Lights, Camera, Action.

Yesterday I had a visit from Chris Nevard to photograph the layout for an article in Model Rail, hopefully to appear later this year to support the Manchester Show. As always these photo sessions although hard work are very enjoyable, especially so as besides being one of, if not the best model railway photographers, Chris is a very affable and friendly bloke with many mutual interests other than trains. There was as much guitar/uke and beer talk as about the layout itself 🙂

Many thanks to fellow RMRG members Dai Davies for coming to help me re-arrange the furniture, get the layout downstairs and put it up, and to Phil Taylor for dashing in on a mercy mission to bring the Macbrayne’s bus and the lorry, both of which seem to have subsequently ended up in many shots. Also big thanks to my wife Viv for putting up with the disruption and house re-arrange less than 12 hours after we got back home from a 5 day babysitting mission with our Granddaughter Lucy in Oslo.

Of course once the shoot was finished it was put the layout back to bed (thanks for helping Chris) something to eat, a quick shower and off to the  – Rochdale, Oldham and Bury CAMRA branch pub of the year with Chris and other RMRG members for a few beers and a listen to the house band. A good day was had by all.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished pictures now, Cheers Chris.


Dirty little bu**er

Dirty 1

5356 awaits the Oban road with a train of grain hoppers for the distilleries

There is always a little bit of trepidation about taking pristine stock and applying dirt to it to give it that realistic look of having a hard life, or about to have one. There’s a perennial debate on most Facebook groups and forums of to weather or not. its interesting to see some very entrenched views on the subject, particularly from those who think that stock should be run in out of the box pristine condition. Even when its pointed out to them if you looks at photos no loco coach or wagon actually is in that state once it has left the works and run. Ah but then, goes the argument, railwaymen had pride in the job and cleaned their locos. Yes some did, but the application of the infamous oily rag didn’t remove all the grime and especially around the frames or bogies which were never touched.

It doesn’t matter how good your argument for weathering is, because eventually they all fall back on the hoary old statement “Its my railway and I’ll run what I want”, in my view that’s the equivalent of raising the white flag.

Now I weather stock, always have done. That’s because I look at photographs of the real railway at the time I’m modelling, and those photographs always confirm that a lot of stock was – well dirty. Inevitable given the environment it runs in. That doesn’t mean I apply factor 50 layer of shit to all my stock, far from it. it varies from the almost workshop condition to about to go in workshop! That’s about observation how things were in reality.

Most of the stock has now been through the shops, there’s some fine detail to be done yet. My techniques are not radical – I use a variety of mediums and techniques well chronicled elsewhere but a pattern usually emerges of airbrush a base layer around the frames and roof, the washes of well diluted enamels followed by application of weathering powders, and last of all a spay of varnish with the airbrush.


weathering 1weathering 2dirty 2dirty 3

North Ballachulish: Population 19 (plus 4 highland cows and two Border Collies)

I suppose its true the saying that your layouts never finished – the last of the population was fixed in place today – a Modelu 3d print of myself, strategically placed on the signal box steps ready to receive the token from the next train – but Ive already decided another couple of figures would be good and a further 4 highland cattle.

Feb 1

Effectively though, that’s that, Ive started painting the backscene boards which were made the week before last, a Mk1 Ford Transit received a cut and shut Faller Car system chassis last night at the RMRG club meeting, and the modelling tray is now being turned over to some stock weathering over the next few weeks. As I’ve got 3 signalling turns next week, I suspect Townsend Fold and Rawtenstall West signal boxes are going to have a faint whiff of paint around them.

Feb 4Feb 6Feb 7Feb 8Feb 10

Once all that lots done, and the photo session with Chris Nevard is completed mid March, the last major work starts, construction of the lighting units. I’ll be using LED strips and doing a theater style presentation, using blue LED strips to bring out the summer hazy cast on the backscene.


Before I set any hares running, this blog post is about the City of York, not any person real or imaginary. Well maybe.

I like York. A lot. I’ve had so many good times there over many years, and the city always has something new to offer. Why do I like it so much? Well for a starter its home to my all time favourite model railway exhibition every Easter, and that’s both as a visitor and exhibitor- I first exhibited there in 1987 so that goes back a few years now. Its also home to my favourite museum, the NRM, as well as some of the best station architecture in the country. And whilst on that subject there’s the awe inspiring minster and a lot of other lovely old buildings worthy of looking at. And that’s all before we get to the pubs, the place is truly the home to some of my all time top boozers and there’s loads of them, in fact with the York Tap I struggle to get out of the station these days, but then again The Maltings is nobbut a cockstride away :-). And York Brewery!

One of the lesser known attractions though is York Modelmaking.    I first came across this company when Tony Bucknell commissioned some laser cut platform canopy valances from them for Eskmuir,  I was very impressed, so when it came to building North Ballachulish, I beat a path to their door for various components for the buildings. Some of these were very intentional purchases – the platform canopy valance and the church windows and stained glass inserts were on a written shopping list, but browsing their website – and visiting their stand and chatting to them at York show, the hand was inserted into pocket to purchase some other products which are quite frankly, bloody good.

First up is their laser cut slates and ridge tiles. On buildings in the past Ive tended to use the old tried and tested 10 thou plasticard, suitably scribed and cut into strips. Its good and effective, but not as neat as the York product, and being self adhesive it is much easier to lay on the roof.


I went for the plain church windows, as that’s what is in the actual St Brides at North Ballachulish, but there is a really comprehensive selection of ecclesiastical light emitting devices on offer from them. The next church model might well get a tad more ambitious.


I’ve also been procrastinating about the need for a footbridge for some time. The station on which the building is based on, Kentallen on the Ballachulish branch, originally had a footbridge, but somewhere in the mists of time it was demolished or taken away, and folk had to use the barrow crossing to get on to the down platform. Then I discovered that the York Modelmaking footbridge is right for the one that was there, so after that, a no brainer, especially when Viv asked me what I wanted for Christmas.

I do like kit bashing and this was a dream, another classic case of shake the box and it falls together, no fettling was required other than filing back the sprue connections. Like all their models it’s laser cut out of Rowmark which is a lot sturdier than other styrene sheet, although it does take a very strong solvent to ensure a good solid joint (I used plastic weld as they suggest). I finished painting and weathering it today, so that’s the last major structure done and dusted.


The platform seats are also by York Modelmaking.



So there you go – I’ve no connection with the company other than being a very, very satisfied customer. The products are good, the service and dispatch of orders are really top notch. And best of all they are from York !

The finishing post is in sight


They always say a layout is never completed, but I reckon tonight I reached the point where all the major work on the fabric of the layout was completed when I “planted” 8 trees at various sites on the boards.

I’d been impressed with what both Paul Marshall-Potter and Chris Nevard had written in their blogs about using the Woodland Scenics tree armatures, and a few weeks ago whilst in that wonderful emporium in Shaw, Arcadia Models, (A very satisfied customer) I purchased a pack of twelve. Out of the pack they look like they have come from IKEA, ie flat pack, but a few twists using Mk1 hand power and you get a reasonable looking tree skeleton. Coats of paint using greys and browns and they are ready for fixing the foliage to – here Ive used the tried and tested Woodland Scenics foliage.

It was only when the last one was fixed on the Fort William end, I realised that I had a sense of “that’s that” and I can now move on to weathering the stock. Though not quite – of course there a few remaining tasks to do – I’ve made the signals removable, and they need to be bolted in before Mr Nevard comes to photograph the layout in a few weeks time. There’s also a few other bits and bats, some people to paint and fix in place, a few more station signs to put in, the roadway on the Fort William board needs a bit of titivation and the white lines putting on it, plus of course the highland cattle being glued permanently in their field.

Of course there’s always another project which may or may not happen prior to the photo session, and the backscenes to finish but now to get on with dirtying the stock, cue my infamous “well it was running fine before I weathered it”.




Gilding the lily

I’ve been working steadily this last few weeks on all three baseboards with the detailing work, all with the aim of having the layout substantially completed by the new year. A tad ambitious as I keep adding things I probably don’t need to. A good example of this is the interior of the signal box. This is situated at the back of the layout and the normal viewing distance is probably going to be around 3 feet away at shows. The casual visitor probably wouldn’t  see that there is now a full lever frame, block shelf, booking desk, stove, armchair and clock in there now!

Given my volunteer occupation on the ELR though, and bits of the layout have been built in either Rawtenstall West or Townsend Fold signal boxes, I’m sure some wiseacre would be asking if I’d modelled the inside, so its now done. Luckily Ratio models produce a good interior kit and true to form, in between the late Santa specials and the Carol train last night at Rawtenstall West signal box, the kit was put together and painted.

box detail

The final assembly was completed tonight and it all fitted into the box. All I need now is a the model of a signalman to put in it – wonder where thats come from!

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On other scenic front, grass is growing fast now, and trees springing up. I’m quite taken with the view from the back – theres no doubting now that this is Scotland!!

trees 1trees 2




What a difference a couple of days makes

Following the picture of the St Brides being installed in the naked baseboard,  its now starting to look more like a Scottish church yard!


graveyard 1

The gravestones are cut from styrene sheet, the grave markers are soldered brass and the grass has been grown today courtesy of one of Green Scenes “Flock it” machines. The large Celtic cross was carved out two laminates of 40 thou styrene sheet, there is a crucifix on the centre of the cross which was made out of .20mm microstrip with a hand carved figure nailed on to the cross with Butanone. Always look on the bright side of life.

God is a DJ


A milestone was reached today as the final major building was put in place on the layout. St Brides church was finally fixed in position on the hill overlooking the station. The build has taken a bit longer than anticipated but then again, theres been time away plus as always with these things, nothing is ever straight forward!

Its been an intriguing build – a lot of thought went into how the model would be braced internally to prevent any warping of the styrene sheet that forms the core of the church. This was ahceived by the judicial use of plastruct section fixed laterally in long runs of unsupported material. The buttresses on each wall, plus the two entrance halls perform exactly the function they do on the real thing for the vertical integrity. The building was clad in Slaters dressed stone platicard, the window inserts are laser cut Romark from York modelmaking. The whole of the stonework was first given a coat of light stone  paint before other browns and greys were worked into it using either my fingers or brush using a “dry brush” technique.

Detailing wise was a bit of fun – each gable has a cross on it but each one is different – from the plain metal cross over the bell tower to the other celtic style stone crosses on the other gables. These were carved out of styrene. A bell was made by the simple expedient of puting some plastruct rod in the collett of a Dremel and turning it to shape using a file!

It’s seemed a bit odd for a confirmed atheist to spend a lot of time on a building devoted to a concept I find totally illogical, but its been a very satisfying build to be honest, with a lot of thought required on how to build it. Plus after all, God is a DJ – I am in the audience stage right  😉





No, nothing to do with Brexit, nor our recent sojourns abroad in Poland and Norway, but about the benefits of society/club membership. I’m actually a member of two Model Railway clubs, Rochdale and Manchester, as well as being a member of both the EM and Scalefour Societies (yes a foot – or .63 of a mil – in either camp).

I’ve been a member of Rochdale well over 30 years, and a member of Manchester almost as long, and its been money (or not in the case of Rochdale who do not have subscriptions) well spent. Over the years I’ve been able to ask some really good modellers for advice and guidance, been inspired and learned from them, which has made me a better modeller all round. Not only that but it is a collaborative effort as well and I’ve been able to contribute to many excellent layouts over the years.

The Rochdale Model Railway Group is a good example of this, we have not really had a club layout for many years, but instead all have individually owned exhibition layouts which we take around the shows. Likewise other members have contributed to my layouts, with North Ballachulish most noticeably Martin Edmondson and Phil Taylor who produced items for North Ballachulish, detailed elsewhere on my blog.

Due to aforementioned holidays, work on the ELR and a family visit by our granddaughter, over the last 6 weeks or so not much has been done on the modelling front, but since our return home on Monday, the modelling tray is back in action on the table. Not for me though – as I say the Rochdale group in particular is about collaboration and with an impending deadline looming for the Manchester show in December, we are reconfiguring the fiddleyard entry pointwork on Ian Worthington’s layout, Glaisden. So the foreigner in question over the last few days have mainly been building common crossings for this pointwork.




5, mostly 1 :6 apart from the entry crossing which is 1:7. All built up on the bench and will be taken to Ian’s tonight for laying in the pointwork.

OK clubs are not for everyone, and there are some clubs who have some real oddballs as members who just want to play politics rather than model. Whats so good about clubs for me though is get the right one like Rochdale where you are all mates, and there’s no other agendas, you find yourselves all pulling together, getting things achieved, and developing  yourself as a modeller.

Expo EM Autumn part 2!

That was a good weekend – Saturday was a hard slog as we fine tuned the new fiddleyards – hard graft but well worth it and resulting in  a smooth and better running layout with exactly the sort of train formations I wanted. Sunday we played trains and boy did it work well. A number of invitations to some well prestigious exhibitions for the next few years was the icing on the cake, especially when exhibition managers are judging on what was an 80% or so completed layout. Well chuffed!!


My thanks to my 3 partners in grime this weekend who helped it run so well, Martin Edmondson who made a contribution to the EU swarf mountain as he countersunk  the cassette rails, Phil Taylor who maintained interest on the Faller car system whilst we brought roads into play on Saturday morning, and Ian Bowker, the rock who kept things stable and running whilst Black and Decker hell broke loose around him 😉