Simon George’s epic 7mm scale project Is beginning to make waves in the mainstream media. About as far away from a shelf layout layout as you can get, and in a proper mancave of man caves, a warehouse basement!
A year or so back I took a look at Essential Witness and Transition by Jim Shaughnessy and Colin Gifford respectively. This week our ever genial postie tapped on the door and left this gem, Requiem For Steam. If you’ve read or bought either of the Shaughnessy/Gifford books and enjoyed them, this is another from that same rich vein of high quality monochrome inspiration.
David Plowden has a passion for railroads and for capturing America as it ‘disappears’. The images in this book range from the 50’s through to some from the 1980’s. The few 80’s and 70’s pictures don’t show steam in action but depict infrastructure, lacking nothing in the context of the title. There are few 3/4 front images, and a whole range of subjects including locomotives, stock, people and the railroad in a wider context. The core areas covered are the mid west and up north easterly into Canada and Quebec. Printing of the images is outstanding, blacks are black, and white, white. The book features roughly 190 images with brief captioning adjacent to the relevant picture. At the back of the book there’s a section as with Shaughnessy’s of extended captions and thumbnails of the required pictures.
There’s plenty to be inspired by with this book, the picture of WelchWest Virginia above being one such image. Not only does the image ‘validate’ some of those coal country layouts that have featured in Model Railroader, steep wooded ravines with property cheek by jowl against the railroad, for me it was a light bulb moment. The curve of those hoppers immediately struck a chord with a UK location I’ve been thinking of modelling. The key difference however is the Uk sidings are straight, but this image has made me reconsider that alignment to perhaps a curve. The sweep of those coal cars has an appeal to it, that would potentially work on my Forest of Dean project. I didn’t think I’d find that inspiration for the mancave in this book, but it does illustrate how such quality images can inspire in unexpected ways.
This book fits in very well if you’re an enthusiast of Americana, History, Railroads and monochrome photography. What is evident is that Plowden has a deep affinity with the subject matter, and throughout the course of the journey, captures that with dramatic effect. This is well worth it’s place in my library, and if you like the works of Shaughnessy, Gifford, capturing moments of the past with authenticity, it’ll earn its place on your shelves easily.
A while back I looked at Space and how we use it, in particular looking at a Fremo layout I’d been invited to see. I really like the concept of joining layouts together for an operating session. Last year 2020 has obviously put paid to a large part of the social side of the hobby, and I suspect many of us didn’t realise just how big a part that played. In terms of the social element Geoff Taylor’s Cambrian layout above is one of those rare ‘system’ layouts for the Uk with several locations modelled, and to operate it Geoff when circumstances allow, invites fellow modellers and enthusiasts to visit and operate the layout.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to see and take part in operating this layout. The first thing that strikes you on entering the location is the quality of the modelling, it is some of the best you’ll see. The layout is OO gauge with hand built pointwork and track, this immediately gives a natural flow and prototype feel to the locations modelled.
The thing that I found particularly inspiring, was the layout is built in a relatively small space, but the choice of locations means the the trains travel a good distance before appearing again on the layout, or entering the three storage sections. This means some pretty good climbs with curves as well, hidden from view.
Geoff’s careful selection of the locations means that the essence of the Cambrian coast line has been pretty faithfully captured, and if you’ve seen images of the prototypes, you’re transported there, even before a trains appearance.
The line is worked to a timetable sequence, which gives the operators a real feeling of the line ‘working’ rather than running a procession of trains through a fixed location.
DCC powered, the operating protocol is to drive a train in the sequence to ‘your’ location, so whilst you know which train is arriving you don’t actually see it until it serves on scene. Signalling is done at each physical location, so there’s potential for a signalman and driver for each location. If it’s a non stop through train you can sit back and just enjoy the train in the scenery.
Not only does the scenery give a sense of time and place, but the stock does too, almost exclusively steam power firmly setting the layout into the late 50’s.
One of the side benefits of this type of layout system, is that it encompasses the positive social elements of our hobby. This allows the exchange of ideas, and information across the visitors, whom often have a wide variety of backgrounds, scales and interests in this engaging pastime.
As we head into 2021, there’s hope on the horizon that later in the year the social side of the hobby may be able to look at holding events. I do wonder if a way forward to start isn’t going to be traditional shows, but meetings of small groups of friends in a similar manner to either Fremo meets, or as Geoff does with ‘Penmaenpool’. In discussion with a close friend we can envisage village halls and similar venues being booked by perhaps a small group of friends, and layouts being taken there just to ‘show’ amongst that group. The venues will be keen to get some trade back through the doors and a small hall is likely viable for a single day hire among five to fifteen people. From small acorns..
It’s a long way off yet, however when I look at the friendships that I’ve developed via the hobby, I do get a positive buzz that ‘we’ will see the pandemic through. Twenty One is likely to be a year of change, to start we’ll be kicking the Covid-19 can down the road ahead of us for a while yet, but sooner or later that tin can will get stuck underneath a hedge, and then, it’s up to us!
My thanks are to Geoff for allowing me to talk about his layout and illustrate this post using pictures from the operating sessions I’ve been fortunate enough to attend.
Well this is certainly from the past, one of Albion Yards panniers drifts in to the yard with a typical coal train, quite a long while ago.. I can tell its one of the earlier images the warehouses are in the background, by the time the layouts career finished these were houses, and the foreground had changed from stone setts to a plain dirt top cover.
Without dwelling on 2020, there’s nothing wrong with looking at the past and taking motivation from it, I tend to do that quite a bit. This picture reminds me that there’s still steps forward to take for me at least, with the desire to do a Forest of Dean system layout with a couple of recognisable locations. That’s still the plan, possibly Fremo style, with a few shelfies thrown in along the way.
It’s an unconventional title for an unconventional book.
Written and illustrated by Geoff Kent, (builder of the above scene), it takes a look at the everyday scene, with emphasis on capturing architecture, and signage and infrastructure that is gradually becoming rarer. This is one of the latest books from the Wild Swan stable.
Using images taken within the last five years or so, it takes the reader through signage, buildings, roads, railway and ephemera, from real life. By that I mean these are artefacts that are ‘out there’ now, rather than museum pieces. Captions are biased toward descriptive rather than technical, but loose nothing by taking that emphasis. Whilst the images are contemporary it doesn’t take much imagination to ‘backdate’ them, though for someone modelling ‘today’ they are equally valid in showing ‘heritage’ in a current setting. The core of the images are rural or ‘county town’, not only because that fits the authors interest, but also where much of this real life heritage can still be found. There’s almost certainly the potential for other volumes looking at cityscapes and urban areas too.
There’s no modelling images throughout the book, however that doesn’t detract from its value in any sense, but I think perhaps one or two could have helped demonstrate the value of recording these types of environment images. The value of images like this are particularly well demonstrated when you take a close look at Geoff’s layout ‘Black Lion Crossing’ featured in Model Railway Journal No.214, 269 and 270. Within those articles you can see a direct link between the images in Unconsidered Trifles, and the authors own models. Geoff also mentions artists within the subtext, and this is very relevant for those who are looking to capture those bygone days in other mediums, not just our modelling field.
A typical Wild Swan softback of 64 pages, to their well renowned print quality. For me it’s a good addition to the man cave library, it encourages you to open your eyes more to your own environment, and capture interesting features before they’re gone. The image that resonated with me? The Cyclists Touring Club sign. Brought back many treasured memories of my late father, and his images of cycle touring in the thirties and later.
Well, 2020! This should probably be a #throwbackthursday post, not just because it’s a Thursday, but if you actually caught 2020, you’d certainly want to throw it back..
2021 will have to go some to make it as memorable as 2020. It’s that time to say thank you again to you readers, for taking the time to stop by and spend some of your time reading the blog, and wish you the compliments of the season., and to make the best you can of it. As in past years I’d ask you to take some time and read the other writers blogs in the attached blog roll, there’s always some really good content there. Also most of my colleagues in the aviation sector have had a very tough year, not that we’re unique in that aspect by any means, least of all this year!
In past years I’ve put up a link to a YouTube vid that captures my imagination from the industry, and this years no different. It’s En Zed again at Queenstown with a B737-800 on approach. Pop a cold one and enjoy it.
A few weeks back I wrote on a Monday about these MDV’s, and the straightforward simplicity of the kits. Well as per the post above they all went together really easily, and once I’d finished them the force was strong, so I added two Parkside Mineral wagons to the batch too.
These are sometimes referred to as French 16 ton mineral wagons. They were built during the latter part of the Second World War for use in Europe, replacing damaged rolling stock. The also have ‘cupboard’ doors, and were challenging wagons to unload, as unsurprisingly once you’d opened the door…
In the earlier post I mentioned I was thinking of using a new technique (for me) in the painting of the MDV’s. The technique I’ve tried is using solid black as an undercoat, and I’m pleased with the out come.
For expediency I’ve used Halfords matt black and red primers. The entire wagon is painted black making masking the chassis pretty easy. Once done I use the red primer giving the wagons an overall coverage. The red primer isn’t sprayed to get paint into all the angles and panel lines, so it leaves an automatic pre shaded effect. Because the base colour is black you don’t get the tonal variations around panels that sometimes occurs with line pre shading. The final effect then just needed a gloss overcoat for transfers from Railtec and Cambridge Custom Transfers. Once these were added a final waft of a matt laquer and they’re ready for weathering.
So with seven wagons in the final stages of completion I find myself looking at a fast diorama style layout to use them on, despite Shelfie2 sitting there available . Why? Don’t know, but I do know that sort of positive momentum is incredibly valuable, and usually best acted on!
A few weeks back Accurascale announced the British Rail MDV mineral wagon in OO 4mm scale, naturally about three weeks after I’d bought a batch of Five 79 MDV kits. Often this can be a deterrent to finish or even start the kits, but I was looking for a quick fix, a mancave get something done task that evening. Whilst not ‘right’ for my Northumbrian project these MDV’s will work just fine for some more ‘industrial’ projects in mind.
The kits are simple, typical open wagon kits and are supplied without wheels or bearings. Those were purchased separately from Wizard Models, and decals from Railtec for late era wagons. Apart from the instanter couplings and air pipes I was ready to go. The kits are really good quality, the moulds are in good shape too, there was very little in the way of flash, sink marks or distortion. Also supplied are white metal cast buffers. These too needed very little work to clean them up.
So the build sequence is predictable, four sides are constructed around the floor of the wagon, but note, these wagons are ‘handed’ with self adjusting brake equipment prominent on one solebar. With the cleaning up of the solebar I add standard brass top hat bearings into the axle guards, and chose which of the two types of axle box I wanted. The brake cylinder and levers are handed too but cleverly the floor works in any orientation.
I’ve annotated the image above, the solebar with the SAB, needs to have the adjuster at the opposite end to the end door. I left the brake levers until the end of the main assembly.
Here’s the main structure again. Solebar are now fitted, they are a snug fit between the bufferbeams and no issues experienced with their alignment. The NEM mount moulding has been removed from the floor as I don’t use them and the resulting flat floor allows the weights I use, to be hidden between the axle guards. Loosely fitted are etched coupling hooks and the wheels, this helps me get the alignments correct of the car wheel balance weights you can see here. They’re only 5 grams each but the difference is noticeable.
Again pay attention to the ‘handing’ of the chassis. The brake cylinder fits behind the SAB fitting on that side of the chassis. Buffers have been dry fitted, the mounting spigot needs to be shortened considerably, and they’re an interference fit before gluing at this point. I’ve used 0.7mm brass wire between the two V hangers. These are also handed so make sure those are correct to allow the right brake levers to be fitted each side.
The little pile of clasp brakes are ready. The brake shoes have 0.5mm holes drilled to accept wire to represent the brake yokes. Making small batches of wagons makes sense, you get a little production line going and it’s surprising how this can make the overall task faster. The end door handles have been removed and fixing holes drilled for wire replacements.
This is one side completed. Clasp brakes are in position and the correct brake lever fitted for the respective side. My next task is to fit the brake yoke wires, before fixing the final weight and opposite brake lever.
This then is almost ready for paint. The brake yoke wires can be seen. The actuating levers are almost on the wagon floor so I can get away without representing them. Safety loops for those yokes need to be added too. The final weight has been fitted next to the brake cylinder and whilst offset, it’s not significant enough to upset the balance or running quality of the wagons.
Here’s a profile view of each side ‘D’ marks the end door position and you can see the difference between the brake handles for each respective side.
That’s the back broken on this short project. Five wagons built with just final details to fit, yoke straps, couplings, brake pipes and lamp irons. Not sure of the time taken but no more than about ten to twelve hours spread over a week. A really satisfying little set, they won’t look out of place against RTR products either such is the kit quality.
Next bit I’m looking forward to is paint, I’ll be trying a new technique, more on that later.
If ever you wanted to know how to capture the functional, brooding mass of the last pannier, this is it. Bachmanns 94XX.
The first thing that struck me on opening the box, (no video, sorry about that), is it just captures the look and physical presence of the real thing. That’s one of model railways intangibles, some models just have it, and others, don’t. It has literal mass too, 285 grams of it, immediately apparent on picking it up. On initial inspection no blemishes, and the accessory pack and etched plates were included. The first thing for me is to establish if the model runs on DC, it did and with no apparent issues, quiet and smooth in both directions through the whole speed range. Included in the box are further details including screw couplings, cab doors, ATC boxes, steam heat pipes and etched cabside numbers.
The whole model has a pleasing appearance, as mentioned above it has a definite presence and captures the outline of the prototype very well. Tooling mould lines are almost non existent, only under the harshest lighting can you see the tool slide marks at the top of the smokebox, along the top and bottom of the tank sides. The join on the tank sides is just at the join of the radius to the flat surface helping minimise its appearance. Digging deeper into the appearance, this model represents one of the first nine, Great Western, built locomotives from Swindon works. Whilst doing the sitting back and just looking, there was a feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and it took a few hours of revisiting the model to identify the issue. Very simply the front guard irons and sandboxes are missing, but don’t immediately run to your local foamathon outlet, its a simple couple of items missing from this specific, individual, you know this one right here, example. The others are alright, breath, relax! ‘Stuff’ happens sometimes.
The livery of the model is excellent. There’s regularly comments regarding the correct colour, for me the colour is right and is a very close match to one of the first release Bachmann high cab 8750’s, so there’s consistency in Bachmanns approach. The finish on the plastic of the body shell is brilliant, the handrails and lamp irons also show no colour variation. Clean demarcation between colours is evident across the model and the GWR logos are nicely represented in three colours, and in the correct position for a Great Western loco released in service, rather than any subsequent variations. The route restriction marking is in red centrally placed above the number plate. The replacement etched plates are a fraction larger than the printed number, and will accurately cover the print if fitted. This is also true of Modelmaster plates, (this loco identity is being changed imminently). Correctly representing a first build Great Western engine, no smokebox fittings or number plate are provided. If you’re changing the identity, Modelmaster has all the numbers within their range.
The first ten engines of the class were Swindon built and this model represents the type as released into service. As such there were a few differences to the remaining later contractor built engines. The first ten locomotives were built with a Swindon No10 superheated boiler, however there was no visible external difference. Running a measuring stick across the model from both GA dimensions and those from the Roche drawing all the key dimensions match the model. At the rear of the locomotive the bunker steps originally faced outward on the rear face of the locomotives and this is correctly represented with the appropriate handrail above them. These are shown correctly for this livery variant’ Later livery models feature the bunker steps as moved to the side of the footplate with an additional grab rail which is featured on the British Rail livery releases 35-026 and 35-027. The fire iron brackets on the 94xx’s were a regular squared off shape which is replicated, rather than the typical curved GWR fire irons over other bunker fitted types. The lamp irons and all the fittings have a finesse to them, and a nice touch in the clam shell packaging is the accommodation for the top bunker lamp iron. The cab profile matches both photographs and drawing, rivet patterns are all in appropriate places and groupings. No, I didn’t count them.
Cab internal details are very good and there is a open firehole for an LED representation of the fire being fed. Noticeable in the cab are the details on the rear internal face of the cab ventilating doors, a noticeable omission from most other models. Door handrails and cab sides are commendably thin and the backhead details well represented and painted. The only let down for me on the cab is the glazing, which does have some prismatic effects, nothing really of note, but its one of my ‘things’.
The cab roof sliding vent is solid with the roof grab rail in place. Moving forward along the model the whistles and whistle guards are represented with the S shaped pipes into the cab face represented. The thickness, or rather lack of thickness of the pipes and the painting of the whistles are worthy of note.
The tank top fittings all show the same finesse and attention to detail that the cab area does. Platework is represented accurately with relief rather than grooves cutting into the bodywork. Top feed pipes are separate fittings rather than moulded into the safety valve showing a little daylight underneath, this adds to the character, showing depth rather than a block appearance that other models may have. The cutaway underneath the tanks is deep enough to allow the injectors and tank supports to be separate fittings, again emphasising ‘space’ around the components rather than solid forms. On the right hand side there is one small vertical pipe missing from the front of the cab into the footplate, but for those minded it’ll be an easy fix. Boiler and firebox profiles and shapes all look accurate and well captured. The main tank rails are plastic, and are adequate for the job in hand. On the footplate front left hand side there are two spare lamp iron locations, again correct for this livery, the BR versions will include the bracket representing three lamp iron variants.
Under the tank there’s the representation of the main frame valve gear picked out in red. This, the reversing lever and sandbox levers are all noticeable, particularly the threading of the sandbox lever through the tank supports. These really add to the character, the height of the boiler above the frames and side tank profile means you can see through the locomotive, and this is captured particularly well.
The face of the model is, like the rest of the body, caught just right. This being the Great Western version no smokebox plate or shed plate is featured, though will do on the BR liveries. The profile of the door matches images with a correct profile, something which seems often missed by all manufacturers at some stage. The steam lance fitting is featured and the step at the base of the door sits above the angled steam chest cover plate, arguably the most noticeable feature of the Great Western built engines. The contractor built locomotives (35-026 35-026SF 35-027 35-027SF), didn’t have this cover fitted and the BR livery models reflect this correctly.
The chimney, correctly copper capped, at its join with the smokebox sits almost flush, its height and diameter all in proportion to the rest of the model. Lamp irons are fitted and the face completed by a well formed handrail with fine handrail knobs. Correctly the handrail isn’t fixed to the tank front and stops short by the depth of the tank steps. Sprung buffers are fitted which is an improvement over the 64xx’s but don’t feature the foot tread on the top particularly well, which will be an easy fix with etched components from Shawplan.
The chassis of the model reflects good contemporary construction. Driving through a vertical gear train to the rear axle, coupling rods provide the drive to the centre and forward wheels with a knuckle joint prototypically aft of the centre crankpin. Gearing allows a good turn of speed and a responsive control at very low speeds. Quality of the assembly is very good overall however this example was missing its front sandboxes on both sides. There are glue witness marks where they were fitted, but obviously between assembly and packing they made a successful escape bid. Other models have not suffered this indignity and the sandboxes are extant, so just a fault with this specific example.
The drive train is compact enough not to impinge on either the cab interior or the space forward of the firebox. The chassis fixes to the main footplate of the locomotive with two screws at either end of the model. The footplate is diecast metal, be careful when using these, a cross threaded screw will be a proper pain in the backside to resolve. The speaker for DCC sound is fitted to all variants and sits discretely underneath the PCB board.
The chassis is rigid with axles of 2.98 mm diameter running in brass bearings, very similar in design to the Hornby 08.
Back to back measurements, rear axle 14.35, middle 14.36, and leading 14.32.
For EM/P4 modellers the opportunity to convert the model looks viable and relatively simple. However the clearance between the internal splasher faces is 21.3 mm, and they are cast metal, if that’s insufficient etched splashers might be an option.
The coreless motor sits between the gearbox and the DCC socket. The DCC recommended chip is a Bachmann 36-567 Next 18 decoder, all wiring runs are tidy from both pickup connections and to and from the PCB board. As its a coreless motor dont try running this with your coal burning H&M Duette it won’t end well! The instructions are clear on not using this with a feedback controllers as well , as I had my Gaugemaster HH to hand I tried that and the running was the worst I’ve ever seen and heard. Clearly continued use would cause irreparable motor damage. It’s worth noting that the HH instructions also preclude using it with coreless motors. Any damage caused doing this is unlikely to be covered by any warranty, so it’s worth doing a very unmanly thing, and read the instructions… Transfer of power from the pickup strips is by two pads making a physical connection to a PCB mounted in the chassis, so there’s no direct wire connection.
Performance of the model is one of the best I’ve had. The chassis runs through the whole speed range very effectively, I’ve only used DC but have no reason to think that DCC won’t be as good. The chassis was run on Bachrus rollers for about an hour, at varying speeds in each direction. There was no noticeable improvement or degradation in that period from the initial trial straight from the carton. The track used on the test is Peco Code 75 bullhead and regular Streamline track with medium radius points being the tightest radius used, together with running through Kato unitrack points and curves equivalent to third radius set track.
As part of my test procedure I use Woodland scenics incline sets of either two or three percent grade, For this model I chose the three percent incline and set up a 65 inch length climb. My test methodology is quite straightforward, I have a selection of known weight, car wheel balance weights in fact, and load the wagon as required until the locomotive fails both pushing and pulling uphill. Well its fair to say this one gave me a bit of a pleasant surprise. With a standing start, both pushing and pulling the loco ‘failed’ ie slipped to a stand or wouldn’t move from a static position, with 1.09Kg on the wagon. That is the most I’ve seen on a locomotive of this size. The weight of the model is undoubtedly a factor at 285 grammes, no guesses where the pies went! The chassis weight isn’t significantly more than the early non DCC high cab panniers from Bachmann. The big difference almost certainly comes from the diecast footplate section allowing a significant gain in traction. Inside the plastic body the side tanks and bunker are also weighted, with sufficient space for a NEXT 18 chip to fit at the front end of the chassis and body cavity.
The DC model has an LED firebox glowing feature, there are however two LEDs which will allow a fire flicker in DCC controlled modes. DC has a constant non flickering mode which increases in brightness with the power application.
For DC the glow is a red colour which isn’t particularly noticeable, the image above was taken in very low light to emphasise the effect. For me this doesn’t work very well, however it will certainly appeal to many purchasers. It is a red colour too and I’d prefer an orange to yellow spectrum colour, however in normal lighting on both Shelfie2 and Shelfie3 it really wasn’t noticeable.
So the future for this model is to be changed to a BR livery version of the first nine but in the late 50’s. This means the rear bunker steps will be moved and a respray with renumber into BR black. Looking at the body construction this variant could be made from the tooling options announced in the range, so if you don’t want to do an early one yourself there’s the potential in a year or so for a standard or commission release in this configuration.
So what do I think of it? In summary its an excellent and accurate model of a 94XX locomotive, not your typical branch line locomotive, but a powerful heavy shunting and secondary lines and branches piece of motive power. With a wide range of allocations across the Western Region, and indeed the Midland with Lickey banking duties its a very useful addition to the RTR western fleet. The detail options are correct to type, livery and era and look like that’ll be reflected across the other releases of this type.The performance is outstanding, being able to move 1.09 kg from a standing start on a three percent grade for a locomotive of this size is very impressive indeed, the cast footplate being a big advantage in this respect.
Bachmann in my opinion have captured the essence of this prototype, both in appearance and perfomance. Job Done!