Quietly getting on with some modelling…

April 8, 2014

Wheal Annah-1
‘Wheal Annah’ is a quickie N gauge layout project constructed as relief to working on my large layout projects. The layout theme is based on Cornish china clay operations on a down-at-heel branch line, inspired by the Carbis branch. Built as a shunting layout, it is compact with the senic part only 40 inches in length. Costs are kept to a minimum by utilising one base board frame, wire and other materials recovered from old layouts. The track is Peco Code 55 and and the turnouts were bought second hand. For good shunting operations, Electrofrog turnouts are used with a simple modification to improve their reliability with DCC power.

Wheal Annah-4
Here’s the frame – recovered from my abandoned EM gauge Dudley Heath Yard project and repaired, strengthened and ready for its new role. Given the rising cost of even poor quality timber and plywood, saving solid and stable baseboard frames is a good idea! Avoid using glue when fitting a new top to the frames. Use only screws which should help with removing tops without damaging the frames when a layout finally meets its end.

Wheal Annah-5
A small shelf to one end provides a safe place for the control equipment. The other end used the fiddle stick borrowed from my more successful N gauge Dudley Heath layout.

Wheal Annah-3
To date, the track is in, hard standing and ballast in place and initial testing complete. The building mock-ups are taped together from old shoe boxes. Point control is ‘wire in tube and the operation will be ‘one engine in steam’. The old platform is likely to be modelled in abandoned condition with the occasional staff or inspection train consisting of the Class 122 making a run up the branch.

Wheal Annah-2
Looking towards the end of the branch and more cardboard building mock-ups. The clay works buildings are angled in relation to the back drop for greater visual interest. The branch line also angles across the baseboard to provide a little more room for the passing loop. The layout will have two operating eras: BR Sectorisation and Pre-1980s. It seems the the Kernow Model Rail Centre special edition clay hoods have come along at just the right time!


Inverness Show this weekend…

September 6, 2013


Dudley Heath will be making a rare outing at the Inverness show this weekend – a weekend of playing trains for the pleasure of it! The show is held at the Mercure Hotel in the centre of Inverness, two minutes walk in a straight line more or less from the front of the station. The exhibition is open on Saturday (10 to 5) and Sunday (10 to 4).


There was the usual show preparation to do: Track cleaning and conditioning, wheel cleaning and maintenance jobs on locomotives and rolling stock. The rails are treated with Rail-Zip2 the night before the layout travels to the show. Rail-Zip2 conditions the rails preventing excessive arcing between wheels and rails, reducing tarnish and dirt build-up. It lasts long enough for a two-day show which (hopefully) removes the need to clean the track during operations.


Testing was completed following the layout’s relatively long period in storage – it has not been out since its outing to Peterborough last Autumn. The OHLE is yet to be ordered, built up and installed, so uncluttered photographic views like the one above are still possible to take. The down side is that the GF Class 350 and Dapol Class 86s remain to enter service.

N Gauge Class 22.

May 18, 2013


Class 22 image 1Western Region modellers are going to love this one – a small loco in a small scale which will inspire a few layouts, I am sure. Despite the long held view that minority loco classes would not make it to main stream modelling, manufacturers have broken into this field and are now offering some very attractive models of unusual prototypes. For N gauge, the Class 22 breaks new ground and Dapol has done a pretty good job of it too.Class 22 image 2It is a small Bo-Bo type locomotive which will suit anything from large layout themes based on WR main line action to sleepy west country branch lines.Class 22 image 5Features include wire hand rails, etched grilles applied to the body sides and flush glazing.Class 22 image 4The  off-set roof radiator grille characteristic of the Class 22 is faithfully represented.Class 22 image 3The face of what turned out to be a smooth running and powerful little model.Class 22-image 6

Class 22 image 8Spoked wheels are fitted and the spokes are individually represented. remember when it was considered impossible to produce spoked loco wheels (steam and diesel) for N gauge which were see-through? All four axles are powered.Class 22 image 7The technical specifications are up to the usual Dapol N gauge standard. A five pole slow speed motor is fitted which drives both bogies though the now standard drive shafts. Brass flywheels ensure that the model has some momentum too. Electronics include running lights and a 6-pin DCC socket. The body simply pulls off (no connecting wires to the chassis) to reveal a die cast chassis which brings the model’s weight in at around 75g. Test running proved to be very satisfactory, with no light leakage into the cab and smooth controllable running. In all, a very smart model of an unusual prototype!

Overcoming analysis paralysis…

May 9, 2013

There was a block on the completion of my Montana Rail Link 4th Sub layout which occupies the lower and middle deck of my home based, never to go to shows, layout. I really, really was not keen on any sort of bridge across the entrance doors to the cabin – it was an absolute ‘Given’ in my planning that there should be no bridge. This, combined with a determined bit of bloody-mindedness over the inclusion of a trestle on the 4th Sub line resulted in a struggle with the final bit of track planning, holding up the middle deck of the layout.

10th sub-6

In the end, I looked at the possibility of using aluminium angle to create a rigid and stable removable bridge across the doors to the cabin. The experiment worked and thus a route for the secondary 10th Sub line could be included in the plan, resolving several track planning dilemmas. Also, this move clarifies where the west end staging yard (Sandpoint) will be located.

10th sub-5

Some care was needed to ensure good alignment at each end of the lift out bridge. This allows a single track line to run round the opposite side of the room from the main line (4th Sub route) and allows the junction with the 4th Sub at Paradise to be modelled.

10th sub-4

10th sub-3

10th sub-2

With that planning change, work could commence on the building of the baseboards, inserting the spline track bed and preparing for track laying. The layout is based on shelf layout principles and the boards above are only 10 inches wide, minimising impact on the room but increasing operating potential of the layout.

10th sub-8

The picture above shows a view of testing work on the new door bridge using temporary wiring before completing the back drop and fascia. A switch to prevent trains entering the bridge zone will be installed to prevent accidents!

10th sub-7

The door bridge project turned out to be more successful than I had hoped. I can now make further changes – installing a Pratt through truss bridge (4 spans) on this stretch of 10th Sub line to cross the Flat Head River and a similar truss bridge on the main line close to Paradise Yard. This fills my bridge building urges and means the originally planned trestle can be dropped. At last, the over-thinking (or analysis paralysis) is over and practical work on the layout has recommenced – and all resolved by adopting a more flexible approach.

Layout photography

January 19, 2013

As you might imagine, the various layout projects I am building are photographed on a fairly regular basis. A project for the Bachmann Collectors Club Magazine sees ‘Dudley Heath’ under the spots once again…an excuse to run trains too. Two Class 150s pass each other on the main line. They are straight-from-the-box Graham Farish. I have plans to buy a couple more and introduce some of the variations (together with Centro livery) that existed in the Central Trains Class 150 fleet.

Dudley Heath 150s

From time to time , I have opportunity to photograph something really special. ‘Rhyd’ by David John is one such example: Narrow gauge inspired by the Ffestiniog Railway and built using many of the layout design concepts floated by Iain Rice over the years. Rhyd is 2ft narrow gauge modelled to 7mm scale. A sequence of pictures were taken for a magazine; such photography being a growing area of my magazine portfolio (sounds posh!?!) This single image says it all – a real pleasure to watch and photograph.

Completing the W&SR set in N gauge.

January 15, 2013

W&S image 1

The small pint sized N gauge layout I built as a layout project for BRM magazine is not nearly complete, but sees a great deal of use day to day for photography and just playing trains. The arrival of the new Dapol N gauge twin coach pack to go with the Wrexham & Shropshire book set sees a complete formation out on the main line of Dudley Heath for the first time, replacing a couple of vinyl overlay Mk.3 coaches I was using in the set as stand in vehicles.

W&S Image 2
The twin pack consists of one of Dapol’s new Mk.3 RFM coaches which makes up the missing Coach A of the formation and a Standard Class coach. There are some detail differences between the full size RFM vehicles refurbished for use by W&SR and the model. However, the near fit model is still much welcomed.

W&S Image 4

The catering car is located adjacent to the DVT. The second coach of the pack is a Standard Class Mk.3 trailer as the missing Coach A. Not only is the set now complete, but in the correct coach letter order too.

W&S Image 3
A four plus two formation is the perfect length of train for Dudley Heath which runs well in both propelling and hauling mode. In addition to the W&SR twin pack, Dapol is releasing a similar trailer plus RFM pack for the Virgin West Coast ‘Pretendolino’ MK.3 set and a catering trailer for the East Midlands Trains HST book set.

A reminder of the W&SR service two years following its withdrawal. Coach C – a Mk.3 Standard coach.

Coach D at the country end of the set coupled to the DVT. This is a rebuilt Mk.3 RFM vehicle.


Scottish diesels…Class 27.

November 15, 2012


Just in and probably in time for Warley: the Dapol Class 27, a rail blue one with sealed front doors and TOPS numbers as 27 032. Reminiscent of the West Highland line and the Glasgow area in the early 1980s.

The model features fully working marker lights and an illuminated head code panel (with domino dots) with no light leakage.

The character of the Class 27s is faithfully captured by the model including the shape of the cab, the windows and roof profile.

Detail and grille tooling is sharp and effective. I like the small details including the windscreen washer outlets on the cab front and the shoulder grilles.

Internally, Dapol has provided a 6-pin DCC socket for simple conversion to DCC operation. A five pole fine control motor is included which performs well with a simple DC power pack and Digitrax DZ125IN decoders. Performance was controlled with good slow speed operation in both directions.

A neat model with character, just waiting for me to build a suitable layout! Who knows? I might be tempted with something compact based on the West Highland line circa 1980. After all, I live a couple of hours away from it, so inspiration is a stone’s throw away. There’s always the Highland line too…also a haunt of the Class 27 usually on freight in the rail blue era. Those modellers inspired by the lowlands could find a use for Class 27s on all sorts of duties including parcels trains and of course, the 1971-1980 era Edinburgh-Glasgow Push-Pull service, top and tailed on rakes of overhauled disc braked early Mk.2 coaches (Class 27/1 and Class 27/2).

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.

Heritage DMUs: Dapol’s new Class 122 single car unit.

October 3, 2012

New from Dapol: The Class 122 single car DMU in N gauge, the first time that a Class 122 has been offered in any scale as a ready to run model. It’s technical features are similar to the previously released Class 121 single car unit and the finished product is very attractive.

Two models have arrived for photography – my thanks to David Jones for the opportunity to look them over. One is a blue & grey example as No.55oo5 and the other a departmental unit in plain BR blue as TDB975023. The latter is an interesting choice – formerly No. 55001 and used as a route learning car.

The exhausts run smartly up to the roof on either side of the small destination box, a feature which sets the Class 122 apart from the similar Class 121 single car unit which has a large head code box and long horn cattle style exhaust pipes.

The drive design is the same as the Class 121 including an under-floor drive mechanism allowing the modelling of most of the interior.

The roof is easily un-clipped from the body allowing the fitting of a light bar in the roof. The standard Dapol light bar design simply plugs into the circuit board which is concealed, together with the 6-pin DCC connection, in the luggage van/guards end of the car. Remember to check which way round the roof goes back on the model! The roof clips are moulded as part of the flush glazing inserts.

In all, an exciting release and perfect models for the Dudley Heath project. A couple of Digitrax DZ125 decoders for the pair and they were ready to go with fully controllable lights and no light leakage into the cab. Performance is smooth and the models’ first outing on the layout was without incident. They will be popular additions to the fleet. Come and see them when Dudley Heath visits the BRM Peterborough exhibition in a couple of weeks’ time.

N Gauge developments

August 19, 2012

Despite the long silence from me on the N gauge front, work has continued on Dudley Heath, my little portable N gauge layout which has appeared at Doncaster and Ally Pally this year (project in progress). Just commissioned and placed in service is a 5-car NR New Measurement Train model based on the Dapol HST NMT train pack and five rebuilt Dapol Mk.3 trailers. The original plan was to use Electra Railway Graphics overlays on Graham Farish Mk.3 stock. Before work commenced, a set of etched conversion parts for six NMT trailers arrived, out of the blue; kindly sent to me by Pete Harvey.

No disrespect to Adam Warr – his vinyl sides are really good and I have a number of converted coaches (and one wagon) running on Dudley Heath. There are more to add to the roster – the Class 310 or 312 in West Midlands livery is very tempting indeed! (RFM below is one of the Mk.3s I have converted using Adam’s sides.) He also kindly produced Folkestone East name boards in NSE style for me; both sun faded and full colour.

However, I had three Dapol Mk.3 trailers surplus to requirements  - blue grey ones with no immediate use leaving only two to buy. Also, I fancied having a go at a different type of conversion in N gauge. The results are pretty reasonable, except colour matching to Dapol’s version of NR yellow was not easy nor was it a precise match in the end. A 5-car set is also a big project to complete, hence the relatively long periods between posts on here – there’s not been a lot to report of late.

Detailing of Dudley Heath continues on several fronts including signals and line side equipment. The Graham Farish Class 350 will find a home on the layout too, after I have closed up the coupling gaps between the trailers! A fine model in its own right, it adds further modern West Coast flavour to the layout. The foot bridge was a complex beastie to scratch build but despite that, I am not totally satisfied with the result (some filling, repainting, detailing and weathering will improve its appearance dramatically). I will probably have another go at building it once the layout reaches a sort of ‘finished’ stage. I will finish the layout to a good enough standard and then go back and rework bits of it, in between work on Folkestone East and the Montana Rail Link layout. In the meantime, Dudley Heath lives safely in its box under the MRL layout, safe from dirt and dust until I get the urge to play with N gauge British outline models once again. Then out it comes!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers