The Flying Kipper

(With acknowledgement to Rev W Awdry, whose ‘Henry the Green Engine’ still has a place on my bookshelves)

It may be the romance (if that’s the right word) of the associated workings, with rakes of, ahem, aromatically-enhanced wagons  careering along the main lines at dead of night, but the BR 12T Insulfish van  is proving to be a particularly enduring and much-modelled vehicle. Fish was once a widespread rail traffic of course, with thousands of vans of all sorts of designs running at one time, but it’s this one that’s probably foremost in the minds of most.  Probably this is because of the frequent (but only half-correct) labelling of them as a ‘Blue Spot’ and the fact that half a decade ago, the said Spot formed part of the Hornby Dublo ‘Super Detail’ range, passing in due course to Wrenn and later Dapol.

Much more recently, Parkside Dundas introduced a kit for the van and this has now been duplicated in ready to run form by present-day Hornby.   This effect now seems inevitable, as manufacturers look for new subjects to sate the large part of the market that seemingly won’t even attempt to build a simple wagon kit.  As also seems inevitable, the renewed interest in the type has highlighted a degree of misunderstanding and repeated misinformation on the part of modellers.  For the benefit of anyone that’s actually bothered, here’s a rundown.

BR plywood bodied 15 foot wheelbase Insulfish vans

The earliest of the series of vans were given the LNER diagram number 214.  Although these vans didn’t appear until after Nationalisation, in 1949/50, the design lineage and asymmetric triple-hanger vacuum brake rigging is nevertheless  unmistakeably LNER in origin.  By the mid-’50s, they’d been followed by  a batch of vans to BR diagram 1/800, but which were to all intents and purposes identical.  The well known ‘Blue Spot’ designation came later, around 1957/58, when 275 of the 1/800 vans were retro-fitted with roller bearings to assist fast running on the long Aberdeen – Kings Cross run via the ECML.  The nickname came from the marking applied to the side of the van, in order to designate the upgraded running gear and keep the vans on the Aberdeen circuit.

The later diagram 1/801 vans are often purported to be a development of the design, but in truth they have very little in common other than having  four wheels at the same distance apart.  The body is slightly different dimensionally (admittedly only by inches), but all of the ironwork is different.  The wheelbase remains at 15ft but the brakegear, although still an 8-shoe clasp arrangement, is a lengthened version of the late 1950s BR pattern as fitted to other wagons.  All of this type had roller boxes from new and the more modern types of buffer that went with the BR brakegear.  All in all, it’s probably more correct to consider them as two different vans built to fulfil a given specification, rather than as one being a development of the other; the detail differences then become a matter of contingency, rather than being a design evolution as such.

Number series:

LNER dia 214              E75000 – 75599

BR dia 1/800               B87000 – 87499

BR dia 1/801                B87500 – 88057

Going back to the models, slightly annoyingly, all three of them are that first diagram (214 or 1/800), and neither Parkside nor Hornby have chosen to fill the gap that is the 1/801.   More annoyingly,  Hornby used at least two publicity photos which clearly showed the 1/801 type, getting a few folk excited before issuing model shots that confirmed it was the tired old 1/800 they were actually going to model.  Ah well; whilst it’s a bit of a lost opportunity, we’re no worse off than we were a year ago.

The Hornby model is now in the shops and whilst reports suggest it’s selling pretty well to its target market, for the finescaler it’s most kindly described as a curate’s egg, summed up perhaps by this closeup shot of one corner.  The Rail Blue SPV livery is well up to Hornby’s usual standard (don’t mind my slight blurring from holding the camera in a cold garage), and parts of the underframe show a nice finesse.  The moulding of the axleguard, roller bearing and spring are set off here by the Gibson wheelsets I slipped in,  but dear oh dear, what on earth happened to that brake lever guide!  Similarly, the solebar is much enhanced by the gussets joining it to the body – then you take in that clumsy gap along the body bottom…  The buffers also show a rather obvious lack of care in assembly, and I don’t believe my one example is untypical.

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That rather visible gap is caused by the bottom edge of the body actually being part of the chassis moulding. I can only think that this has been done so that the false floor thus created could form the step in front of the inset sliding doors;  a poorly thought out solution as it then compromises the greater part of the body.  The Parkside kit manages this by having the floor moulding shaped with a tab that fits into the doorway; it’s simple and sensible, and why Hornby couldn’t have followed suit is anybody’s guess.

All of this is to some degree fixable or overlookable though; the killer fault to me is the roof profile, which would be completely unfeasible to correct.  Some time before getting one in my mitts, I was reasonably convinced by available photographic evidence that the roof arc was going to be noticeably too prominent.   Not the end of the world of course, and I’m sure the target market will still be happy with it, but it’s a tad disappointing to those who appreciate the nuances of wagon design for their own sake as well as wanting convincing looking models.  This is also particularly relevant in the context of quality RTR being seen as a timesaver, because it means that for anyone who already has a few kitbuilds and would like to augment their fleet, the new RTR vans won’t happily mix with them.  Still, like I said, we’re no worse off than we were a year ago!

Oddly, the Hornby van doesn’t seem too far out when a rule is run over it.  The biggest discrepancy between it and the kit is about 1mm in height at the apex; the sides are fractionally lower where they meet the roof and it’s also very slightly narrower.  Yet add all three together and they obviously accumulate enough to have a visible effect, suggesting that the roof arc has simply been drawn to ‘fit’ once other basic dimensions had been laid down, and nobody has looked hard enough at whether it actually looks right:

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Part of the reason I bought the van and set up this comparison shot was to convince myself how wrong it was, because this is one of those situations where simple measurements don’t tell the whole story.   The Parkside is at left (in about my fourth attempt at an Ice Blue that I’m happy with!), the Hornby in the middle and for completeness, I’ve also included a Wrenn van on the right.   I’ve read one forum post that states the Parkside roof radius is 35mm whereas the Hornby is only 25mm; I’ve not checked it myself but looking at this I wouldn’t doubt it.  The incorrect position of the transverse strapping, together with the roof edge being rather thinner than it should appear, also probably don’t help the overall impression.

The pic is clickable for larger sizes, at which you’ll be able to see how well I’ve done at getting a consistent level for the comparison.   To assist this I subbed the Hornby wheels for Gibsons and put Jacksons in the kit, but the former still sits a bit higher.  The Wrenn sits tallest of all, but some of that is in the chunky chassis and that the body isn’t sat properly on it.  Nevertheless, and despite being about a mill and a half too wide as well, it still manages to look proportionately more right overall than the new model.

So there you have it; fifty years of progress.  Or not 🙂

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This particular Wrenn body is one of a handful I have from many years back, but which I’d still like to make something usable of.   Whilst the finish is maybe a little unsubtle in places (mostly where I’ve attacked the ‘Findus’ lettering!), it’s good enough to stand a little extra work and warrant the fitting of a better chassis at some point.  It’ll probably also acquire one of the ‘I am not a fish van’ -type brandings that were applied when transferred to other uses.  As stated above, the Dublo-originated body is slightly overwidth, but that’s something that can be said of many RTR wagons.  The main thing that makes it look a little distorted compared to other wagons is the odd way that HD designed the chassis, with the entire solebar stepping out almost to the edge of the body.

For anyone starting with a clean slate though, the Parkside kit still stands up as the logical way forward without either aggravation or compromise.  Like all later Parksides there’s not a lot to say;  it’s pretty much faultless as it stands and builds up as easily as any of the firm’s more recent offerings.   In my opinion, it simply isn’t worth investing even a tenner in the Hornby van when it’s actually less work for any reasonably skilled modeller to get the kit looking acceptable.

Back in the RTR fishing grounds, Bachmann’s forthcoming 10 foot wheelbase LNER van is due next Spring and is I believe based on LNER diagram 83, a wooden underframe, non-insulated type.  I’d imagine that not many of these got far into the 1960s so only a token purchase is likely in this household, but by comparison, I’m expecting a rather more satisfying experience.  And looking ahead, I’m more intrigued by what else they have planned for that wooden underframed chassis…

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Filed under Perishables, Scottish railways, Vans, Wagon kits, Wagon weathering

More for the creaking bookshelf

Not a review as such, but a quick ‘heads up’ to a couple of recent publications which may be of interest to those with kindred interests.

Hornby Weathering Large

Firstly, Hornby Magazine’s Skills Guide on weathering; at less than the price of two regular magazines, a worthwhile investment even for those with some experience.   In the interview-style preamble, I was pleased to see Tim making the point that an airbrush is far from essential, although perhaps unfortunately for a publication that will be flicked through by newbies to the art, there is quite an evident visible emphasis on this sort of work .

There are a few more words here on James Wells’ Eastmoor blog,  and after my comments a few posts ago on the ‘art of the state’, I would generally agree with James’ endorsement.   Despite the  sticker-driven appearance and obligatory ‘we show you how’ strapline, this is a publication that’s actually been penned by a seasoned and prolific modeller with a genuine track record.  There are a few namechecks for particular products here and there, but nevertheless you do get the feeling that this is because they are genuinely felt to be fit for purpose, not part of some tacky ‘advertorial’ exercise.

Secondly is George O’Hara’s latest extravanganza in Caly blue: BR Steam in Scotland is a followup to his earlier similar volume on Scottish diesel traction.

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Again there is more elsewhere, on the Culreoch blog of my good friend Jamie Wood.  And you’d be well advised to go and read it, because I’ve not yet had my paws on this one!  I’d be very surprised though if it doesn’t warrant an instant purchase as and when I do; the subject matter, quantity of material and track record more or less guarantees satisfaction.  As Jamie points out, there are unlikely to be too many surprises in the motive power (compared with the diesel volume), but again a large part of the value is going to be in the settings, the infrastructure and the train formations.

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Filed under Heritage diesels, Mineral wagons, Off the beaten track, Rust effects, Scottish railways, Wagon weathering

Hessle Model Railway Group Open Day

This Saturday, 5 October marks the above group’s second event of its type at the Hessle Town Hall (easily found for locals or visitors).  This sort of small event is assuming a higher profile in the hobby of late, offering an enjoyable few hours without the major effort involved in the traditional larger show,  and the Hessle event, organised by local modeller Sean Hutchinson (known around the ‘Net as ‘The Penguin of Doom’) promises a selection of local history and transport-themed layouts and displays.

My own involvment will be two-fold, one being as co-operator with Ken Gibbons and Brian Sunman on Brian’s Edinburgh-based Peffermill Road layout which is featured elsewhere on the blog, and I have also put together a small presentation  which I’ve somewhat  pretentiously sold to Sean as a ‘layout concept display’ …  like most modellers, I have various layout schemes rattling around my head and this particular figment is the Stoneferry Tramway, a pure fiction but based on the notion that a light railway, along the lines of the Clydeside Tramway in Glasgow, could have grown to serve the various industries along the east and possibly also the west sides of the River Hull.  Other inspirations include Ipswich and Swansea docks and the Trafford Park system in Manchester, and the display will feature images of some of the locations and buildings that would give the projected layout its workaday waterside feel.

The precise location hasn’t been set, nor has the track layout or configuration. It had originally been conceived as a micro-layout to have been built earlier this year but although once again real life has gone and got in the way of my plans (as it does), the ultimate outcome will be a tad bigger and more satisfying.  The period chosen would be the 1960s, which would allow a variety of traffics (though obviously not fish…), to be worked by diesel shunters and possibly the odd bit of steam also.

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The 1930s aerial image above shows what had become something of a ‘holy grail’ for myself and my good friend Kevin Tong; it’s visible at bottom left and is the LNER’s  Stoneferry Goods station, served by a short branch which left the Hornsea line at Chamberlain Road and curved round to eventually cross Stoneferry Road in the vicinity of what’s now B&Q.  If you look just the other side of the main road in the picture, there are some wagons visible on the site of what’s now one of two filling stations that flank the dual carriageway here.  Looking to the top right, the then-new Clough Road can be seen stretching out towards Beverley Road.

The image shown is here by kind permission of ‘Britain from Above’ and can be found at http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw036521.   The site is well worth joining if this sort of thing fascinates you and coverage is steadily expanding.

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Weathering – the art of the state

“Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth”.  John Ruskin.

No, that’s not an accidental transposition of words in the heading; the practice of weathering in the model railway hobby is currently in a bit of an odd place in my estimation.   My thoughts about this were somewhat crystallised recently when the banners for one of the model railway red tops screamed out ‘Weathering Made Easy – We Show You How!’  We hear a lot about ‘dumbing down’ in the hobby these days and whilst I’m all for things being made accessible, realistically there are  limits to how much you can simplify things that are not simple.

It sometimes seems that almost every time I look up, there is some magazine or Internet piece extolling the wonders of a particular technique or a new product in this field, the implication being that it has to be better than what’s gone before and implying that skill in application is pretty much irrelevant.  And yet, the standard of much of the work around doesn’t necessarily reflect any overall improvement.  Leafing through Tim Shackleton’s loco weathering time, he says weathering is 10% technique, 10% tools and 80% observation. I’d probably mildly disagree about those precise percentages, but I’m very much with him on the ‘what’ (the need for observation and perception), and a much reduced emphasis on ‘how’.

I notice a lot of weathering where the technique is actually quite good and well executed, but it isn’t well observed. It’s not appropriate to the subject model and hence to anyone who does know that subject, it fails to convince.  Some other work doesn’t even reach that benchmark, but appears to rely on the impact of sheer blather – this is often associated with the ‘wonder product’ mentality, and powders, I’m afraid to say, figure large in this.  But how convincing can it be to have (for instance) a supposedly working steam loco with faded green paintwork (for some unexplained reason, for a machine that would surely be cleaned with the legendary oily rag), and yet which shows  no sign of oil or grime on its running gear?  

Perhaps it’s this sort of work that encourages the (incorrect) impression that weathering is all about dirt and decay, or even just making things look a mess.  It isn’t; admittedly the term is a misnomer but it should encompass every aspect of making a scale model look like the real thing viewed from a distance. Quite apart from  dirt, rust and oil, that includes the diluting effect of the atmosphere through which we view it and the discolouring effects of that atmosphere on substances like new wood and roofing felt.

Whilst powders certainly have their uses, I’m increasingly standing by my feeling that they are only a secondary medium, best suited to providing tonal variation and perhaps a suggestion of texture.  And yet they continue to be promoted as the ideal weathering solution for the diffident newbie, usually on the grounds they can be washed off.  Well that may be so, but I’d be surprised if it was possible to remove every trace and leave a factory-fresh finish.   Not only that but most powders are notoriously difficult to fix, and putting any sort of varnish over the top, if it doesn’t  blow them off, is very likely to change the refraction and to dull or even eliminate any subtlety.

And why on earth do people always want to start with a favourite but expensive model, and quote the corresponding risk of spoiling it as a deterrent?  For a few quid and a few hours spent at a swapmeet, they can obtain some old models  they can practice on – or is it that they don’t really want to commit to the apprenticeship in developing the skills?

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Examples of worn bauxite on wood and rusted grey on steel, achieved with relatively small, targeted applications of paint and selective blending and abrading techniques.  If anyone can achieve these effects solely with powders, I’ll be very interested.  

Another example of  ‘professional’ weathering I’ve happened upon lately involved the interior of an iron ore tippler.  The first thing I wondered was ‘has the  bloke who did this ever even looked at the interior of a real steel-bodied wagon’.  And whilst ores do vary in colour, and I can’t swear that there isn’t one somewhere in the UK that’s the colour of chocolate, I doubt that there is one that sticks in neatly-edged spots and lumps to the wagon side, two or three feet off the floor.  The whole thing looked apathetic and clumsy, and frankly undermines the ‘pros’ that do take the time to research what they’re doing and have a pride in their work.

In similar vein, I’m pretty bemused by some of Humbrol’s latest products.  As to the above noted powders, there are some interesting and useful videos on the ‘Net showing them in use by someone who is obviously a skilled modeller.  But I was to say the least bemused to hear him say at one point that he was ‘turning the water/powder mixture into a slightly sticky layer of colour’.  Um, so that’ll be a bit like paint, then?

The idea of pre-mixed washes, which have also made an appearance from Humbrol,  is another odd one.  Maybe I’m missing something here, but mixing your own washes on and ad hoc basis gives you variety and more control over the viscosity, not to mention an unlimited range of colours.  And it’s hardly difficult, in fact as I say elsewhere on this very blog, it’s the one technique that I’d encourage any newbie to start by experimenting with.  Do we really need to make it that easy, or is it just that everyone wants to be an instant expert?  Or are these products destined to sit in the ‘someday cupboard’ of tyro purchasers who are impressed by the hype?

The contrast becomes even more marked, of course, when compared with what the military modellers in particular are doing.  There has  always been something that sets aside our hobby from other modelling disciplines; it’s been a talking point but I tend towards the fact that ours inherently features movement.  Trains move, and do so relatively easily, whereas working road vehicles or aircraft are more difficult.  Consequently I assume that the military guys are that much more focussed on appearance.

One particular outfit that really brings home this contrast in a high profile way is Mig Jiminez’s AK Interactive.  Their ‘Weathering Magazine’ was brought to my attention by Wirral FRM’s Mike Turner late last year, and I’ve recently tracked down a copy of the reprint of the first issue dealing with rust effects and the fourth, covering oil and engines.

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Admittedly the mag is something of a vehicle for AK’s own products, but it should be evident from the cover that the intention is to encourage the highest of results and not just another of the ‘it’ll dos’ so beloved of our own media.  The credibility  of the modelmaker’s art, often in doubt it seems, is enhanced in that Mig himself is no nerdy anorak in appearance, and the presence of the charming Akatsiya within the pages doesn’t hurt either!  But it’s not even necessary to go to the length of ordering this publication – a quick browse of the military and aircraft modelling mags in your local Smiffs will soon get you an insight into a very different world than the one most railway modellers seem to inhabit.  Another potentially useful resource, which is specifically rail-related albeit more US, is The Weathering Shop and its forum – you’ll find newbies there but you’ll also find a better class of feedback and advice than tends to be the case this side of the Pond.

But most of all, if you’re seriously interested in weathering, don’t make too many assumptions.  Don’t think that a factory weathered model is anything more than a convenience for the manufacturer, or that everyone who’s showing you his weathered model has any more on his mind than his own brilliance.  Use your own eyes and your own perception of what convinces.  Look at photos of real trains, in books, magazines or on the Internet.  Look at the world around you – the fence at the bottom of your garden and that Transit pickup you’re sat behind on the way into town use the same materials that are used in the railway environment, and they’ll degrade in much the same way.   Develop your own ideas of colouration and contrast and  how different effects interact with each other.   Most of all, be prepared to put the time in, make mistakes and learn from them, and develop an eclectic approach  that in time you can call your own.

AK Interactive have a website and their products are available from shops in the UK; my mags came from Scale Model Shop (usual disclaimer in both cases).  

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Filed under Rust effects, Wagon weathering

All at twenty-sixes and -sevens – the BRCW Sulzers

Another issue of the periodical MLI is now to hand (I’m not intending featuring every one here incidentally, just the ones I buy)! Having said which, I passed without too much thought on the recent ‘Western’ one;  a subjective judgement I suppose but there wasn’t enough to ‘wow’ me, perhaps because the class has been so well covered in the past. 

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This issue, whilst not nearly up to the rare brilliance of the NBL issue, did fairly easily justify its purchase price.  There’s  the usual potted history and technical overviews, accompanied by  usage details for each class.  I accept these things have to be there, but they are something I always approach with a kind of pre-prepared Gallic shrug.  In this case, the rundown on allocations through the years seems oddly abbreviated and lacking in flow.   One thing about these classes which is rarely spelt out in so many words is that even when all had been transferred north of the Border, they were never really one homogenous fleet, as many modellers are wont to think.   Like most Modernisation Plan orders, the locos had been ordered with specific tasks in mind and even with the background of great change at the time, this coloured their distribution for maybe 15-20 years thereafter.

In very broad terms, from the early ’60s to the mid ’70s, the 26s remained split between Haymarket and Inverness, with the latter well known on the Highland main line and to Kyle and the Far North, and often in the company of the contemporary batch of BR-built class 24s.  The 27s were largely based at Eastfield, for duties up the West Highland, to Oban and later on the GSW section, and in some cases working turn and turn about with both 24s and 25s.    Whilst the Waverley route saw 26s throughout its later life, conversely 27s were very rare with only a handful of recorded instances, and correspondingly 26s were almost unknown on the West Highland line.

Probably the central belt between the two cities, together with the routes to Dundee and Aberdeen, were the locations where both classes could commonly be seen together, although Eastfield locos did reach further North on freight turns over the Highland main line.  The principal exception to that pattern was the allocation of push/pull machines to Haymarket from 1971, and with their steady displacement by 37s during the ’80s, further blurring of the previous boundaries became evident.

As for the images, which I expect is the principal draw for most buyers, there are quite a few previously seen in print plus a few welcome returns from Jim Binnie’s Diesel Image Gallery, but they’re balanced by some really good stuff at less usual locations.  One such is D5348 on acceptance trials at Great Ponton, near Grantham, another is D5301 at Moorgate with a classic set of Quad Arts, during its tenure on the GN suburban services .    The shot of D5393 at Culgaith recalls that the LM class 27s were  regulars over this route and the GSW into Scotland, long before they became ‘native’ along with the original Scottish batch.

There’s quite a lot of blue era material, but as I was most familar with the locos through the ’70s and ’80s, I didn’t find that a problem.  A relative rarity here (in terms of being photographed as such) is 27117 – the push/pull + ETH machines are comparatively little known in this guise, being quite quickly renumbered again into the 27/2 series.  Also of some interest was 27014 pictured in June 1974, which I think is the earliest date that I’ve seen of the characteristic Glasgow Works application of TOPS numbers half way along the bodyside.  I believe this practice, which became the familiar norm in the later ’70s, was originally born of the need to avoid the tablet catcher recesses carried by nearly half the fleet.  Ironically, by the time it gathered momentum, the recesses were being plated over anyway.  Prior to this, the recess-fitted locos had the numbers applied to the right-hand cabs, with the others following convention in having them on the left.

Although not a big deal in the wider scheme of things, I dont think I’ll ever stop being irritated by some of the ‘added value’ captioning beloved of certain Ian Allan authors.  In this publication, it’s  a focus on TPO liveries that jars; it’s debatable whether the information needs to be there and unfortunately, it’s simply wrong.   More of an ambivalent  comment perhaps  is that there are ‘only’ six pages of preservation content – whilst I fully buy the argument that some locos have been in such ownership longer than they were with BR, it’s material that is easily found on the Internet and both historians and modellers have much more to gain from the more historical shots.  On that last score though, I should mention there is a particularly good shot of  a 27’s bufferbeam, complete with plumbing and ploughs.

Talking of models, whilst we’re all familiar with Heljan’s representations of the classes these days, as far as the body mouldings were concerned Lima’s  efforts were pretty good for the time and  a vast improvement on the 33 that spawned them.   The pair below are the work of Ken Gibbons and myself.  My 27 was done way back when the models first came out, and for that reason I’m inclined to hang onto it, whereas Ken’s 26/0 was done more recently, partly because Heljan were not showing any great signs of interest in that subclass, and partly because he’s just like that.   It’s numbered 26011 and after a few changes of identity, mine has now settled on a 1974ish incarnation as 27032.

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The pair both ran mileage on Culreoch in its day but this pic was taken on Ken’s micro layout Port Pennan, (and belying what I said above about common territory…).

‘Port P’ is featured elsewhere on this blog and seen here at the Hessle Model Railway Group’s open day in October 2011.  Bizarrely, it was hot enough for shorts – you can see an insect just by the 27’s rad grille 😉  (seriously, that’s just an odd effect of my mobile camera lens).  The group are holding another open day this October – I’ll put up some more details nearer the time.

More information on the ‘Modern Locomotives Illustrated’ series can be found at http://www.modernlocomotives.co.uk/

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Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

Bachmann OBA

Although later than my principal period, I hang onto a few 1980s-ish bits and bobs that I did ‘back in the day’ of Culreoch and Wintringham Haven, particularly as Ken (Gibbons) still retains more than a foothold in that scene.   One such is this Bachmann OBA, repainted into shabby Freight Maroon from the EWS model that was one of the initial introductions.

Dealing with the mechanical bits first, these wagons will convert to EM if you want them to – as long as you use ‘proper’ scale wheels and not just pulled-out Bachmann ones, which have wider treads and will take up too much width in the axleguard units.  This underside shot shows this, and also the block of plastic that I glued at the back edge of the axleguard unit to prevent it swivelling too much.  Moving onto cosmetics, the factory rendition of the roller bearing axleboxes is a bit unconvincing on these models, so I replaced these with Chivers mouldings – the image is clickable and there’s a telltale change in the paint finish that shows how far back the mouldings have to be filed:

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As ever, the livery details were my main interest and the vehicle represents an Ashford product from the first Lot built, 3909, and having been retro-fitted with Bruninghaus springs for Speedlink work.    Although the wagon’s been around a while, I took the brief opportunity on sunshine the other weekend to take these next few updated pics.

As well as the usual toning down and odd scuffs, there are odd replacement planks picked out in either black or a different shade of red.   This is something which affects  all wooden bodied opens, but BR’s air braked fleet seemed to have even greater propensity to it than earlier traditional stock; some of the piebald concoctions to be seen  by the time of the EWS takeover were quite fantastic:

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Another characteristic effect I wanted to replicate was the maroon overspray onto the inner ends, something I’d picked up on from a period photo.  I’m sure an airbrush would produce this perfectly but all I did was stipple small amounts of paint with a cotton bud:

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As an aside, this livery is one of those that courts misunderstanding and mythology.  Quite apart from the exact shade and the related arguments over what ‘maroon’ actually is, it was a livery used from late 1975 and gave way to the flame red and grey mix from 1979.  Once weathered though, it can be indistinguishable from the earlier brown/bauxite shades, and many people think that’s what it is.  I remember on a visit to Carlisle Currock some twenty years ago, someone scraping the side of a stored VDA with a coin to prove otherwise…

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The final shot shows a later development, some ‘new’ modelling!  If I recall correctly, the packing cases  were done a couple of years back for Llangerran’s appearance at Thirsk show.  They’re intended to be vaguely MOD-looking although owe more to the method used (block and sheet balsa) than to the photos on Paul Bartlett’s site that provided the impetus.   They’re made up as four sets of two, back to back, and the sizes worked out well enough for two pairs to fit in a traditional 10ft wheelbase Highfit.  Transfers are from various aeroplane kits, a hangover from my lad’s younger days and kept, as one does, because they ‘looked useful’.

Wagons do look better with loads though, it gives them a purpose.  I have a shoebox full of equally likely-looking bits and bobs to work on, and I wish I had more time to devote to the subject.

As explained in a parallel post on my other blog, Hal o’ the Wynd, life has been a bit full lately and this awful ‘winter that won’t let go’ has delayed all sorts of projects, but as most of my recent dabblings are nowhere near finished, I thought I’d dig out something that was, before this blog became one of those with no activity from one year to the next!  I am however currently conducting a journey around some of my ‘in progress’ minerals over on  Modellers United,  so if you’re not averse to single-subject threads and models that are not shiny RTR any more but look like someone’s had a barbecue on them, feel free to drop by and take a look.

On the subject of Llangerran, Ken’s layout now has four shows under its belt and  a new page here for it is under construction – check back soon for pics and (if I can get the file formats sorted) video as well…

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Filed under Wagon loads, Wagon weathering

Sunshine after the rain

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They said there’ll be snow at Christmas

They said there’ll be peace on Earth

But instead it just kept on raining

A veil of tears for the Virgin birth

There’s not much connection between this time of year and the pic above, other than the seemingly incessant rain that blights so many otherwise promising days in this lovely country of ours.  Although taken in summer (July 1975, Taunton), it’s arguably more typical of December than the archetypal snow scene.

Anyway, it’s one of my favourite shots of one of my favourite locos, with some lyrics from my favourite Christmas song;  I hope it serves as an appropriate greeting to all those who have read, commented on or otherwise supported ‘Windcutter’ in the past year, with my best wishes for the New Year.

Photo copyright of myself (as it’s my shot), and of John Turner of 53A Models, who has worked wonders lately in turning some of my variable transparencies into decent images.  See more by following the ’53A’ photostream link in the sidebar.


			

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Filed under Diesel-hydraulics, Heritage diesels

Armchair modelling

It’s that time of year, when furniture gets ‘dug out’ for the holiday season.  I expect most people have had the experience of finding money, pens and other impedimenta down their settees; this is what was down ours:

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As well as the obligatory quid or so’s worth of small change, of course.  But at current Romford rates, the wheelset is probably worth more…

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Pilot studies – at last, the original 26/0 from Heljan

After a period of speculation, informed opinion and occasional hints, Heljan have finally made a formal announcement at the Warley NEC show  that they are to manufacture the Pilot Scheme version (later designated 26/0) of the BRCW type 2  in its original condition.  (As an aside, it makes me smile wryly when I think of a forum post some time ago where someone had asked Heljan about this, to be met with the response of ‘we have no plans to do so’, and had taken that as an indication it would never happen.  Well, all that that meant was that at that time, they weren’t planning to do the model; it’s not the same as planning not to do it.  I have no plans for what I’m wearing a week next Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean I’m going out naked…).

A 26/0 is already in the range, along with the later build 26/1s that have been around some years, but only as the refurbished variant suitable only for the 1980s onwards.   There are quite a few noticeable differences between the subclasses, the Pilot Scheme locos having a greater number of cantrail grilles, lack of tablet catcher recess,  conventional droplight cab window, oval buffers rather than round, a slight difference in the shape of the footstep on the bogie and the provision of transverse leaf springs between the struts of the bogie sideframe.  The latter point is not reflected in the ‘refurb’ model, but is not necessarily incorrect as many 26/0s acquired bogies from later machines (and also round buffers) during the refurb work.  As an aside, I think the class (26) as a whole, for a relatively small number of 46 locos, exhibits an amazing amount of variation in both physical details and livery permutations.

The popular image of these locos is of course as Scottish stalwarts, but this first batch were not intended for that use (the lack of tablet catcher recess is a giveaway for this, as until the 1967 batch of D83xx class 20s, all type 1 or 2 locos intended for Scottish service had the recess as part of the specification).   Their first use was out of Kings Cross, on outer-suburban passenger services, but even when transferred north in order to rationalise operating requirements, they tended to remain mostly as Lowland engines.   That said, 5318/19 spent some time at Inverness in the ’60s and became the oddballs in the subclass.  5319 at some point early in its career underwent a small rebuild to incorporate a tablet catcher and associated sliding window, and 5318 was the only 26/0 to carry snowplough brackets.

In 1966, the first seven machines of the subclass were fitted with  dual brakes and slow speed control for use on the Cockenzie MGR circuit, losing their train heating boilers in the process.  The remainder continued in use on the usual cross-section of mixed traffic duties, with Fife and the Waverley route (whilst open) being amongst their regular haunts.  In 1976, the non-SSC locos were exchanged with Inverness’s 24s, with the latter locos then eking out their last few months of service from Haymarket.

Also announced by the Danes are an LNER Gresley O2 2-8-0, a bit of a curve ball, and a Hunslet class 05 diesel shunter; I’ve still to get my head around which variant they’re doing and how it fits into the scheme of things, but it’s a welcome development that may well indicate that in the ‘niche’ mindset that seems to work for them, they’ll continue with some of the other small shunters.   There was at one time some talk of Bachmann doing this class, on the running gear of their recently retooled 03, but then again, they also still have the possibility of the Drewry 04 to revisit.

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Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

Of claypits and colonies

A bit of a personal report from the recent Hull Model Railway show (10/11 November), featuring two layouts that, whilst having been around the block a bit, are none the worse for it.

A significant part of the weekend was spent operating the Hull MRS OO9 layout Barrowfleet Brickworks.  It’s hard to believe that this was the first time I’d done so in its 21-year history but as with  the ‘Bomber’, it’s a remarkably absorbing exercise.   The main part of the layout is based on the narrow gauge systems that used to exist on each side of the Humber, bringing in clay for brick manufactory, and as the name suggests, combines elements from former installations at both Barrow on Humber and Broomfleet.  This, for me, is one of those ‘one that got away’ subjects – in their prime, the Lincolnshire systems may as well have been in a foreign country, and even once the Humber Bridge was open, they just didn’t feature on the young Pennine’s radar.  It should be borne in mind however that there was nowhere near the amount of readily accessible information on industrial systems back then.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now…

There are two operating sequences, both well thought out in typical HMRS NG style; a weekday one where the narrow gauge diesels busy themselves exchanging loaded and empty rakes of tipper wagons, and a weekend preservation sequence with predominantly steam traction.  In each case, appropriate BR traffic rumbles past on the standard gauge to the rear.

As well as the irreverently named Greta, Wes and Tern (and no, that’s not a typo…), the preservation sequence features a diesel whose driver has a habit of baling out of his cab if his  speed gets a bit too high!  Another endearing little quirk is the ‘phantom’ shunter, that can be heard, but not seen…

As always, the best part of a show is often the human element and on the Sunday, we were pleased to chat with one visitor who’d actually worked at the Barrow works, as a fitter and general factotum.  He recognised the dock in particular, where barges had once been loaded with clay for Wilmington cement works in Hull, and was able to provide snippets of previously unknown information to Paul Windle.

Also at the show, fitting into that same ‘off the beaten track’ genre and making its final appearance after 28 shows, was Pete Johnson’s Canada Road.  This represents a bank of sidings in a typical dockland area of indeterminate location, named (as is often the practice in such locales) after the principal trade routes served by the indigenous vessels.

With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

The above image of a TechCad Clayton class 17 on a short rake of 16T minerals is courtesy of Keir Hardy, whose ’emgauge70s’ website is linked in the sidebar and features a great deal of work by several prominent modellers of the BR era.  Canada Road naturally has its own page on the ‘Layouts’ tab,  but images of Pete’s locos and freight wagons  appear throughout the site.    He has a very comprehensive selection of stock and in keeping with the location of the show, had made a point of bringing along a couple of 03s, a class 14  and even a pukka Dairycoates EE type 3.

Canada Road’s retirement is largely due to some of the buildings being required to maintain progress on the replacement layout.  Canada Street will follow the same dockland theme, but in a larger L-shaped format incorporating a sharp linking curve that will provide an apposite setting for the smaller shunters in Pete’s fleet.  Many of these designs were acquired by BR in the 1950s and ’60s for just this sort of work, but were destined to have short lives as this sort of work dried up and the National Traction Plan sought to rationalise as far as possible in favour of the all-pervasive class 08.

Canada Road was awarded the Hull MRS NG section’s MK Memorial Trophy for the layout with the best atmosphere at the show, following the example set previously by fellow operator Ian Manderson’s  Easington Lane.  Ian returns to Hull next November with his Borders layout Hartburn, but we have told him that if the group wins a third time, they don’t get to keep the trophy!

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Filed under Heritage diesels, Off the beaten track