Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Test Build

I've made quick progress in getting the masters for Van 51 turned into rubber moulds and cast the first copies, which I've now cleaned up and glued together to see how it looks as a body shell.

At this stage I haven't established a design for the floor / chassis, so I've put the four sides together as a box with only a very small contact area on each corner, which is a little tricky.

When I come to write the instructions for the kit I will most likely advise builders to fix either the sides or the ends to the floor first, which will make it a lot easier to put together.

Compared to an injection moulded plastic kit these resin sides are a lot thinner, but because I used open back moulds there is always likely to be a tiny variation in the thickness from cast to cast.

I am very pleased with how the front balcony step has cast, and it looks good fixed in position.

The biggest outstanding issue is the handrail on the front edge of the balcony, but I have a plan for that.

Sunday, 23 June 2019


Himself has been doing some lovely detailing work on our Robex Gelert.

This is what really lifts a 3D printed body and makes it something that can live alongside a loco built from an etched brass kit, or one of the current, highly detailed, ready to run products.

I hope other modellers who are at the start of their journey in this hobby use this as inspiration, and perhaps in future decide not to settle for what comes off the printer as the finished article.

Most of the new bits have been made from brass, so they show very clearly in the pictures.

The most obvious are things like the coal rails on the bunker and the whistle, but look closely and you'll see lots of other things like the footsteps and various bits of pipework coming out from under the cab.

Most importantly, at the front end, he's made up something to represent the air brake pump and created a dart for the smokebox door.

This has mostly been done with scraps that you might find among your modelling materials such as hand rail knobs 16BA nuts, brass tube, wire and styrene rod.

I appreciate that for someone who never scratch builds that probably reads like one of those recipes that blithely refer to 'store cupboard ingredients'.....

Friday, 21 June 2019

Prime Minister’s Carriage

Himself has begun the process of painting our latest carriage, a reminder of the days when our most senior politician was probably regarded with a great deal more reverence than the men scrapping for the keys to Downing Street this week - although I suspect there was no less intrigue.

There was a request for a blow-by-blow account of how we paint our models so I’ll start with an image of them being primed.

We do this to give the top coat a better surface to key into.

We spray them using bog standard primer aerosols you can buy in a car parts store.

The red is for the brass parts and the grey for the plastic (or in this case, resin) bits.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Van Parts

I've finished making the masters for the body of Van 51 and will soon bury them beneath silicone rubber to make the moulds.

I'd spent a lot of time considering how best to deal with the balcony.

I had to decide whether to try and cast it as a one-piece as part of the end of the van or do it as a separate casting.

As you can see, in the end I decided to make it a piece on its own which can be glued in place.

One of the reasons for this is I will put both the ends in the same mould box, and if the steps were attached to the end it might increase the chances of getting reject castings.

What I hope will be noticed when the finished model is put together is that I've put brass chequer plate onto the balcony steps and platforms, which should be a nice little detail.

Now to make the moulds, cast the first set and build a prototype.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Parliamentary Majority

Nearly all the construction work on the Gladstone Carriage is done now.

Himself has made up some air brakes pipes for each end, and fitted a basic underframe - all things which are DIY on these body-only kits.

He also noticed the etched holes for the door handles and handrails were in the wrong place at one end of the carriage (it's supposed to be a mirror image) and he's fitted the footsteps and beefed them up with some brass wire behind to try to protect them from being knocked off by accident.

Now we're just waiting on a new pair of bogies arriving.

Dare I suggest that it may make an appearance in traffic at Perth in a couple of weeks?

Saturday, 15 June 2019


Himself has been giving the Gravity Train some TLC ahead of the exhibition in Perth at the end of this month.

At the previous show in Troon we had a couple of rather impressive pile-ups at the bottom of the spiral, the cause of which we eventually traced to 2-ton waggon with ageing wheel centres which were moving on their axle.

Himself was also anxious to finish exchanging all the original BEMO couplings for the rather less bulky Greenwich type.

Having done this he did a little bit of research and re-marshalled the train into what he assures me is the correct order for braked / unbraked 2 ton / 3 ton waggons on the present day demonstration gravity train, and marked them underneath accordingly so the train can be put away in the correct order in the stock box.

I'm not going to double check this and shall take his word for it, because it's getting dangerously close to rivet counting as far as I'm concerned.

The more important thing is that he has done some test running and tells me that it is running very sweetly downhill through the points now, which may, or may not, be less entertaining for the punters in Perth in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

New Buffer Beams

A small update on our Gelert project.

A pair of etched brass overlays have been fitted onto the buffer beams at the front and rear of the engine.

The designer of the chassis kit (for whom we have been test-building this prototype) was unhappy with this part of the Robex 3D printed body which came down too low.

You will notice that Himself has also replaced the moulded buffer with a pair of Greenwich couplings which are the standard on our layouts.

These couplings also swivel, which was a necessary adaptation because of the long overhang on this locomotive, which meant that when a fixed coupling was used it would drag the rolling stock off the rails on tight bends.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Roof On

There's been a lot of work done on the Gladstone Carriage since I finished the seats and passed it over to Himself.

The most obvious change is that a roof has been made and fitted.

Roofs are what you might term an 'optional extra' with Worsley Works scratch-aid kits, and Himself always likes to make them from brass, which is no doubt the best solution.

He tells me this one was a bit of a struggle to fit, probably on account of the very flimsy top rail of the carriage body compared to most other vehicles.

The seats are all now fixed to the removable floor, and the glazing is in place in the central compartment, although it will be slipped out when the carriage is painted.

At the moment it's sitting on temporary bogies from our pile of redundant Dundas ones from the FR corridor stock bogie replacement programme.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Bottom End

I’ve been working steadily on my Van 51 project this week with the first of the ends made.

These are quite tricky to fabricate because you have to cut a blank piece with a curved top, then slice it off and fix the pillars with very precise spacing, chop them to the correct height (ensuring it’s level) then bond the top piece in place.

It’s rather flimsy to begin with but the second layer of beading makes it all nice and solid.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Seating Solution

We came up with a way of fixing the bench seats into the Gladstone Carriage - but it required liberal use of the disc cutter!

The problem was caused by the large box structures which hold the captive nuts to hold the chassis in.

They are part of the body because they soldered to the compartment dividers, and where what was stopping us attaching the interior seats to the floor / chassis.

The solution we came to is to removed the material at each side so that all which remains attached to the body is the central section with the nut inside.

This clears the way for the longitudinal benches to slip in from beneath, and retain the glazing too.

So now Himself can form a brass roof and get that soldered into position, which will protect the very flimsy and vulnerable top rails of the carriage.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019


My Van 51 project has taken a back seat in recent months while I’ve been making interiors for various carriages, but now the Gladstone Carr is done there’s no reason not to pick it up again.

I’d got so far as to make the basic outlines of the sides, and the next stage is to add the beading, which I’ve just completed.

My plan is to make a resin cast body which will fit onto a Dundas Quarryman’s Carriage chassis, and I’ve got one of them on order to help with the design.

The railings on the balcony will, I think, have to be an etched part.

Monday, 3 June 2019

More Couplings

Do you ever regret starting on a job?

I think that’s how Himself is getting to feel about the process of replacing all the couplings on our fleet.

Most of the carriages have been done and now he’s ploughing through the freight stock.

It’s a slow process because the original Bemo couplings have to be removed with the minimum of damage, and it’s a two stage process to fix on the replacement Greenwich couplings - first with superglue and then with epoxy resin (just to be in the safe side).

You also have to ensure the coupling heights match perfectly before finally touching up any paint chips that appeared while all that was going on.

Saturday, 1 June 2019


The last of the seats for the Gladstone Carriage have been finished and now I’m beginning to wonder why I agonised so much before starting on them.

The last ones were the long benches at either end of the open saloons.

Now it’s time to let Himself solve the conundrum of how to fit the seats in the centre compartment - and the glazing - while having no access from above or below if we follow our usual routine of fixing the roof in place before the carriage is painted.....

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Restore Or Replace?

Aging stock brings with it a dilemma.

Some of our Dundas slate wagons are more than 25 years old and starting to get a little brittle.

This weakness is most apparent around the very small axleboxes which have a tendency to break off.

The wheelsets are also showing their vintage with the plastic wheel centres shrinking ever so slightly and allowing the tyres to moves, affecting the back-to-back measurements.

The question is whether to try and fix them up or replace with new.

Himself has discovered a pack of 3 tonners in a drawer and made them up just in case.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019


I’ve been adding slats to the seat frames for the Gladstone Carriage I cast a few days ago.

These are the eight single seats which are arranged facing the end of the carriage in the two unglazed saloons.

Still to made are the long benches which are placed in front of the end windows.

I know the slats on the seats are much thicker than on the actual carriage, and there should be a lot more of them, but I’m not a ‘rivet counter’ and I think these will be effective enough.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Hidden Treasures

The recent transfer of two of my a favourite FR locomotives to a shed at the furthest reaches of the railway reminds me that we also have a collection of out of service engines which rarely see the light of day.

In our case they are hiding in plain sight on a shelf in Himself's study.

The most notable of this 'heritage collection' is our original model of Earl of Merioneth which was 'kit-bashed' around a white metal Langley Double Fairlie, and its diesel-locomotive chassis with its absurdly small wheels.

It was retired from service more than 20 years ago when it was replaced by our current machine which was adapted from a Backwoods Miniatures kit.

We also have two old Ladies in this retirement home for old engines, both of them from the Dundas white metal kits.

Linda was also relegated by the appearance of a Backwooods kit, but she still makes a fine model with her Ibertren chassis adapted with outside fly cranks and the conical chimney she acquired in the 1980s during an experiment with gas producer coal firing.

The end of service for Blanche was more abrupt after she failed in the middle of an exhibition with a detached fly crank and has never been properly repaired and now sits with her one of her false outside frames missing.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Feeling Inspired

The exhibition at the weekend gave my motivation the kick up the backside it needed, and I resolved to sort out the seats for the Gladstone carriage which I had consigned to the ‘too difficult’ box in my mind.

One of our fellow operators suggested that the 3D printing might be an option, and I gave it active consideration for a while, but eventually decided that the price of getting them produced would be more than I would be prepared to pay.

(And generally I’m not prepared to pay when it can be avoided...)

So I returned to my original plan which was to cast a resin frame and add the slats in styrene.

I bit the bullet and made a master, which I shall now make a mould from.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Breaking Cover

The varnish was barely dry on our new carriage 20 when it made its debut at Troon.

It made up a very nice little Col. Stephens set with 16 and 10, but what it really needs is a plain green big box on the front to finish it off.

There is one in the stock box which hardly ever sees the light of day. For some reason, which I can’t recall, we painted it all over cherry red - the vends and everything - which wasn’t even correct for our nominal layout year of 1988 (because only number 5 was in use then.)

I wonder if I can persuade Himself to repaint it?

Monday, 20 May 2019

It's Not About The Money

We've just returned from a very enjoyable weekend showing Dduallt at one of the local exhibitions, in Troon, organised by the Kyle MRC.

As you might imagine one of the big topics of conversation in the hall was the heartbreaking news spreading online about the vandalism attack on the show organised by the Market Deeping club at a local school.

All of us could imagine how we would feel in that same situation, and its been remarkable to see how far the story has spread on social media.

One of the most interesting aspects for me - and I'm going to be a little controversial here - is the way so many people have responded by donating money through a crowdfunding appeal.

Putting it very bluntly: it's not about the money.

It's about decades of passion and dedication which have gone into creating these models.

It's about time - and the one thing money can't buy is time.

It seems to me that more and more these days our first reponse to distressing events is to set up crowd funders - to reach into our pockets and donate money.


Do we do it to make ourselves feel better, I wonder?

Don't get me wrong, I have every possible sympathy for the people whose models were wrecked in that mindless, pointless act of stupidity, but I'm concerned that some people may be lulled into thinking that money is the way to fix it.

Perhaps my response is conditioned by being a scratch and kit builder?

If our fiddle yards were filled with ready-to-run stock then maybe I'd think differently, because I'd know that I could go out and buy replacements and the only limiting factor would be what I could afford.

But for us, and our layouts, it's different.

We built Dduallt over 25 years ago, and building all the stock has been a continual labour of love through that quarter of a century.

It is genuinely priceless.

Perhaps what's been nagging away at me this weekend is worry that all the people clicking the 'donate' button, and adding a few more pounds to the total - which stands at over £41k as a write - might not always be thinking deeply about what's been lost, and what it represents.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Hudson Healthcheck

Himself has been doing some last minute maintenance on the stock ahead of the exhibition in Troon which starts tomorrow (Saturday).

We’re still going through the process of converting all the couplings from Bemo to Greenwich ones, and the latest to be done is the replica Hudson ‘toast rack’ 39.

This was a model I scratch built one summer holiday when I was a student, so we’re talking mid-90s here, and I used one of the Dundas kits for 37/38 as a guide and source of bogies.

Eventually I think we might replace our semi-opens with new models in their current liveries.

Since I made my 39 the 009 Society produced a limited edition plastic kit for it.

If anyone knows of an unbuilt example that is potentially for sale i’d Be very keen to hear more about it.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Weight Watching

With the prototype chassis complete and working well, Himself has been beefing up the Bagnall, Gelert, to give it a little more tractive effort.

One of the challenges with 3D printed bodies is their extreme lightness, especially in a scale which has previously got used to heavyweight white metal locomotive bodies.

So he has stuffed lead into every available orifice.

The only visible bits are these pieces you can see in the bunker, which has yet to be filled with coal.

Lead has also been fitted inside the side tanks and also stuffed into the smokebox and the front section of the boiler, which all helps with the weight distribution on a model which runs the risk of being tail-heavy.

The chassis we've test build for the developer has an very clever roller system above the bogie truck which provides excellent support and a smooth swing.

If you look carefully you'll also notice that the nuts to secure the motion have been fitted now, and Himself has also created a firebox piece to fit inside the cab.

The fixed rear coupling will need to be replaced with one that swings before it can haul anything around our tight curves going boiler-first, but visitors to the Troon show this weekend might catch a glimpse of it having a - rather improbable - test run around the Dduallt spiral.

Monday, 13 May 2019

LED There Be Light

Ahead of us taking Dduallt to the Troon exhibition next weekend Himself has decided to upgrade the lighting.

Ever since we first took it on the road, around 25 years ago, we'd used traditional spot lamps which gave everything a slightly yellow glow.

Now he's fitted the stanchions with LED versions the same as we have deployed on Bron Hebog.

Already I can see they are a big improvement, and because they're much smaller, they are also hidden behind the name boards.

All the details of the show are on the Exhibition Diary page, so if you're anywhere near the Ayrshire Riviera next weekend we'd love to see you.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Parliamentary Train

I've done a little work on the interior of the Gladstone Carriage, making the long upholstered benches for the glazed centre compartment.

These are going to be a little awkward to fit because of the way the floor attaches to the body.

There are two brass boxes, which have captive nuts inside them to hold the floor in but they are fixed to the body not the chassis.

So I can't fix the seats to the floor in my usual manner because these boxes would be in the way.

It also means that the whole carriage will need to be painted and glazed before the roof is fixed on, which Himself is not going to like very much.

I wonder if I might have to end up splitting each into three sections?

Making these seats also got me thinking about the history of the carriage and its claim to fame in being used by the former Liberal Prime Minister.

I'd always assumed it would have been selected for him because it of it's observation car qualities to admire the Snowdonian scenery - but now I wonder whether it was chosen because the layout, with the benches facing each other, would make him feel like he was back in the Commons?

Tuesday, 7 May 2019


Himself got to an advanced stage with carriage 20 - having given the body a coat of primer - when he spotted something that wasn't quite right.

This is one of the bowsiders which still bears the evidence some of the more practical overhauls they've had to keep them going after 140 years or more.

In this case it's the chequer plate which covers the step on the balconies, while others have been rebuilt with wood in more recent years.

It was quite a simple job - for him at least - to cut and bend some etched brass sheet to shape and get it fitted.

As always, it's the little details...

Sunday, 5 May 2019

In Da Hood

I must confess I’d overlooked how much there was still to do to finish carriage 20.

Since I handed it back with the interior done Himself has added fixed on the roof and put on the ventilator hoods above the doors (made from wee bits of styrene) and what I’ve always assumed to be the communication chord actuators on the ends.

If I’m wrong it won’t take someone long to correct me....

Friday, 3 May 2019

Northern Exposure

Now that I’ve got number 20 finished there’s not really any excuse for tackling the other outstanding brass carriage: the Gladstone Car.

The sticking point is the wooden slatted bench seats in the semi-open compartments at either end.

I was considering trying to design something to be etched in brass, but I think I’ll just settle for scratch building as I usually do.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Gelert Goes To Dduallt

Gelert has moved under its own power.

Himself sent me a short video of it undergoing a test run on Dduallt.

As is self-evident from the film it now has the motor wired to the pick-ups and the motion fitted, although on the rear axle the rods are just held in place with a bit of plastic sheath for now because we don't have any 16BA nuts yet.

The motion looks very skinny under a relatively large locomotive, and Himself tells me that assembling the slidebars, crosshead and connecting rod made making up Garratt motion seem like working on 7mm scale!

It's encouraging to see that it will haul a pair of plastic carriages up the slope quite happily which makes me believe that it will be up to the job I have in mind for it on Bron Hebog, where the gradient is less severe.

(I know, I know....)

In any case I'll be encouraging Himself to try to stuff as much ballast into the lightweight 3D plastic body as he can.

Those big side tanks are a prime candidate, as is the hollow smokebox.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Strip Search

I decided to do something which was long overdue yesterday, and tidy up my modelling area.

It was the perfect time to do it, having finished my work on number 20 and handed it over to Himself, and the place was becoming a bit of a disgrace.

Although I try to be quite disciplined about putting materials back when I've finished with them, it seems inevitable that over a period of months I build up a collection of stray plastic strips scattered all over the desk.

The simplest thing would be to gather them up and put them in the bin with all the other offcuts and chaff, but, as I posted here a while ago, I'm acutely aware that this stuff is getting a lot more expensive than it used to be.

As a result, the miser in me (which is never far from the surface) decided it was a worthwhile investment of my time to go through them all, work out their size, and sort them back into the vast collection of packets.

I am now bathing in the warm glow of both tidiness and thrift.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Fitted Out

This week saw me finish work on the interior of bowsider 20.

These are quite complicated to make, especially the ones with two first class compartments, but it’s helped by being easy to break it down into bite-sized bits sections.

I’ve handed it over to Himself to paint it in the woefully dull Col. Stephens colour scheme....

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Chassis Fit

The mystery chassis for Gelert has been test fitted into the Robex body.

At this stage it doesn’t have the fly cranks - which have to be fabricated as a four slice sandwich of brass etches! - nor has the motor been wired up yet, so it hadn’t gone for a test run.

Himself is relieved, though, that he many to remove the false frames from the body without managing to break anything off, which is a step in the right direction after putting his finger clean through the body of the last 3D printed loco he built.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Alco Overhaul

Our Mountaineer has been ailing for some time - although at least, unlike the real one, it was still in service.

Its progress was very erratic, both in starting and when on the run, until finally it expired in a cloud of smelly smoke.

The problem clearly lay with the motor, but Himself was reluctant to break up the spare Arnold chassis we have in stock for a motor transplant.

Instead he was even more ambitious and found a way to extract the the commutator from another, even older, chassis and install it into the motor housing of the one under our operational Alco.

We gave it a test at the weekend and it performs very well now.

It does still irk me that it's the only locomotive we have left in our fleet with an inaccurate chassis, and I retain an ambition to get him to have a go at fitting a Farish O8 chassis into a spare body kit I obtained for just this purpose.

The trouble is there's always something else in the build queue ahead of it.

I suppose at least that's prototypical......

Saturday, 20 April 2019


Himself has been giving Dduallt a going over ahead of its visit to the shows in Troon and Perth in the coming months.

On thing which needs a little attention is the alignment dowels between the boards.

As you can see the the bottom of the picture, these were simple wooded pegs - the same as you get in most pieces of flat pack furniture- and over 25 years or so the receiving holes tend to widen and the fit becomes less accurate.

So he’s carrying out the same procedure he did with Bron Hebog last year and has retro-fitted two piece metal units.

This is one on the upper fiddle yard, set nice and high up near the track to minimise any deflection.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Beginning Gelert

Output at Himself's end of the operation has slowed on account of a spell of dry sunny weather which has necessitated his presence in the garden - well that's his story anyway.

While I was away, however, he did make a start on the prototype Gelert chassis.

This, he reports, has been quite fiddly so far - he describes it as being in the watchmaking class.

(And this from a bloke who is onto his fifth Backwoods Garratt currently.)

The motor bogie - with its tiny can motor and rubber band drive - has been made up and can be see in the background.

Towards the front is the main frame and the rear pony truck.

Progress is on hold while he awaits delivery of a 16BA tap to make up the cranks.

I suppose the lack of any visible valve gear on this loco will cheer him up...

Monday, 15 April 2019


I've returned from a week's holiday and got straight down to work on the next project - creating an interior for 'bowsider' 20.

Like the others this will be made in three pieces on account of the change in floor level.

This later pair of carriages came with two first class compartments in the middle, and so my first step is to get the dividing walls made and positioned.

It is our second version of carriage 20 and will be finished in the (very drab) 1920s dark green livery with red ends to make up a Col. Stephens set with 16 and van 2.

(Or 10, if you're stick-in-the-mud like me.)