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.