunslet, and Heljan's perseverance with the troubled L and B tanks, has shown that there's a market for OO9 ready to be exploited.

It was always inevitable that someone would produce FR Fairlies and Englands because, like them or not, they are the iconic narrow gauge engines.

If you were inventing OO as a scale the first model you would make, if you wanted to shift a barrow load, would be Flying Scotsman, and Fairlies are the Narrow Gauge answer to Scotsman - almost everyone's heard of them.

This scenario reminds me a little of the recent James May TV documentary on Hornby, where the new management pulled a fast one on the enterprising retailer Rails of Sheffield by producing a model of the 'Terrier' tanks when they knew the shop had launched a project to bring their own to market.

I've heard that in recent years there was a lot of unhappiness among standard gauge modellers about manufacturers announcing intended new models many years ahead of the date when they might hit the shelves.

There can be long lead times on these projects and now the industry has rowed back a little in response, announcing only what they intend to deliver within the next year to 18 months.

It will be fascinating to see what effect this PECO/Kato move will have.

For PECO I think it's a very smart move. These engines will undoubtedly attract new people into OO9, for which they will need to buy lots of track.....

That's what you call a win-win.

I wonder if it will galvanise their rival manufacturers to up the tempo of expanding their OO9 ranges, or retreat with their fingers burnt?

I very much hope not it's not the latter.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Plum Job

The secret of 130’s livery is out, with the locomotive’s owner, Pete Best, revealing this design on social media.


It looks like a real classic colour scheme, redolent of the heyday of the LMS, and I think it’ll really suit a big bruiser of an engine like the NGG16.

For Himself it’s the biggest missing piece of the jigsaw as he builds our model from a Backwoods kit, but I’m sure he will be ca canny (as they say in these parts) because nothing is ever gained by getting ahead of Boston Lodge - or Dinas - because there could still be any number of details which could be different to what we might anticipate.

Tempting as it is to rush ahead, we must wait for the real one to steam.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

It’s Curtains

The Gladstone Carriage is finally, finally, finished.

The last job was to paint the curtains on the posh compartment in the middle which has worked out quite effectively.

You might also notice there’s been another change inside since the last update I posted.

That’s right. I won the argument about the colour of the fabric on the bench seat which has been repainted pink.

To my eyes that’s the dominant colour of the rather exotic moquette.

But for genetic reasons Himself and I don’t see eye to eye on colours always.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Tea Time

The Worsley body ‘kit’ for the WHHR Ashbury ‘Buffet Car’ has been soldered up and passed over to me to make up an interior.

That’s going to take a little bit of research and puzzling out because I’ve never taken any photographs of it, and from what I’ve been able to deduce it’s quite a complex carriage with its counter, upholstered longitudinal benches and another section of traditional face-to-face seats.

But where, exactly, they all fit in is what I’ll have to work out.

Friday, 26 July 2019

In The Navy

The first navy blue topcoat is being applied to Gelert.

Himself is still not entirely happy with the way paint takes and dries on these 3D printed bodies, even when they’ve been cured in white spirit and primed.

It looks a little ropey just now, but just like with Lilla I’m very confident with how the finish will turn out.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The Borismobile

Those who know their Westminster history may appreciate the irony in almost completing our latest Worsley Works carriage as BoJo becomes the UK's political leader.

The man reputed to have ridden in this carriage would probably have a lot to say to the latest tenant in Number 10 Downing Street.

William Gladstone was a Prime Minister who also knew what it is to split your Governing party on the defining political issue of his generation, and which also involved the very delicate question of the future of the island of Ireland.

Rather than relaxing by making models of buses from old boxes (or so we are led to believe the PM does) Mr Gladstone liked to use his spare time chopping down trees and seeking out so-called 'fallen women', to guide them back onto the path to righteousness.

Enough political references, however.

What you really want to know is that Himself has completed the lettering on the NWNGR carriage.

We decided not to bother trying to replicated the intricate, shaded letters, and have used just gold waterslide transfers from the Fox range, and I think they look effective enough.

All that remains is to source a suitable shade of pinky/purple paint to create the curtain effect on the glazing in the centre compartment.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Double Dealing

It's a strange coincide, but for the last couple of years, just as I am about to go on my summer holiday, another rare and much-needed Backwoods kit lands in our lap.

A couple of weeks we were delighted (and very grateful) to be offered the chance to buy - at a sensible price! - a fourth Double Fairlie in order to make a model of the forthcoming James Spooner.

Himself has been unable to resist the urge to start building it, although I have cautioned him most earnestly not to get ahead of Boston Lodge Works as they build the real one.

So far just the boiler cradle has been completed, and mounted on the bogies formerly running under the Earl, and that's probably as far as we'll be able to go with the model for the moment, too.

In the light of recent experience with our eldest Fairlie, Merddin Emrys - which needed a brush transplant -  Himself has decided to follow the adaptation suggest by Nick Welch in his book Ffestiniog Odyssey, to allow the motor to be removed from the locomotive, rather than trapped forever inside the firebox as the kit was designed to be put together.

This involves making a small bracket and drilling, tapping and inserting screws into the fronts of what, on the real engine, would be the ash pans.

You also have to cut an additional slot in the cradle frame which holds the motor.

Now in future, once the firebox wrapper and the cab roof are lifted clear, you will be able to undo the screws and either lift the motor out from above, or drop the whole cradle out from below the engine.

The next move will probably be to build up the power bogies, and you will, of course, be able to follow the progress here on the blog.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

From The Archives

I got a very pleasant surprise a couple of weeks ago when one of the luminaries of PECO Publications told me that they’d dug out the pictures of Dduallt taken a quarter of a century ago to use in the latest of their special editions.

This magazine is the latest in the series and is all about modelling the preserved railway scene, which is something I’ve been involved with since I was a a schoolboy, and which is very much overlooked.

The images, shot by the legendary Len Weal after hours at one of our early exhibitions, are historic in their own right in that they feature much of our first generation of rolling stock, much of which has been retired, sold or, in the case of the Langley Merddin Emrys given away as a gift to a former FR luminary.

Have the years been kind?

Why not buy a copy of the magazine and let us know?

Thursday, 18 July 2019

The Rivet Files

Himself is being mindful not to get ahead of the boys at Dinas in our build of NGG16 130 but one thing we do know is that the new tanks and bunkers are plain welded ones with no rivets.

For this it’s necessary to file off the rivets half-etched by the esteemed designer of the kit, who would most definitely not approve.

It’s looking a lot more complete now, but there are still many details which we won’t add until we see precisely where they’ll sit on the reality one.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Lifetime Guarantee

I've had one of my oldest models returned for repairs.

This is a 4mm scale model of the idyllic cottage where I was lucky enough to live during my second year at university - quarter of century ago.

It was made as a birthday present for my 'cottage mate' who loved the place as much as I did.

At the time I didn't have the skills to make a protective perspex case, nor know anyone to approach to do it for me, so the model has been open to the elements ever since.

All things considered I think it's stood up pretty well to living on a shelf in a dusty house with children and crazy pets, but it's beginning to show some obvious wear and tear and I've been asked if I'll give it an overhaul.

When I handed it over to my friend I told him it came with a lifetime guarantee and it'll be my pleasure to restore it, I hope, to its former glory.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Completing The Set

They've been delayed by quite a few months, but finally I've received the etches for the carriages we need to finish our WHHR set.

These are Worsley Works 'scratch aid' kits for the two Ashbury carriages at Gelert's Farm - the NWNGR corridor carriage replica and the ex-WHR 'Buffet Carriage', which is a cut down version of the same type.

As is the way with Worsley kits all you get are the etches for the body and floor - no roof or bogies - and you don't get the luxury of instructions of any kind either.

Fortunately for us, Himself is very proficient at solving these puzzles, and if we get a following wind it's perhaps just possible that we might be able to get them ready to run on Bron Hebog when it's on show at the end of October, to recreate Russell's recent historic runs to Beddgelert.

Except ours will probably venture a little further up the hill towards Rhyd Ddu….