Category Archives: Rolling stock

Figured Out

Well, following a trip to the Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace this weekend, I have almost the last items I need to complete my layout.

If you’re going to have a non-specific factory, you’ll need box vans. For some reason, decent (i.e. not Triang, not Dublo, not Hornby-garish-private-owner) vans seem to be hard to come by. These ones are, left to right, a Dapol meat van, a Mainline Vanfit and a Hornby ex-Southern Railway van. I’ve tried to get some variation in terms of shape and colour, just to make shunting a bit more interesting. For some reason, I really like those Southern vans. I don’t know if meat vans were used for anything other than meat, but there’s one here anyway. Maybe it has the workmen’s lunch or something.

Speaking of workmen, you’ll notice there are none. I’ve been trying to find some typical steam age factory worker types and they are very difficult to get hold of. At least, to the level of detail I’m looking for. I don’t want something ready-painted, because frankly ready-painted figures look terrible. My brother is a wargamer, and having seen the results he and his fellow hobbyists get on their figures, the blobby paint jobs that seem to be the industry standard just won’t cut it for me.

The big difference between the way wargamers do things figure-wise and the way we do things (generally) is that wargamers appreciate that one thing you can’t scale down is light. Therefore, they paint light and shade on their figures – starting with a dark base coat, adding colours, then adding highlights. The results are, comparatively, spectacular.

This chap explains things far better than me.

http://www.brifayle.ca/2bshadowstheory.html

So, that’s how it’s done. And for my money, these are the best OO gauge figures on the market at the moment:

http://www.dartcastings.co.uk/montys.php

These are figures full of detail and character. The Workers, in the Railway Staff section, look to be exactly what I’m looking for, and I reckon they’ll come out just fine. I do have their Skipper and Vicar figures (I intend to paint them as Captain Haddock and Rev. W. Awdry respectively).

[Usual disclaimer – I have no link with the above other than as a satisfied customer. Although if Monty’s would like to send me a load of figures in exchange for this plug I wouldn’t say no]

The reason for my concern figure-wise is that, on a large layout, the somewhat short on detail and dubious-of-scale figures by Modelscene and Hornby would go unnoticed. On a layout this small, detail compromises tend to stick out like a sore thumb. That’s why I’ve been painting the track, as you see above. Still no ballast, but you know how it is.

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Something different on the high street

While wandering around Deptford the other week, I came across something that might be of interest to modellers:

It’s a café made out of an old coach. Not even a buffet car, just a regular BR composite coach on a length of track. I’m told the lemon drizzle cake is very good.

Externally, there are only a few differences from a standard passenger coach. A ventilation duct has been installed on top and a set of stairs leads up to the entrance. And, of course, there’s that livery. One might charitably describe it as “challenging,” but there’s no doubt that it catches the eye. You may wish for something simpler, although I understand a number of US firms produce graffiti decals. Don’t forget to paint over the kitchen windows.

The coach sits at right angles to the high street behind a fence in what appears to be a former school playground. At weekends, market stalls are set up here. If you’d like to see it for yourself, take the train to Deptford Bridge (which, I’m told, is the oldest railway station in London), come out of the station, turn right and it’s just a minute or two up the road.

It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s definitely something different for the modern image urban modeller.

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.

Bugboxes

I think one of the most controversial models in Hornby’s range must surely be their four-wheeled coaches. If you don’t know the ones I mean, I’m talking about these:

IMG_1049They’ve been in the range since the 1970s and have been produced in countless variations, from Somerset and Dorset livery to Departmental yellow, from Southern malachite to Annie and Clarabel. A heck of a lot of railways have at least one, and quite possibly several (Yr. Humble Chronicler has lost count of his own).

The thing is, in their own quiet way, these things seem to spark quite a lot of debate. Many modellers, obviously, have no problem with them. Some would like them better if Hornby also produced a brake coach to go with them. And then there are those who hate them with a passion. The problem is that they’re freelance. As far as anyone can tell, there are no coaches like this out in the real world. These must surely be the last freelance models in the main Hornby range. The critics say that they would prefer it if Hornby produced four-wheelers based on real prototypes.

The question I’d then ask is, which prototypes? Lots of the pre-Grouping railways had coaches similar to this. The difficulty faced by Hornby if they decided to tool up for a more realistic four-wheeler is finding one that would sell in sufficient quantities to justify the expense.

For me, the four-wheeler is just fine. They may not be perfect, but on the other hand, they’re cheap and they at least look like a typical branch line/light railway coach, even if it’s not a specific one. There are alternatives if you don’t like them – a few companies make etched kits of specific four-wheelers. Ratio have for a long time produced a range of Great Western coaches and Smallbrook Studio have recently introduced London, Brighton and South Coast Railway coaches. Smallbrook specialise in Isle of Wight stock in their 4mm/foot range, and due to loading gauge restrictions, the Isle of Wight was using Victorian stock long after it had been retired elsewhere on the Southern Railway.

All this is a rambling precursor to the main point of this post, which is the thing I found at Upminster Depot, which is having an open weekend.

I call it "Clarabel".

I call it "Clarabel".

This is a four-wheeled coach of the Metropolitan District Railway, predecessor of the modern District Line. It has to be said, it does bear a fair resemblance to the Hornby four-wheeler. There are a few differences, true, but otherwise I’d say it’s not a bad likeness.

Unfortunately, the chances of Hornby doing this in District livery are slim to nil. Still, a boy can dream…

Any idea what these are?

I picked up these two coaches for a pound each in my local model shop with a view to repainting and detailing them into light railway, tramway-style coaches.

IMG_0752I have no idea who the manufacturer is – there’s none shown anywhere on either of the carriages. I’m guessing they were originally part of some cheapo toy train set. The wheels barely stay on the rails, suggesting to me that they were designed for use with rather cruder track than I use (and my track’s pretty crude to begin with). The couplings are also very basic peg-and-hole type things.IMG_0754

Possibly they’re a lost cause – I’ll probably have to replace the bogies and couplings at the very least. Still, I rather like them. I could definitely see them as part of a Colonel Stephens-style train. Some ancient 0-6-0 at the front, a box van or two, one of these and a brake van. Marvellous stuff.

Ding dong Devon Belle

I note that Hornby’s Devon Belle observation car is finally out. I might have to get myself one of those. Possibly a little hard to justify, as I have no suitable layout for it, precious little that I can run with it and the almost £50 price tag is a little much on my budget.

I feel some materialism coming on.

I feel some materialism coming on.

But on the other hand, it’s a model that has a certain amount of sentimental value for me. Actually, there are quite a few models in my collection that I own purely for sentimental value – Hornby’s Clan Line commemorates the fact that, living as I used to in West London, any steam specials passing through would like as not be hauled by this engine. I have Whiston, a Hunslet ‘Austerity’ tank in NCB livery because when visiting relatives in Staffordshire, we’d often stop at the Foxfield Railway where that engine is based.

Hercules rests at Paignton

Hercules rests at Paignton

The Devon Belle Observation Car actually took on special significance fairly recently. I was in Devon with some friends, in Dartmouth. Across the River Dart is Kingswear, the end of the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway. The Paignton and Dartmouth is an interesting one – it seems to aim to provide a ride for the tourists rather than a heritage experience in itself. For example, we rode behind Hercules, a 2-8-0 tank engine of the 42xx class originally designed for the unglamorous job of hauling coal in South Wales. It wouldn’t have been named, nor would it have worn the lined-out Brunswick Green livery it now carries.

The coaches, too, are named – our return journey was in a BR Mark I named Zoe, painted in a pseudo-Western Region livery. I also noted a ‘Shark’ brake van named Jaws

But the surprise (for me, my friends aren’t exactly railway nuts) was seeing the Devon Belle Observation Car. We decided it was very worth the £1 extra fare to travel in Pullman luxury. The huge, panoramic windows give you a splendid view of the River Dart and the coast near Paignton, and the swivelling, well-upholstered bucket seats beat the heck out of the dusty BR seating on the way back (sorry, Zoe).

The Devon Belle. Not the woman in the coach, although I'm sure she's lovely.

The Devon Belle. Not the woman in the coach, although I'm sure she's lovely.

All in all, it’s a pleasant journey through a pleasant part of the world. It doesn’t really offer you the opportunity to poke around engine sheds, and as I say, historical recreation is not the line’s strong suit, but if you’re in the area it’s worth a look. The only problem is that at one time or another you’re going to end up in Paignton, for which I am sorry.