The shot below (taken by Steve Flint) is of a BR brakevan, built from the venerable Airfix kit in such a way as to supposedly have been involved in a fire after I’d been inspired by seeing several examples around the network. It was included in a two-page photo feature of freight stock models built by Steve and myself, entitled Freight Stock for the Diesel and Electric Age, in the Railway Modeller for May 1992, and as far as I know was the first time that such an item had been modelled (although its imitators do keep popping up, one of them with quite amazing regularity; I suppose as the old saying says, I should be flattered!):
The article also featured Steve’s seminal conversions of Electrotren HO scale Polybulks, into convincing SMD wagons for running on his 1980s East Yorkshire layout Reighton.
Following the above feature, I was lucky enough to be in the position of being able to embark upon a series of in-depth, ‘crossover’ articles for British Railway Modelling magazine. The intention was to take a specific type or broad category of wagon and to look at its potential for the modeller. Key points of the approach were to collate and interpret the available prototype information, to translate this into modelling variations using available kits and aftermarket detailing parts and also to offer some ideas of how to use the wagons in layout scenarios. The articles were of course illustrated, with model shots again taken by Steve and with some prototype images from the huge collection of David Larkin.
A full list of these and some related articles is appended below:
The Case for Seventies Railfreight (March 1994) – an overview of models and suitable usage during the last decade or so of the traditional wagon.
Vanfare for the Common Man (January 1995) – variations on the Parkside Vanwide, a popular and versatile model.
Commercial Brakes (July 1996) – variations and improvements for the Airfix LMS Stanier brakevan, an excellent model for its time which still stands up nowadays.
Lowfit Lowdown ( November 1996) – this dealt with the then-new Red Panda kit together with the Mainline RTR body.
The Secret Life of Toads (May 1998) – a spinoff from the Commercial Brakes concept that outgrew that article and dealt with possibilities for the Airfix RTR GW ‘Toad’ and Ratio kit. Authored jointly with Ken Gibbons.
Five a Side (October 1998) – written around improving the Parkside kit for the LMS pattern High Goods with corrugated steel end. The kit has since been retooled but the variations and info in the article are still relevant.
Unfamiliar Toads (August 1999) – Ken’s solo effort written around some interesting mess van conversions of the ‘Toad’.
East by North East (January 2000) – detailing and improvements to Parkside LNER van kits, many of which are now obsolete but as with Five a Side, the information is still relevant.
Mineral Prospecting (November 2001) and Mineral Prospecting 2: Mineral Resources (September 2002) – intended to be a thorough mini-series, these proved to be the last major articles done and some of the pages on this site are offered as a limited substitute in demystifying this complex type.
Review (with additional information) of Bachmann BR brakevan (August 2003).
I’m sometimes asked if this is an activity that I’ll ever revisit. Whilst I recognise that it did address a gap that some modellers stumble over, to be honest the articles took a lot of effort and discipline, bringing together the information and building the required models to support the theme. Whilst I’d never say never, in general terms I want to be moving on and doing other things.
Modelling the British Rail Era
Another ‘labour of love’ was the book Modelling the British Rail Era, published in 2001 under Steve Flint’s Santona label. The key threads we attempted to bring together were a historical retrospective of the 1964 – 1994 period to give background, an overview of the infrastructure revolution brought about by the Modernisation Plan, and reviews of developments in passenger and freight train operations with a particular emphasis on freight possibilities. We also tried to debunk what we saw as the misuse of the expression ‘modern image’, but ten years on it seems that this was one aim in which we were unsuccessful!
Ken and myself were the principal contributors to ‘MBRE’ as we called it, and together with Steve’s skills in photography, artwork and compilation, we are still very proud of what we produced and that it still has some currency. The first run has long since sold out but a reprint has recently been marketed by Book Law Publications.