Saturday, 31 December 2016

(to) Absent Friends

A big deal is made in certain circles about the so called 'curse' of 2016, and it is true that it does seem that more well-known individuals have been lost in the last 12 months than other years. But there are other loses closer to home that should not be forgotten, sadly I have attended more funerals in 2016 than ever before.

The miniature railway community felt the loss of one individual in particular in 2016, Dave Holroyde, who passed away on 2nd July. That this news came only days after the arrival of our baby daughter made it difficult to balance the contrast.

I had first made contact with Dave nearly 20 years ago whilst researching the 15" gauge railway at Britannia Park and always found him to to be knowledgeable and helpful, even with my more oddball enquiries! After years of correspondence we eventually met and then worked together on various projects with the Miniature Railway Museum Trust. His records almost always had the answer, his photographic archive the right picture. When I needed to illustrate Trevor Guests' Pacifics for my article in the 'Review' he was the first, and only, person I turned to.

Yesterday, whilst attempting research on a photo of a 10¼" gauge railway that had appeared on a forum I remembered that I had some notes from Dave on a relevant topic that provided an extra nugget of information.

Dave admires Peter Leadley's O9 model of 'Bonnie Dundee', built by Paul Windle

So tonight I'll raise a glass to an absent friend. Thanks Dave 🍺

Wishing all O9 Modeller readers a prosperous 2017.


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Wagons - an Estate of Mind

I often say that when I find myself tinkering with wagons that there is some indecision in the air... and it is probably true...

My O9 wagon fleet has been through a few sessions of splitting bodies and chassis, new bodies on old chassis etc, often to revert back to the starting point once I've got whatever frustration it was out of my system.

Although I generally scratchbuild my own wagon bodies, over the past few years I have collected together a number of Black Dog Mining wagon bodies for some long-term 'industrial' project. For some time this has included two WA05 open wagons:

Back in the summer I posted a picture of this wagon alongside Roger Chiver's Theakston wagon kit, and Roger commented on the combination: "They almost don't look like they are the same scale. It's the planks I think." The more I thought about it, the more it rang true... an attempt to cut one down to a single plank height did nothing to improve matters and they still looked huge alongside my own scratchbuilt, miniature railway proportioned stock.

These thoughts were occurring as I thought about the potential for a scenario where a 15" gauge railway was conveying loads, e.g. a farm or estate. I was reminded of two wagons that I built back in 2004 by cutting down (in width) two Black Dog WA04 bodies, adding handles on the ends to represent 'Tops' wagons:

These wagons were subsequently sold on, but I had a reference for the dimensions so could scratchbuild a "replica" on one of the existing chassis...

Having marked out the parts for a second it wasn't long before both wagons were in the process of being re-bodied. 

My usual method of creating bolt heads on wagons is to dice a suitable styrene section into thin slices then apply them individually (much the way Steve Bennett has on the masters for casting). On the first body I used Evergreen 30 thou square section, whilst on the second I used 25 thou round section. In the past I have also used Plastruct Hex section. Once applied I leave them to dry overnight and use a wide flat file to reduce them all to the same depth (I'm hopeless at cutting them the same). The second wagon is now awaiting this treatment.


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Carriage and Wagon

Winter maintenance occupies a lot of miniature railway's time at this time of the year, and it is no different in O9. The carriage and wagon department for 'Shifting Sands' has been busy (despite the railway not operating this 'season'!) with a few bits of catch-up work.

Coach 15, one of the scratchbuilt Exmoor-style fleet, has received a new roof. It is in fact the second new roof on just over a year, as the thicker one that it had last year looked out of place compared to it's stablemates. The new roof is formed from 20 thou styrene, heated in boiling water and reinforced underneath with various sections of Evergreen strip.

Meanwhile, one of the open wagon fleet has had something of a transformation. This is based on an example from the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway and originally built upon a Black Dog 5' chassis that dated back to my early O9 days. The chassis was robbed for another project and the body initially put to one side, until I decided to add a new chassis based on a Peco chassis, styrene section and axle boxes from Wizard Models/51L.

This has lowered the wagon a little and got rid of the slightly 'tip toe' look it had before, here is it when first built by way of comparison.

I have to say that both of these projects have created a fair bit of frustration in the paint shop, must be the time of year....


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Two Steps Forward....

I completed the paintwork on the second of the two cut-down Avalon Line coaches that I acquired recently. In contrast with the one that was completed in a run down state and incorporated into a diorama scene, this one is ex-works in maroon with yellow lining. I have far too many carriages so this one will be moving on shortly.

I have been doing a little work on my O9 wagon fleet, making a few changes (such as the tool wagon seen in the last entry with 'St Edwin') and subtly rebuilding others. Wagon tinkering is usually a sign that I'm in an indecisive mood, and on this occasion that is equally true....

Having progressed a little with the idea of a desk-sitter this has now been put on hold as the intended board was not as suitable for reconstruction as I had thought, leading to it's untimely demise. Other ideas are in the melting pot, so watch this space.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Exmoor on Tour

Unfortunately I have not had a chance to give my Exmoor 0-6-2T 'St Edwin' a real run since it was completed in the summer, largely as 'Shifting Sands' has remained in storage.

Happily the locomotive had the chance to have a run on Peter Leadley's 'Clee Valley Railway' at the Hull exhibition this weekend and our photographers were on hand to record the event...

With the recently rebuilt tool wagon behind acting as coupling converter, 'St Edwin' awaits departure from Castle station.

On the turntable, I have rendered this shot by my Dad into sepia tones as it hides some of the work to overcome the lighting of the original shot.

Finally, a short video of the locomotive in action.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Rambling Thoughts of a Desk-Sitter

I've spent some time over the last week or so looking at some of the half completed odds and sods about the place and trying to create some sort of order from them. Having disposed of at least one offending item my thoughts drifted towards the possibility of a 'desk-sitter' shunting plank approx 25 x 6"...

Of course we have been here before, most recently with 'Upcycle', which was a little longer at 29" long, which was one of the issues that actually made it difficult to use as it was too tight a fit on the desk (i.e. too much needed clearing out of the way!)

If a new project does come into being, the lessons of Upcycle will be taken on board, notably having a decent height of backscene and not having a kick-back siding making life difficult. One option is to take the "less is more" single point approach that worked well on another desk-sitting project, my Gn15 'Ambassador Works', seen here in full form... on a desk...

Whilst delving through photos of past projects, it is worth pointing out that the balsa framed, foamcore topped baseboard being considered for this project is the much altered remains of the 'Misterton Fen Tramway' board from a few years ago. Subsequently used as a test track it was ironically replaced by 'Upcycle' and it's descendants. I have recently extended it at the right-hand end and for this project the left-hand end would also be extended.

We shall see...


Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Path To... (Reworked)

The last time we saw 'The Path To...' was back in January, when it went into the display case with an experimental backscene depicting beach huts in the distance, and a promise that the crossing would gain some warning signs.

The backscene never really found favour in the display case but I felt that the scene looked a little out of context without it, despite a little blown sand in the scenery it was not obvious it was a seaside scene! Having decided that it was due an upgrade of the grass textures following the success of the here was an opportunity to do something about it. I also decided to add a fence along the back edge, and to finally install the crossing warning signs. The result is shown below.

As well as the enhanced grass textures I have added a lot more blown sand into the scene, using the same fine sand that was used for the dunes on 'Shifting Sands' followed by Mig Beach Sand weathering powder.

The fence is a length of Parkside Dundas station fencing reduced in height and painted and weathered to look like a weather-beaten seaside fence.

The new sign posts are 1/16th" brass tube sprayed with grey primer, the signs are some I printed some time ago onto photo paper, which was sprayed grey on the reverse and with matt varnish on the fronts to kill the shine. The signs are superglued to the posts, with dummy strapping on the reverse from silver car trim line. The advertising sign is a left-over from 'Shifting Sands' given similar treatment, this is secured to the post using 5 amp fuse wire to give the impression it is an unofficial addition!

With these additions I feel that the seaside atmosphere is created and this micro-diorama is now truly complete.


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Instant Diorama, just add MDF...

A month or so ago I made mention of creating further micro-dioramas of a similar size to the abandoned coach scene, i.e. 140 x 70mm. I felt this size worked well visually in my display case as some previous scenes had ended up looking too long. Having prepared a pair of new 6mm MDF bases I started to plan to build new scenes in both O9 and 1/24th, the latter to display my scratchbuilt Lister locomotive.

The Lister had previously sat on this base, which was one of the offenders on length and was taking up more space than strictly necessary:

This was a rebuild of an earlier diorama, which itself was reclaimed from an abandoned 2008 project that would have seen the Lister shuttling back and forth with a single wagon (!). As it was due to be replaced anyway I opted to see if part of it could be recovered as the basis of the new scene rather than start afresh. Very carefully, having mapped out the cuts, and then carefully separated just the top cardboard layer of the foamcore board, I found that it could...

The result above shows the result after some work to make up the gaps in the ground cover, some new areas of grass from hanging basket liner, additional ground cover from scatter applied over hairspray and some grass moss strands. The existing point lever, a vintage OO gauge item, was cleaned up, Grandt Line bolt heads added and suitably painted and weathered.

Although I have made preparations for another O9 scene it is on hold as the next project will be a reworking of 'The Path to...' to bring the textures and detail into line with the latest creations. Watch this space!


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Farewell Markeaton Park

The news came through this week that the Markeaton Park Light Railway in Derby had closed, with one of the reasons cited as non-renewal of the lease when it expires at the end of the year. It was also rumoured that track lifting would commence immediately and that a the rolling stock had been sold to a new home.
Happier times, 'Markeaton Lady' and matching Exmoor stock on 8th June 2008

I first became aware of this line in the early 1990s as it was listed as a location of a 15” gauge railway with a Maxitrax petrol locomotive. However, it was not until a news item appeared in the ‘Railway Magazine’ in 1996 covering the change in ownership to the Bull family and purchase of an Exmoor Steam Railway 0-4-2T locomotive and coaching stock that the urge to visit appeared. This duly occurred in April 1997 and whilst ‘Markeaton Lady’ was not in steam, we were able to view it in the cavernous shed and ride behind the Alan Keef diesel ‘Cromwell’. On subsequent visits we were able to travel behind steam until the locomotive was withdrawn for overhaul and subsequently sold to the Evesham Vale Light Railway where it now runs as 'Monty'.

Our last ride, 'City of Derby' with the ex-Fairbourne stock on 30th January 2016

The railway soldiered on with the diesel locomotive ‘City of Derby’ as sole motive power, although from some of the reports of cancelled services on their Facebook page, not always the most reliable of machines! Our last visit to the railway came by chance in January this year on the day of the 7mm NGA Derby Members day, when a sunny afternoon saw us call in at the park on the return home, simply on the basis that it had been a few years since we had visited. We had a ride in the rake of ex-Fairbourne coaching stock that had always been in the shed on previous visits but we did not get to see or ride in the refurbished Exmoor stock that will no doubt give good service to their new owner. 

The station area, taken on our first visit on 3rd April 1997

From a modelling point of view the main station area has (had) a very modelegenic air to it, a simple loop and two lines heading into the shed, itself a remnant of the armed forces occupation of the park in the 1940s where it served as the NAAFI (and inside still had the counter and shutters to prove it). Inside the shed another point provided a third line, almost as if it were a real-life fiddle yard, enabling the railway to store all of its stock under cover with space to spare. I’ve often thought that with some subtle adjustment at the Markeaton Park setting, especially with the curve heading out of the station, could lend itself to the ‘Shifting Sands’ format rather well…


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Introducing 'St Edwin' - Exmoor in Miniature

Custom produced etched name and works plates for my Exmoor project arrived from Narrow Planet early in August, and this weekend I have finally plucked up the courage to fix them in position. I can therefore present the third Exmoor 15" gauge 'Saint'* - '[i]St Edwin[/i]'...

After fitting the plates using matt varnish I applied a little light weathering to tone down the smokebox, cylinders, cab roof and buffer beams and added a finishing touch of an oil can sat in one of the bunkers, something I noticed in pictures of 'King Arthur' at Rudyard lake.

I'm really pleased with how this project has turned out, although there are a number of compromises I feel that it really captures the Exmoor 'look'. I just need to arrange somewhere to give it a good run as 'Shifting Sands' is in storage...


*following in the footsteps of 'St Christopher' at Bressingham (ex Windmill Farm) and 'St Egwin' at Evesham Vale.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Stuck in a Siding - an 'Abandoned Miniature'

The outstanding tasks on the scenic test piece seen in the last two posts has now been completed, including adding my usual light wood surround from bass wood and some final adjustments to the scenery in the form of some additional growth from dried grass moss and a discarded wheelset (modified Parkside Dundas) and some assorted junk.

As I commented in the first post on this series, there were a number of influences behind creating this scene. ones was the Abandoned Miniatures page on Facebook, a collection of photos of dioramas and models with a general theme of abandonment. The idea of an abandoned 15" gauge scene appealed and I realised that I was halfway there with my converted Avalon Line coach completed a few months ago. So this scene is actually designed to accommodate that coach...

The placing of the fence at the (nominal) rear is designed so that if viewed from that side, the open panel on that side is visible.

Inside the coach I have added all sorts of additional 'junk' from various sources. This includes bench ends from Port Wynnstay castings; a tool box from Black Dog Mining; a scratchbuilt carriage door balanced on the seats; a sign that reads 'Miniature Railway' (just to give a clue to the gauge!) and an oil lamp. All of these parts were individually painted and set in place using Tacky Wax.

I am really pleased with how this scene has come together and I've found myself contemplating another scene of similar size....


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Technique 2 - The Grass Grows Long

Progress on the test piece seen last week has come on at quite a rate. To say that this included a period where I wasn't too sure it would work out well...

I'm not going to go too far into what I have done - it's all based on rather basic work with paints, Woodlands Scenics 'turf' scatter, hanging basket liner grass and occasional Silfor tufts and Gaugemaster laser-cut flowers. Where I have differed from the last two scenes ('The Headshunt' and 'The Path to...') is that I have revisited some techniques that I had used several years ago to add to the textures and colours on offer. The blown leaves use a mixture of Green Scenes leaves (ground up a little to reduce their size) and dried tea leaves (PG Tips, probably), whilst I have added a few strands of dried lawn moss (home grown) to add to the textures in the grass.

I have also added a representation of small flowers in the grass. Having popped to the shops to get some cheap hairspray, I sprayed it on the grass and sprinkled in a combination of coloured scatters. I had forgotten how effective this simple step was. Following all this, the puddle had a couple of coats of 'Kleer' floor polish and looks suitably wet.

Having seen the effect these revisited techniques have had on this scene it is safe to say that both the other recent dioramas will be having a little enhancement, but first, I must complete a few outstanding tasks on this one!


Friday, 12 August 2016


With progress on a bigger diorama stalled, I have been creating a smaller test piece that will hopefully develop into something that will be easily displayed in my display cabinet alongside 'The Path to...' I have an eye on what the end result will be and what the inspirations are, but that can wait for another day...

The piece uses a couple of new (to me) techniques that I have been wishing to try for some time, but firstly Peco 009 track was modified with all sleeper webs removed in a similar manner to previous dioramas.

Rather than ballast this entirely I have used a technique described by Chris Nevard where modelling clay (in this case terracotta DAS) is used to embed the track between the sleepers (and in some cases over) and given a stippled texture using a stiff paintbrush. This technique has been used to gradually embed the track towards the end of the line to the right.

The other trial is the puddle in the foreground, this is based on techniques described by Gordon Gravett and uses clear plastic in place of the glass microscope slides he advocates. This has been bedded in with more DAS and will benefit from further treatment in due course.

The idea is to represent really sunken in yard track, similar to this seen at the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway.

This is the first occasion I have really used DAS and I'm very impressed with it's scope for small projects such as this. Some of the land at the back was raised with a further layer of card and blended in with the modelling clay, and a mound in the front centre formed in a similar way. Typically I have covered these areas with a plaster/paint/PVA mix before taking a photograph!


Monday, 8 August 2016

Shunting with Steam - Heywood Style

A few days in Cleethorpes last week meant a little time was spent at the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway (and as we were staying opposite, we can recommend the breakfast!). One day, whilst the Severn Lamb 'Rio Grande' was in charge of passenger services, Heywood replica 'Effie' was steamed for some attention from the workshop team, leading to a test run to Kingsway, which is where I encountered her and driver Aaron.

The offer of a ride was quickly accepted (the service train was very full), which logistically is quite tricky, literally sat on the coals! On arrival at Lakeside loop Aaron advised that there were a few yard duties to complete, as he needed to retrieve the wagon used to transport bagged coal, take it to the station to pick up the delivery, release another wagon from the sidings as it would be useful later, and take some bags of rubbish down to the station. Real work!

The first job was to draw a rake of coaching stock out of the station in order to get the wagon in to load the coal, this job completed Aaron ran 'Effie' around the loop and back to the yard.

The CCLR yard has a three-road sector plate that accesses the carriage shed. The plan was to retrieve the wagons from the right-hand road; move the two open coaches in the left-hand road in their place; deposit the ballast wagon at the back of the right-hand road in front of them; retrieve the van at the back of the left-hand road (with the pallet showing) and take the wagons down to the station. Rubbish would be loaded into the small grey open wagon....

The chance to take some atmospheric shots was not to be missed...

Aaron was clearly enjoying this too much! I was getting involved throwing point levers and setting the road, and failing miserably at coupling up...

By now the ballast wagon had been deposited in the right-hand siding and the other wagons backed down onto the coal van (yes, that doesn't sound quite right!).

With the rubbish loaded onto the open wagon the train was drawn down to the station to deposit the rubbish and load up the coal, before pushing the ensemble back up to the shed.

My thanks to Aaron Ellis, Peter Bryant and the CCLR team for their hospitality during the week.


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Theakston - Rusty and Dusty

The last time we saw the Roger Chivers Theakston wagon it was still in bare plastic. I subsequently sprayed both the body and underframe in red oxide primer and put it to one side as other priorities took over.

At a local 009 Society (Gasp!) event I was able to pick up some 7mm diameter wheelsets of Bemo origin, which resulted in me altering the coupling mount height to suit and at the same time adding a coupler to the other end rather than use it as the end wagon of a rake. I then sprayed the body in grey primer over the red oxide, deliberately leaving a few rough spots and not really bothering too much in the interior at all (!). 

Once dry I washed over the grey with a dark grey wash, wiping this off the panels where necessary to allow colour to build in the strapping. The strapping and interior were then overcoated with a brown wash, and once dry some dry brushing added a rustier tone. Meanwhile, the underframe was painted in Humbrol red/brown, with the W-irons in grey/black. Again once dry the brown wash was used to tone the colours down. I then glued the underframe and body together, and once set added a coat of matt varnish. The final step has been dry-brushing to blend the two sections together and make it look suitably 'used'. 

Finishing-off jobs included MicroTrains couplers and adding about 63mm of lead window strip as weight underneath.

Certainly a recommended kit.


Friday, 22 July 2016

It just came to pieces in my hands...

A cautionary tale…

I spent a little time a month or two ago wondering “So what does come next?” I’d been tinkering with the first ‘Upcycle’ board, ostensibly widening it by 1 ½” along the front edge as an expanded diorama base. However continued thinking reached the conclusion that it would be a diorama that cannot be displayed as it has no cover, and would (perhaps) be a little oversize just for photography. The thought had then occurred that with a suitable ‘fiddle stick’ it could become a boxfile-esque  micro layout up to a maximum of 3 feet in length including the fiddle stick. This would be a return to the original concept but with the advantage of both a little more length and width. So I then went on to increase the scenic depth by another half inch at the rear and include a higher backscene, the result of which has been illustrated before.

Then of course came the question of scale and gauge. Having looked at the obvious alternatives (OO, O-9, O-16.5 and Gn15) and carried out some experimentation, I found that unless I acquired and used a small radius ‘Y’ point the 16.5mm gauge ideas could produce something quite cramped, surprisingly more so than a boxfile layout due to the lesser depth. O-9 actually offered the best prospects to use such a small space, either as an ‘inglenook’ configuration or the ‘Z’ plan of the original ‘Upcycle’, but with a slightly longer run off and more depth.

“But is it actually too small to make it work?” I asked myself. Eventually I concluded that it was, that whilst a micro layout was desirable, this was not a format that would work. So I hacked off all those extra parts (it certainly didn’t just come to pieces in my hands!), reduced the board to its minimum feasible dimensions, and plotted another diorama of ‘Headshunt’ dimensions. I’m still plotting and doodling, so who knows...?


Friday, 24 June 2016

Exmoor - Paintshop Progress (Part 2)

Having set the loco aside for a few days I re-started work by tidying up a few areas that the photographs had shown up. Over the following evenings I then fitted the whistle and safety valves into place on the dome, secured the crew in the cab and fitted the cab roof , added coal to the bunkers and fitted MicroTrains couplers.

As if it were on a test run at it's builders, these photos were captured in natural light on 'The Headshunt'.

The project has now reached it's natural break point as it is now complete with all parts added that can be at this stage... To complete the loco will need it's name and worksplates, presently on order from Narrow Planet, plus a little light, appropriate weathering and maybe one or two extra details. 

For now it is resident in my display cabinet.