Test running the Class 310/1.

November 23, 2016


The tricky business of converting old Graham Farish Mark 2 coaches into a Class 310 EMU has reached the testing stage. The model is being built using Electra Railway Graphics self-adhesive overlays onto heavily modified clear-sided Mark 2 coach bodies. The result, I hope, will be a respectable representation of a 3-car Regional Railways Class 310/1 (No. 310106) which was a common sight in the West Midlands at one time and a signature model for the layout.

The conversion is not the easiest one I have done in N gauge so far – the 3D printed cabs being far from satisfactory and having a distinctly grainy texture to them which is not simple to remove. In fact, the printed material is so hard, wet and dry paper struggled to smooth the grittiness down to any degree. On reflection, scratch building from styrene card may have produced a better result. Weeks after completing the main part of the conversion, the unit is finally being tested on the layout with bar couplings and new gangways designed to close up the gap between the coaches. As you can see, I was far from happy with the join between the cab roof and the main roof moulding. Considerably more finishing work (and patience) was put into making this area of the model as satisfactory as possible together with a final coat of dark grey paint for the roof.


Class 310 copy

Having filed the cab ends to more or less the right shape, re-profiled the cab windows and removed the bowed ends from the Mark 2 coach body moulding, replacing them with a flat suburban stock end with the gangway extension unique to Class 310 and Class 312 EMUs, the model was relatively simple to finish with the vinyl sides. The centre coach has  pantograph well cut in it, fitted with insulators cut from 10BA brass screws and a Dapol ‘pan’. Cab painting was made awkward by the coarse printed texture, making smooth clean lines difficult to achieve.

The model will be more or less complete for an outing to the Falkirk exhibition this weekend, together with the Class 90 I have been working on recently. No. 90 033 requires a little more finishing to the roof, pantograph well and to disguise that Digitrax DZ126 decoder which can be seen through the cab windows! Despite the challenges and sometimes frustrations of working on older N gauge models, both are a welcome additions to the 25kV fleet. A Class 323 is the next EMU project – also a signature EMU for the West Midlands area.

OHLE spare Class 86

Dudley Heath will be attending the Falkirk MRC model railway exhibition this weekend (26th and 27th November 2016) being held at the Forth Valley College in Falkirk. Electric stock will be featured including Dapol Class 86s.

The Falkirk exhibition is the last major show in the Scottish exhibition circuit calendar and is held annually at the Forth Valley College in Grangemouth Road, Falkirk, FK2 9AD. It’s usually quite an event; much more laid back than a certain other model railway show being staged this weekend at the NEC and a lot of fun.



Project update: 150002 and 90 033.

October 3, 2016

90033-1Having completed the OHLE gantries on Dudley Heath, the push to prepare more electric stock has started with a Class 310 (AM10) No. 310106 and a Class 90. The Class 90, based on the venerable Graham Farish model has reached the paint shop already and may be completed in time for the Aberdeen Model Railway Club exhibition at the end of the month. It is to be finished as 90 033 in June 2004 condition wearing Railfreight Distribution international livery as seen below.


Note the lack of a fairing at the pantograph end of the loco (nearest the camera). The model will have full detailing of the buffer beam at the end equipped with the fairing and a coupling at the non-fairing end.

Next up: Class 150/0 No. 150002…

150002-2150002-1I very much doubt that the second of the prototype Class 150/0s will be finished in time for the Aberdeen show. Vehicles No.s 55201 and 55301 are now equipped with the former Class 154 roof mounted air-con vents, a feature which was not applied to the centre car. The driving cab doors have been changed from inward slam doors to a representation of power doors. The hand rail recess es are now filled and finished with wet and dry paper. Note that the original roof vents have been removed.

15002-3Remedial work on the centre car No. 55401 has been completed. After the cut and shut stage of the project, the body was undercoated in rail grey to reveal any faults in the area where the two body sections had been joined. As always, some further work was required (see above) to make the join as seamless as humanly possible – not easy with all those roof ribs! It has since returned to the paint booth for a second undercoat of rail grey and the additional finishing appears to be much better. Once that undercoat has fully dried in the next couple of days, the first livery colour will be applied.


In the meantime, No. 90 033 has passed through the paint booth for warning panel yellow. RfD international blue and slate grey are next! More on the Class 310 soon.

Modelling Class 150/0 No. 150002

August 26, 2016

150002_3 copy

Dudley Heath, the N gauge portable layout I built a couple of years’ ago (and still working on) needs a number of ‘signature’ trains to help reinforce the look and feel of a West Midlands location. Class 150s (Graham Farish) are part of a programme of stock construction/conversion which will include further Class 150s of various kinds in Centro livery, at least one Class 323 and a Class 310, a project which has was started last month.

The layout has two exhibitions to attend later this year: Aberdeen on October 29/30 and Falkirk on November 26/27. For that, I hope to complete the aforementioned Class 310 and two more Class 150s: 150002 (to go along side my current model of prototype Class 150/0 No. 150001) together with 150012, a Class 150/1 and 150/2 hybrid unit.

A Class 150/0 unit was introduced to the layout in mid 2014. The centre car was built from two spare bodies and one unpowered underframe using cut and shut modelling technique.

A model of one of the two prototype Class 150/0 units, No. 150001, was introduced to the layout in mid 2014. The centre car was built from two spare bodies and one unpowered underframe using cut and shut modelling techniques.

One of the challenges of modelling the second of the two prototype Class 150s is determining the size and position of the air-con units fitted to the roof of this unit when it was temporarily converted to a Class 154 – the test bed for the Class 158 programme.


150002_1 copy

The centre car of No. 150002 which was not externally modified, unlike the two driving cars. The spare body shell I acquired for this project had already been stripped by its previous owner.

Work starts on the cut and shut conversion of the centre car which can be completed using a second Graham Farish Class 150/1 – the un-needed toilet compartment must be converted to a normal passenger bay if using two Class 150 models as a basis for the conversion and remember, one of them has to be a Class 150/1! I was fortunate enough to find a spare body shell from a Class 150/1 without the toilet compartment making the centre car conversion easier than last time.

The join between the two body sections is made along the door line of one of the passenger entry door ways. There are several ways of cutting out the cab section of the donor vehicles to make the centre car. However, I prefer a straight cut across the body, just outside the cut line and file back to make the join. It is not as scary as it first appears!

150002_10 copy

150002_2 copy

The portion of the body to the left is discarded.


150002 copy

The join between the two inner end sections has to be filed back and carefully joined with the minimum of filler.

Filing the cut line so the body sections make a clean join takes time and care. When undertaking cut and shut conversions, the join must be totally square and true all round to avoid a new body shell. It is a three-dimensional object with the potential for a problem along three planes: a kink along its length which will show when viewed along the roof ribs; a twist at the join where the two sections are twisted relative to each other or a bow when viewed from the side. Any of these faults will prevent the underframe from fitting the model neatly.

150002_8 copy

Careful filing is needed for a clean join. Unlike my last Class 150/0 project, I had sufficient spare bodies to use two non-toilet compartment cars for the conversion, saving a great deal of time in not having to cut a new large window and removal of the toilet compartment roof hatch detail.

150002_9 copy

Tidying up…


Test formation of 150002 with the converted centre car. The outer vehicles are as yet unmodified Graham Farish Class 150/1 model.

150002_6 copy

Cab doors are changed from inward slam doors as fitted to Class 150/1s to a representation of the sliding power doors as fitted to Class 150/2s and the two prototypes.

With the roof vents fitted to the two outer driving cars, the body shells were cleaned up ready for a trip to the paint shop. Centro livery is one that I have painted before on two Class 150s already operational on the layout:

Centro Class 150 paint

In-progress picture of 150123, completed in 2014.

Class 150 complete 1

150001 during a test run on ‘Wheal Annah’ after being assembled following painting and finishing.

I know some modellers will say that I could use a centre car from a new Graham Farish Class 319 (shares same multiple unit body shell profile) for the Class 150/0 centre car when the 4-car dual voltage EMU is released at some point in the future. However, the likely cost of that model together with the difficulty of using the remaining trailers makes Class 150 cut and shut conversion with two Class 150 sets more economical. Also, one of the centre cars of the Class 319 will be a pantograph vehicle with an unusable roof as far as Class 150s are concerned. In the meantime, it’s a trip to the paint shop for No. 150002!


Class 150/0 prototype units (1984): 150001 and 150002.

Class 150/1 2-car production units (1985-6): 150101 – 150150.

Class 150/2 cab-gangwayed production units (1986-7): 150201 – 150285.

Class 150/0 hybrid 3-car sets made up of a Class 150/1 and a single Class 150/2 vehicle as a centre car: 150010-017.

Class 154: The temporary conversion of 150002 as a test bed for Class 158 development in 1986.

Trans-Pennine Express Class 350/4 in N gauge.

March 28, 2016

Class 350-4-21

Fancy having a go at a really complex livery? How does the dazzling First Group colours as applied to the Trans-Pennine Express Class 350/4s (Siemens Desiro) grab you? Insane? You bet!

Class 350-4-20

I cheated a little – well, rather a lot when it came to it. Electra Railway Graphics produces great-looking printed self-adhesive vinyl overlays for many ready to run N gauge models. A set is available to redress the Bachmann Graham Farish Class 350/1 model into a TPE Class 350/4 and they do the job very nicely and with minimal repainting. None if you really don’t want to wield a paint brush, not even for the scantiest of touching up or underframe weathering.

Class 350-4-25

The base model is the fine-looking Graham Farish Class 350/1 as seen in the front of the picture above. The plain grey unbranded ‘Silverlink’ version is generally regarded as the best choice for this conversion. OO gauge modellers can complete the same conversion using Electra Railway Graphics overlays for the Bachmann Branchline Class 350/1 model.

Class 350-4-27

The overlays can be applied straight over the top of the model’s sides without having to remove glazing or make any other modifications – window glazing is part of the vinyls and intended to overlay the original glazing. However, putting a little extra effort into the project lifts it to another level. The glazing inserts were removed from the model and placed safely in a project box so not to loose any before starting the conversion. I spent some work bench time time painting the tumblehome on the underframe mouldings dark grey. The windows in the vinyl sides were cut in through the body shell after vinyl application.

Class 350-4-28

Once the side and end overlays were completed, they were touched in with dark grey and blue paint where necessary. The sides were sealed in place with Johnsons ‘Klear’ liquid floor wax. When the body shells were completely dry, they were coated with satin varnish to kill the vinyl shine.

Class 350-4-24

Weathering the underframes and replacing the Graham Farish pantograph with a Dapol version of the Brecknell Willis ‘pan’ completed the model. Having given the satin varnish a number of days to dry, the glazing was reinstated and secured with sparing amounts of liquid poly cement.

The finished model is numbered 350404, representing one of the ten-strong fleet of TPE units which work between Manchester Airport, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley via the West Coast Main Line.

Class 350-4-22

In reality, as much as I like the units and enjoyed the conversion, TPE Class 350/4s are not suitable for Dudley Heath – they do not run through the West Midlands and also sit outside my operating timefrme. However, it was a livery conversion I wanted to attempt using the printed vinyl overlay technique – I frequently see the units on my rail fanning trips down to the Central Belt. In the meantime, the unmodified Class 350/1 featured in these pictures will continue to operate crew training runs and mileage accumulation diagrams on Dudley Heath representing the most up-to-date time that represented on the layout. It has a new ‘pan’ and modifications to the couplings to allow tight close coupling within the unit. Some detailing will follow, including adding couplings and other fittings to the front of the unit’s DMOS vehicles.

Now that 25kV AC OHLE is represented by portals and masts on the layout, what will be my next EMU project? Something more appropriate to the West Midlands circa year 2000. A clue: older style of Graham Farish Mark 2 coaches are being gathered together for the project…

Dudley Heath OHLE update…

February 25, 2016
OHLE Class 350

The Graham Farish Class 350 is a particular favourite of mine and this model of an unbranded one (No. 350111) makes a training run every now and again during an operation session. This scene shows a main line scene with space for the models to be seen but in a layout which is only 260cm in length and 90cm wide.

A long term project to equip my N gauge ‘Dudley Heath’ (DH) with 1960s West Coast Main Line Mark-1 series OHLE is finally coming to a conclusion. It has been eight months since the project was started and the first portals were dropped into place in time for last years’ Perth show. Each portal has turned into a detailed model in its own right and a single portal can take several hours to complete depending on its complexity.

The long and complex portals over the double junction are nearing completion and those on the opposite scene to the one above are being further detailed (DH is a double-sided layout with scenes on both sides of its long axis).

OHLE Class 86 plus vans

A Dapol Class 86, No. 86 261 passes over the double junction which is one of the features of my Dudley Heath layout. The portal nearest the camera is still being constructed at the time this shot was taken. The Class 86 is set to become No. 86 401 in due course – a renumbering and partial repainting project.

The portal etchings for Mark 1-series OHLE are produced in N and OO gauge by N-Brass Locos which offers a wide range of portals, masts and fittings for this type of electrification. They can be built as they come or extensively modified as appropriate. The double junction above took a little working out and the portal shown remains to be detailed with the rest of the isolation gear for the diverging line. I used a lot of digital images to help me install the portals as level and upright as humanly possible. What the eye misses, the camera does not and a few of them turned out to need adjustment after pictures were closely examined.

OHLE spare Class 86

I love the Dapol Class 86 model and being able to operate them on DH at last is great – electrification is an added dimension to the layout. Once the OHLE portals are all fitted, some tidying up will be needed and some areas of the layout further detailed. Whilst I am keen not to crowd the layout with too much detail, a little more in the yard and in some other areas is needed. otherwise, I like the minimalist appearance of the layout where the emphasis is on operations.

Another project to start this spring involves the intermodal service as seen in the picture above. I wish to replace many of the stock Graham Farish 45-foot containers that came with the intermodal twin wagons and replace them with a mix of different boxes and tank-tainers to vary things up a little – with due regard to the era in which certain intermodal units were operated. I also have an MOD service in mind with KFA flats, VGA vans, C-Rail MOD containers and a couple of other wagons to make up something a little different.


I have a little work to do on the traction front including the renumbering of the Dapol Class 86 model of No. 86 261 to No. 86 401 together with weathering to match the condition of the full-size loco shown in 2002 condition in the picture above.

Electrification has opened up opportunities to model EMUs such as a Class 310 or 312 together with a more modern Class 322. They were signature trains of the West Midlands and operated local passenger services over the Grand Junction Railway, the line through the Black Country on which the DH layout theme is based.

Hopefully, some of these projects will be completed in time for the Glenrothes Model Railway Exhibition 2016 (14th and 15th May) to which DH has been invited. An invitation has also been received for the Falkirk MRC later in 2016. Lot’s to do!

Organising multiple unit operation

October 13, 2014

Whilst contemplating which OHLE gantries would suit Dudley Heath (an expensive project), I decided to get to grips with organising the diesel multiple unit fleet. One train formation I had in mind was a ‘London Midland City’ three-car Class 153 and Class 170 combination as used on the Birmingham New Street – Rugeley service. It involved several sets of Micro-Trains couplings; a Dapol Class 153 and a Graham Farish Class 170. The new formation took to the rails recently after ballasting the unpowered and rather light weight Class 170 car and programming the decoders so the two units would run smoothly together.

Class 153-170

The other end of the formation with the two-car Class 170/5 leading in the Birmingham direction.

Class 150001-junction

In the meantime, test running of the recently assembled Class 150/0 continues, with reliability much improved after some adjustments, particularly when the powered vehicle is propelling the unpowered ones. A second Class 150, a two-car Class 150/1 is currently being painted in Centro colours so local services on the layout can be strengthened. When the OHLE gantries are in place, I have to take a serious look at modelling an accurate Class 323 EMU.

GBRf trio…

October 31, 2012

Dapol has added another printed special to its catalogue of GBRf Class 66s: No.66 709, featuring an Medite Shipping Company (MSC) promotional livery. The locomotive was named ‘Sorrento’ in April this year to commemorate a 10 year relationship with MSC.

The quality of livery detail printing has come a long way in recent times and Dapol is taking full advantage of it to offer some very nicely presented models. The child’s graphic or ‘Night & Day’ livery applied to No. 66 720 was particularly striking!

The image of a cargo ship loaded with MSC containers against a blue back ground is a little less lurid that the livery applied to 66 720, but striking, nonetheless. Given the detail in the full size graphic, it has translated to N gauge pretty well. Etched name plates are fitted too.

The model ran well on Dudley Heath following a spot of lubrication. It features fully working lights and in Dapol’s usual style, there was no light leakage into the cab. It’s a fine addition to the GBRf stable of Class 66s. I hope when Dapol releases its OO gauge Class 73, it will include some GBRf liveries in the range.