Tuesday 26 December 2023

New coaches and people

 Christmas has brought a couple of new coaches...

A Festiniog Railway "bug box" and a freelance Glyn Valley style brake van. There were a few other model railway related presents with some scenic items and some 3D printed figures...

These are from Finescale Figures (actually ordered in a sale some time ago), the selection includes some seated figures destined for coaches, a variety of animals, and some modern dress figures. These are resin printed and although the detail is not as sharp as Model-U, they are realistic in proportion and pose and I'm sure will benefit Hexworthy. 

I trust Santa brought you nice goodies too!

Sunday 24 December 2023

Life for Hexworthy

The work seen in this post has happened over several months. I was actually painting figures back in the summer, it's a task that takes time and was spread out over a few weeks of occasional evenings, while other details have been prepared alongside painting the coaches recently. It's only in the last few days I've added the details to the layout. Usually I keep figures to a minimum on my layouts to suggest life, but as Hexworthy is a preserved railway station and I will be running lots of passenger trains, it will need to look like a reasonably popular tourist destination. 

Figures come from a variety of suppliers. I was particularly looking for children for the playground, in modern dress rather than looking like they stepped out of a "Just William" story. At the top we have a Faller set in playing poses, HO scale of course but children come in all sizes. Next we have some from Langley (which look like TT scale adults) and Pete Goss (rather chubbier). Then there are teenagers and adults from Monty's Models. The bottom two rows are loco crews from Faller, Dapol, and ModelU, some have already been assigned locos and some await fitting. The animals and fire buckets are from Dart Castings. Whitemetal figures later had their legs drilled and a length of wire superglued in to help secure them in place on the layout. 

These benches and picnic tables are a Metcalf Models laser-cut kit, and look just right for a modern era preserved railway. Although cut from a brown cardstock that is a reasonable representation of natural wood, they received several coats of grey and brown washes to give a more weathered finish. 

I also got some 3D printed station signs from Model Railway Scenes, rather easier than sticking separate letters on although painting the letters was tricky. The signs and posts are nicely printed with no visible lines, my only suggestion is that the length could do with shortening for shorter names. The pack has 4 signs with posts, but I only really have room for one standing on the platform and one on the wall of the goods shed. The benches have been added to the platform, and the picnic tables situated outside the goods shed café. 

A close-up of the café entrance shows the teenagers hanging around outside, while inside customers can be seen at the tables. Actually there is one table and a few chairs, more fine 3D prints by Model Railway Scenes, plus a couple of Faller seated people. The people were destined for coach passengers but these two appear to be holding drinks, so were allocated to the café. Although there is just one table, two customers and four chairs, it's enough to give an impression of a café interior since even with the light on, it's not possible to see further in. 

At the other end of the station the fire buckets have found a home outside the gents, while a father and son wait on the platform. The lone gent on the left is either trying to get a signal on his mobile or taking a selfie. 

The playground has had the most figures added to really bring it to life, in fact the playground is busier than the station, which might need a few more potential passengers. The Faller kids are ideal for the swing, see-saw, roundabout and climbing frame, with the whitemetal figures dotted around. In the far corner grandparents wait on the bench while in the gateway a mum is distracted on her phone. Meanwhile, another mum and boy are buying ice creams. 

The animals have also been added. Here a couple of rabbits are in danger from a fox. 

Another of the Model Railway Scenery chairs is see outside the old caravan. Look carefully and you can see a squirrel near the caravan, a hedgehog near the tracks on the left and a rabbit lower right. 

Being Dartmoor there had to be sheep too, one of which seems to have got itself the wrong side of the tracks. A hare can be seen in the field too. There's also two squirrels in this shot (one of them an unlikely red squirrel), plus the rabbit seen in the last shot. In total there are 4 sheep, 3 rabbits, 3 squirrels, 2 foxes, 2 hedgehogs, and 2 stoats on the layout. That should keep the kids busy.

Wishing all readers a happy Christmas!

Thursday 30 November 2023

Ashover coaches Part 5 - Painting

 Having decided on the colour - the Tamyia deep green with white window surround - it was time to start painting the coaches. I'd primed them in white, but the areas to be white were painted an off-white (white with a few drops of beige mixed in) so as to be not too stark. 

The upper part of the body around the windows was masked. There's a handy recess between the waist beading and the top board, 9mm tall. The tape I had was 10mm wide.. so I cut to length and trimmed 1mm off the edge while stuck to glass, then transferred the tape to the coach body. I have the glass from a broken picture frame taped to it's backing board with graph paper in between, handy for assembling things square and flat but also for cutting tape.

The green acrylic paint was airbrushed. I'm still learning here, and find the frequent cleaning of the airbrush tedious, but I think getting getter. Mind you, I'm still getting used to acrylic paint too. I added some Tamyia acrylic thinners to the Tamyia acrylic paint and it seemed to start coagulating, and the airbrush clogged. Using water to thin the paint worked better, how is that? Anyway, it was worth persisting for the good finish from airbrushing. (The clothes peg helped to hold the coach while painting).

With the masking removed I was very pleased with how it had worked. There were a few places paint had leached under the tape as seen on the lower coach, which needed touching up, but mostly the join was clean and tidy. 

While I had the airbrush out I weathered the roofs (which were in grey primer) with a dark grey acrylic mix. This is varies a little in density and hopefully represents smoke deposits. 

The frames, steps, and handrails were painted with black acrylic, as were the lamptops. I considered masking but the matchboard sides and handrails would have made that difficult, and probably ineffective. Hand painting was tricky and even so some black paint wicked up into the matchboarding requiring touching up. I realised I should have painted the lamptops before fitting! The window drop-frames were painted very carefully with light brown enamel paint - I still prefer the way enamel paint flows - and the tiny door handles dry brushed with enamel brass colour. The insides were roughly painted with brown bench seats and cream/white walls, although I left the end vestibules in green. Not seen here, but the bogies were painted with a black-grey enamel. 

I'm very happy with the way the painting has gone, but there's a little way to go yet. I'd like to matt varnish them, but the weather isn't great for spraying at the moment. I'm wondering about subtle weathering - not to take away from the clean look expected of a preserved railway, but to add dust to the underframes. Then there will be glazing to cut and fit, including around all those open windows!

Sunday 19 November 2023

Brighton show 2023

Yesterday I visited the Brighton show, a small club show in a community centre. Small as I think there were only six layouts excluding the "vintage" Triang (which I do), strangely layouts seemed to be outnumbered by club and association stands and the club sales stand seemed bigger than any layout. The layouts were nice though, and the venue seemed crowded with families which has to be a good thing. At a time when some clubs have not resumed regular shows, it's good to see Brighton are able to, even if it is small and local. 

Orestone Quay (OO) I have seen before but always happy to see again, not many standard gauge layouts manage to cram this much character and colour as well as operation into a relatively small space. 

That street and quayside is beautifully modelled. 

I've also seen Portsea before and think this one is worth seeing again too. It's a loose copy of Portsmouth town and harbour stations in the unusual scale of TT, very nicely modelled and the harbour station is instantly recognisable as Portsmouth. 

EMUs and 3rd rail electric isn't really my thing, but I do like the layout. 

Holly Bank Grove (OO) is an engine shed scene with not much room for scenery although what was modelled was done well, including the track, and the varied weathering of the stock added to the realism.  

Lakeside depicts California in HO, a little different and nicely modelled including some unusal detailing (see the chain gang). Conversely, the locos here could have done with a little weathing, but I liked seeing some unusual locos such as this Heisler. 

Not strictly one of the listed layouts but Andy Knights had this micro layout on a demonstration stand, which people could have a go at operating. Nothing fancy here, but a small simple layout that anyone can have at home, which is always good to show at an exhibition.

Saturday 11 November 2023

Ashover coaches part 4 - Shades of green

The Ashover coaches got primed today. Not much to share from that, but the next question is what livery to paint them? My usual livery is a light green, sometimes with white upper panels, sometimes with the drop window frames picked out in light brown. I think the usual green is Humbrol 101, although I am sometimes confused and the balcony coach in the background is Humbrol 76 - which is also my usual loco green. I'm also wondering if the lighter green is a little too bright, perhaps because of the way it looks under the daylight LEDs?

So, do I go for a plain green with beige window frames? The Ashover painted their coaches one colour (dark red), so this would make sense, and is much easier to paint. The modern interpretation is lined, but I don't see the lining in black and white photos of the original coaches.

On the other hand, white upper panels will look more interesting, on these coaches I'd go for white between the waistband and the top of the windows, rather like this (imagine green in place of blue):

(Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/kitmasterbloke/29351598477)

A two-tone livery can be brush painted, I've done it before, but may be neater/easier by masking which would allow airbrushing, although there's a lot of masking for 5 coaches. Airbrushing could give a nicer finish and is less likely to bleed under masking, but that means using acrylics (I have no spray booth and so no desire to vaporise solvents in the house). And so we are back to paint choice, and like decorating a room, we have paint samples on the underside of the coaches, seen under layout lighting:

From the right we have three shades of Humbrol enamel:

  • 101 is the usual coach green
  • 48 I thought would be a touch darker, but I think is too dark
  • 76 is my usual loco green, and used on the balcony coach seen above

From the left we have three shades of acrylic (all the shades I have!):

  • Vallejo mid green, actually not far off the current green. I used this on a couple of locos recently
  • Vallejo gunship green, rather an olive green (or, unsurprisingly, camouflage)
  • Tamia deep green, a darker but a nice shade
On the plus side, the roofs are simple - primed in grey, which I think will do nicely.

Monday 6 November 2023

Ashover coaches part 3: Details and roofs

The instructions don't mention handrails but pictures of the coaches show them prominently, and with the steps for low platforms they are an obvious requirement. I realised that staples were slightly too long but would fit if I was happy to accept them running to the bottom of the door, lower than the prototype, and being a flat section. I'm not making an exact model so figured the precise length and bends would save a lot of time, and look better than I can manage bending wire.

I drilled all the holes (80!) with the dremel in the stand, using a slightly undersize bit as it tended to melt the hole bigger than the drill, even in short bursts (I wish it could go slower!) - but much quicker and easier than using the pin vice by hand. The staple legs were cut shorter (especially to avoid the window openings), and supergled in using a 20-thou strip of plastic for even spacing from the body. 

The brake coach had steps made up from plasticard. Those at the left (saloon) end were made to match those of the other coaches, those under the guard's compartment doors made to a similar style but longer to match the double doors, and passing in front of the frame bracing. The steps are 20-thou plastic but the upright supports are 40-thou, and with a second thickness of 40-thou between the steps to support them. 

I also added door handles. They are not very prominent on the photos and are quite slender on the frames of the sliding doors, so I just used short lengths of microstrip vertially on the outer edges of the doors, but horizontally on the brake compartment doors which are assumed to hinge inwards in the usual way.

Experimenting with roofs led me to realise that they didn't fit well to the ends of the coaches, and it seemed that the ends were too low, and the top edge sloped down to the outer edge. To avoid an unsightly gap I added a strip of 20 thou plastic to the top of the end, and filed it smooth to the front and level across the top. I also added a little microstrip to the top of the door frame. You can just see the door handle behind the left handrail here.

I decided on the drinks-can roof. The moulded plastic roof was slightly too curved and wasn't smooth underneath, making shortening and fitting complex, while fabricating a plastic roof to be a neat fit and not warp is challenging, especially as the partitions leave little room for bracing underneath. 

The metal was cut to size with a scalpel using lots of light cuts. I decided to cover the metal with masking tape to give a tarred cloth finish, it also serves to stiffen the metal slightly. I took care to roll the roof onto the tape rather than flatten it, so the curvature is maintained. The sides and ends are then folded underneath. 

To further strengthen the roof and prevent it distorting I added a couple of lengths of 40-thou plastic longitudanally underneath, the strips spaced apart with slices of plasticard then superglued to the roof. 

Some of the kits came with lamp ventilators but they didn't match, and some kits didn't. I found a load of matching whitemetal ventilators in my bits box, not sure of the original source. I think the prototypes had torpedo type ventilators rather than these "sea-shell" type, but at least all 5 coaches will have the same type. Holes are drilled with the dremel again and they are superglued from underneath. 

I'm also fitting rainstrips which, perhaps surprisingly given the doors being at the ends, curves over the whole length of the sides. The strips are tacked in place with plasticweld solvent, which doesn't really stick to the masking tape/metal roof, but holds it long enough to dribble some superglue along it. A fiddly job, 2 roofs are now done so just 3 more to complete!

Saturday 28 October 2023

Ashover coaches part 2: adding a brake

 Work has continued on the build of the Ashover coach kits. There are now five...

A couple of the kits came from a friend at the Sussex Downs group who was having a clear out, but with them was a partially assembled kit. After a little partial disassembly to resolve the issue I'd found with the floor width and to "open" some doors and windows, it was completed (front left in the photo below), except that the footsteps and the bogie brake gear are missing. The bogies can probably run without brake gear (only the lack of brake handles is noticeable) but as the wheels look a bit coarse I may pick up a new pair of bogies at some point. 

The final kit was built as a brake. After posting some options in the last update, my friend Tim Sanderson pointed out that he had built some variants of these coaches including a brake to the same design as my "option C". This involved an extra pair of doors (which I had left over from those I had "opened"), but the cuts were minimal and all joins were at doors or door frames. Tim had explained these conversions in the August 2002 Railway Modeller.

So armed with Tim's article I set about cutting as shown - the end door, panel, and first window were cut from each sides (opposite ends so they are the same end of the coach, if you see what I mean). The windows were then cut away, and the door/panel swapped to the other side of the coach to put the panel outer, and the door plus the additional door set into the side. I made the cuts with a scalpel (new blade), light cuts from the front then deeper cuts lined up from the rear, leaving a surprisingly clean cut.

As with Tim's conversion on reassembly new framing was needed over the double doors (in one piece) and between them and the rest of the coach (to match the other side of the doors). These were made using 40 thou (1mm) plasticard cut to strips the same depth as the coach side, the frame being the thickness of the plastic. There's no significance in the use of black or white plastic, just the scraps that happened to be on the bench!

One other change I made was to the door windows. The end doors on these coaches slide behind the blank panel, and the broad cross-member is probably related to the sliding mechanism. However, the luggage compartment doors would probably hinge outward as per a normal carriage door, there being nowhere the inner door could slide anyway. So I cut away the cross-member and made their windows into normal drop-frame carriage windows, with a couple of them partially open. Also as seen below, small pieces of plastic microstrip were added to the frames to represent the outward-opening hinges. 

Given the preservation era of Hexworthy I see this vehicle being mainly for the carriage of push chairs and prams, and to give access for wheelchairs, let's assume a big ramp is carried inside. So the saloon has the usual bench along 4 windows, ending in half-height partitions, then a space by the 5th window which could be for wheelchairs or prams. There's a partition separating the saloon from the luggage compartment but the double-doors would be convenient for disabled access. I do need to sort out steps for this carriage too, bearing in mind the double doors away from the end. 

Next I need to decide how to tackle the roof. It is tricky as the roof will be fitted last (after painting, glazing, etc) and needs to fit neatly, but with little support needs to be rigid enough without appearing too thick. It doesn't help that the doors and end seem very slightly lower than the top of the sides. 
  • Some kits came with a thin sheet of plastic, which I have curved by taping to a can then dunking in boiling water (left). It will need trimming to fit, but experience says this will need significant bracing if it is not to sag, and could still be at risk of warping. 
  • Alternatively, the tall drinks can cuts easily to form a pre-curved thin metal roof (middle). This won't warp, but would need some strength to prevent it bending or getting squashed in the middle, and would need sticking down very firmly. It also may be more tricky to add rainstrips to. 
  • Another option is the Dundas moulded plastic roof for the Vale of Rheidol coaches (right). This is about the right width and too long, so would need cutting down. It's a little thick but not excessively so, and rigid enough without bracing. However, the moulding has recesses just inside the end (presumably for the ends of the coaches they are designed for) and so cutting to length could leave a gap over the end. I only have a pair of these so would need to order more.

Sunday 22 October 2023

Uckfield 2023

Yesterday I was at the Uckfield model railway exhibition helping Robin Edwards with his O14 layout Tony's Forest. I've seen this superb layout a couple of times and it was a pleasure to operate. As the name suggests, it is set in a forest which is beautifully modelled with big trees, undergrowth and flowers. There's also a quarry loading screen under which wagons can be loaded. 

Uckfield has a reputation of showing high quality layouts, and this year was no exception. My favourite was Rodmell Green, a 009 layout by Allen Etheridge on its first showing. This showed industrial narrow gauge with appropriate stock and muted, gently weathered colouring giving a consistent finish. 

Inside a shed, the skips were unloaded using a mechanised arm magnetically lifting loads out. Allen said he'd been inspired by the method I used on Thakeham Tiles having seen it in use at Uckfield a few years ago, although his unloading arm was motorised rather than using a manually operated mechanism as I did. 

This year's show was in part a tribute to the late Iain Rice, who did so much to develop approaches to layout design and exhibiting through his books, as well as techniques for building finescale models. The show included no less than 5 layouts (in P4 or EM) Iain had built or been involved in building, including Hepton Wharf and Butley Mills which I remembered featuring in some of his books, and the impressive Longwood Edge, although my favourite was one of his later layouts Trerice. This is a compact and characterful layout with its China clay dries. I did see this layout with Iain operating at a previous Uckfield show, and it was nice to see it still being used in new hands. 

Another nice compact but interesting layout was Arcadia in the unusual S scale (1:64) by Richard Barton, based on Colonel Stephens practice. In this scale everything must be hand-built, and everything looked and ran perfect. 

Another compact and characterful layout was Ewe (OO) by Rob Gunstone. The track plan is simple, the same loop and two opposed sidings as Chris Ford's Dury's Gap, with a Wisbech and Upwell tramway setting on the banks of a waterway. The lush scenery threatening to overcome the tracks, grey big sky background, and nicely weathered trains worked together beautifully. 

In the last 15 minutes of the show I ran one of my O14 locos on Tony's Forest. I'd crudely fitted a pair of Greenwich couplings to my Hudson Hunslet in place of my usual Microtrains, which surprisingly worked with Robin's stock. It did look rather at home in the forest. 

So an excellent show, an enjoyable day, and a big thanks to Robin for letting me play with his layout. There are more of my photos of the event including other layouts here

Sunday 15 October 2023


Waaay back in 1993 I remember attending the Festiniog "Hunslet Hundred" celebrations as a teenager. The elegant lines of the Penrhyn "Ladies" made an impression on me, especially Linda. When Bachmann launched their models of the locos in Penrhyn condition last year it was clearly just a matter of time until the modern 2-4-0ST+T incarnations arrived.

So when I heard they had arrived, exclusively, at the Ffestiniog Railway shop I scraped together my savings and ordered Linda. There is something rather rakish I think about her longer cab roof and open tender. 

As with other recent Bachmann models, the detail is exquisite, with Linda's open cab showing off the cab detail nicely (but crying out for a crew!), and the livery and finish is very fine. Of course, it runs as well as it looks. This will look great pulling trains into Hexworthy - although I expect some subtle weathering may be applied, and it will need a crew. 

As with the other models of these locos, there is a firebox glow. A nice touch. Really, the only thing I don't like is the plasticky full load of coal in the tender. Why does it always have to be full? 

Both my models of the Penrhyn ladies together. Comparing them, the addition of the pony truck to Linda is barely visible, but the tender and indeed the re-profiled cab roof are obvious. Look closely and there are other differences - the addition of sandboxes, blower pipe, lubricator, vacuum pipes, drain cocks, and a conversion to left-hand drive (note the obvious reversing rod on the left side of Linda, found on the right of Blanche). Bachmann appear to have done their homework. 

Saturday 7 October 2023

Ashover carriages

Hexworthy will need some passenger stock, so I have collected a few of the Meridian kits for the Ashover Light Railway carriages. Bachmann are soon to release a ready-to-run model so I need to get on and finish my kits first! The kit is reasonably straightforward although I guess it is getting old as there is some flash to clean up, nothing too dramatic though. 

The first was built while demonstrating at Alexandra Palace earlier in the year, and the second at Amberly in the summer. It wasn't until I got to the third until I wondered whether I should open a window. I don't have a book on the Ashover but found a couple of photos in my library showed that yes, the side windows opened in the usual way, so a few windows were modified cutting out part of the frame with a strip of microstrip across (3rd window from right on the rear coach). 

The pictures also showed the doors open, they slid behind the adjacent panel. I don't know they they were left open when the train was in motion (I expect so), and I guess that would be frowned upon on a preserved railway, but nonetheless I thought it would be interesting to model the doors open on one end. Cutting them out wasn't as difficult as I feared, some planks were scribed in the floor and I added a strip of 40-thou plastic along the inner frame to represent the edge of the door recessed into the panel. 

I have picked up a few tips for assembling these kits well. First, the floor half mouldings are slightly too short and too narrow. The length isn't a real problem as when assembled with one side and one end then joined, there's a gap of about 30 thou in the centre, but that doesn't cause any issues. The width though means that if the sides are joined to the floor they will bow in, a strip of thin plasticard along one side of each floor piece solves that, checking that the side and end come together. Also, the tops of the body sides are prone to warping inwards. I've taken to cutting pieces of sprue to form cross-bacing as seen here, and also for later builds adding a strip of 40-thou plastic along the top edge. 

Opening the doors of one coach left me with a spare pair of doors, with one unbuilt kit left. While the Ashover didn't have a brake coach (they were vacuum braked so perhaps not necessary), I thought a preserved railway might have a coach adapted for wheelchair users, children's buggies, etc. So here's some photo-edits to consider how the final coach could be adapted.

Option A: A pair of doors at the end, these would have to be hinged rather than sliding of course. I could omit the vestibule partition to make an open saloon, with the right two windows and to the right-hand end, which would make sense for wheelchairs although it isn't really a brake/guards coach. The steps would need extending. 

Option B: I noticed the door is exactly the width of the window, so by cutting out a window the two doors can be added with an adjacent panel, looking more like a guard's compartment. The inner partition splits the coach 1/3:2/3 so would fit between the fouth and fifth windows, or the second and third, neither of which makes much sense. Blanking, frosting, or replacing the right-hand window with a ducket would make more of a traditional brake coach, but wouldn't help with wheelchair access.

Option C: As above but with the cut-out door and panel swapped sides to put the panel towards the end. Actually, I don't think this makes any more sense than B, and the steps might get more complex.

Option D: Including a window in the cut-out and swapped section would provide an observation end compartment (taking advantage of the end windows), albeit rather small, and there's still little space for a guard's compartment. Maybe the same with two windows to the right, with just three to the left and the double-doors just right of centre might make more sense. 

Thoughts welcome!