Tag Archives: Bachmann

The skirl of the Pipe

Oh come on, it is at least seasonal …!

Anyhoo, a review seems appropriate, following the season of box opening on a much larger scale, and Bachmann’s 12T Pipe wagon is fairly fresh in the shops. Thing is though, this is highly likely to come out as one of those Jeremy Clarkson style reviews, where there’s a handful of words about the subject and rather more about various semi-connected subjects on which I wish to give you the benefit of my views…

There’s not a lot I can say about the prototype wagon that isn’t already fairly well known or easily obtainable from published sources. One point I will make though is that it’s not absolutely identical  to the Parkside – whereas the kit is a diagram 1/460, built unfitted and later converted to vac, this new RTR vehicle is to diagram 1/462, which were VB from new. The consequent differences are acceptedly minor – a Morton clutch to the brakegear on one side, rather than the earlier drop link, and spindle buffers rather than the hydraulic jobs usual on the conversions – but still, it’s different.  There were two other diagrams – 1/461 of LNER origin (of which more shortly) and 1/463, the final evolution with 8-shoe clasp brakes (this was the donor batch for what became the air braked ODAs).


Which brings in my first point. Much as I’ve loved, and still love, Parkside kits, and have a lot of time for the guys behind the outfit, I’m a little bemused by comments to the effect that the RTR firms are ‘working their way through the Parkside catalogue and should show more imagination’. But the point, surely, is that these vehicles, these chosen diagrams, are the most numerous or useful, and that both the kit manufacturer and the RTR firm are simply choosing the best commercial prospect?

In this respect, the forthcoming Tube is probably a better illustration. There are many designs of tube wagon,  of GW, LMS, LNER and BR design; many look superficially similar but the LMS – BR design lineage in particular masks a continuous evolution made up of subtle differences. So when Bachmann arrived at the conclusion that they’d be best served doing the BR 1/448, the last built and longest lived, it’s really a moot point in my view whether they aped Parkside or whether they got the wagon books out and researched it themselves.  In fact they probably did both, using as many sources of info as they could.  I know I would.

Secondly then, the price. It’s twenty quid (or thereabouts). Yes, I know, twenty quid for a four wheel wagon (and I won’t insult your intelligence by pointing out that it’s a slightly longer than average four wheel wagon).  And yes, I know the Parkside one is about eight quid, and I can do the sums to work out the difference.

But the Pipe is a more complex wagon than most probably realise, especially those who’ve contented themselves with simply building the thing out of the packet. And there’s a spinoff topic, worthy of further study – there’s almost always a difference between building an XYZ kit of a class A123, and building a model of a class A123 from the said kit. I won’t develop that theme too far here, except as an illustration of my belief that at twenty quid, the new RTR model is actually not bad value. In each and every case of comparison like this, one has to factor in one’s time; I’m not going to include the cost of paint and transfers etc in the calculation as they’re just a stock-in, as much a part of one’s hobby as tools or books. But time is the important one, and even now I can hear people saying that a Parkside kit falls together almost in minutes rather than hours.


But consider this (or if you’re fed up of reading already, consider the photo above). The Pipe is not a simple open wagon. Anyone who has an appreciation of how wagons are built for the jobs they do will realise that those long drop doors make a difference. Just under the bodyside, there are ‘door controllers’ (a fancy sort of hinge), the usual triangular gusset plates to support the part of the floor that overhangs the frame, and some door bangers that are at a more precarious  angle than average and  are hard to secure to a kit solebar.  In the middle, there’s also a box section that no doubt gives some strength to the whole structure, otherwise weakened by the full length doors.

The hand brake lever catches the look pretty well, something that’s not easy to do with a kit unless you substitute etched bits (and assuming there’s one available for the distinctive shape on this wagon).  There’s also a further issue with the kit that usually escapes people: that for understandable production economy, the kit utilises the chassis parts from the 21T and 24.5T mineral kits, which means it has heavy duty axleguards (the Pipe, being a mere 12 tonner, has standard axleguards).


You don’t have to add any of this extra detail to the kit, of course – but the point is that the RTR model is sorted in all of those respects, so a simple comparison with the kit is not a fair comparison.  I did two kitbuilds many years ago (part of a projected build of half a dozen, which went the way of most good intentions), and incorporating the modifications listed; even pricing my time at minimum wage, I could not  build the kit to this standard for twenty quid.  The pic above shows the more interesting of the pair; intended to portray the LNER derivative, it combines Parkside ends with Nu Cast sides and Parkside solebars with etched axleguards and modified ABS brakegear.

So there you are. A sort of review, another past glory, and a hell of a lot of punditry. Come at me, guys 😉


Filed under Wagon kits, Wagon weathering

Expo time

This weekend brings ExpoEM North and for the second year, I have the pleasure of being amongst the range of demonstrators there, along with my good friends Brian Sunman and Ken Gibbons.  Anyone who’s been to an Expo will know the unique atmosphere they have, and we’re very much looking forward to being there and seeing what else Derek Evans has lined up.  Demoing is probably less tiring than showing a layout, but that said, it can be even more difficult to see the rest of the show!

The overall theme of our little bit will be BR period modelling, and Ken will be taking an eclectic mix of projects which echo back to the spirit of Modelling the British Rail Era. Steam, diesel and very probably electric, from the ’60s to the ’90s all have a chance of making an appearance.  Brian’s main focus will be on buildings for our under-construction Waverley route layout, but he will also have with him some of the Carflats that he’s been working on for the same project. This pic isn’t my best effort and the wagon needs some finishing work, but it should show the effectiveness of what is essentially a simple conversion – based on an LMS Period 1 coach underframe as so many of the prototypes were:


I shall be presiding over my usual random mix of modified RTR and kitbuilds, and will also be taking my paintbox.  One particular project I’ll be giving a coat of looking at is my small fleet of grain wagons based on the Trix/Lilliput model.


The methods we use are not specific to any particular prototype or period, but that said, we recognise it’s a finescale show and will obviously slant things that way.  We all have some experience in regauging locos and stock so if you’re curious about easy steps into EM, ask away. And the same goes for anything that’s on show, or even that isn’t.  We’re there to talk, and don’t be put off if we look ‘busy’ or already have somebody at the table – it’s usually a case of the more the merrier 🙂

More details on ExpoEM North can be found on the Society’s own website.

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Filed under Brakevans, Heritage diesels, Mineral wagons, Off the beaten track, Scottish railways, Uncategorized, Wagon kits, Wagon loads, Wagon weathering

Vanfare for the common man

No, not Vanwides again (one for those with long memories, that, though using the same heading twice in 19 years shouldn’t be stretching a point too much)!  Rather, a few random-ish thoughts on the Vanwide’s more ordinary common cousin, the BR standard van.

At this point it’s almost obligatory in modelling circles to mention that whatever ‘standard’ thing it is that’s under discussion is anything but standard, and this is true enough of the BR van when you consider there are two materials used for the body sheeting and that the corrugated ends could be formed of two  or three  parts, each with further minor variations, all underpinned by the usual progression of brakegears and an extensive array of other running gear options.  But I have an alternative take – from the less focused perspective of the operators, the people who’d roster them and load them, they were standardised.  They were a basic covered box that was a given size and shape, and what the thing was made of and what type the buffers weren’t a concern to them, as long as they did their job.

Anyway, to the models.  Like so many of the things characteristic of the post-war railway, we have a choice of representations of these vans, but made in such a way that not all can necessarily be run together, at least not without modification or a bit of thought.  Hopefully what follows won’t shatter too many illusions!

As with so many wagon types, anyone starting from nothing can do little better than to assemble a selection of the current Parkside kits, PC07A/08A.  Now I’m not going to just blog about that, I think most readers here will know of Parkside kits and that they virtually build themselves.  But the current kit replaces a much older one, one that was one of the firm’s earliest offerings and was in essence an Ian Kirk design from the 1970s.

Although it was a welcome breath of fresh air at a time when little truly BR period was available, the van is like most of the Kirk production, quite basic and a little dimensionally dodgy.  Most seriously, it’s a good 2mm or more too tall in the body, which alters the proportions quite significantly, and whereas considered on its own, this may not be an issue  to some, it does stand out as soon as you sit it next to a more correct rendition and look at it at eye  level.  I  first twigged this back in the mid-’80s when comparing the first one I’d built to that old favourite, the Airfix meat van.   Whilst variation in all aspects  is of course an intrinsic feature of a 1950s or ’60s van train, which would be composed of vans of all sorts of origins, after 1972 or so the BR vans were pretty much all there were, and the consequent uniformity in roof line when looking along a train is a very recognisable feature, just as it would be with a uniform rake of Mk1 or Mk2 coaching stock.


This comparison shot above is between a current Parkside end moulding and an old Kirk one (actually from an insulated van).  I’ve positioned these so that the tops of the headstocks are aligned level, and from that, it can be seen that that’s actually where most of the excess  is.   This may be because the original Kirk solebars were quite crude and chunky by modern standards.  I reckon there’s about a mill and a half in there, and although it’s not so obvious from the pic, there’ll be another 0.75 – 1mm in the corrugated end itself.

There are ways of dealing with this though if you have some of these kits and want to use them.  The rake that inhabits Ken Gibbons’ various blue era layouts were produced from this basis by, simply enough, cutting them down as necessary; as seen here:


My own approach is one I’ve used before with superseded Parkside kits, by incorporating parts from the later and better kits.  In this case, using spare ends of the current design, taken either from the Vanfit or Vanwide kits automatically produce the right height to set the sides at (in the same way as with the Parkside/Ratio hybrid shown in an earlier post, The LMS Van).  Again these particular sides are (fairly obviously) from the insulated van, but the mouldings are identical (whereas Parkside’s current PC09 has a faithful portrayal of the differing door fastenings):


Although only obliquely visible, the chassis parts here are also later standard Parkside – a pair of PA16 solebars with plate axleboxes will acquire the 4-shoe brakegear from the current kit.  The mismatched join in the corrugations needs some thought, and I also should come up with something just a tad more delicate for the brackets that the doors fasten back onto…

Before leaving the subject of these kits, one common misconception concerns the vans that had doors mismatched with the body sheeting.  This variation is provided for in the retooled Parkside kits but unfortunately, the assumption is often that because the alternative parts are provided, they can be combined at will.   Not so, unfortunately; whilst several thousand planked ones were built with plywood doors, the opposite combination is not thought to have happened (although some early standard Shocvans do have this arrangement, due to 1950s materials shortages, there’s no evidence of it on standard vans).

The reasoning behind this combination is something I discovered some years ago in some 1950s BR committee notes at the NRM.  Apparently the original design of door had been causing damage to a particular user’s traffic, due to an internal gap into which loads could shift.  To avoid this, a new design of door that eliminated the gap was put in hand.  This new pattern of door was only designed in plywood, whereas the previous pattern of alternative body sheeting continued, producing some 4,000 or so vans with the mismatch.

A bit of more obvious variety doesn’t go amiss in an otherwise homogenous fleet, and one little known variant is the roof ribbing that appears in the first row of wagons here, behind the slave cab of D4500.   I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but a small number of vans have it.  The majority I’ve noted have been ply vans with 8-shoe brakes from a late batch that were signwritten for particular users but one other, an earlier 4-shoe ply, was written for Crosse & Blackwell traffic, so there may be some connection in the type of traffic carried.  One of the three Lots of fruit vans based on the BR standard van also had this type of roof.  Oh and whilst you’re perusing that Tinsley pic and taking in the wealth of wagonry scattered about, have a look at the van in the middle of the third row, between the 21T hopper and the Covhop … thoughts on a postcard perleeeze 🙂

Another model that entered the mix back in 1985 was the David Boyle-era Dapol production.  Again, it’s another one I like because despite its general chunkiness, it catches the proportions very well in my opinion.   On the downside, the end vent is too small and the flat part of the diagonal bracing too deep;  the broadside below shows how this has been carved off and replaced with thinner microstrip:


This van runs on the Red Panda underframe for the BR 8-shoe brakegear, with MJT self-contained buffers. It’s one that was done a while ago and ran in the initial Culreoch fleet, and is here awaiting slight relettering to suit the earlier ’70s.

Moving on to a possibly less expected contender, I mentioned in the banana van piece that I had a soft spot for the old Dublo rendition of the BR standard.  This might well be partly due to the number of the Wrenn derivatives that I worked on again back in the ’80s, and I still have a few of them together with one or two unpainted bodies.   Despite its assorted shortcomings, I’ve always thought it caught the look of the type pretty well.  The planking and diagonal bracing take a liberty or two but the main issue is with the roof curvature, which is a tad too sharp and more akin to a GW design van, together with the seriously undernourished bonnet ventilator.

Another comparison then, but not between the Wrenn and a more correct model, but between unmodified (left) and modified (right):


Rebuilding the roof on  a one piece moulding would obviously be a foolish thing to do, but my minimal mod here (which I also apply to the Dapol vans), is to use spare Parkside vents tweaked so that they overlay onto the existing vent.  Whether the significantly greater width of the correct vent creates an optical illusion that ‘flattens’ the roof curve, or whether it’s simply the disguising one error that draws attention away from another, I’m not sure, but as a way of bulking up a rake without too much effort, I’m happy enough with it.

Incidentally the vents I use were obtained very cheaply some years ago, but it’s not the hardest job to knock them up yourself in plastic card.  You’ll note that I haven’t restored the lost bolthead detail, which again is in line with the ‘quick and dirty’ ethos as the ends will be the part least visible. In which case, you might ask, why alter anything at all…


A side on shot of the modified van again brings in the theme of making the best of old models that have a decent finish.  The current Bachmann 4-shoe chassis fits well enough and a selection of transfers and Hollar posters complete the impression.  I still won’t run these vans next to a ‘correct’ BR standard, but as a short cut in a long mixed freight, possibly mixed with vans of pre-BR design, they should pass muster.

A model that might by now be conspicuous by its absence is the Bachmann RTR model, which to be honest I was a bit disappointed with when it appeared.  Some of the contemporary criticism focused on the thickness of the ironwork, which is something I tend not to fret about.  More of a concern to me was that I could see from side by side comparisons with other stock (both vans  and other types) that the proportions just weren’t right somehow.  I’ve never fully analysed it but I think it’s a combination of a slightly tall chassis (not uncommon in RTR) with maybe up to a millimetre shortness at the eaves.  It’s a shame, it was  a model I really wanted to like because like all Bachmann stock, the liveries and lettering are well observed and nicely applied.   Not a major issue though in the bigger scheme of things, it won’t matter at all to many users  and it has to be said that it’s a rare blip in a range of freight stock that overall just goes from strength to strength.

And finally, purely for the sake of completeness, I should mention the Lima model of the standard van.  About which I’ll say no more than that there was one.


Filed under Vans, Wagon kits

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:


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:


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:


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…


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…


Filed under Wagon loads, Wagon weathering

Ashes to ashes

The latest variations on Bachmann’s LNER clasp-braked chassis are also recently in the shops.   These were pretty obviously on the same boat as the SR brakes, but missed the boat when it came to getting my finger out with this post…

One of these variations is the LNER corrugated end van, albeit in its initial form without ventilator hoods; I’ve not bothered taking a pic of this as it’s so similar to the existing vans, which will now be familiar to most.  The other introductions comprise three variations on the beastie below:

Although cannily being marketed as ‘Highbars’ (which they undoubtedly are), the box label doesn’t quite tell the whole story.  Strictly speaking, they are an adaptation of the steel High Goods intended for soda ash traffic, and it’s not quite such a stretching of a point as Dapol coming up with their own use for the codename ‘Rectank’ a few years ago.

This designation can be seen from the exquisite lettering seen above, which I have every intention of keeping most of and will need some careful work whilst weathering.  Physical differences are essentially the provision of a sheet rail or bar, and the doubling of the crossmember across the side door.

The wagon itself, like the unvented van, shares all the virtues and vices of the initial models.  The   distinctive brakegear is well represented and detailed, the wagon body is good on the outside but has no interior detail.  Obviously a Parkside kit will provide some of the latter, but still needs work if it is to accurately portray the chequer-plated surface of the inside of the doors; and the chassis will take up a fair bit of time to finish to the standard of detail of the RTR example.

Quite a few batches of these soda ash carriers seem to have existed, some built thus from new and some (I think) by conversion, some in the regular number series and others in the B74xxxx series for bulk carriers.  Whilst it’s very likely that some found their way into ‘ordinary’ traffic, I do wonder what good they would actually have been, as soda ash is known to be a very corrosive substance.  Steel Highs in general tended to find their way into assorted mineral traffics in later life, and the modified door arrangements of the soda ash wagons might well have marked them out as particularly suited to such use.  There is some circumstantial photographic evidence to support the possibility of their use on the seasonal flows of rock salt (for winter road use) to Inverness.

Below is a closeup of the sheet bar arrangement, which has probably been adapted from that already in use on the firm’s Shock Highs.  It does pop out quite easily, should you wish to run a wagon that has lost the bar (and/or use it on something else).  Those moulding feeds are also more evident at this level of enlargement than on viewing the model.  The 180 degree quadrant that the bar pivots on is moulded onto the wagon, but looks effective, and could be carved off if required (often, but not always, this part was left on when wagons lost the bars in later life).


Filed under Mineral wagons

Pillbox precision

Latest wagon-shaped retail therapy to hit the shops comes in the form of Bachmann’s range of SR ‘Pillbox’ brakevans.  These come in a commendable range of variations, reflecting not only changes in livery as you’d expect, but also the three distinct patterns of bodywork prevalent through the build runs.  This van is the 25T version – there was also a lighter but less numerous 15 tonner, easily recognisable by its much shallower solebar.  Another recognition point, for BR days at least, is that the 25T vans generally lost the distinctive sandboxes at the ends, whereas the 15 tonners kept them.

Without thinking too deeply about it, I went for the BR bauxite version, which is an even-planked van with right-hand duckets; I do fancy an uneven-planked one, which is for the moment only being issued in SR and olive green liveries, but I’m in no rush and will see what comes along in the next batch.

There’s not a lot to say about basic aspects of the model other than that it’s well up to the standard you’d expect, crisply moulded and capturing the shape and general appearance very well.  Distinctive features like the deep solebars and self-contained buffers are very well rendered.  The stepboards seem a tad more sturdy than those on Bachmann’s BR brake vans, and the handrails are now in metal rather than plastic, which should enable them to retain their shape much more easily.

Errors are few, and all pretty minor.  They appear to be tied in with the change from the left hand ducket of the first vans to the right hand arrangement, and the consequent positioning of the chimney and of the brake pull rod under the van, both of which changed as a consequence of repositioning the ducket.  Unfortunately, all of the models have a chimney which is correct for RH ducket vans with a brake pull that’s correct for LH ducket ones, meaning that they all have a minor error as they come.  One forum poster did seem to use this to promote the notion that Bachmann should only have marketed one body type, which I found strangely backward-looking; I’d much rather we were offered maximum choice as to the bodywork, even if it does mean that some minor details have to be corrected by what is really minor surgery.  One other thing, which I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere but only affects (I think) this particular van, is that the exterior vacuum pipe (installed when the vans were vacuum through-piped by BR) should only appear on one side – this I’ll rectify when I get around to relettering and weathering.

As ever, the add-on ‘bag of bits’ has caused some consternation – these comprise the brake pull yoke assemblies together with the catch bars that on the real wagon, prevent any loose brake rigging from descending to the ballast and thereby causing great mischief.  The shot below shows these fitted into place – you’ll also note that I’ve removed the NEM coupling pockets, which if it’s something you need to do, is obviously easier now than later.  The yoke assemblies are plastic, and fit (with some persuasion) into pilot holes in the back of the brakeshoes, then the catch bars (which are metal) go over these.  The spigots which locate the yokes have an offset, which should be  arranged so the yokes sit lower than the spigot (otherwise they’ll foul the axle), and the catch bars are best fitted by first inserting the end with the small cross shape into the hole in the floor, then locating the other (longer) end into the gap in the framing behind the headstock.

In each case, an appropriate adhesive was used to keep things in place – once fixed, the whole assembly seems quite sturdy.  You might also see that I sorted the brake pull whilst I was at it (the original position shown by the white tell-tale mark); if you’re canny as to how and where you cut it, this literally takes less than five minutes. The image is clickable (to two levels of enlargement) if you want to get in really close:

Usage of the vans in the BR period was more widespread than might be imagined.  Whilst they were obviously never as widespread as the much more numerous LMS, LNER and BR 20 tonners, I’ve seen so many pictures now showing the Southern vans off-Region that I’ve long since stopped counting, and really there’s no reason why they wouldn’t have wandered just as the LMS and LNER brakes did – they wouldn’t have been restricted by lack of duckets or being single-ended like the GW Toads, and there’s some apocryphal evidence that the greater oomph of their 25T rating could have endeared them to staff in some instances.

Edit 2.12.12 – this shot on  Jodel Aviator’s Flickr stream depicts a van just like the one above in trip freight use at Northampton in 1966.

You can find a further review of the models, including more in the way of history and build details, on Graham Muz’s SR-themed blog. 


Filed under Brakevans

2012 and all that

Hello there, and welcome to Windcutter’s first New Year.

Given the time of year, I suppose some initial comment might be appropriate on the now-established Hornby Christmas period announcements.  As I’ve said, I don’t want Windcutter to be excessively political, nor do I want it to promote RTR frothfrests, but there is even less than usual to actually get excited about now the news is out.   All quite understandable of course in the current climate, but it does have to be said that this year the much-criticised embargo has reached new heights of farce whilst increasing the froth : substance ratio beyond any reasonable limits.    No completely new freight stock is not entirely a surprise; I’m getting an inkling now that the backpedalling last year over prices with the brake and the tippler has made Hornby think that they can’t really compete with Bachmann, in the field of traditional wagons at least.

That said, I’m pleased enough about the Thompson suburbans, something I have to say I didn’t see coming as they fulfil such a similar role to the Gresleys which are just hitting the shops.  In my mind, they hit that same spot as the Hawksworths, in that they’re not so much an LNER coach as a BR (ER) one, something that can be used past the usually accepted ‘transition’ era, into the mid-1960s and even in some cases with diesels.  Parcels stock is always popular with BR modellers, so the SR bogie brake will no doubt go down well (once the price has settled to more modest levels), and the O1 2-8-0 is just a bit too tempting to me given its association with East Midlands iron ore trains!  There’s no point me putting up the whole list of releases, it’s available easily enough elsewhere including the now ‘legal’ copies of the magazine that wanted to be first with the news.

As for Windcutter, having updated Traditions in Decline, the basic ‘page’ structure is now complete, unless I have any other bright ideas of course.  One thing that’s still missing is a rundown on weathering roofs, which has to be slotted into the More on Techniques page – that’ll have to wait for those days of decent weather and lighting, I’m afraid.  I noticed the other day that some of the page headers have defaulted for some reason to the ‘running theme’ of the 47 and Mk2 coach; I’m not sure why this is, but unless I stumble across the right buttons, it’ll probably stay that way for the forseeable!

Something that is outside my control however is the periodic absence of the forum database hosting the original 6WTS weathering thread from 2008.  I’m pleased that this has continued to be something that tyro weatherers have found useful, that was the intention all along.  Its most recent,  prolonged spell of non-availability does rather vindicate my decision to transfer the essence of it onto this site, and  I hope the three weathering pages here are found to be  some substitute for it.  One other enhancement I’m thinking of here is a list of basic weathering colours in several ranges; although I always say that successful results are really not the result of following a ‘recipe’,  I appreciate it can be a bit daunting if you’ve never really looked amongst all those murky dull browns and greys in the paint stands.

All in all though, I’m pleased enough with how it’s all gone; in an age where glib soundbites dominate social media and even more considered pieces within this very hobby can prove to be rather transient, I do hope that I’ve provided something of substance for those who do drop by.  I’d very much like to thank all those who have made it possible and enjoyable, whether helping with material, making comments or just generally being around and supportive.  I’m also pleased to see that a few other independent-minded modellers whose work I respect are treading the same path, and will update the ‘blogroll’ links in due course with those that are most relevant to my own interests and outlook.

The pic above by the way is not a genuine Hogmanay item, but from September 1983.  Those two fine gents were actually welcoming the appropriately named ‘Skirl o’ the Pipes 3′ railtour into Burghead.  Locos are 27036 and 26042.


Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways, Uncategorized

Criticism, choices, fact and opinion

I mentioned elsewhere on the blog that the odd bit of punditry or contention might occasionally bubble to the  surface, and the subject of criticism of RTR models, never too far away on the Interweb, has raised its head quite noticeably in a few places lately.  Now I’ve never had any intention of turning this site into the new Electric Nose;  I don’t like the idea of sitting around taking  passive-aggressive potshots from a platform that gives no right of reply, but I do faintly despair at the excessively apologist tone of some posters on the various forums that I’ve inhabited over the past few years.  I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of individual models here, such things are invariably subjective anyway and the recent examples are not models that I would particularly be buying.  But the principle is still very relevant; it’s just as applicable to things that do interest me and as it underscores my own approach to the critique of any model, it’s going to be something pretty basic to the content of this site.

At its most basic, my view is that if something is wrong on a model, and can be reasonably proven to be wrong by somebody who knows their onions, then it’s wrong, simples. Even an error of 1mm or so, on a model that is quite small to begin with, can alter the proportions sufficiently to be noticeable to a knowing eye.  However, I do think that most folk can accept that  something like this may be wrong for a perfectly good reason.  We’re all human, manufacturers included, we all drop the ball on occasion, and sometimes conscious compromises have to be made between what’s desirable and what’s practical.

Now in terms of cold hard fact, if something is wrong, there’s no amount of mitigation that will make it any less wrong.   But – big but – that doesn’t make it the end of the world as we know it.  As far as I’m concerned, to say that something is wrong is just an observation; it may well be seen as criticism by some but it should still surely be possible to voice it in a factual, unemotional, non-judgmental manner without anybody getting bent out of shape about it.

Focussed discussions on forums about new RTR though are often hindered by several factors. There are often polarised extremes; at one end is inaccurate,  unfair or vague criticism, often based on half-understood hearsay and which helps no-one.  Or, there are folk telling other folk that they’re rivet counters or nitpickers, they should have some perspective and be grateful to the manufacturers.  A common argument is that the gauge (of OO models) is wrong by 2.33mm, therefore any millimetric error elsewhere shouldn’t matter.  Well, there’d be some pretty funny looking models about if that became a rule of thumb.  One particular gem (and I’ve admittedly used it myself) is “well, it looks like a [47/Black Five/whatever] doesn’t it?”  Being more objective though, a model doesn’t actually have to be that good to pass that pretty basic test of authenticity; the Hornby Dublo Deltic ‘looked like a Deltic’ in that it patently wasn’t meant to be anything else, but I don’t see many claiming it to be  an accurate scale model, even by the standards of its time.

Yet another old chestnut is the glib assertion that putting it right by doing some modelling will give us a sense of achievement.  I know that, thank you very much, I’ve been doing it nearly forty years now, but I have quite enough things in my ‘to do’ pile without adding to it with stuff that will absorb yet more hours on unproductive time.  I’m one of those folk  who for most of his adult life has seen RTR as just part of the picture, somewhere between a blank canvas, a means to an end and a timesaver, but that seems to be an increasingly odd concept to some observers.

Now with that, we bring in the more personal perspectives, the ones that shape our own buying decisions.  Whether this hypothetical 1mm actually matters to you is another issue entirely, and this is where opinion comes more into play.  We all have our own set of  tolerances, and that’s just fine – even my own are sometimes more than a tad inconsistent, in that I’ll accept a 4mm error on one model and jib at less than 1mm on another.  But nevertheless, they are my own tolerances and it’s me that has to live with them.

More importantly, once an error is identified and it’s perhaps looking like something that I know is going to bug me, I can then start thinking about whether I can alter it without an excessive input of time, or whether it’s just too much of a compromise and whether I can either do without the model or find another way of getting that prototype.  This is where that raw information can become useful knowledge.  Ideally, I would like to be able to spend just a little time perhaps personalising a model with details, or making a subtly different variant, and then crack on with the painting side of things, which is what I enjoy most.  That’s not always going to be possible though and some models are always going to need more work, but that work has to be balanced against how essential that model is to the concept in question.  In some cases I may decide not to buy it at all, that’s my decision and as long as I don’t ram it down anybody’s throat, I don’t need folk insisting I should take it and be happy with it.

In the context of a review then, I believe that said review should be sufficiently informative and objective on basic points of accuracy as to enable the reader, armed with that information, to make a duly informed choice.  Whilst I might still offer my opinion an error in a model – what’s the point in having a blog if I don’t do that – it’s not my place to make the buying decision for you, either way.  If I say (as I have in the tippler review) that a particular detail is half a millimetre out, and you think ‘what on earth is he on about’ and choose to disregard it, that’s absolutely fine.  You don’t have to agree with me, you’ve had access to the information, plus anything you’ve read elsewhere, and you’ve made a decision based on it and your own tolerances.  If however I noticed these things, but chose not to draw them to your attention, then I feel that I’d be arbitrarily restricting your choice to make that decision.

As for where we came in, I believe there are a large number of ‘hands on’ modellers who not only look on new models with a discerning eye, but are also more than prepared to do something themselves about any errors they come across.  But in order to do that, it’s first necessary to actually talk about those errors with others whose judgment one respects.   Just lately though, I’ve been quite exasperated to not be able to do that without getting caught between more polarised and intolerant viewpoints.  Very few people expect perfection at the prices we pay for RTR, but at the other end of the scale, I don’t believe people should be holding back standards, either by foisting lesser expectations on others or by stifling their attempts at self-improvement.


Filed under Uncategorized

The great Southern roof mystery

One lazy weekend a few years ago, being in that particular mood of having quite enough that I should be doing, but nothing I particularly wanted to be doing, I thought I’d pick up on a comment made by a friend and dug out various of my Southern vans, the roofs for the comparison thereof.  The utility vans and Van Cs have appeared in various forms over many years, the goods vans are available as kits from Ratio and RTR from Bachmann, Hornby and Dapol (the latter two being the moulding introduced by Airfix/GMR in the late 1970s, and none the worse for that).

Now it’s fairly well known that these vans had a distinctive compound roof curvature, and this is obviously going to present a challenge to a modelmaker or  manufacturer.  An article by John Hayes in MRJ 120 deals with the construction of three vans from Ratio kits, a principal feature being replacement of the roofs due to their profile.  John says that all the published drawings of these vans show slight variations, which also doesnt surprise me as I suspect that even a good draughtsman is prone to ‘freehand’ a bit in such circumstances.  Geoff Kent also has some words of wisdom on the matter in volume 2 of his 4mm Wagon trilogy.

As with so many things though that are ostensibly models of the ‘same’ thing, the real problems start when you want to run them together.  So, some comparisons.  Firstly, a couple of utility vans, Parkside on the left – with my own ends here, in order to produce a PMV, but following (ish) the kit profile) – and Wrenn/HD at right:

Next, the old Airfix 12T at left (don’t be fooled by the even planking) and the Bachmann model at right:

I think those two, although not identical, are pretty closely matched as far as the profile is concerned.   There are discrepancies  with the positions of the bonnet vents and their shape, but those would be very difficult to work on.

Now the Ratio kit at left, again the Bachmann at right:

This to me shows how wrong the Ratio one looks – it’s much flatter, sort of squashed-looking, at the shoulders.  The vertical bits at the very sides are too short, accentuating an excessively peaked effect at the apex.   As this older shot shows, it actually looks more wrong when viewed side on:

Almost as an aside, this shot shows the SR-pattern brakegear with drop link, which was adapted from the Red Panda chassis of the BR clasp pattern gear.

Of them all, the Ratio is the only one I can’t live with and as I’d put a lot of work into the rest of the van, I bit the bullet and did something about it.  Trials with the Parkside CCT roof showed it would fit, with a bit of minor fettling; once cut to length, this was the outcome:

As mentioned, the roof needed a bit of work to sit snugly but the only thing I’ve done to the body ends is to file them slightly flatter across the central ‘third’:

I’m aware of the remaining slight gap at the shoulders, but I didn’t think it warranted destroying and restoring the capping strip, and since then the roof has  been painted and the capping touched in.  The whole job is a bit of an enigma really; it definitely looks better, and yet as that minimal gap shows, there isn’t all that much difference between the two roofs.  And I still have to order a replacement part for that PMV!

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Filed under Vans, Wagon kits, Wagon weathering

Only the crumbliest, flakiest, erm, lump of plastic…

Well hello, you’ve found the first post on the blog.  It’s probably a pathetically obvious thing to do –  and I don’t really want to perpetuate the notion that the real ‘Windcutters’ were only composed of 16 ton mineral wagons –  but in all honesty, there was probably no better wagon type with which to start things rolling here.

The example in question is based on a Bachmann RTR model; nothing exceptional in that, as I’ve got far more of them than is strictly good for me. This one though is quite topical, in that it uses the first credible factory weathered issue (catalogue number 37 377F) as a basis.  The rust on this is actually quite convincing in shade and shape, and the flakes are evidently applied through a mask, rather than previous efforts which have essentially been little more than a waft of earth coloured paint over the lower quarters.

As is my usual practice, I overpainted the base livery with a lighter grey as the one that Bachmann use is quite dark.  It’s not necessarily wrong – the shades used by BR did vary widely and I’m not that well qualified to comment on matters that were developing whilst I was a toddler – but I think the darker shade is probably more appropriate for 1950s applications and even then, it wouldn’t have been applied anything like universally.  Anyhoo, finding a more typical grey isn’t actually that easy and after some experimentation I’ve settled on Revell #76. It’s light enough, darkens slightly with a wash and also has a pleasing bluey tinge in some light, and it’s also a fairly close match for the plastic that most of the Airfix 16T kits are moulded in.

Obviously in this case the #76 had to be applied pretty carefully, trying to preserve the best bits of the factory flakes.  If you happen to have an out-of-the-box one to hand, you’ll be able to recognise which they are.  The additions consist of assorted flecks, scrapes and smears, applied with a fine brush and/or worked with cotton buds, and blended into the  existing patches.  A limited amount of work was done with gouache, notably the scabby patch to the side of the number and the streaks from the right hand top corner.  The model has also been renumbered in a hybrid style typical of the mid/late 1960s, it could still do with the lettering toning down slightly as well as the odd bit of touching in here and there.

Was it a worthwhile exercise, and would I buy more?  Yes, and probably a qualified no; it’s always satisfying improving something, and it was a challenge thinking how best to build on the better parts of the factory finish, but had this model not existed, I could easily have produced those larger flakes myself.  All in all though, it’s a model that will either happily stand alone or conversely, one that won’t stand out in a rake, and that basically is the object of the exercise.

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Filed under Mineral wagons, Rust effects, Wagon weathering