Category Archives: Diesels

The White Stuff

Well, folks, as you’ve no doubt already realised, the UK is gripped by snow. As ever, we can expect transport difficulties and suchlike fun. Yr. Humble Chronicler, paid as he is by the hour, basically has to go into work chiz chiz.

A Collett 0-6-0 shows us how it's done.

However, in the meantime, here’s a nostalgic look at snow on British Railways circa 1963 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl4pJwcE7JI. It’s a narration-free, slightly artsy collection of documentary footage set to a delightfully ’60s soundtrack.

57xx pannier and Toad brake van finish clearing the line.

As you might imagine, there’s plenty of snow-clearing footage, mostly on the Western Region as far as I can see. Other highlights include some prestigious diesel services featuring a Warship, a Western and the Blue Pullman (all of which was probably, again, filmed on the Western Region). The filmmaker has spliced in some old footage of LMS engines for variety and there are lots of evocative shots of day-to-day operation in what are now termed “adverse weather conditions.” Also for some reason we are treated to film of a gentleman eating his breakfast. All in all, a great resource for anyone planning a snow-set railway.

Seriously, who is this guy?

I’ve often thought I’d like to do a snow-based steam-era railway. It offers a lot of potential for unusual operations. For instance, the snowplough workings that you see in the film would be a good short train to model. 0-6-0s were preferred due to the fact that all their weight was concentrated on the driving wheels, making them both powerful and stable – you could hit those drifts at a heck of a speed, and they might not be willing to move. It was common, as you can see in the film, to pair an engine with a tool van or brake van, which I presume carried a crew in case they ran into trouble. It was also common for two locomotives to be coupled back-to-back, sometimes with the tool van between them.

There are also lots of other interesting operating possibilities – double lines singled, diverted express trains, breakdown trains called out to derailments. Perhaps you could even have a whole train stuck in the snow, being dug out. I’ve seen footage of this at the National Railway Museum, and apparently the way to free up frozen motion was to wrap oily rags around it and set it on fire (good luck recreating that). Even so, it might take days to get the train out.
I’ll leave you with a photo from New Year’s Day 2009. Not exactly in period, but this is what the water tower at Didcot looked like that day:
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Freelance as a bird

Something I’ve been idly thinking about on and off for several years now is the idea of a completely fictional railway. I don’t mean a might-have-been branch of an existing line, or a fictional place served by a real railway. I mean a completely made-up railway company. And not a light railway, either, but a proper main line company.

In America, this sort of model railway is not uncommon. That is largely because American companies tended to buy off-the-shelf, as it were, from major locomotive works. In Britain, this was the case for light railways, industrial railways and narrow gauge railways, but most of the main line companies tended to build in-house. Indeed, while there are layouts depicting fictional British railway companies, they do tend to be in the light railway/industrial railway/narrow gauge railway mould.

So to build a freelance main line is a slightly daunting prospect, as it rather suggests that some serious scratchbuilding is going to be a necessity to represent the weird-and-wonderful locomotives of your fictional company. Or is it? What got me thinking about the idea of a fictional company was the fact that a number of companies over the years have produced freelance locomotives in OO scale. There are enough, if you’re prepared to perform a little modification and sacrifice super-detail, to get a pretty complete locomotive fleet.

There are additional ways you might pad the loco stud out. While I noted above that most companies built in-house, it wasn’t unknown for engines from one company to end up on the lines of another. Midland ‘Jinties’ ended up on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway and the Northern Counties Commission in Northern Ireland. London, Brighton and South Coast ‘Terriers’ found their way on to the London and South Western Railway and the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway. Some London, Midland and Scottish Railway 8Fs could be found on the London and North Eastern Railway. Major companies even, in times of need, bought off-the-shelf, as with the LNER J94s.

Or – how’s this for an idea – suppose your company managed to poach a real-life locomotive designer? Say, your company convinced Stanier or Bulleid to work for them? You could run reliveried Black 5s or West Countries. Or even let your imagination run riot with might-have-been locomotive designs and failed projects. Suppose Bulleid was given the wherewithall to build a full run of Leaders? There’s no shortage of possibilities.

For now, here are the fictional classes I have in mind for my own layout, along with how they might be made. I’ve come up with my own very basic class numbering system.

B1

Description: An 0-4-0 side tank. Their small coal capacity meant that they were almost exclusively used for shunting.

In reality: Hornby’s Guest, Keen and Nettlefold ‘D’ class tank engine. Although this is based on a real locomotive, the body has been so stretched in order to fit the standard 0-4-0 chassis that it’s practically freelance.

B2

Description: A larger side tank, capable of trip working. Often used on branch lines.

In reality: Triang’s Nellie. This has been produced in several variants over the years. It’s theoretically based on an LSWR C12, but in reality looks almost nothing like it.

B3

Description: An 0-4-0 saddle tank, fitted with a bunker to increase its range. Primarily used for shunting, although capable of hauling short goods trains. Problems with adhesion led the designer to devise an unusual extended saddle tank for increased weight. This tank appeared almost to wrap around the engine’s boiler, leading the class to be nicknamed “sausage rolls.”

In reality: A Bachmann Junior 0-4-0.

B3X

Description: An enlarged version of the successful B3. They were used for much the same duties as that class of engine. Perhaps inevitably, they were nicknamed “jumbo sausage rolls” or simply “jumbos.”

In reality: A Hornby ‘Percy the Small Engine’ with face removed.

B4

Description: An 0-4-0 with extended side tanks designed for use on passenger service. They were noted for their superb acceleration, although they could be unstable at speed.

In reality: A Hornby Railroad ‘LBSC 0-4-0T’. This was originally manufactured in the guise of an 0-4-0 version of Thomas the Tank Engine.

B5

Description: A rugged 0-4-0 shunter intended for dock shunting and indeed, use anywhere where heavy loads needed to be moved around tight curves.

In reality: Hornby’s ‘International’ tank, a vaguely non-British-looking engine produced in the 1970s.

E1

Description: A mixed traffic 0-6-0 with extended side tanks. Essentially a larger, improved version of the B4, it was a highly successful design and formed the basis of a number of subsequent locomotives.

In reality: Bachmann’s Junior 0-6-0 tank of 2005. This, like the “prototype” of the B4 above, was based on tooling originally devised for a version of Thomas the Tank Engine, hence I’ve said that the E1 was derived from the B4.

E2

Description: A small class. The company bought five Jinties from the Midland Railway to augment the E1.

In reality: Er, a Jinty. Triang, Hornby or Bachmann.

E3

Description: Intended to be a modernised version of the E1, these locomotive bear many similarities to the earlier class.  The most obvious difference is that the E3 is a saddle tank. It bears a passing resemblance to the Austerity tank, although it predates that class by a good ten years.

In reality: The current Bachmann Junior 0-6-0 saddle tank. This uses the same chassis as the earlier Junior 0-6-0, and so I’ve accounted for this by saying that, again, one locomotive was based on the other.

ED1

Description: A one-off 1930s experiment in diesel traction, using the frames of a withdrawn E1. Its designer had hoped to replace the railway’s tank engines with diesel traction. Unfortunately, while the engine was fine for shunting, it had very poor acceleration and low speed, and was virtually unusable for trip working. No further members of this class were built.

In reality: The Bachmann Junior diesel shunter. This uses the standard Junior 0-6-0 chassis, and so I’ve said that it uses a steam locomotive’s frames. It wasn’t unknown for this to happen with early diesel shunters. For instance, I know Sentinel used the same frames for their early diesels as for their vertical boilered steam shunters.

ED2

Description: Another one-off 0-6-0 diesel experiment carried out with the assistance of English Electric. As a result, it bore a strong resemblance to early diesel shunters of the LMS, LNER and Southern Railway. However, unlike those, the aim with this engine was to again produce a mixed traffic locomotive capable of doing anything a tank engine could. The resulting engine was a failure on trip working due, again, to low speed and poor acceleration. Furthermore, it was unreliable, and ended its days as a mobile generator.

In reality: The Triang 0-6-0 shunter, which looks almost but not quite like a Class 08. A lot of early diesel shunters bore a resemblance to the Class 08s, even if they weren’t directly related to them. Therefore it’s not too ridiculous to suggest that another “almost-08” was constructed experimentally.

G1

Description: A Victorian 4-4-2 passenger tank designed for commuter trains. Although fast, they were incapable of hauling the longer commuter trains and so were relegated to secondary services by the First World War.

In reality: A Bachmann ‘Emily’ from their Thomas range. This character is based on a Great Northern Railway Stirling ‘Single’. My version is being converted into a tank engine, with the tender reserved for an I1.

H1

Description: A 4-4-0 passenger engine used mostly for secondary passenger services and pilot duties, although they could occasionally be found substituting on expresses.

In reality: A Bachmann ‘Edward’ from their Thomas range with face removed and a more realistic tender (haven’t decided what, though). The tender supplied is utterly hopeless as a scale model.

I1

Description: Known as the ‘Small Moguls,’ these were basically a tender version of the now-legendary E1s. Like the H1s, they were capable of pulling occasional express trains. However, they were primarily used for secondary passenger services and fast goods.

In reality: A Bachmann ‘James’, again from the Thomas range, with the tender from the aforementioned ‘Emily’. As you may have guessed, this also uses the Junior chassis, this time with the addition of a pony truck.

I2

Description: The ‘Large Mogul’, a powerful mixed traffic engine which really came into its own for heavy goods work. Indeed, they were the favoured class for these duties.

In reality: Hornby’s version of James. This is larger than the Bachmann version, being a modified version of Triang’s hopeless 3F tender engine. The extended front and Schools Class tender serve to make this a freelance engine.

J1

Description: A 4-6-0 intended for heavy freight but, in reality, offering no advantages over the established I2. However, they were excellent passenger locomotives and, before the arrival of the K1s, were reckoned to be the best express engines on the railway.

In reality: Bachmann’s ‘Henry,’ yet again from the Thomas range. This engine, in the original Railway Series books, is based on a Black 5. In the TV series it looks like no engine living or dead.

K1

Description: The railway’s first Pacific. The J1 ‘s success as an express engine was noted, but it was not without its faults. The rear of the locomotive looked somewhat ungainly, being unsupported, and the unusually large cab windows were prone to breakage . The K1 was designed to correct these faults, and also boasted a larger boiler. The resulting engine was perhaps not as elegant as the Pacifics developed on other railways in the 1920s, but it was more than capable of the jobs it was given.

In reality: Yes, once again, it’s from the Bachmann Thomas range. This time it’s Gordon, which uses many of Henry’s chassis components. It’s commonly asserted that Gordon is based on a Gresley A3, but in fact there’s not much of a resemblance. Hence, again, I feel no guilt whatsoever for claiming it as a freelance model. However, the tender is again hopeless and will be replaced.

K2

Description: A somewhat inelegant Pacific with inside motion, developed in the mid-1930s to work the routes for which the K1 was too heavy. The resemblance to the LMS ‘Princess Royal’ class has been noted, and allegations of industrial espionage against Crewe have been made, although never proved. In fact, given that this engine has few similarities to the Princess beyond the visual, the theory is largely discredited.

In reality: A Triang Princess. These were too short to be considered ‘scale models,’ and didn’t have outside motion – once again, it’s a case of an engine that’s bad enough to be freelance.

So there you go – 18 different classes of locomotive, sufficient to cover most duties on a railway. These aren’t the only freelance or semi-freelance models that have been produced, not by a long way. With a little imagination you could probably do a lot more, but I hope I’ve proven that it’s possible to create a freelance fleet. In future entries, I hope to explore the fictional company a bit more.

So, what aren’t they making?

Well, chaps, New Year is nearly upon us, and inevitably that means the new models for next year will shortly be officially announced. Already things are looking exciting. Kernow have their Beattie well tank and Hastings DEMU on the way, Bachmann have promised us a Robinson O4 (not a moment too soon), a Cravens DMU, a retooled Class 03 and a 2-EPB EMU. Dapol have a Class 22 on the way. Even Model Rail are getting in on the act with their Sentinel shunter, something I’ve often thought would be a good choice in ready-to-run, although that’s partly because I like small, quirky locomotives. Roco have their OO9 Double Fairlie on the way, pioneering ready-to-run British narrow gauge in 4mm.

I think the most interesting lot of models, certainly if you’re a diesel person, is in Heljan’s range. We’re promised Lion, the Class 23, the Class 14, the Class 15 and, rather out of left-field, models of all four types of four-wheeled railbus used on British Railways (AC, Park Royal, Wickham and Waggon und Maschinenbrau).

There’s even an all-but-confirmed rumour that Bachmann are to bring out a ready-to-run City of Truro. Everyone’s sworn to secrecy at the moment, but here are the facts as reported in the modelling press.

  • Bachmann is producing a top-secret model.
  • One of the major manufacturers has been developing a model of City of Truro in secret.
  • Bachmann produced a hugely successful model of Deltic for the National Railway Museum and have been looking for a follow-up.
  • They carried out a poll and City of Truro was the National Collection locomotive most wanted.

Basically, this is the worst kept secret since Watergate. I look forward to it, I think City of Truro is a fine and elegant locomotive and I have no doubt that sales will be through the roof, particularly if they produce it as it looked when performing railtours in the 1950s.

No word on Hornby’s programme yet, so I’ll no doubt be scouring their website as intently as is possible with a roaring hangover on New Year’s Day.

So, what’s next for the major manufacturers? Well, frankly, I think all bets are off. Take a look at the list above and take a look at some of the models we’ve already had in recent years – the ‘Clan’, the 4-CEP, Falcon, Kestrel, Deltic, Class 17, Q1, T9, the Devon Belle Observation Car. These are models that, not too long ago, would have been considered risky if not downright insane for anyone to produce ready-to-run. Yet even the economic climate hasn’t slowed the flow of oddities. So, these would be my wild guesses.

  • The Class 35, better known as the Metrovick Co-Bo, better known still if you grew up with Thomas the Tank Engine as Boco. It’s the really obvious gap in the diesel range at the moment.
  • DP2, the super-Deltic produced in the 1960s. No more ridiculous than some of the one-offs Heljan has been producing, it was basically a regular Deltic externally. Bachmann, over to you.
  • Duke of Gloucester. A one-off, but it’s an obvious gap in the range of BR Standards. It’s back in the news at the moment and, of course, has done extensive work in preservation.
  • Come to think of it, the other BR standards, namely the 3MT 2-6-0 (i.e. the tender variant of Bachmann’s recent tank) and the 2MT 2-6-0 and 2-6-2T.
  • Upgraded GWR coaching stock. Given Hornby’s upgrade of their Castle class, this is an obvious accompaniment.
  • An upgraded GWR King. Generally, upgraded GWR stuff.
  • Hornby, I have no doubt, will continue to expand the Railroad range. I’d imagine the old Castle and Schools class will find their way there. There’s a fair bit of Lima that would go quite well there, I’m hoping to see the LNER J50 and GWR 94XX.
  • Electric traction is obviously neglected at the moment. So, BR Classes 81-85, the EM1 and EM2 for Easterners and the Class 71 and 74 for Southerners. I note that Hornby have been advertising catenary recently – preparing the ground?
  • Obviously it depends how sales of Bachmann’s new 4-CEP go, but it does seem to be the dawning of the age of the old-skool Southern EMU at the moment. I would imagine a pre-war unit such as a 2-HAL to be a good choice, as it complements existing models but is reasonably different in outline.
  • People keep on asking for the Blue Pullman. Will someone finally grant them mercy?
  • Hornby have re-released the Dean Single and Caledonian Single in a number of guises. The one veteran from the Triang range that hasn’t been re-released is Rocket. Could this be its year?

Those are just my guesses for now, but as I say, nothing is too ridiculous at the moment. Nothing at all.

Ready-to-run Class 07… sort of

We seem to have reached the stage in OO scale modelling where there is no such thing as a stupid suggestion. Beattie well tanks, Southern Region multiple units, BR Clans and the Kestrel prototype diesel would all, not so long ago, have been considered a mildly insane prospect for the ready-to-run manufacturer. And all are either on the drawing board or in the run-up to release. We’ve actually got to the stage where the manufacturers are running out of diesel locomotives to make.

However, while we wait for the Class 14, 15, 03 and no doubt 23 and 28 in due course, there’s another class that’s been stealthily prepared with almost no attention from the model press, and is now not far from its release.

The prototype. Thanks, Wikipedia!

The prototype. Thanks, Wikipedia!

It’s a humble shunter with a relatively small area of operations, being based in BR days at Southampton Docks, replacing the old USA tanks. The class was also capable of shunting EMUs (three worked at Bournemouth doing just this). A number were sold into industry and seven survive to the present day. In many ways, it’s a better candidate for a ready-to-run model than some of the prototypes that are already being manufactured. It’s not surprising that Bachmann have snapped it up.

What is slightly surprising, and what accounts for the lack of attention in the modelling press, is that it’s to be made for the American market. It will only be available in the UK via import. No word on price, but it’ll probably be between £30 and £40. It will only be available in one livery, which will be non-prototypical. Here’s a photo.

Ta-daaaaa!

Ta-daaaaa!

Yep, that’s the catch. It’s a Thomas the Tank Engine character. See, the great thing about Thomas and Friends is that the engines are, with a few notable exceptions, based on real life prototypes. Our man Salty here is a character invented for the TV series rather than the original books who is, yes, a dock shunter. By coincidence, shunter number 2991 is one of the survivors, currently based at Eastleigh (it’s the one in the photo up there).

The model isn’t perfect – some compromises have clearly been made for the sake of producing a model robust enough for children’s use, and the bonnets look a little low compared to the cab. But with a repaint and detailing, it would make an interesting addition to an industrial, dockside or depot scene. You might have to remove the face – I’m not sure whether this was a feature of the prototype or not.

If you’d prefer something more detailed

http://www.silverfoxmodels.co.uk/st/st.htm – Silver Fox produce a resin kit that uses a Bachmann chassis.

See also

http://www.semgonline.com/diesel/class07.html – A nice photo of the prototype.

http://www.pegnsean.net/~railwayseries/salty.htm – About Salty (more photos)

http://www.wnxx.com/disposals/disposals07.htm – Withdrawals.