Thursday, 27 January 2011

Irish Semaphore Success

Just thought I'd share these images of a jolly nice kit I've just finished of a GSWR(I) semaphore signal, from Studio Scale Models.
My stock of Irish-themed locos, stock and scenics is growing very slowly but the situation is leading inexorably to a real desire for an Irish layout. But how, where and when....?!

Look out for more on this kit in MR154...

Monday, 24 January 2011

A study of Semaphores

This semaphore is sited at the end of Haverthwaite station. Such a simple principle, the semaphore signal has proved itself an enduring part of the British landscape for centuries.

Just spent the day painting a bevvy of semaphore signal kits before final assembly and appraisal for the Model Rail Supertest that will appear in MR154. Although there's limited choice as far as brands are concerned, there is still a wide availability of signal types to suit modellers of most eras and regions. However, with 99.9% of them offered only as kits, we all have to clear a space on the workbench and get down to some assembly work.

But then, that's not the worst thing, is it? Especially as few signals are ever exactly the same, being tailored to suit specific locations and track plans. Therefore, kit-building and kit-bashing offers a more convenient route to getting the signals that we need.

This is a Model Signal Engineering kit of a Southern rail-built Distant signal. As long as you have a decent grounding in soldering technique and a temperature-controlled iron, these are fairly straightforward kits to assemble. They're also highly accurate miniature reproductions.

Funnily, it's taking more time to paint all of these signal kits than build them in the first place, not least as it's best to part assemble them before painting and final fitting-out of signal arms and mechanisms. Note the really tall GWR post and etched fret of detail parts - they're from a 7mm scale kit.

In MR154, I'll be giving the full low-down on a variety of kits, as well as offering advice on how to get your semaphores working. There'll also be info on how to illuminate them, such as fitting an LED as seen here...

Friday, 21 January 2011

Books, Kits and Lima 31s

Some enjoyable light reading for these long dark nights...

Since returning from my week's holiday, I've started to read some of the many books that I bought whilst away. Some old, some new, none particularly blue.... Ahem.

Well, amongst the haul was a fabulous collection of b&w images of colliery-based steam traction in the '70s and '80s from GT Heavyside which is already providing lots of inspiration for my colliery layout extension. Also, there's a good few shots of NCB Giesel ejector-fitted Austerity 0-6-0STs, one of which I've started to recreate using the Hornby model as a basis. What a find, and all for the princely sum of £1 from the FoSCL shop on Settle station! It's a bit tattered (being ex-Leeds library stock) but it's all intact.

A new volume that I came across in a different Settle outlet was Airfix Kits by Trevor Pask, just recently published by Shire. This is a good read and, despite only being about 50 pages long, it contains plenty of info on the famous plastic kits, including the railway-themed products, many of which are still available from Dapol. Not as comprehensive as some of the books on the same subject by Arthur Ward, Pask's volume does at least come right up to date with details of the brand's acquisition by Hornby. There are also plenty of nostalgic images of kits and their packaging, bringing back memories of models that I built in childhood and adolescence.

When I got home, one of the first things I had to do was pop over to the Royal Mail depot to pick up a package from ModelHobbies, containing a bunch of plastic kits that I'd treated mydelf to. A quick look at their website ( often results in me parting with money...

Two of the kits that I ordered are of Russian WW2 subjects, both railborne military vehicles.
Destined for use on my embryonic wartime North African layout, a number of tanks, armoured cars and the new Airfix Bedford troop carrier have been added to my 'to build' pile. Additionally, so has a pair of Russian railbourne vehicles - one an armoured car and the other a wagon fitted with anti-aircraft guns - although these are something of an indulgence and not strictly accurate for my region. But, I like the look of them and, what the hell - it's my layout...

On a different subject, coincidence has seen three different MR readers sending in requests for info about modelling the humble Class 31. To illustrate one of my replies, I dug out this old timer from my collection. I bought this Lima 31 on my 15th birthday from Hattons. I can remember the day clearly, not least as we ended up in nasty car crash on the way home! Funnliy enough, this model emerged completely unscathed despite being thrown around a fair bit and, over the years has been repainted and re-detailed too many times to keep track of. I know it started out in Railfreight red stripe livery, named Phillips Imperial, if I remember rightly.
Anyway, in its current guise, it's as an early 70s condition D5658 and the detailing uupgrade was covered in the May 2005 issue of Model Rail (No.79). It still runs very well for a 20 year old and it's looks aren't too bad either, although I can tell I was using an old airbrush and compressor to apply the weathering - it's a bit coarse in places.

The point of this is that I'd been set a-wondering about the possibilities of the forthcoming re-release of the Lima 31 into the Railroad range by Hornby. Many people rate the Lima bodyshell above the Hornby model so, with a better motor, the Railroad product may well find its way into the hands of avid detailers. To get an idea of the possibilities, have a looks at James Wells' blog Eastmoor ( where he showed off his wonderful work on a Lima/Hornby hybrid.... truly inspiring.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A New Year Jaunt

Jinty 47279 simmers while taking on water at Keighley, before returning up the Worth Valley to Oxenhope.

I've just returned from a week long jaunt to sunny Settle. Well, not quite sunny, but the weather was not bad for the time of year, with just a little snow and light rain – nothing to hinder us on our long walks in the hills.

A week’s holiday at the beginning of January was very welcome after a fairly tiring Festive season, with me & Mrs D also getting a bit of writing done: her on her academic treatises and Yours Truly on my new book proposals, plus a few ideas for future Model Rail projects.

A day was also had on the splendid Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, just catching the last weekend of mince pie specials. I particularly enjoyed our ride from Keighley to Haworth on the 4-wheel diesel Railcar – my first experience on one of this type of traction. Pootling along, sitting up front with a clear view of the road ahead, was very relaxing.

The endearing little Waggon & Maschinenbau 4-wheel railcar M79964 awaits time on the early shuttle servive from Keighley.

View from the cab of M79964.

After meeting some friends for luncheon in Haworth, a jolly back to Keighley behind Jinty 47279 was also very pleasant. As usually happens when I visit the KWVR, there was quite a wait at the Keighley end for a connection back to Settle and, without wanting to offend anyone from that proud old town, there’s not that much to do on a late afternoon in Keighley. We did have a look at some of the pubs nearby but Mrs D (or me for that matter) wasn’t keen.

After an hour and a bit of aimless meanderings, we ended up jumping on the Morecambe train and walking from Giggleswick station rather waiting another 40-odd minutes for the Carlisle service to Settle.

Whilst out and about during the week – all our favoured walks tend to stay parallel to either the S&C or the Little North Western line – some notable ‘spots’ included some interesting Network Rail trains (EWS 66-hauled) in the mid-afternoon southbound engineer’s path, plus the Colas southbound timber train from Ribblehead (seen on the Wednesday). Freightliner 70005 was glimpsed on the Friday coal empties. Incidentally, I was informed just before getting to Settle that one of the latest batch of Class70s had been dropped from a crane during unloading at Newport Docks and its now on its way back to the USA for salvaging of parts and scrapping. Ouch – I bet there’ll be some frantic insurance claims being put in after that! Look out for coverage of the incident in Rail magazine in the coming weeks.

Anyway, now I’m back at the grindstone, I’ve got a big bunch of semaphore signal kits to build for the Supertest in MR154, which will probably take up the next week or so... stay tuned for a sneak preview...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

‘O’ Gauge ‘Pug’ signed off

The New Year has begun with a few tying-up of loose ends, as it were, with a couple of near-complete projects finally signed-off and the models duly packed up for storage or dispersal. Most notably, a Tower Models L&Y ‘Pug’ 0-4-0ST has been finished as a fairly careworn Bristol-based 51218. This is intended as a competition prize, I believe, as part of the forthcoming Bristol ‘O’ Gauge show.

Having been presented with a plain black, un-numbered model some months ago, it was my job to apply the appropriate cabside and smokebox numerals, along with the attractive early BR crests (all Fox Transfers). After a varnish coat or three, a weathered finish was applied, using paints, an airbrush and various powders. Some coal in the bunkers and a footplate crew completed the job. Oh, and the cab spectacles were also glazed with clear Perspex.

The cab interior is superb although, just like the real thing, it’s pretty cramped on the footplate and I couldn’t get a ‘shovelling fireman’ to fit, hence why the chosen figure is taking the chance for a quick brew whilst the driver concentrates on his duties. Consequently, the two chaps are from mixed sources: the moustachioed driver being an Inkerman Castings product and the fireman is from the Master Piece range from Falcon Figures.

After some light running-in on my tiny ‘O’ diorama to ensure even coverage of weathering over the wheels and rods, with no power collection problems, the little engine has been packed up and handed over to Chris Leigh for delivery to its owners by hand. I’ll be sad to see it go as it looked nice atop my shelf. If ever 7mm modelling was to grab me, it’s wee ‘kettles’ like this that grab me. I like the idea of something similar pootling about a little yard scene. But, alas, such traction is beyond my humble means! And there’s the space issue too, what with too many ‘OO’ gauge projects on the go as well! 

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