More N gauge Class 67s from Dapol…

July 28, 2009

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A very nicely presented pack with EWS executive silver 67 029 and DVT No. 82146 will be available in N gauge by the end of August. Here’s a couple of shots of the pair to whet the appetite together with a couple of pictures of ‘Royal’ 67 006, also available soon.New-Out997_996
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The nameplates and crests supplied as separate etchings to complete 67 006 are beautifully done. They were fitted to the model with matt varnish – Vallejo matt acrylic varnish is a close match to the Dapol factory finish.
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Etched nameplates are supplied with 67 029 too, should the post 2007 condition be desired. I have not fitted them to the model shown above. Bufferbeam detailing is supplied and shown fitted to 67 029 (above) which includes some very fine air brake hoses.

New-Out988_987In all, exciting developments from Dapol and to a very high standard indeed – they will be popular. Now, there is a small matter of there not being a decent 4mm scale model currently available. Any takers for a hi fidelity attempt with a decent drive?


Posing for the camera

July 25, 2009

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It’s raining, so we don’t want to fly today…


Swallows fledge…

July 24, 2009

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One of the nesting successes here this year has been the brood of swallows (family Hirundinidae) born in our wood shed. They love outbuildings like this and this is the first nest we have had since moving here exactly five years ago.  The nest is secure from our cats which have had  a dose of swallow mobbing to contend with. That won’t do them any harm.

I  sneaked quietly into the wood shed shortly before they fledged to grab a couple of pictures – I will confess to being no wild life photographer and I did not wish to disturb the young – hence the slightly fuzzy shots. They were alert and ready to fly when these pictures were taken. A day later and out they went, enjoying the warn sunshine. There are four young in total, a bit of s squeeze in that nest to which they return to from time to time.

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I hope this success together with the really good supply of insects this year will encourage the nesting pair to return again next year. In the meantime, we keep our distance, monitor carefully and protect the nest as best we can. It will be left in situ throughout the winter as swallows do resuse their old nesting sites.  In the meantime, our winter supply of firewood is sitting outside getting wet instead of being stacked to dry in the wood shed! There is no way we could do any stacking whilst that nest was active and piles of firewood would put the nest at risk from predators. For more information, visit the RSPB web site at which has useful information on the legal status of swallows, how to encourage them to nest and how to rescue a broken nest should the unthinkable happen.


Static grass again!

July 14, 2009

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My first attempt at using static grass together with the Noch applicator brought mixed results: the stuff looked great, the fibres all stood up nicely and the method of application was quick, an important point with my large US outline N scale layout to consider. What I did which appeared to be wrong was to use fibres that were too long for an attempt at a late winter scene on Dudley Heath Yard,  my EM gauge portable exhibition layout. I chose the wrong colours and applied the grass fibres way too heavily in an effort to achieve a good colour, effectively masking out the ground contours. The yard area of the layout is being finished to provide a photo stage for my next book on wagons to be published by Warner’s Group Publications. The photograph above is a sneak preview of the photography being prepared for the book and shows my second go at static grass.

I cleaned off the first attempt with a broad filler knife before trying again. This time, I chose Silflor ‘Late Fall’ grass fibres at 2mm in length. If I need additional depth of grass, I could apply a second swathe of fibre onto the first application, making the process much more flexible than using longer fibres. The first application was made with the Late Fall colour which is a nice dry grass colour with a trace of faded green in it. Still not right for dry winter grass; so I added a drift of Late Fall mixed 60:40 with Woodland Scenics ‘Wild Honey’. I have learned that not all grass is dry and brown in winter, some green does peak through in places. I sprinkled small patches of light green to break up the uniform appearance of the grass whilst the glue was still wet. This created some highlights which proved to be very effective. Here’s the process…

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A glue and ground colour paint mix was applied to the bare landscape surface. The glue could be PVA adhesive or even Matt Medium which was used in this demo shot. The colours used in the glue mix will depend on your terrain.

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Quickly, before the paint/glue mix dries, lay paper towels over those areas you do not want grass fibres to go such as buildings, track and previously applied scenery.

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Press the grounding pin into the wet surface (blue arrow), switch the applicator on and watch the fibres fall out with a ticking sound.They stand up with the static as the applicator is waved over the area being treated. Don’t over do it; as I have learned, less can be more! The excess can be collected and returned to the packet, especially that caught on the paper towel.

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A second application can be made to lengthen the grass if required and to change the colour mix too to introduce some variation I have successfully use dilute matt medium and firm hold hairspray to glue the second layer of fibres in place. Don’t use an aerosol hairspray but choose the pump action bottles instead for greater control. The picture above shows the sprinkling of a tiny amount of light green onto the wet matt medium following a second light application of fibres. This kills the unwanted colour uniformity of grass which can look a little unnatural. When it’s all dry, I introduced long grass fibres by hand to represent longer but dead weeds and grass together with dark brown spikes to represent dead dock weed. A further spray of hair spray or dilute matt medium will secure any loose material. Matt medium will matt down the rest of the scenery too, which is fine, whereas hairspray may leave a shiny trace. So when using the latter, protect those areas which would be otherwise spoiled by a shiny finish such as road ways.

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The grass attempt in the picture above looks far better than my first attempt (below) where the green turned out to be more late summer and the grass was too heavy and thick. Above, the colour is more subtly of dried grass with a hint of dark green at the margins from short grasses and mosses.

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Kingmoor blue day…

July 12, 2009

…in more ways than one! Despite the ridiculously inaccurate weather forecast by the Met Office, which predicted heavy rain for the DRS open day (Saturday 11th July), the sun decided to shine on DRS’s efforts and blue sky greeted an impressive parade of blue diesels in what was a low key, relaxed and beautifully organised event. The cutting of a ribbon at the depot gates signalled the opening at ten o’clock and in the lucky ticket holders went, to what proved to be an open day with a difference. The following is a fraction of the pictures I snapped. Clean diesels in an immaculate environment together with summer blue skies…a great combination.

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DRS maintains its Kingmoor facility to a high standard – no litter, everything clean and neat. Even the shed has clean painted floors…no oil spills, nothing.

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The event had the good old staples of open days: the naming of a couple of locos, locos on jacks to show how the lifting gear works and cab visits too. None the worse for that and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

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It’s good to see that not all operating companies apply purely commercial names to its locos. 37 423 was name ‘Spirit of the Lakes’. A very Cumbrian thing, I am sure.

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Most of the locomotives were cordoned off in the yard which on first inspection appeared as if it would hinder photography, just a little. As the sun moved round and DRS staff ran locomotives up to the yard gates and back, parading them for the cameras, the advantage of this approach became apparent. As things were moved around, the displays became dynamic as a result, offering different angles and displays, and no one got in the way of photographers. And…DRS was able to comply with safety requirements too.

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Colas Rail’s 47 739 was the only splash of different colour in a sea of blue. It runs slowly to the yard gate to the delight of photographers. Each time locos were moved up like this, they were left for a short time so everyone got a chance of a shot. I guess a lot of us all got the same angle, pose etc. But that did not matter – we all had fun by the looks of it.

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More blue against a summer blue sky – open days generally result in the majority of images being three quarters roster shots like this one. They are really useful for modelling reference pictures. The rain stayed away even throughout the afternoon, thankfully. It began to creep across after the event was over and heavy rain resulted Saturday night and into Sunday. As an aside, here in Nairn, the first proper spell of rain for months fell today (12th July)…if that had happened yesterday in Carlisle…

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Celebrity DRS Class 66s, ‘Eddie the Engine’ and ‘James the Engine’ in Stobart Rail colours were both on hand too. What DRS open day would be complete without them? That Class 37/0 is also a remarkable survivor.

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Back in the shed to get out of the hot sun which was beginning to burn.

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A lovely variety of classes were in attendance including Class 37s of various sub classes, Class 20s, Class 47s, Class 57s and Class 66s. Some former Class 50 thingy was there too…

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Fresh after its naming: 47 593.

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At the back of the shed…37 510 and another Class 57.

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Many thanks to DRS for putting on such an enjoyable event – I never forget that companies like DRS don’t have to do this, with all of the work disruption it can cause. All proceeds were destined for Cumbrian charities (there was no entrance fee, only a charitable donation request) and I hope DRS raised a bundle. We are still waiting on DB Schenker (EWS) and Freightliner to announce an open day of some description. How long it will be before one of them stages something along the lines of the DRS event? “Don’t hold your breath,” I hear you cry!


It was warm in Nairn too, this summer…

July 7, 2009

For some strange reason, some people in the hobby that ‘claim’ to know me think that a move to the Scottish Highlands is like moving to the North Pole. This occurred again this week. I received an email from a bod who commiserated with me at not being in a position to enjoy the hot weather experienced in the south of Britain over the last few weeks. I read that particular bit of stupidity as our weather station sensors, particularly the north facing ones were reading 28 degrees Centigrade…

Now, things across the UK have cooled down a little over the last few days; but generally, Nairn and the west end of the Moray Firth enjoys a fairly unique climate (ask the RAF at Kinloss) and many parts of the West Coast experience such mild conditions that frost tender plants and palm trees are commonplace in gardens. Why does this interest me enough to hit my blog, you may be wondering?

Railway modelling is not my primary and all-consuming interest. I cycle, do a lot of hill walking and…I love gardening. No garden railway for me but a big project to restore a two acre woodland garden located about 200 metres from the east beach in Nairn. Sarah and I are five years into the project now and our philosophy is simple: use minimal chemicals or avoid them altogether, encourage wild life, plant for insects and bees and encourage birds. This has had a fundamental impact on the choice of plants and how we look after the wilder parts of the garden. No designer hybrids here, nor decking and fancy foliage planting which do nothing for the bee population.

The garden is in a very dry location, on light sandy soil which is free draining and roughly neutral in pH. No chance of  growing the Scottish Highlands staples such as rhododendrons, azaleas, Meconopsis and other acid-loving plants. The dry, mild and sometimes warm climate here is more akin to cooler, drier and higher parts of the Vaucluse or Drome area of the South of France, certainly at times, although the summer season is so much shorter.  We have dry cold winters, warm dry summers and the climate is perfect for soft fruit growing, vegetables and my all-time favourite plant: Lavender. In fact, it grows like a weed here… We could grow grapes under glass with ease but outside….the longer although dry and cold winters would prevent this. On a note of reality, drive five miles inland and this unique coastal strip climate gives way to more typical Scottish upland weather where growing things like garlic and Lavender becomes nigh impossible. Still, on the coastal strip between Dalcross and Forres, garlic, carrots, soft fruit and other more interesting crops are grown commercially and the beaches of Nairn are usually well populated in summer.

IMG_8012This is Lavande Vraie (the packet says ‘Plante vivace pour massifs!); bought as seed from a garden centre near Avignon, propagated in the green house here in Nairn and thriving, much to the delight of our bee population.

IMG_8047These guys like it a lot! Plants like Lavender (we grow many different types of English and French Lavender and other beneficial plants) are vital for our bee population, both bumble bees and honey bees; both of which nest in the garden.

IMG_8031Butterflies like it too. We are keen to provide for our insects given they are so vital to the pollination of fruits and flowers. Yet I never fail to be amazed at how people regard vital pollinating insects and those that are great natural predators in the garden as undesirable. We frequently hear of people asking about pesticides for killing hover flies, bees and other harmless and beneficial insects because they have some fear of being stung, or because of their children being stung or because they know not that most insects are harmless. Bees are not going to harm you if you keep out of their way…nor do wasps…and you should not kill them, not at all. We should educate our kids that such insects are so important to us. A result of the encouraging insects is that we have swallows nesting in our wood shed for the first time since moving in, and bats turned up last summer.

IMG_7971This small wasp’s nest is situated 15 feet from the kitchen window… Yup, that may seem wierd and a little scary. Nonetheless, they have as much right to live here as we do. This colony consist of smaller wasps which like to strip green fly from plants as a food source, bringing a nmuch needed benefit to our garden. They don’t bother us and we leave them to it. Like any bee or wasp colony, avoid getting into flight paths and don’t disturb the nest itself.

IMG_7982It’s a shame that most peoples’ instinct would be to destroy such an amazing structure! Give it a few months and it will be abandoned as Autumn sets in and cooler weather returns. Those built in our porch in recent years have not caused us any harm at all.

IMG_8004Onions and garlic grow well in our mild conditions. We pulled our garlic and Japanese onions a few days ago. They were planted last Autumn to over-winter in the garden, providing an early crop whilst the summer onions and shallots are still growing.

IMG_7984Soft fruit…black currents. We also grow blue berries, raspberries, honey berries together with red and white currants – all outside. We plan to plant an asparagus bed this autumn.

IMG_7989Globe courgettes…usually over run by them. And cucumbers…

IMG_8009Also enjoying the first of the potato crop. We plant varieties such as Rocket, Sharps Express and Catriona. Lovely!

IMG_8016Good quality compost is vital to a garden like ours; being used to condition the sandy soil, as a weed suppressant and to lock in what little rain we get from time to time. A two acre garden gobbles up a lot of compost. This 10 ton lot is bought from a local company that deals with green wast from recycling centres. It’s heated to around 65 degrees centigrade to kill weed seeds and then used on farm land and sold to gardeners for a nominal amount.Whist it is superb compost, the amount of plastic waste in it is surprising. And that is down to people who cannot be bothered to take more care when recycling green waste; throwing bin liners of green waste in the skips instead of emptying them and recycling the plastic separately.

Anyway, that’s a brief glimpse of the gardening activity here in our little corner of Nairn and the climate we enjoy here. Well, the sun is breaking through again – off to have breakfast – in the garden!


Released at the end of July 2009: The Dapol Class 67.

July 3, 2009

New-Out990_989And a very fine looking beast it is too. Yes, that is British outline N gauge (1:148 scale, 9mm gauge) and based on this model, together with its other recent releases, it’s clear that Dapol is pushing the British N gauge modelling envelope quite hard. In fact, this area of the British hobby will be consistently on par with the top-of-the-range stuff I buy from the US…before too long. Graham Farish has the problem of updating its older range, so is in that awkward position of equally good new models rubbing shoulders with older items in the catalogue which simply do not past muster by modern standards. Dapol is more fortunate by having a fresh start and introducing some fab standards and technological advances from the start.New-Out992_991

There’s much fine detail, some very nice tooling and standalone parts for windscreen wipers, grilles, brake discs on the wheels and so on.New-Out996_995

Roof detail is good – the angles appear to be right on first inspection. Overall, the proportions are nicely modelled.New-Out994_993

Here’s the pair of EWS models. 67 027 is supplied with etched nameplates and instructions on how to fit them. The specification is now becoming familiar: All wheel drive, 6-pin DCC interface, 5-pole motor driving all wheels through flexible shafts and gear towers, easy maintenance bogies, LED lighting, coupling pockets, alternative coupling options, flush glazing, etched detail…it’s going to be popular.New-Out999_997

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After a light oiling as recommended in the instructions supplied by Dapol together with a gentle breaking in on a rolling road; the Class 67s were commissioned and placed on the layout for running trials. To run on my Atlas code 55 track, I regauged the wheels to NMRA standards, just a slight adjustment of a fraction of a millimetre. The models look good – I hope the pictures will help you make up your own minds.

My thanks to David Jones of Dapol for the chance to view of the models.