Large scale visitor

November 13, 2018

A rare visitor to the studio here in Nairn (from where Rail Express Modeller is now edited) is the new Heljan ‘O’ gauge ‘Large Prairie’ or GWR/BR 61XX Class 2-6-2T tank locomotive – the featured model is painted in pristine BR lined green as No. 6132. It’s a bit of a monster compared to a lot of models that visit here for magazine reviews, weighing in at over 1.6Kg making handing a little more challenging than an N gauge model of equivalent size.

It was fun testing it and admiring its lovely lines as it sat on the photo stage. Afterwards, once photography and testing for the review was complete, it sat on my desk for a while – a lovely piece of modelling which I was reluctant to put straight back into its box.I thought to share a handful of pictures that did make the cut with you – even if GWR suburban tank engines are not your thing, the model can be enjoyed for its own sake.Anyway, it will be here for another week or so before being hauled down to the NEC so I can return it in person to Heljan to save the risk of damage by a careless courier. Will it re-emerge from its box for another airing before it makes the long journey south?

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More Loch Dhu Distillery chaos…

October 31, 2018

Reworking of some areas of my pint-sized Loch Dhu Distillery layout continues. Much of my modelling is experimentation with paints and materials and the results don’t always work for me requiring a little adjustment. I don’t have a list of standard techniques I use for every layout – that would be repetitive and boring. The flip side of that coin is that the need to rework can result from experimentation and this sometimes brings refinement to technique and a better understanding of materials. Despite the chaotic scenes in the distillery yard, only a little change is under way. A little reworking of areas that don’t satisfy does no harm and adds to the knowledge base of techniques and ideas.

I have commented before on how much detail can fit into a few square feet of baseboard. Care is needed not to overcrowd the scene with too much detail though. It has to be relevant – not one of everything out of a catalogue and not too busy.

Despite the apparent mess, this hour or so of work on the paving came together quite well. Once finished, the buildings are plopped back into place (they are removable for repairs and improvements) and the placing of whiskey casks can start. The engine shed remains to be finished – it’s not likely to be big enough for my growing collection of critters though!


Baneservice MZ 1448.

October 27, 2018

Hobby trade has reissued its MZ locomotive recently, including versions in DB and DSB livery. One model I was interested in seeing was No. 1448 ‘Tyr’ finished in Baneservice livery. It’s the first diesel electric loco for this particular collection I have bought so far, having resisted the feature-rich ESU CargoNet Class 66 for now at least (it’s still a Class 66…).

The model is DCC-fitted from new with some great directional lighting. Unlike UK-outline models, the taillights are switched independently of the marker lights on separate function buttons – very easy to do – and not as F0F and F0R with under frame on-off switches. The lights themselves have a good level of illumination – not too bright and the right ‘colour’.

The model has some fine tooling, but lacks truly flush glazing in the cab windows. The glazing is a little prismatic in appearance too. The reinforced cab window frames are not that well represented either. Nonetheless, the model captures the high-cab and chunky structure very well. It looks as if it means business.Fine moulding of grilles is apparent. Detail is reasonably subtle without too-deep lines for doors and seams.The usual features one always expect with a European-developed model including NEM coupling pocket, coupling cam and removable buffers that secures the body to the chassis. Two vertical cab grab rails are not featured on the model.Fan grilles are separate toolings with fan details visible beneath them. Some of the standalone parts could be a little better fitted. Note the slightly irregular ‘Baneservice’ legend on the side of the model. All of the models of No. 1448 ‘Tyr’ I have seen picturs of have this feature. Examinsation of my own images and those on the internet suggest that application of this legend was not always straight. The Baneservice MZ locos carry names including No. 1451 ‘Frøya‘; No. 1454 ‘Balder’; 1458 ‘Skjold’ and No. 1461 ‘Frigg’.In terms of performance, the model was as smooth as silk straight from the box before running-in. Running through hand built HO turnouts and Peco Code 83-Line turnouts was quiet and without any hesitation. It’s a very good model, not quite to the same standard as NMJ Topline EL17s for example, but worth the money nonetheless. My experience with Hobby trade equipment has always been good and ‘Tyr’ no exception.


A new challenge – Rail Express Magazine.

October 17, 2018

The modelling bit…


Well, there was a surprise was in store for me (and I suspect will be for many others) for the latter part of 2018. Not my new hobby which I am yet to mentioned here (and may surprise a few), but being appointed as the new co-ordinator of the modelling pages of ‘Rail Express’ magazine or ‘Rail Express Modeller’. The first issue of REM I will be responsible for will be No. 176 in Rail Express No. 271, the December-dated issue. Paul Bickerdyke will remain Rail Express editor.

Owing to the circumstances behind the editorial change, I will be starting at ‘Ground Zero’ with virtually nothing in the files. However, from the start, I am planning more step-by-step modelling features with emphasis on modelling technique as well as the prototype itself. I am cooking up a new compact layout project too, one for later next year depending on how things go.

One thing I will be seeking is news items relevant to modelling the UK and Irish railway traction scene. Furthermore, I will be looking for good contributors too, in time. For now, the plan is to get my feet well and truly under the editorial desk and make a start. One thing this will do is get me to pull a finger out and get both the Folkestone East rework underway and to finish Dudley Heath! Both layouts will have a role to play from time to time.


So, from now on, Rail Express Modeller will be coming from my small but comprehensively equipped studio on the Moray Firth, two miles east of Nairn in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. A land of big skies, great beer, Aurora Borealis, woods, mountains, fabulous beaches, ScotRail 7-Cities HSTs and The Royal Scotsman. REM will share space with Folkestone East, Loch Dhu Distillery, Wheal Annah and of course the NSB project. It’s going to be a pile of fun!


A little reworking.

October 14, 2018


A little reworking of areas of a layout is not a bad idea to correct features that do not look quite right. Photography helps to identify these spots on what might be considered to be a completed layout. My OO gauge Loch Dhu Distillery micro-layout has a few visual weaknesses identified through the study of digital images. One of them was the over-bridge which carries a lane over the mainline by the exchange siding. It seemed to have span that looked a tad too narrow and one of the support columns was not quite vertical or as well made as the other. As the picture above shows, a little reworking was undertaken to remake the bridge, using as much of the original stonework sections as possible.

The opportunity was taken to make some detail changes to the bridge structure too. The guard railings were lengthened to suit the wide span and now comes the challenge of painting in the stone work to match the unmodified structures.

Having to rework parts of a layout is not a sign of failure but can become a necessity through the emergence of new information, an improved product or idea and of course, as one’s modelling skills develop. Overall, the 10 hours put into this rework has been well worthwhile!


13th August.

August 14, 2018

13th August 1905 was an important day for Norway – it held an independence referendum after a constitutional crisis arose which effectively dissolved the union between Norway and Sweden. Whilst there was some hard negotiating after the vote, Sweden eventually recognised Norway’s independence. 113 years later and Norway is flourishing. There’s another oil-rich nation close by with a similar population size but a less challenging geography which, if the folk could just see it, could also flourish equally as well. All it takes is to get all of the powers of a sovereign independent state to the Scottish parliament at Holyrood and I am sure the people of Scotland would do the rest.


New addition to the Class 47 fleet…

August 7, 2018

Bachmann’s model of No. 47 209 ‘Herbert Austin’ (31-663) is a very useful model for renumbering to other Class 47s in the Railfreight Distribution fleet, featuring a common underframe tank, cab head code box light and boiler port arrangement. Strangely enough, there is a spare Bachmann model of No. 47 365 ‘Diamond Jubilee’ in the collection which has the correct underframe tank and other detail combination to model No. 47 209 in life extended condition, leaving me to renumber and weather the featured No. 47 209 (31-663) to another Class 47 in mid-life condition whilst retaining the nicely applied RfD livery. Both will go into service on my Folkestone East layout. The rolling road seen in the first picture is an excellent KPF Zeller product distributed in the UK by Ten Commandments Models.