Friday, 29 November 2019

First Class

It was great to be sent a picture of 152 almost at the finish line!

The model has been given a coat of varnish and Himself is waiting for that to harden before final assembly with the glazing and the handrails.

The passengers seem ready to go for a ride!

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The Old Ladies

Our old Blanche is back together and has had a little test run with her sister on the Bron Hebog fiddle yard.

She still needs her fly cranks painted red but it’s great to see the old girl in action again after 8 years inactivity.

Monday, 25 November 2019

A Missed Opportunity

I wasn't able to get to the Warley exhibition at the NEC at the weekend, but I sent a spy in the form of Himself to report back for me.

It pains me to say that I was very disappointed with what I've seen so far of the prototype for the Peco/Kato England engines, which I had been so looking forward to.

I don't know whether it's the case that the early sample they showed is very misrepresentative of what the finished product will look like, or whether this is not going to be what I had hoped for.

I can overlook a rough 3D print on the body but I can't deny I'm worried by what's underneath it.

I'm told it's temporarily mounted on a Kato N gauge loco chassis, but the question is whether this is indicative of the quality of the mechanism we're going to get?

Look at the way the piston pokes out of the front of the cylinder.

See how crude the crosshead and the slidebars are.

Is this what we are to expect in the finished product?

The one thing that is really going to make of break this model for me is going to be the chassis.

When you look at a Small England the really distinctive features are those little wagon wheels with very few spokes, and the slender, round-profile motion.

That is what I really want to see from this model.

England engine bodies have been around for more than 60 years in both white metal and now 3D printers.

We don't need a big manufacturer to produce them, it's a decent chassis for them which we've been crying out for.

But after this weekend I have to confess I've got the fear that Kato could let us down.

Look at what else was on their stand.

Are they in the business of selling models or toys?

You'll also spot a very early stage of a Double Fairlie body in there among the dinosaur wagons and the rocket contraptions.

Observe also the ridiculously tight radius of the circle of track the grey England is sitting on and the yawning chasm between the locomotive and the tender.

I notice that the first question that appears in online forums about new RTR OO9 locos is what radius curves they will go around (sigh) and again I fear this engine is being designed with rabbit warrens in mind rather than serious modellers.

I do hope I'm wrong, I really do.

The name of the game in model railway retailing these days is pre-ordering, which is why the manufacturers are so keen to show off samples to generate advanced sales.

Except in this case all the Peco / Kato sample has achieved is made me want to hold off until I can be more certain about what precisely I will be getting for my money.

A missed opportunity indeed.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Ladies Falsies

The final stage of rehabilitating our Blanche is to give the lady back her modesty with a set of outside frames.

In this case she's faking it, because the outside frames are just pieces of very thin, carefully-shaped, styrene which slip between the wheels and the those iconic red fly cranks.

The original ones have long since gone brittle and cracked so Himself has made up a new set.

The reason we went for plastic was to be sure that there could never be any issues with them shorting out against the frame or the wheels.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Blanche Rides Again!

I dropped hints at the weekend on the Bron Hebog social media feeds that things were about to happen with our old Blanche.

This is our original model, made from a Dundas white metal kit with an Ibertren chassis adapted with outside fly cranks, which failed quite spectacularly at an exhibition around 8 years ago.

It has been replaced in service by a Backwoods kit and has sat on a shelf for all that time since.

Rummaging around in his chassis bits box for gear wheels for the Garratt seems to have prompted Himself to take a look at getting it going again.

The thing which stopped the engine was the front 'clock side' fly crank falling off the axle, but the underlying fault was with a gear wheel which was going out of mesh and affecting the quartering,  putting the motion under strain with the inevitable result.

Putting it all right has been quite involved.

Himself has had to make up a new front axle and bearing, and change the gear wheel which drives it.

To do that he had to replace the stub axle the gear revolved on which has broken off in the old chassis - perhaps the root cause of the original failure?

He tells me that there is now noticeably less slop in the front axle and it doesn't disengage the drive gear.

That things are getting a little worn is no a surprise given than it put in 20 years hard service on Dduallt!

The cranks have been refitted and quartered, and the next job is to cut some new fake side frames from styrene as the old ones have gone brittle and are broken.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Another Fine Mesh

There's good news from the first experimental gear transplant.

Himself has folded up one of the Backwoods NGG16 gearbox frets from our final unbuilt kit and trial fitted the gears using cocktail sticks in place of the proper axles.

All seems to run well so it looks like this could be a solution for us.

We were missing two of the gears so the plan would be to fit one on each of the bogies.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Oh Gear!

We're hopeful that there may have been a breakthrough which will enable us to complete our final NGG16 kit - not that there's actually a locomotive to model until the FR ever gets around to putting a collection of standard parts called 140 into service....

The issue is that we discovered one of the two Garratt kits we bought last year - the final two ever produced - were missing a vital set of gears for each bogie.

They are plastic gears with the outer ring having 20 teeth and the inner one with 10, and so far we've been unable to find anywhere that we can buy replacements.

However, the other day Himself was looking through his chassis bits box and discovered something that looked familiar.

It turns out they are gears from an old Ibertren 'Cuckoo' chassis, and it would appear that the only difference between them is in the centre which requires reaming out to accept the axles on the Garratt chassis.

He's going to make up a gearbox and see if his hunch is correct.

Whoever would have thought that the rough old Ibertren, the staple chassis of white metal 009 kits for so many years, would have anything in common with the ultimate expression of 4mm narrow gauge modelling, the Backwoods kits?

Friday, 15 November 2019


It feels like a long time since I was able to spend a couple of hours at a stretch at the workbench so I used to time I had the other day wisely to complete the detailing work on both sides of the new WHR observation car Gwyrfai.

Because its been so long since I made Glaslyn I have forgotten exactly which techniques I used to create the round corners of the panelling, so I had to come up with a new way.

What I did with the larger corners on the lower bodyside was to chop a 45 degree angle in a 15" x 60" strip and then file it away into a concave shape.

Then I cut out the these very small triangles, now with a crescent shape on one edge, and glued them into postion in the corners so that you can hardly see the join.

The cant rail was more challenging.

I know that previously I have done this by curling a piece of fine strip into a tight U shape, glued it in place and then used filler in the gaps.

Another solution would be to try to make even smaller triangles to bond in the corners.

Instead, what I did was drill a hole in the middle of a piece of 80" strip, then reamed it out until the hole almost reached the edges of the strip, and chopped through the middle of it, leaving two pieces with a half-moon bite taken out of them.

These were then glued in place between upper and lower strips which were already in place.

I think it's quite effective.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Aerial View

While waiting for the next update from the workbench I thought you might like to see an unusual view of the layout.

The venue for the Greenock show is a Kirk (church) which comes complete with a balcony around three sides which provides the perfect spot to get a bird’s eye view of proceedings.

It’s the only way to get a full appreciation of the size of Bron Hebog

Incidentally, this blog has now recorded over three quarters of a million page views, so a heartfelt thank you to everybody who clicks through to read it.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Round The Bend

Shock horror! I did actually get some modelling done at the weekend.

I had an hour of peace and quiet which allowed me to find the motivation to start on the hard bit of the WHR observation car build, which is starting to add the second layer of beading detail.

Boston Lodge has changed the design of these plush Pullman carriages so that where Glaslyn had its windows all on the same plane, and the FR pair have a gentle slope profile, Gwyrfai has a clear step with a curved corner.

And let me say it’s a bit of a pain to try and replicate using styrene strip!

I think I’ve made a decent attempt at it but it’s fair to say it’s one of the trickiest things I’ve had to tackle.

They really don’t make it easy, do

Saturday, 9 November 2019


I’ve not had a chance to do any modelling this week, so for today’s update here are a few more pictures from last month in Greenock.

Linda and Blanche spent most of the weekend coupled together hauling FR sets.

Both these locos are built from Backwoods kits which were not without their faults.

The tender for Blanche, as supplied, was too short and the domes too small, both of which we found work arounds for.

We finished our Linda in the midnight blue livery she wore in the 90s for the sake of being different, but it would be nice to one day get another in traditional FR green or even PQR black.

I’m sure before too long someone will come up with an RTR model of them, don’t you reckon?

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Window Pain

Normally it’s Himself berating me for clumsiness but this time the boot is on the other foot!

One of the farm buildings has been returned to me for repairs because Himself put his thumb through the delicate styrene window bars at one end.

This small outbuilding straddles a joint between two boards so is kept removable, and it was during setting up at Greenock last month that the damage occurred.

I doubt anyone would notice, but we know, so it needs to be fixed.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Pressing Matters

A problem that anyone who has ever scratch built out of styrene will have experienced is that the material develops a life of its own, especially when you’ve used a harsh solvent like MEK to glue it.

This can be quite acute when building up several layers such as with a carriage side which left to its own devices will curl like a banana.

Many years ago I found a partial solution in the old-fashioned photo album - remember them?

Between sessions working on the pieces I store them on the sticky page beneath the cellophane, and then for good measure place the album at the bottom of a pile of heavy books, as if pressing flowers.

It might seem like overkill but it does make a difference, especially when you begin to laminate the piece.

If you have time to leave it for the styrene to fully cure you will find it stays pretty flat thereafter.

You can also reduce the tendency to curl by using something much more gentle like Limonene, but the downside is the joint takes much longer to bond, and pieces can move out of position while you’re handling the model.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Childhood Memories

An afternoon hacking back the vegetation in the garden set me off reminiscing about childhood trips to the FR.

John Firth

What did it was the wheelbarrow.

We didn’t have a wheelbarrow at home - the garden wasn’t big enough - but my grandmother, who lived on the Cambrian Coast, did - and every autumn half term I’d be allowed to join Himself on a trip to Wales to ‘megabash’ the garden, to borrow an FR term.

I got the job of disposing the clippings with the barrow while Himself handled the secateurs!

An incentive to get the job done in good time was the promise of a trip to Porthmadog to visit the model shop at Harbour Station and perhaps see a train.

Being the shoulder season this was usually one of the Ladies, or perhaps even Prince, on a shortened rake.

These were the days of all over red carriages and the restoration of services to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

It ought to be remembered as one of the high points of the railway’s history, instead it appears to be the era which dare not speak its name - something to be ashamed of.

You can visit the FR today and see every significant era represented and celebrated, except the 70s and 80s.

So much of it has been stuffed into storage or sold off.

It saddens me to see my childhood being denied in this way.

Friday, 1 November 2019


The painstaking job of applying the intricate Pullman livery to 152 has begun.

We use the 4mm Fox waterslide range - it’s probably ever so slightly over-scale but the quality and ease of use compensates for that.

Himself is complaining that it’s a little harder to fit the upright arrows on the window pillars this time.

As the casting is the same one we used for 150 I think the chances are this batch of transfers has been printed slightly larger.

He also tells me policemen are getting younger, too 😂