Tag Archives: Heljan

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.


Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways

Spring shows

A couple of recent shows, at Nottingham and York, have provided some enjoyable and varied opportunities for playing trains.

Cully sallies south

First up, Culreoch’s second trip back south of the border, in the capable hands of its new owner Jamie Wood and co-operator Dave Franks (of Lanarkshire Models & Supplies note).   It was pleasing to be able to give them an hour or so off on the Sunday, and also to make reacquaintance with the layout, which looks well and now has the benefit of some lovely 1960s stock, marshalled into authentic and thoughtful formations.

I don’t often do badges, not when I’m theoretically a punter anyway, but it’s good to know they were there.  Rather than another layout shot, I’ll provide a loco portrait to showcase  one of Jamie’s own lovely Black Fives, although Dave had brought one or two of his own exquisite creations, including another Five, a 4F and a very nice kitbuilt Fairburn tank.   Good use was also made of Jamie’s Standard 4 tank, recreating the image of ‘the Mad McCann’ at Creetown which will be known to Port Road afficionadoes!

Bomber jacket required

During March I also took an opportunity mooted for some time of training on the Hull MRS ‘Stealth Bomber’, so named because of its unusual shape and the ‘cockpit’ arrangement of one of the operating positions.  This was something very different for me; I’ve obviously been used to being around the creations of our narrow gauge section since joining the club as a teenager, but have never operated them at a show.  The ‘Bomber’ or to give it its correct name, ‘Crumley and Little Wickhill’, is a very well thought out layout in all aspects, and with the standard of scenery, a real pleasure to operate.

The above shot is courtesy of Steve Flint and the Railway Modeller, and is of the intermediate station Little Wickhill.  In the near distance, a goods train is dropping down the hill to the crossing point, and hidden to the right is a further incline down into Crumley.  A siding runs past the abandoned tipdock to the right and also serves a cattle dock, and is probably my favourite spot on a very atmospheric layout.

Last train from Bonchester Bridge

Finally, a farewell to Brian Sunman’s second exhibition layout Bonchester Bridge, a North British terminus station located in the Borders of Scotland, about equidistant from Jedburgh and Hawick.  The layout is now over twenty years old and featured in the first volume of British Railway Modelling, although because of the pre-digital nature of the available images, I’ve not been able to feature it here before.

Having once been retired, ‘Bonny’ has over the last few years made reprise appearances at a few shows.  The time comes though to move on, other projects come to assume prominence, and the layout will shortly be in the hands of a new owner.

We had to have a wee dram of course to see the old girl off, and pictured above are some of the people who have been associated with her in some way or other over the years.  Left to right, they are Ken Gibbons (who, most importantly, provided the Scotch), Steve Flint  (editor RM), Brian himself, your scribe, Mal Scrimshaw (taller), York Show acting manager, and Paul Windle.  Not shown, being behind the camera, is Paul Derrick; the three last-named gents  being instrumental in the construction of the ‘Bomber’.

Brian originally ran the layout with early 1960s steam power, including a B1, V3 and N2, but in recent years a slight shift to the later ’60s made sense, using the proprietary diesels with superior mechanisms that had been easily converted to EM for use on Peffermill Road.  

The pic above shows a class 26 clearing the last few wagons from the yard, in just the way that must have happened on so many branches like this in the 1960s and ’70s.  And now, with mention of Spring and the inspiration glands recharged, it must be time to at least think about doing some modelling!


Filed under 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