Tag Archives: model railways

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.


Low-relief buildings – prototype for everything

It’s been commented before that model railways share certain conventions with the stage (see http://www.carendt.com/articles/Theatrics/index.html for a full article by Carl Arendt on this very subject), particularly when it comes to exhibition layouts. Like plays, model railways need to create the illusion of a world. That means hiding the technical gubbins – few plays are staged with no set whatsoever (those that are generally do so as a conscious artistic decision) and few model railways are displayed without scenery (unless they’re incomplete).

For model railways, a handy way of creating the illusion of a bigger world is the low-relief building. If you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s basically part of a building stuck on to the backscene. Say you want a row of shops – just model the front of the shops, stick them on the backscene and there you have it. A row of shops without the loss of space and general immense hassle of modelling the complete buildings.

Done well, this can look fantastic. Done badly, however, it can look as fake as, well, half a building. What looks great viewed front-on looks awful from the side. But here’s a thing I found today.


As you can see, it’s a hospital building that’s being propped up with scaffolding. But let’s look at it from further along the street:


Yep, it’s just a wall. The front of the hospital building is being propped up, but the rest is mysteriously missing. The idea seems to be to incorporate the lovely Victorian frontage into the new development behind it. It looks sort of like, well, a bad low-relief building. Behind it is nothing but rubble – the plans to redevelop the area are currently on hold. This would make a fascinating scene on a layout – have the front wall slightly forward of the backscene, sky clearly visible through the glassless windows. Some scaffolding propping it up, maybe some construction workers and machines parked in front. Temporary fencing around, maybe a couple of tiny, tiny posters about the exciting new development.


Here it is from the back. The brickwork seems to be protected with some sort of cloth, which again would look interesting and could save you some time messing around with brick paper or whatever your preferred medium is.

[For those of you interested in such things, this was originally the Middlesex Hospital, in Fitzrovia, London. The plan was to turn it into a luxury apartment complex, the inanely-named Noho Square. The Credit Crunch has put paid to that, but no doubt whoever takes over the site will do something similarly awful with it]

Here’s another building being redeveloped, this one in Chelsea (alongside the line from Victoria, in fact).